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.

Fertilizers for the Mind…

Colorful vegetables and fruits composting to nourish the garden

With the New Year beginning, I’m adding a new page called “Fertilizers for the mind & spirit.” Based on the miraculous results compost produces in the garden, I believe the same holds true for enriching our minds. Please feel free to add some of your own tidbits to that page for all of us to turnover, stir and nourish our perspectives…

 

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

Locomotive Holidays and the Christmas Train

Santa Claus boarding a holiday decorated train

Loco Emotions

Have you noticed how emotions buildup steam around the holidays, emulating a runaway train? Far reaching stressors often halt the holiday joy ride — be it time with difficult personalities, over-spending, trying to mirror picture-perfect celebrations, too little rest, dashed hopes on a “Dear Santa List,” and of course alcohol consumption (usually in excess at this time of year). But those unscheduled stops don’t have to become your final holiday destination.  

Switching point of train tracks
Original photo by Frans Van Heerden from Pexels

Board the Observation Car

This may be a time of traditions but it can also be a time of breaking them. Are you the caboose chugging along well-worn tracks, or the engine choosing more fulfilling activities? Only you know how you feel around the family contrarian, when you over-indulge in special holiday treats, or struggle to pay bills. No matter when or how holiday difficulties appear, step back to see how to handle them differently, rather than traditionally.

 


Challenging opportunities can be unexpected sources of strength when initiating change to rise above them.


Photo by Joan You on Unsplash

Using the Communication Cord

When approaching a disquieting juncture, try the unfamiliar. Respond instead of react. Shorten the visit at difficult family get togethers. Politely walk away from an argumentative platform to an affable track. Prioritize time-sensitive tasks on the schedule, and include self-care on the timetable. Ask yourself if overloading on those tempting holiday sweets is worth risking diabetes. Good old fashioned discipline still works. Set a budget for gift giving and stick to it. Better yet, offer a gift from the heart. Most of all, be kind. To yourself and others.

love trainProven Tracks

A few sayings I find helpful, and particularly at this time of year:

  • Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.
  • Nothing changes if nothing changes.
  • Let it begin with me.

May your holidays fill your heart with joy, peace and love.

Olive branch
Olive branch photo by Janine Joles 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.