Full Service

Happy gas pump via human interaction

Friday was the kind of day beckoning a toasty hat, and if you left it behind your ears would wonder why. I’ll be honest. Climate change does concern me. But seeing more green grass than snow this winter was appeasing — and particularly when approaching the age where snow is more perilous than pleasant. The dry but blustery 10 degree cold made it the kind of day I didn’t want to pump my own gas yet the car cried empty.

I’m not suggesting I’m declining or even readying retirement but I am a “boomer.” I grew up when a full service gas station meant getting windows washed — front and back, and an oil check with a tank of gas. As a bonus, they might even check and fill the tires’ air pressure. Those almost forgotten services exist only in memory and especially on a frigid day.

When I pulled up to the fuel pump at the Gas & Food Express, the young guy gingerly attended my car and the one across the island. Whether he was a Young Millennial or Gen Y, I couldn’t tell nor how he could stand the cutting cold. Hopefully that tiny booth for the cash register blasted heat. His medium-weight jacket looked anemic to me knowing I shivered walking 40 feet from home to car.

Contemplating how he felt working a shift in the below freezing temps, I wished I had a hot drink to offer. Instead, I reached into my purse and handed him a few bucks with the signed credit card receipt. “Thank you for being so pleasant on a very cold day,” I said. “Please get yourself a hot drink.”

“Well, thank you. Thank you, miss,” he responded.

Internally echoing cheerful surprise, I wondered if he knew the gift he gave an aging gal.

I find common courtesies previously taken for granted are often passé. Little in-between gestures of human significance make all the difference in a high tech world of downcast eyes and empty idioms such as “Here you go” instead of “Thank you.” It may have been a 10-second interaction but I drove away fueled with appreciation for a new kind of full service.

 

The Cherokee Knew

Hand holding a crystal globe with upside down view of the world

A fellow blogger’s post reminded me of a pondering earlier this week.

While I am a spiritual person, I haven’t joined an organized religion for decades. Listening to others, some are dogmatically committed to one and only one belief system — declaring their way is right and the only way. It may be right for them, I agree, but it doesn’t mean it is right for me.


The Cherokee name is based on the meaning “people of different speech.” Could that include thought and opinion as well?


Hearing a close friend express her strong opinions (without knowing they opposed mine) stung. But, for one moment only. Because in valuing the qualities of our friendship more than opinions, I felt love for my friend, not anger or resentment.   

The same holds true when I hear discourse among various religious groups.

To me, the identic message is simply presented in varying ways and on varying paths all leading to a preferred destination — call it Heaven, enlightenment, living consciously, or a spiritual awakening per se’…even if it’s just a belief system or developing faith. Even if the path chosen changes tomorrow, the message is basically the same.


 Be inclusive. Find the shared good.


People connect with God, the Universe, Buddha, the Tao, or other powers greater than themselves. One size doesn’t fit all, and I find value in each. I hear the common themes yet also see invidious power and exclusivity when one is proclaimed as right or the better way…different somehow.

I grew up in an era of healthy debates. Where one could find mutual ground. Today I question “where do I wish to focus — on differences or commonalities? What feels better — emotionally, mentally, physically? If being inclusive and finding common good should feel better, why is mankind’s history peppered with discord? Does the world tip its scales in feeding one wolf more than the other? Do we choose to see thorns or roses? Is agreeing to disagree now passe’?”

Tilted astrological globe
Photo by Anastasia Dulgier on Unsplash

Feature Photo by Artem Beliaikin from Pexels

Blankets of Snow

Snow falling on trees

The snow falls

heavily all night

like a snuggly warm comforter or blankets piled high,

thickly covering trees, shrubs, bushes, and grass.

Mother Nature says, “Close your eyes. Rest your weariness. Take time to gain your strength for spring.

“Hush now. It’s time to sleep.”

No wonder snow is so quiet.

The Vista of Time

Two men standing on barren ground, looking toward the New Year on the horizon

As 2020 approaches, time is in the forefront of my mind. Running deeper than lines on a clock face or flip of a calendar page (“swipe” for you digital divas), my concept of time morphed over the years and invisibly orchestrates my life.

On a grander scale, the new year transition symbolizes life itself — passing and birth, loss and gain, here and gone, doors closing and windows opening, full and empty, flowers dying back to bloom next season — transformations all illuminated by the paradoxical Tao. In the Tao, there is no beginning or end. It is simply a continuation of a force, an energy, the “flow.”

The Tao expanded my concepts of forever and eternal which were often intertwined but mistakenly so as in the nebulous differences between an eastern hemlock and a Tsuga Caroliniana, a sparrow and finch, or twilight and dusk. Mother Nature’s subtleties are far-reaching. So are we in humankind. So are my thoughts on time.

Photo of lengthy hallway seemingly extending to forever
Photo by v2osk on Unsplash

Like fraternal twins, eternal and forever share gossamer-like characteristics — forever indicating an endless or continual period of time; eternal meaning without beginning or end, always lasting. If something is eternal, it always is and always was. It exists outside of time.


If time is man made, why can’t we produce more of it?  Does staying in this exact moment freeze time — being neither in the past or future but always and only right now? Is “staying in the moment” the only way to make time stand still?

Perhaps in the trinity of time — past, present, and future, the only way to feel like we control it IS to stay in the present. Look not behind or ahead. If that is the case, then I have no reason to say “Happy New Year,” but perhaps [be] “Happy Now.”

 

 
Featured photo by Samuel Zeller on Unsplash

Xing Out Holiday eXpectations

Christmas shopping list replaces expectations with gratitude

Want to have happier holidays?

Give up eXpectations.

Cross them right off the list and out of your mind.

Tell yourself you are going to be open and grateful for whatever comes along.

Play the game of life and look for the gift. No, not the ones tied with pretty bows sitting under the tree — the ones that are wrapped in all things, pleasant and not so pleasant. The ones not so readily seen. Simply adjust your sight to see.

The best gift you can give to yourself or anyone is Xing out eXpectations.

It’s free. No racking up credit card bills or standing in return lines — for anyone.

Set the tone, the jingle, the merry, the happy in your holiday.

It’s as easy as making a choice.


Xmas…the other meaning

When seeing an X in Christmas, use it as a reminder to eliminate those self-defeating and disappointing holiday eXpectations. You may find it’s one of your happiest holidays yet.


 

The Giving Circle

Black and white border collie lying in the snow intentlyawaiting a Frisbee toss

via The 2019 Christmas Charity Appeal – Help Me Raise £250 For Battersea Dogs & Cats Home By Leaving Me Links To Your Blogs and Books

As I’ve posted in the last few months, my beloved border collie Bess was the love of my life. She gave me 14.5 years of unconditional love, companionship, and fun. As I continue mourning her loss, I reach out for other canines (and four-legged friends) in need of help because there is no one to speak up for them.

At this giving time of year the tag line at the end of my e-mails asks folks to consider donating to a pet shelter. This morning, I read this very worthy post on a 2019 Christmas Charity Appeal for dogs and cats that also offers to help bloggers. Seems like a wonderful circle of giving.  I hope you will join in too.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays

to You and All of Our Beloved Furry Critters

Clearing the Way

Snow covered pathway toward sunshine

“You spend the first half of your life acquiring

and the second half discarding.”


Red pick-up truck loaded with cabinets, chairs, washing machine

Loading the pick-up truck with things too good to discard, I recalled traveling this multifarious path before. Most of my life actually. From Mom setting up our apartment after my parents divorce, to my returning home from college…to storing relics in my barn while building a dream home…to housing family memorabilia upon my father’s death, then brother’s divorce – one and two, and mother’s passing. Soon my life became crammed with mementos of everyone’s past. Things too good to discard. Things once thought they couldn’t be lived without…have become things forgotten about.


Reuse and recycle is anything but new.


Materialistic I am not. Scottish resourcefulness and being raised by parents of the Great Depression indoctrinated me with environmental concepts early on. That includes donating gifts I’ll never use (but also means holding on to some “just-in-case” items that might not get used).


If something comes in, something must go.


While crazed Black Friday shoppers raced toward the acquisition gate, my wish list focused on meaningful experiences — engaging time with dear ones, sensational restaurants, bucket-list travel, living theater, musical concerts of varied genres — non-materialistic things that proffer a pleasing energy without depleting space. Kind of like “green giving.”


Face unused possessions with, “Do I really need this?”


Tidbits of loyalty complicate clearing away. How could I discard my mother’s high school class graduation photo? It feels disrespectful to give it to the Salvation Army (Would they want it anyway?) and Heaven forbid, I could not throw it in the trash. I just couldn’t. Yet, what am I going to do with it, except store it in the basement…like the dusty china and crystal rarely used…or my dad’s wartime souvenirs, drawings, and bosun’s whistle that I’m still secretly hoping some organization would want to display.


Stuff carries personal and planetary responsibilities.


When I pass, will my remaining belongings wait for a stranger to unload...along with numerous other keepsakes and prized possessions of each person in my life? Is that the usual way out…leave heaps of stuff for someone else who holds no attachment? It would be easier emotionally for them to clear out but an unfair and monumental task. Besides, what about the planet?

Like the environmentally-conscious youth culture who rejects using existing quality made, real wood furniture, opting instead for put-it-together junk composed of compressed wood chips and plastic veneers that won’t last — it doesn’t make sense to me (or for our rapidly filling planet).


How we deal with stuff can mirror how we deal with life.


Boxes of hats, shoes, purses, furs, evening wear to get rid of

After decades of carrying boxes from place to place, and shuffling moments from one building to another, I’ve realized I often compartmentalize emotions in challenging times, putting them in boxes until I can appropriately deal with them. Same holds true for family stuff. My mom became a hoarder who couldn’t let go. My brother tossed things from his immediate sight. I’m the organized one…with the boxes.


Saying, “It’s served its purpose,” makes it easier to let go.


When it gets too much, and the clutter of memories swallows up my space, I need to let go. Now, that I have so many of my brother’s belongings I’ve begun clearing more of my mother’s past. The evening gowns, furs, and hats that she could never vacate from her apartment are leaving my home.


Mother Nature naturally knows how to clear the way.


After delivering 17 jam-packed carloads of my mom’s stuff and 15 of my brother’s to charities, and a lot of my dad’s history to the auctioneer, I’ve sworn I would never do this to my benefactors. Making arrangements for one’s personal belongings — no matter how small, is a loving but often forgotten piece of estate planning. Even Mother Nature, when overloaded with piles of leaves or debris, sends in sheets of rain or a gust of wind to clear the wreckage of the past.

Colorful autumn leaves blowing in the forefront of an evergreen forest

Do you consider what comes into your space? Have you cleared out family possessions? Are you in an acquiring or discarding mode? 

Collections of Recollections

Colored photographs hanging above colored clothes on a rack
Wrapping up porcelain plates in newspaper to protect for moving
Protecting porcelain plates in newspaper for moving

 

Boxes of newspaper wrapped dishes,

and shielded glass in picture frames

reminds me

I’ve resided here for half my life.

 

More frequent moving in more youthful days

not needed or necessarily desired —

right now.

Unless I could turn my back

and be there

immediately

without sorting through stuff.

Taking only recollections with me

in the boxes of my mind.

Woman's hand pulling back clothes on rack to see dress
Original photo by Becca McHaffie on Unsplash

Thumbing through stored clothes

my consciousness wanders

through seasons…styles…

Is this too vintage?

Is there vintage vintage — like my racy aunt’s 1940’s blazer that I’ve preserved for another 40 years…

…or my mother’s creepy high heels that mimicked the Wicked Witch of the West’s?

Time periods,

events,

come running back

like a long ago lover

I’ve forgotten to miss.

Each dress recreates a juncture,

a feeling,

that I don’t want to discard…

doing so feels too dementia-like.

Protective plastic covers up

confectionery scenes —

that captured job interview,

unforgettable party,

spellbinding date…

Colored photographs hanging above colored clothes on a rack
Photo by Shanna Camilleri on Unsplash

…preserving

a lifetime of memories

dangling

in the closet

of my mind.

 

Angels without Wings

Human girl standing in between a set of painted wings on a building.

Grief can be the garden of compassion. If you keep your heart open through everything, your pain can become your greatest ally in your life search for love and wisdom.

                                                                                                                                              —Rumi


Leaving the funeral director’s office, I silently expressed thanks to God and the Universe. I met a real angel. No coincidence our paths crossed.

Worthy guidance, a smile, understanding…from friends and those I do not know.

Shutting the door to my brother’s apartment one last time, I turned around to give thanks for the angels who swooped in to help me. And him. All seeming strangers. Like the folks I’ve connected with on WP but never actually met.

Out-of-the-blue kindnesses as powerful as an angel’s wings lifted my weary spirits so I could also pass the kindness along. I’m grateful, so grateful, this Thanks Giving for kindness.

A stone engraved with the words "Angels Gather Here" sits under a pot of vinca vines.
The long standing greeting at my entryway…

And you? Have you been graced in a time of need by unanticipated kindness? What’s on your list for this holiday week of giving thanks?

Messages from the Brightest Stars…

Golden beams of sunshine through an autumn forest

10-30-19 026cThe garden rests under November’s grey skies and already freezing temps while I practice morning Qigong inside. Looking up, I notice this solitary tree glowing amidst bare woods. It reminds me of my brother, Robert — my last living immediate family member and only sibling, who recently passed.

Years ago, when one of my dogs tragically passed, my brother consoled me by comparing that young dog to a bright star, explaining that the brightest stars have shorter lives. A contemporary Doctor Doolittle, Robert had an extraordinary talent for connecting with animals and particularly canines. He is the one who gave Bess to me.

Bess and Robert’s bookend deaths these last four months, along with too many other friends and co-workers, feels as insurmountable as piles of autumn leaves. So thick, I can barely see clearly on this course of 15 deaths that presumably is meant for deeper understanding. Striving to find meaning in all of this, I seek out any comfort I can find. Too late, I hear Do not let anger ruin a relationship. Time is shorter than we think…forgiveness is key. 
Broken branch
Original photo by Manfred Richter on Pixabay

 

As with the duality of the Tao, my brother and I had another side to our relationship. Several years ago we mutually agreed to sever contact out of opposing values and a need for self-care. After recent minimal communication we were to meet in person but he passed before it came to fruition. It’s come to me that “The soul knows when to go,” and “Everything happens exactly as it is meant to be.” I feel grateful my brother and I requited resolution and forgiveness in the month before he departed.

A caring guy with a zany sense of humor, it’s no surprise that Robert chose to pass three days before Halloween. But, finding Reese’s peanut butter cups on top of a chest containing my own dogs cremains that morning was surprising.
Reese's peanut butter cups

Seeing this orange/black package gave me an odd sort of comfort — my diabetic brother loved this candy…and he promised to give me a sign.  Later on Halloween night, I pulled in a radio station from afar. The guest spoke about Houdini’s wife, Bess, who made a pact with her husband to give a sign from the other side. These seemingly coincidental gifts gave my heart a lift.

Understanding it’s helpful for the deceased and those surviving to express gratitude for their presence in our lives, I offer some sentiments my brother once shared with me…too bad we forgot them in these last eight years:
  • The happiness of your life depends on the quality of your thoughts.
  • Be kinder than necessary because everyone you meet is fighting some kind of  battle.
  • Life is too short to wake up with regrets. Love the people who treat you right. Forget about the one’s who don’t. Believe everything happens for a reason.If you get a second chance, grab it with both hands.If it changes your life, let it.Nobody said life would be easy, they just promised it would be worth it.
  • A sharp tongue can cut your own throat.
Golden red leaf with a heart in the middle
Photo by Rebekka D from Pixabay
  • Friends are like balloons; once you let them go, you might not get them back. Sometimes we get so busy with our own lives and problems that we may not notice that we’ve let them fly away. Sometimes we are so caught up in who’s right and who’s wrong that we forget what’s right and wrong. Sometimes we don’t realize what real friendship means until it is too late. I don’t want to let that happen so I’m gonna tie you to my heart so I never lose you.
  • The heaviest thing you can carry is a grudge.
  • One thing you can’t recycle is wasted time.
If this post touches your heart, my brother and I encourage you to make amends with the person who broke it.