Page Particulars

The bargain book bin near the checkout line at the supermarket reels me in every time. While strategizing about the fastest line – less people, but fuller carts, or longer queue but less items? – I stop there to see what the offerings are. At $3.99 a book, it’s hard to go wrong. If there is historical fiction by Jeff Shaara, I pick that up for my dad, and then I pick through the pile for me, settling on Anything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout – the Times 100 Noteable Books emblem on the front endorsing my choice. While hefting the groceries from cart to trunk out in the parking lot, I catch a glimpse of the book in one of the bags, and revel in the beauty of purchasing a portal to a new world for merely $3.99.

This week began my spring break and with it time to delve into Ms. Strout’s drama. It all went along swimmingly enough until page 125 which was nonsensically followed by page 142, ensued by page 127, then 144. Having just finished teaching number patterns to my second graders, I deftly noticed that my left hand pages were skip counting odd numbers by twos, while the right was ascending by twos on the evens, but 18 pages ahead.

I began flipping pages hither and yon, following the story of Mary and her daughter Angelina and their four-year reunion in Italy on the even numbered pages, not to be outdone by Pete and his sister Lucy at her book signing in Chicago on the odds. Not being a big multi-tasker to begin with, following the two simultaneous threads became a heroic effort – not to mention the math involved. After working my way through a good parcel of pages and wondering if I could continue to makes sense of the jumble, I landed on page 141, which miraculously flowed seamlessly into page 142.

Ah, the things we take for granted!

It never occurred to me that reading books with consecutively number pages was one of them.

But now I know it is.

Embrace

we only have today

and that will never change

to fret portending clouds of gray

to scurry ’round and rearrange

for what might happen up ahead

instead of living here instead

is losing now

so might you see

the present is

the place to be

so set your worry on a shelf

and cease that stealing from yourself

by squinting yon when you’re in now

is ceding time – so why allow?

revel in this moment here

invite yourself to stay

for in the end

it’s crystal clear

we only have today

Mandatory Music

On the eve of my penultimate slice, it occurred to my that I never sliced about one thing that has remained a constant source of joy throughout life and challenging times.

Music.

Consistently uplifting, always enhancing, oft preferred over talking – good music makes everything better.

I can do chores for hours unscathed if I’ve got the “Awesome Road Trip” playlist on. I can clean out a closet, wash windows, or pack away summer clothes for the upcoming winter (worst job ever) as long as I’m listening to favorite tunes – and singing along, of course.

Doing the dishes becomes fun.

Folding laundry? Voila!

I almost don’t want it to end when accompanied by my favorite artists on the job.

And driving? Forget about it!

Below are some of my current favorites. My playlist is in perpetual rotation with selections being deleted and added as preferred. Keep in mind that I was a child of the sixties and seventies, so these choices may not be to everyone’s enjoyment. I will say however, that my tastes dip into many genres, and even my young-adult offspring admit to liking my Spotify playlist.

I humbly claim to have expanded their musical purviews considerably.

Although challenging to narrow down the choices, for the sake of brevity I managed. Here are my current top ten choices from my “Awesome Road Trip” playlist, in random order:

  1. Don’t Know Why – Nora Jones
  2. Redemption Song – Bob Marley and the Wailers
  3. Harvest Moon – Neil Young
  4. I Say a Little Prayer – Aretha Franklin
  5. Just One Look – Linda Rondstadt
  6. I’m Yours – Jason Mraz
  7. The Wood Song – Indigo Girls
  8. Have You Ever Seen the Rain – Creedence Clearwater
  9. Orange Blossom Special – Charlie Daniels Band
  10. Into the Mystic – Van Morrison

What are you top ten?

Can you add them to your life this week?

I suspect they might make everything just a little bit better.

Earthen Treasure

Today we found something that has been missing for 17 years.

We moved into our current house in 2003 with three young children and the mass of accouterments that accompany three small humans. We unpacked over the following weeks and months and settled in to our new home. It was during the first holiday there that we realized we didn’t have our fancy dishes – our Royal Doulton “Lisa” place settings that were given to us by friends and family as wedding gifts ten years prior.

We searched everywhere for them over the course of many years.

In the attic?

Nope.

Garage?

Nope.

Closets?

Nope.

Cantina?

Nope.

Nope.

Nope.

What had happened to the dishes? We were dumbfounded. Having rented a truck and moved everything ourselves, we couldn’t have lost them in transit. And our former landlords had been good friends of ours; surely, they would have told us if we had left a box behind.

We searched all of the places in our home numerous times over the years and eventually gave up – swallowing the loss of a gift of significant value in dollars and even larger value in sentiment. Some years later, I spied a set of china slightly reminiscent of ours in a thrift shop, and bought the whole collection for pennies. It would have to do.

Today my husband decided to tackle the cantina.

The cantina is the enclosed 100-square-foot concrete space under our front porch that is accessed by an elfin wooden door in the basement wall – a cold cellar of sorts. We keep canned and bottled non-perishables down there along with cooking gadgets that we can’t fit in our kitchen. Our burgeoning surplus of sundries for the coming weeks had overflowed into a subterranean, conglomerate mess. The weekend project was to organize it and clean it up.

“Close your eyes,” he said.

“Are they closed?”

“Yes.”

He placed something gently on the dining room table next to where I was entrenched in schoolwork.

“Okay, open.”

“Ohhhh,” I gasped.

There was a china teacup. A wedding gift from 27 years ago, in front of me on my table.

“You found them!!! Where were they?” I asked, elated.

“In the cantina- in a box.”

“Wha-a-a-t? Seriously?”

“Yup.”

“What box? There was no box! How could we have missed it all these years? We looked everywhere, multiple times. I don’t remember a box in the cantina at all…”

“They were there, in a box.”

So there they were, and here it is – a little Lisa teacup, hidden for 17 years and discovered for some reason, today.

How strange to look for something for so very long only to find it right where you were looking – right where you couldn’t see it.

I still don’t know where that box was all the other times we looked for it, and I don’t know why he found it today.

I wonder what makes it the right time to find something you’ve lost?

I don’t know – but something does.

When it’s time to find it – it might be there, right under your toes.

Reprieve

A delightfully impudent book character shoves a dastardly note and drawing of her teacher into her teacher’s bag after being punished for a transgression in school that day. After dismissal – she opens her own schoolbag to find not only a note of forgiveness from her teacher, but a consoling snack as well. With that discovery, she instantly regrets her cheeky behavior and is desperate to take it all back.

Too late.

Much to my chagrin, I have been in Lily’s shoes more times than I care to remember, today being one of them.

A few months ago I ordered and received a new floor lamp for our dining room, only to discover that the design of lamp was flawed and it could not be assembled properly. Annoyed, I boxed it all up and returned it, disappointed that the lamp I had finally found to match our needs and the decor of the room was not to be.

Did I mention that in my extreme irritation I also wrote a scathing online review of the lamp?

Well, I did.

Just call me Lily.

One would think after prior regrets that I might have learned not to act in haste. I have always thought that, “Respond – don’t react,” was a very good mantra. The problem is that it rarely comes to mind in the heat of the moment.

So, back to the lamp.

Weeks went by in which time I got my refund and kind of forgot about the whole incident. That is, until I got a note of apology from the lamp company explaining their wish to send me a replacement lamp free of charge in addition to the full compensation I had already received .

Humph! I’ll see it when I believe it, I thought.

Lily strikes again.

So today, the new lamp came. It assembled quickly and easily and it is exactly what I was hoping for. Just perfect!

Well, not really. It’s perfect except for that nagging, caustic review…that nasty note I shoved into the teacher’s bag.

If only I could take it back – If only I hadn’t been so impulsive, if only I hadn’t been so righteous, if only…

Lily’s recalcitrant wail echoed in my mind:

“WHY DOES EVERYTHING ALWAYS HAPPEN TO ME?”

Desperately I grabbed my phone to dash out another review, a glowing review, a redemptive review – a frantic attempt to undo the harshness of my first judgement.

I quickly clicked to “My Account,” clicked to “My Orders,” clicked to “Write a Review,” clicked to “Open,” and there it was – my original review, written in all of its indignation, penned in bold fury – still there, untouched and most importantly – unsent.

I HAD FORGOTTEN TO HIT “SUBMIT!”

The review had never been sent.

A tumult of relief WHOOSHED over me. In the moments that followed I wrote a thoughtful, measured, heartfelt review for the lamp and the company that stood behind their product.

I consider this merciful reprieve a plaintive plea from the universe: “Respond – don’t react!”

even in the heat of the moment.

Lily – I love you dearly, but let’s keep it fiction.

Okay?

Abaco

You jewel that stole my heart away

I roamed your beaches every day

a gem between the sky and sea

enchanting home you were for me.

Your families stole my heart with warm embrace

those smiles in common beauty with your grace.

Your colors –

they the splendor that you spilled.

To gaze a brighter palette no one will.

I left you once some thirty years ago,

my life forever changed by your tableau.

Then to embrace your shores a month before

Dorian’s flogging –

’til

you

were

no

more.

Abaco.

My Abaco, oh why?

A mound of rubble weeps beneath the sky.

Your people swept to sea in terror dealt

more searing pain perhaps was never felt.

I see you in my mind from way back when.

Abaco,

thank God I knew you then.

New Limbs

I read a timely reflection about breaking through blocks.

Hmmmmm….interesting.

It was written by a person who was leisurely walking and found herself – one day – spontaneously running. She didn’t remember deciding to run – she was suddenly just running. One stretch, then two, then further on to her confounded delight and disbelief. When it was over, she had run a whole mile. She didn’t know how or why it happened, but it did. Having never run more than a quarter of a block her whole life, this was a big deal. The next day, she went out for a walk, tentative that the whole thing had been a fluke. Or was this something she could actually do?

She did it again.

She had never taken particular care of herself and due to childhood illness had never considered herself an athlete. But that day, she ran. And the next day, and the next.

Now she runs most days, incredible as that may seem.

This has me take pause.

I wonder – Am I blocked from thinking about new possibilities for myself? I do think about myself in a certain way. It’s comfortable, I’m comfortable, we’re comfortable. It’s what I know. It’s how it is. But maybe I am so blocked, I can’t even see my blocks.

I didn’t know I could write a daily blog until my colleague Suzanne invited me to try it last year.

“Me – write a blog?”

“Why not? You might be good at it.”

“I’ve never done that.”

“Most people haven’t. I think you might like it.”

So I did, and I do.

I found a part of me I didn’t know was there.

I remember someone ruminating about going for her Master’s degree.

“Oh, I don’t know if I should start something like that now….It will take four years and by then I’ll be 54…”

“In four years do you want to be 54 with a Master’s degree, or 54 years old without one?”

Hmmmmmm…

These days, many of us find ourselves in a new, strange way of being. We are apart from work and colleagues, away from crowds and gatherings, at home with expanses of time that were not ours to fill a few weeks ago.

In that space I would like to offer an invitation to go out on a bit of a limb.

Might you think of yourself differently?

What might you that you’ve not done before?

Follow a recipe.

Doodle.

Plant a seed.

Rearrange a room.

Sew on a button.

Do a puzzle.

Start a language.

Play an instrument.

Make something.

Fix something.

Call somebody.

Stretch.

Read.

Paint.

Walk.

Write.

Maybe something unknown is in there. Could there be more than you know?

Inch forward, crawl over, advance.

Pass default and go there.

Why don’t you?

Love Lost

At the crest you had a life that most would die for

and when he met you – smitten, though he would be cursed

A spouse with whom you shared a love both hearts adored

Alas, in time your fickle love became rehearsed.

At first the three of you – comrades beyond compare

Two spouses and a loyal friend, though vain he be

and irksome ’til he saved a life by pleading air

Yet from that hour it was destined – you and he.

Then three hearts broken – damned to live this bitter plot

The sear of love and kingdom lost – that were so near

Yet for a time there was a place called Camelot

– the fateful dream of Arthur, Lance and Guenevere.

Gold Street Cafe

I got a pacakage from my mom after she died.

It was a project she had commissioned that was delayed in the making and never got to me when it should have – while she could have known about it.

Months after her funeral, I received a curious cardboard box – oblong in shape. My dad brought it when he came over one day, telling me that someone had dropped it off at the house. He had no idea what it was.

I opened the box on the front porch – right where the sign would eventually go.

Bending back the layers of cardboard and peeling away the bubble wrap – we peeked in.

Gold Street Cafe.

It was a sign for our front porch, from Mom.

Sometime during the years of birthday, holiday, and sacramental celebrations, family and neighborly gatherings and numberless coffee chats, the forward extension of our home and familial life became The Gold Street Cafe. It’s just our front porch, but that’s what we call it. We are of two houses on the street with one and somehow it seemed fitting to name it – so it’s been that way ever since.

This past weekend, I swept off little red maple buds, wiped down the two tables and assorted chairs, re-stacked the remnant firewood in the corner, and dusted off the sign – leaning it against the front window where it’s been for the better part of seven years now.

That happy ritual is a soft opening of sorts.

From the earliest hint of warm in the spring until the frosty breath of late fall you’ll find us out there – her quiet nod making it official year after year, in print on that old sign.

It’s not a real cafe, but it’s our best place. It’s our waiting-for-someone-to-come-home place and our waving-until-the-tail-lights-are-gone place.

It’s our foyer to the world and our vestibule to home.

It’s our Gold Street Cafe.

Screens, Be Gone!

Screen time – mean time

I could almost scream time

Eyes blinking

Back chinking

Bones groaning

Chair moaning

Too much time

with distance learning

Out of doors is where I’m yearning

Or something else that isn’t glowing

Lap top tasks are growing, growing

Missed my blogs but couldn’t do it

Tried to balance life – renew it

Seems I’m ready to come back

Make good attempt to end my flack

A better slice you’ll see tomorrow

A marked end to techno-sorrow.

I hope.