A Day When Words Fail

May God heal you, body and soul.
May your pain cease,
May your strength increase,
May your fears be released,
May blessings, love and joy surround you.
Amen.
-Rabbi Naomi Levy
Talking to God: Personal Prayers for Times of Joy, Sadness, Struggle and Celebration

Today I learned the son of a woman I adore committed suicide.

I have no words.

As I write I’m sending love and prayers to Debbie, Russ, and the rest of their family. Please know you will be in my prayers today and in the days to come. May we all be comforted by the memories we have of this “outstanding” young man.

I am…

B…simply being.

~Peace~

 

My Teacher

“The best thing for being sad,” replied Merlin, beginning to puff and blow, “is to learn something. That’s the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then — to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the only thing for you. Look what a lot of things there are to learn.” 

T.H. White, The Once and Future King

My mind has been filled with thoughts of my Duffy for the past few days. Most of them are happy thoughts. The ones that are unhappy revolve around feeling I did not spend enough time with him.

I always thought I had more time.

My precious Duff may be the one who finally helps me understand time is never promised. It’s up to us to grab onto every single minute and be in that moment. Let go of the yesterdays and give all the worries about tomorrow to the Universe. Be aware of the present and wallow in it.

He taught me so many other things.

He taught me it’s okay to ask for help when you’re scared. He was our early storm warning system. When a storm was on the way he wanted to be close to us. Once he had that connection, he relaxed and let the storm pass.

He showed me examples of trust every single day. He simply knew those who loved him would always catch him if he missed a jump, grab him before he slipped off the couch, or make decisions in his best interest.

Even when he was not feeling well–he could not have been feeling well for some time–he always made his s-ing type maneuvers and instigated all kinds of disruptions with the other dogs. There was not many quiet moments here with the Duff around. It is extremely quiet today.

He loved everyone he met but he lived to sit on Michael’s lap. Those lap visits were full of huge hugs while nudging Michael’s hand for more and more pets. There were never enough hands on this little man.

As each day goes by, I see more and more things he taught me.

As of now, some of the most valuable lessons are:

There is nothing more important than spending time with those you love. Nothing. Do whatever you have to do to get their attention–do figure eights and wind yourself around their legs if you have to in order to get their attention.

Be vocal and tell those you love you are excited to see them. I miss his little howls of joy whenever we all climbed out of bed in the morning or met each other at the door later in the day. He was happy to see us and he let us know it.

Remember the work–whatever that work may be–will be there tomorrow or the next day. Sit down, stretch out, and share your space with those you love. Regardless of whatever else may be going on in your space, ignore it so you can give extra big hugs to those all around.

If someone is unhappy with you, go to your favorite spot and stay there until they forget about it. When you come back in, come back as though nothing has happened. A little joyful howl upon entrance is a sure bet all will be forgiven.

Above all else, hold your head up high and know you are worthy of all good things. You are a prince/princess. Turn your back to the negatives and let them pass. God’s got this and He has it all in control.

I know I was fortunate to have had him in my life.

Monday he took a giant piece of my heart with him but left me with even more love and hundreds of memories. I know, as time goes on, I’ll be comforted by them. These little gifts, all gifts that reflect the cleverness of Duffy, will allow me to heel…pun intended.

I am…

B…simply being. 

~Peace~

 

 

Bridging the Gap

“Sorry.

Sorry means you feel the pulse of other people’s pain as well as your own, and saying it means you take a share of it. And so it binds us together, makes us trodden and sodden as one another. Sorry is a lot of things. It’s a hole refilled. A debt repaid. Sorry is the wake of misdeed. It’s the crippling ripple of consequence. Sorry is sadness, just as knowing is sadness. Sorry is sometimes self-pity. But Sorry, really, is not about you. It’s theirs to take or leave.

Sorry means you leave yourself open, to embrace or to ridicule or to revenge. Sorry is a question that begs forgiveness, because the metronome of a good heart won’t settle until things are set right and true. Sorry doesn’t take things back, but it pushes things forward. It bridges the gap. Sorry is a sacrament. It’s an offering. A gift.” 

Craig Silvey, Jasper Jones

Sunday I spent a few hours sitting between these two beautiful people. Something about them makes me think of my mom’s family which means I was in a very magical place Sunday afternoon.

Pinky and I did not always have a good relationship.

Our conflict began many years ago over a dog poop incident. Yes. You read that correctly. Dog poop.

He had cautioned me very nicely not let my dogs relieve themselves in his yard. Well, when a dog decides to make that stop it’s not always easy to pull them away. I explained to him I was very careful with my dogs and I’d pick up after them. Okay. He was not happy with that answer but he accepted it.

The next weekend I was out walking the dogs and was so happy when both dogs walked by Pinky and Mary Lou’s yard.  What I did not know was Pinky had stepped in a “gift” left by a dog whose owner looked a lot like me. She did not pick up. He had tracked that little present into his RV and all over the freshly cleaned carpeting before he’d realized it.

As I walked by I heard a very firm voice ask me to stop. It was Pinky and he was angry. I was so confused. We hadn’t even stopped in his yard. I had no idea what he was talking about but there was no doubt he was very angry with me. I tried to defend my self but he was not listening to my excuses. He had seen me and that was all the proof he needed.

I walked quickly home and told Michael I would be keeping my distance from Pinky. For many years Pinky and I went out of our way to avoid each other. His wonderful wife, Mary Lou, went out of her way to visit with us and loved me just like nothing had happened.

About four years ago I heard a knock on our RV door. I wasn’t expecting anyone so I peeked through the window. I was shocked to see Mr. Pinky. I went into panic mode trying to think if I’d done something wrong? Michael wasn’t there so I couldn’t send him to the door. Pinky had already seen me so I had to answer the door.

I slowly opened the door and he began to speak to me in a strong but kind voice. He told me he did not want to come in but he had something important to say to me. He cleared his throat and straightened his back and looked me directly in the eye. That eye contact never broke as he asked me to forgive him for getting so mad at me all those years ago. He told me he had problems with a bad temper all his life and it wasn’t always easy for him to control it. He knew he had made a bad judgement about me because he had been watching me. He knew I was not the kind of person who would leave a mess behind. He paused to rest his voice before asking me to forgive  him.

No one before or since has made such a sincere apology to me. We both had tears in our eyes as I thanked him for the beautiful apology and told him I forgave him. We shared a very clumsy hug, each sniffling a time or two, and he headed down the stairs and home.

We have been the best of friends since that day. There isn’t a day that I don’t think of these two beautiful people and thank God they are in my life.

Sunday Pinky sat beside me and asked me questions no one else has since I retired. He touched my arm and asked me if I missed my work? He’s one of very few people who have asked that question. It touched my soul. We talked more about retirement. He told me he’d retired once but went back for twelve more years because he didn’t believe retirement was good for people. He said people need to be busy and both he and Mary Lou are both busy. He asked me about my home state of Iowa and what the summers were like there. How did he know I’d been feeling a little homesick? How comforting for me for him to take the time to listen to me talk about home. All our conversations were done with steady eye contact. As I think back on our talks I realized just how uncommon that is today.

It was an exceptional day and I will carry it in my heart forever. As I sat with the two of them I had such a strong feeling my family members had come to spend the day with me as well. Thank you, Pinky and Mary Lou, for being a part of and for adding so much to my life. I love you.

“What people see you do may not be remembered; what they hear you say may be forgotten; but how they feel your intervention in their times of need will forever be remembered.” 

Israelmore Ayivor, Leaders’ Watchwords

I am…

B…simply being.

~Peace~

A Treasured Memory

I give thanks for my friends

For connection and laughter,

For comfort and strength,

For encouragement and unity,

For forgiveness and grace,

For celebration and joy.

They are so many things to me,

Such a rich tapestry of blessings,

Woven through my life.

Thank you. ~Author Unknown

Yesterday was an amazing day.

We had part of our chosen family over for a spring BBQ. The sun was shining, a gentle breeze kept the temperature near 80 degrees, and the food and wine were excellent.

It was as if a magical spell had been cast upon our house–we sat within a little bubble of peace and serenity. The challenges we’d all faced in the year since we’d been together were acknowledged and celebrated.

I’ve discovered an unexpected benefit of getting older is how appreciative I’ve become for small gifts. I’d mistakenly believed that all those people and things that’d always been part of my life would always remain. This past year has finally taught me that life is very fragile. My year of awareness continues to grow as I appreciate the fact assumptions are no longer acceptable.

Yesterday, as I sat in my little chair observing the beautiful souls gathered together, I felt so deeply blessed. My tuned up awareness helped me appreciate just how special and rare this day had become. I thanked God as I opened my heart and absorbed every bit of the powerful energy we call love.

There’s a miracle called friendship

that dwells within the heart

And you don’t know when it happens

or when it gets a start…

But the happiness it brings you

always gives a special lift,

And you realize that friendship is

God’s most precious gift!

~Author Unknown

 I am…

B…simply being.

~Peace~

Thanks, Jo Heiple Thedens, for letting me use another one of your great pictures. Your talent is amazing. You and your photography nourish my Iowa roots and heart. Thank you.  

Looking Out

“It has shown me that everything is illuminated in the light of the past. It is always along the side of us…on the inside, looking out.” 

Jonathan Safran Foer

It has been a glorious day in the hill country of Texas.

Michael and I walked the dogs and came home to start cleaning up the yard. I learned last year the window to do this type of work is pretty narrow.

The thing about doing yard work is my mind if free to think–I don’t have the ability to work and filter thoughts. The result is all kinds of random memories float unbidden in and out of my consciousness.

Today thoughts of my dad hung out with me as I pulled weeds and examined the surviving plants and shrubs. As I dug out clusters of weeds I remembered clearing off his huge desk top.

I was probably five or six years old and I thought I was such an excellent helper. As I looked over his desk, it was obvious, he needed some help.

The focal point of the desk was a large dark glass ashtray. This was where I’d start because it was always over flowing. I knew from my frequent visits this office was the meeting place for sales people, people with questions about supplies, and anyone in need of help figuring out what was needed for a special project. I knew many of those conversations were at least two or three cigarettes long which explained the condition of that ashtray.

With the focal point polished and replaced in its prominent position, I’d polish the glass top and begin repositioning papers. I’d dash around the desk, placing neat stacks next to the next neat stack, carefully making each stack the same height as the next while aligning all edges perfectly to the edges of the desk.

It was a work of art and I was so proud.

I learned years later my hard work created even more hard work for my dad. What appeared to be unorganized was actually carefully and very personalized paper placement. It took him days to find things after my surprise cleaning visits.

The most amazing thing about this memory is I realized just this morning my desk top has ALWAYS looked exactly like my dad’s–before I showed up to help him out–minus that big ashtray.

I’m thinking I may need to wave the white flag at some of my decluttering attempts.

“When the remembering was done, the forgetting could begin.” 

Sara Zarr

I am…

B…simply being.

~Peace~

Work Is More Than a Four Letter Word

“No man needs sympathy because he has to work, because he has a burden to carry. Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.” 

Theodore Roosevelt

Lunch seems to be the common thread of my stories lately.

Lucky, aren’t I?

Today Michael and I had lunch with a former coworker of mine, Kathy Willer and her husband, Denny. Interesting thing is Kathy and I worked in the same NE Iowa community for the same radiologists but at different facilities. Kathy worked at Schoitz Memorial Hospital. I worked at St. Francis Hospital. Even though we were only a few miles apart our work environments were very different, each hospital had its own specialty and way of doing things. Looking back it’s a little bit comical and a little bit sad.

As radiologic technologists we technically worked for the hospitals. In reality we worked for the radiologists. Because the radiologists covered both hospitals, the staff knew each other and saw each other at different professional meetings and always at the annual Christmas party. We were a very diverse group of people–as you can see from the picture of the St. Francis crew I’m re-sharing today since both Kathy and I forgot to take a picture today.

Today’s lunch was a walk down memory lane for both of us. We said things like–“I think it’s been over 30 years since I saw and talked to you.” Or “I retired after working 42 years in imaging.” WHAT! Is that even possible? How old are we anyway?

As we talked and laughed it seemed like it was just a few years ago we were both balancing our work and home lives. Who would have thought when we started our careers the changes we’d see in the field of medical imaging. We saw the first CT and MRI images, watched ultrasound grow from B-mode/M-mode scans to 3 and 4D imaging with incredible flow studies, marveled at the advances in invasive radiology procedures, advances in nuclear medicine and the birth of PET scans, and all the incredible advances in radiation therapy.

We were both so fortunate to be a field where we could grow beyond our wildest dreams professionally and be surrounded by people who grew from coworkers into friends.

Thanks, Kathy and Denny for a wonderful leisiurely lunch.

I am smiling, I am humbled, and I am grateful.

“Motivation comes from working on things we care about. It also comes from working with people we care about.” 

Sheryl Sandberg, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead

I am…

B…simply being.

~Peace~

Sherrie’s Cherry Bars–Resurrected

“No one who cooks, cooks alone. Even at her most solitary, a cook in the kitchen is surrounded by generations of cooks past, the advice and menus of cooks present, the wisdom of cookbook writers.” 

Laurie Colwin

Baking was not something I had time to do when I was working. It was just to time consuming.

After I retired I started baking chocolate chip cookies. For two reasons–I knew how and I love cookies–especially chocolate chip cookies.

Today I wanted something different.

Somewhere, deep in my memory, I remembered some cherry bars one of our students made when I was working at St. Francis in the radiology department. I knew I had the recipe somewhere. In my mind’s eye, I could see the handwritten recipe–

It took some time–mainly because I had to read and remember every other recipe I came across  in my slow search. What should have been a ten minute deal ended about an hour and half later. It looked exactly like I remembered it.

This little piece of paper is special for several reasons:

  • It is written by the original baker, Sherrie–a young woman who was a radiology student decades ago.
  • The little added note on the top of the page telling me it’s from Sherrie was written by another co-worker–Jackie–who later became a student and then a fellow radiologic technologist.
  • These cherry bars are just as good today as they were all those years ago. The only change I made today was using two cans of dark cherries in syrup instead of cherry pie filling.
  • Memories come in many different forms. Today I walked down a little side road off of my memory lane. My sense of smell and taste were quick to appreciate this treat from a day many decades in the past. It was and is such an unexpected treat.

If you have the time to do a little baking–give ’em a try.

“Cooking is at once child’s play and adult joy. And cooking done with care is an act of love.” 

Craig Claiborne

I am…

B…simply being.

~Peace~

Time Travel

“Childhood is the one story that stands by itself in every soul.” 

Ivan Doig, The Whistling Season

Memories.

I’m so surprised at how unexpected things can stir up such powerful ones.

My latest trip down memory lane was sparked by three little bowls I found at an estate sale. As I held them I was immediately transported back in time to Aunt Marie’s house in Omaha.

In my mind I saw myself standing in the little kitchen in front of the large farm-style sink, drying dishes. The person who dried the dishes had to put things away. It became my job because I was the tallest. Little did I know then just how much I should have enjoyed that title! Putting dishes away was not an easy task nor was it something you could do quickly.  This was especially difficult due to the fact all the other kids in the neighborhood ate earlier. This meant we could hear them all running and we were being left out. The pressure was on me because no one could go out until we were all done.

To begin the process I had to duck in order to open the wide white cabinet door. Once open I was always amazed at the stacks and stacks of mis-matched china. My twelve-year old know it all mind could not grasp why anyone would choose to have all those different types, colors, and shapes of cups, saucers, and plates.

Today I realize and appreciate the fact that this massive cupboard held not only the original family china but pieces of sets from every family member who had died or moved away from Omaha.

As we got older, my sisters and I visited Marie when we could all get away for a long weekend. Looking back, it’s disappointing to me my young adult self did not have the insight to ask more questions about family and get details about that treasure trove of dishes. Now the dishes are gone as well as those incredible story tellers.

But, by the grace of God, I have physical reminders of Marie. Several times during the day I get to hold each one and thank God for her and for all she did for my family.

I pray she can hear me because I cannot imagine where any of us would have ended up without her.

“I do not miss childhood, but I miss the way I took pleasure in small things, even as greater things crumbled. I could not control the world I was in, could not walk away from things or people or moments that hurt, but I took joy in the things that made me happy.” 

Neil Gaiman, The Ocean at the End of the Lane

I am…

B…simply being…

~Peace~

Youth Dew

“Songs and smells will bring you back to a moment in time more than anything else. It’s amazing how much can be conjured with a few notes of a song or a solitary whiff of a room. A song you didn’t even pay attention to at the time, a place that you didn’t even know had a particular smell.” 

Emily Giffin, Something Borrowed

Encouragement can come in strange shapes and forms.

I went to a program at the library this morning. I fell into line behind the other late arrivals. As the woman in front of me passed through the automatic door the air currents caught her perfume and floated it into my path.

Estee Lauder’s Youth Dew–I’d know that signature scent anywhere. The second it made contact with my olfactory senses, I saw the face and heard the voice of my Aunt Eve.

Interesting this childhood memory would pop so vividly into my Friday. What a spiritual boost for me and for my work.

I smiled.

I could see my family sitting around the dining room table in Heaven asking each other who they should send to encourage me and boost my spirits. Silly question because they’d all know who to send. That choice would have taken less than a millisecond. They knew Aunt Eve had a special spot in my heart and we had some history. As usual, in short order and in a style all her own, she got her message across loud and clear.

Thanks. I love and miss Y’all.

The gift of encouragement

Should be given each day–

Pass it out freely

And in gentle ways.

There’s no  need for ribbons

To make it look grand–

Just the simple encouragement

Of a kind, helping hand. 

~Joan Stephen~

I am…

B…simply being…

~Peace~

Christmas Touchstones

“We’re so caught up in our everyday lives that events of the past, like ancient stars that have burned out, are no longer in orbit around our minds. There are just too many things we have to think about every day, too many new things we have to learn. New styles, new information, new technology, new terminology … But still, no matter how much time passes, no matter what takes place in the interim, there are some things we can never assign to oblivion, memories we can never rub away. They remain with us forever, like a touchstone.” 

Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore

Memories of Christmas past find their way into my head this time of year.

I bet you have some of the same ones crowding into your mind these days–

  • Growing up in Iowa, every year we prayed for a white Christmas. One of my favorite memories is the year the forecast called for no snow. As I walked into Midnight Mass late that night, I prayed for snow. As we turned to leave the church that very early Christmas morning, the doors opened onto a scene of white. Snow had been steadily fallen for some time, covering the trees and the ground with snow that looked like crushed diamonds. The air was quiet and calm–the silence enveloped us all in a blanket of peace. This is my favorite Christmas moment.
  • Today was the last day of school here in our neighborhood. I had to laugh, remember leaving school for Christmas break and telling everyone we’d see each other next year.
  • Getting ready for our school Christmas program and getting to wear my Mom’s red lipstick. I felt absolutely beautiful.
  • Going to Midnight Mass with my family and resting my head on my Mom’s shoulder as we sang Silent Night together.
  • The year my mom died, we went to Midnight Mass, came home to eat chili and open presents. This year when we woke up Christmas morning, we discovered we all had new gifts under the tree. I still don’t know where all these gifts came from but they were an extra special boost to three kids spirits that year.
  • As a young adult, singing Silent Night with my friends and co-workers before we left our neighborhood bar and headed home for the holiday. Because of the memories I have about this song, Silent Night always makes me cry.
  • Remembering that first Christmas with family and friends after moving far from home. That first Christmas back home taught me the true meaning of Christmas joy.

As Christmas draws near, set aside a little extra time to be with those you love. When I look at my list of remembered things, I don’t see any gifts mentioned. All those special memories revolve around time spent with people–people I’d give anything to have the chance to spend time with today.

As some of us still search for that perfect gift, stop all the rushing. Pack away your phone and give those you love those extra moments of your undivided attention.

That is the gift that will be remembered–always–and most likely get better with age.

“When we recall Christmas past, we usually find that the simplest things – not the great occasions – give off the greatest glow of happiness.” 

Bob Hope

I am…

B…simply being…

~Peace~