Yesterday, I sat on the bed and arranged the items on the little round side table that has helped me through the last couple weeks. There was my reading glasses, Iphone, chapstick, tv remote control, half cup of tea, bottle of Advil, a picture of my darling hubby along with a green potted plant that is feeding me oxygen. So, I get the clever idea to water the plant with my remaining tea. You already see where this is going, I know. I poured the tea carefully into the dirt. Then, I noticed that all the liquid ran off across the other side onto the table, carrying bits of soil with it. Oh Lord! I immediately rescued the photo and removed each item one at a time for a wipe down. Next, I grabbed yesterday’s t-shirt to polish the table and further inspect all the items again to make sure they were dry. That felt like a days work for me after a very quite week of being waited on by my attentive hubby. I actually fretted that I would have nothing to write about in my weekly blog because the days were so routine and sedentary. Hah! What analogy can be made from this mishap? Perhaps it is that when we try to share and nourish others in small ways, our words may not be absorbed or our actions appreciated. They may flow right by unnoticed or even be rejected by the intended recipient. But that is not the end of the lesson. The result of my deed required immediate follow up. If I had left without seeing the water, it may have caused damage and left a mark. If we neglect a follow up, we could miss an opportunity to serve another way, or assist someone else. Others may be affected by our gestures in ways that we are unaware. People may observe us and benefit from our labors even when we think our attempts are futile. Our actions affect future generations that we will never know, just as the our grandparents and their forefathers are responsible for molding our destiny and character. We are an important part of a continuum, so stay the course. Sharing our stories and the love of God may run right through some deaf ears, on its way to fortifying another. That little bit of good soil might need to be spread around so others can grow and flourish. I will find a more suitable watering can to refresh my potted plant. God calls us to keep watering until the right amount sinks in.
This week, I rented a walker from the Senior Center. Humbling. A little minor foot surgery requires me to be off my left foot for three weeks. Crutches are lovely for maneuvering, but the walker has four on the floor for best support when rising or sitting. Turtle pace for sure. Simple tasks are difficult standing on one leg. Hopefully, I am developing a stronger upper body and not putting to much stress on the right leg. I don’t want to end up without a leg to stand on. This happens figuratively when I try to argue with friends, and with out supporting evidence. My childhood bestie, Lise, and I used to argue about many things, especially religion. She became a well renown litigator in Chicago and I still defend theological dogma whenever challenged (yes, everyday on Facebook). If we want credibility, it requires research, experience, and strong elocution. Lise inspires me with those gifts.Some people might accomplish solid arguments with their sound bytes and internet links. Most of us just sound off. Truthfully, I would rather have a visit face to face and engage in deeper discussion. Come on over, and help your self to tea. I lack the skill at the moment. I tried to make lunch on my own and hubby insists I sit with my leg elevated. He is a marvel at food prep and shower assistance. He is also ever ready with the ice pack and a beverage. This is a true test of love and the best care I could imagine. While he is at the office, I have all this solitary quiet time and no place to go. I understand now, the value of visiting the shut-ins or those with infirmities. A friendly face and a few good stories have value beyond medicine. I am practicing my ukulele and reading the first Marshall Terry book in a series of seven. The author is a relative and was a professor of Literature at Southern Methodist. This should be inspiring for me to get started with a family memoir. I actually have a working title and outlined the chapters. “The Mother Daughter Banquet” spans four generations of Lutheran women in our family. And yesterday my daughter, Bethany, has announced they are expecting in November! I jumped for joy- on one leg, holding tightly to my walker. As I balance carefully to take steps, I already can imagine the excitement we all will have when baby Single takes the first steps. I know God will be there every step of the way and I pray the Lord will give me restraint when I am tempted to cover our new “love” with kisses and my poppy red lipstick. In our daily life journey, some walk ten thousand steps and others take baby steps. The important thing is to keep moving forward, even while we reminisce about how far we have traveled.
Yesterday, I bought a ukulele. I don’t know how to play it, but I decided that it would be a great instrument for Dr. Sing A Song to have when visiting children in the hospital. I don’t play guitar and when I tickle the ivories on the piano, they actually giggle back at me. It will be a challenge for me to learn a new instrument when my musical skill it limited. Luckily, there is a workshop for ukulele players at clown camp that I plan to take, so I decided to get a head start and learn a few chords. We have just one little music shop in town, so I was thrilled to learn that they had one soprano ukulele that just came in. It looks like my hubby’s guitar that I left in the dryer too long. I bought it and brought it right home. Then, I went to the internet to look for tutorials. First, I learned the Island strumming technique-down-up-up-down. Then I listened to a couple songs on YouTube that showed the beginner chords. Apparently, I will be able to play a hundred songs with just the C, G, F, and A minor. Finally, I practiced the transitions form one chord to the next. This was going poorly because my fingernails kept me from proper contact. The salesman said I have seven days to try it out and can return it if it is not for me. I am not ready to quit, even though it is clear that I am not a natural musician. I took a big step and got the clippers to cut off all the nails on my left hand and kept the nails on my right hand for strumming. Amazingly, this has made all the difference. I worked on the three transitions until I could do it with some melodic clarity. My hands started to cramp so I took a break. This purchase was so impulsive, I had not even discussed it with my hubby. I wondered if I could surprise him with one little song when he got home, so I got back to practice. Those of you who know my super supportive sweetheart, already know that he listened with delight and encouragement. He asked me to play more while he reached for his guitar. Our little duet truly made my heart soar. My daughters were equally encouraging when I played the chords for them today on the phone. They guessed exactly the song I was attempting. I am not ready to record it on YouTube, but in two months I should be ready to join the minstrels at camp. This whim may not amount to anything significant; it may just be a little Hawaiian happiness to add to my repertoire. Long ago when I was born in Honolulu to the Harper family, I must have heard the sweet sounds of the ukulele calling to me. “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” is an island girl that keeps dreaming. If music is calling you, come make a joyful noise with me.
Yesterday, a sassy realization came to me and plopped itself down by my side and said, “That’s the way it is, what’s the big deal”? This has happened a few times when I ponder the lives of my children after seeing their Instagrams. My daughters and I are similar in so many ways that I forget how differently we see the world. Our family covers a complete spectrum of beliefs and ideals, whether it is philosophical, political, relational, or religious. I never expected them to think exactly like I do. My mother and I debated many issues and certainly communicated much differently than she did with her mother. This may be a truism of every generation. Still, I marvel at my daughter’s conclusions and their choices when they are not the ones that I would make. They are not afraid to ask questions or try new things. They are not looking to be rich or popular. The result is that they are braver than I, more accepting, more generous, and more resilient. I cherish them as a gift from God. An example of our dichotomy lies in what we find humorous. Our family all likes to laugh out loud, often and uncontrollably. We all love comedy, but their idea of funny differs from mine. I credit my husband for this as he raised them on Monty Python and quoting their favorite lines around the dinner table. We might all laugh at a man who slips on a banana peel (that may seem kind of cruel, but it is old shtick) and they would find it much funnier if he slipped on a “meadow muffin” when walking through a cow pasture. I think the movie industry calls this “potty” humor. I just can’t seem to embrace this. So, my children and their generation laugh at base situations and remark, “What’s the big deal”? Maybe is isn’t, but my Swedish Lutheran upbringing did not include exposure to this. When people we love think differently, it can cause fractures in the relationship. What can be done about it? Peaceful discussion is imperative. It is never very agreeable to disagree, so I never liked that expression “agree to disagree”. A better outcome is “understand a little more, than we did before”. There is a new beer commercial that promotes this concept. I love the clever sociology projects that appear on Facebook which enlighten people. Comedians and storytellers often have the same motivation: to enlighten and entertain. It may not be a big deal that our language changes and our mode of communication changes with each generation. It is a very big deal that Love never changes. Love doesn’t end or walk away. Love is always there even when people are far apart. Laughter is in cahoots with Love. If you laugh when I slip and fall in the mud, I pray your Love will pick me up and brush me off without fear of getting dirty. Be different, because your mothers were too. Laugh loudly, because it is incredibly healthy. Love without end, because there is nothing better than that. If realization pays you a visit, call me and we will have a peaceful talk.
Yesterday, I took an unscheduled nap. I had plans in the afternoon, but slept right through them. Dreamland is a nice place to go when the muscles are achy from a new exercise regiment, or the brain is tired from continuous concentration. I am not typically a napper, but there are situations that quickly induce sleep. First, is the television or theater. Rarely can I watch more than two hours without nodding off, especially after a large meal. As stimulating as “Dancing with the Stars” can be, I have missed the final dance and elimination almost every time- those commercial breaks are killers. My children will tell you, violence throws me right into an unconscious state, Action and Thriller shows are soporific for me. It must be the subconscious that takes over to protect me from unsavory visuals. The second snooze promoter is transportation. Buses, airplanes, trains or car rides all make my eyelids heavy. Once again it is the element of sitting quietly in one place for an extended period, that has the glazed over effect on me. Third, is reading. If only I could learn to walk and read, I would have been a genius in college. Concerts and sporting events keep me attentive only when we are standing, clapping, or munching on popcorn, otherwise, I would probably catch a few winks. I don’t fall asleep in church. Very smart that the sermons are usually kept under an hour. I have put a few people to sleep with my lectures and stories- I can’t explain that one. Now that I am getting older, I should just plan on a nap every day. There is research that supports the value of a siesta. Einstein and Edison both made a habit of taking a nap and then feeling refreshed. I wonder if I did, would it keep me from nodding off before eight o’clock and then climbing into bed at one in the morning feeling wide awake? It may seem that there is an organic problem with someone who sleeps more than seven hours a day. So, I did have a physical plus blood work done to check my vitamin levels since I am primarily a vegetarian. Sure enough, my B12 was very low and the Doctor suggested I get a monthly B12 shot. She said it would help my energy level and sharpen my memory. That was the appointment I slept through. It is not that I’m afraid of needles, but I do need someone to needle me about the importance of preventive medicine. I would rather watch Grey’s Anatomy than go to a doctor’s office. Some of those harrowing scenes would put me out cold. So, don’t forget that the Lord asked us to rest on the seventh day. If that is not possible; try singing, praying, meditating, and napping two hours a day. Maybe then we could make it to the ten o’clock news report. I cant watch that anymore- too violent. I promise to reschedule my monthly inoculation. And I wish all of you, “sweet dreams”.
Yesterday, I think I met my match. My friend Georgia told a story about driving her car into the automatic car wash. She struggled to keep the wheels between the rails as she moved forward. The front tire was slightly stuck on the top of the track at the end so that the car was leaning a bit to the left. Concerned this was going to cause a problem, she opened the door and got out of the car to have a look and find some help to right the situation. Sure enough, the car wash started and she got a shower. Our lunch mates were laughing as she delivered her story with honest innocence, and we were wiping away tears as she described her dilemma. Her story reminded me how hard it is to stay on track. Conclusive research on adults explains that we are more easily distracted than children. There are so many things that might deter us from completing a task, including our human tendency to be stubborn and contrary. Also, our human weakness that leads to fatigue and illness can most certainly push us completely off the track. Unfortunately, we can be working with great passion on something that is vitally important, and find we are going down the wrong track. Even worse, is when our efforts are making a positive impact and the enemy pushes back, bringing our wheels to a halt. I loved playing with my brother’s electric train set, and clearly recall how the engine would race around and go careening out of control and off the track if we accelerated to quickly. Staying on track requires three essentials: good direction, continuous focus and proper speed. It only takes one of these to be altered to cause a derailment of the project or a motivational crash. I count on the Lord for the direction, and it is rarely complicated because my hubby is a good conductor. Focus usually depends on good health and nutrition to be clear minded. It is speed that often results in my careless clowning around. I am slowing down these days which is helpful. Georgia has always known her clown tendencies and even enrolled to become a professional clown in the circus when she was younger- that is a story we want to hear more about. We may have to team up and form a Clown Alley in Charleston. Sharing our antics is worth a laugh. As we move forward and try to focus on new adventures, I look forward to the giggles and guffaws. Hopefully, we will never need a laugh track.
Yesterday, I watched the movie “The Cincinnati Kid” starring Steve McQueen. I love the classic movies on TCM. The Kid was a card shark who could spot the dealers that were trained in the sleight of hand. This was very impressive and dramatic. It reminded me of the new card game that the Barnettes taught us last week called “Phase Ten”. The game is a type of Rummy and we started at 8:30 in the evening so I was pleased to play something simple as it had been a tiring day. I even thought I could slip off to bed by ten o’clock. Well, the first rounds went quickly and I was hooked. I got to level six and was thrilled to get two wild cards, and soon had two sets of four. When I laid them down, Bob was about to record my progress and declared in his Gentlemanly Georgian drawl, “You’ll have to pick those back up, Kim”. I looked puzzled and he politely explained that I just completed phase seven instead of six. Oops! I put on my glasses and squinted in wonder at the little explanation card. I was completely incensed at such a mistake when I thought I was lucky. Bob could not help laughing at my reaction and incredulity. I considered trying to talk him in to letting me record my phase seven, and let me go back to six the next hand. Why argue with the skilled and experienced? I picked up my cards and play continued. Next hand, I was the dealer and was pleased again with my cards. I laid down phase six and Lewis, dear son-in-law across the table, tells me to count my cards. I had twelve and should have had just ten. More laughter around the table. I am a poor excuse for a card shark. Cool Hand Luke was not going to let me off the hook. Thirty years ago, my grandmother would have insisted on a dollar being added to the kitty for a misdeal. We played until Bethany was the first to complete ten phases and won. We got to bed by midnight. Obviously, I should not partake in serious matters so late at night because I am a morning person. I may be competitive, but I never cheat knowingly. Sportsmanship kept me playing instead of quitting and counting my losses. The message may be that having fun is more important than winning, and mistakes can be so funny that they are the best part of the game. This may not be true in the Old West or professional circles, but it should be among friends. I propose to join a weekly game night. If you are looking for laughter; deal me in.
Yesterday, was my sixtieth birthday! All my children were together to usher me into the new decade. They chose a theme for the week that they thought best describes my personality and and life interests, and called it Camp Joyful Noise. This included camp shirts, a beach retreat and the motto, “Promoting Peace Through Song”, and sing we did. There were times each day that were set aside for taking care of job related business that required cell phone or computer connection. Those are the new Norman Rockwell family life pictures in my mind. Bethany, our camp director, brought us back together each day with a craft activity or an adventure in nature. This was indeed a time that revealed our character and some talents that we had not previously discovered. Every day was a surprise, including a party with neighbors and friends from Ohio- even my busy brothers flew in with their sweet wives. Keeping secrets from me was indeed a huge challenge. This of course reminds me that nothing we do is kept secret from God. He knows our joy and our sorrow. He knows the mixed blessings and emotions that muddle our minds. When we make plans to bring others together, it takes tremendous love and flexibility in order to truly promote peace. The most heart warming event was the song the children wrote and sang accompanied by my hubby on the guitar, with music that he wrote and arranged. Sing and pray, eat and laugh, play and talk; it is what I love to do with my family. I feel complete when we are together. There is a natural joy that is woven into our circle of love, like a dream catcher that is carefully and patiently crafted. I went rogue on that craft because the leather strap kept unraveling as I twist it around the metal ring. The message is clear now that I can’t always control what I am given and sometimes the situation may unravel. This is not a failure but a challenge to persevere and ask for direction. My end product was different, but my dreams still came through. Thank you sweet family for giving me a week to remember. It was special and I know the surprises will continue even after you return to your homes. I don’t mean the dirty socks I will find, or the leftover hamburger in the fridge. You surprise me with the wonderful ways you share your lives with others. You have given Dr. Sing A.Song new material for her mission to cheer others. May every song you sing promote sweet peace.
Yesterday, I knocked on Linda’s door and a bird flew out of the magnolia wreath. There was a mossy little nest that was neatly secured behind the flowers and ribbons. “Are you going to move this before the bird flys into the house?” I asked. “It has twice already”, she said. This required trapping it in the bedroom, opening a window and removing a screen, so it would return to the greater outdoors. Today the wreath was moved to a chair and the nest is empty. “How very appropriate”, I thought. Their son has been living with them as he remodels a house and prepares for marriage this weekend. After the wedding, Linda’s nest will be empty as well. This is one of those moments that carries a flood of emotions that I expect will produce rivers of tears that I have seen at so many receptions when mothers “give” their sons to be married. When our children start lives on their own, or when they make a commitment to love and cherish another, it is an exciting new chapter in their story. This should be a victory for parents, but it also feels like the end of a book and the story for a mom. Sure, we never stop parenting, I have heard that many times. Ha! Evenso, the house changes character in the quiet. It starts a new story. It has taken me time to transform the solitary confinement feeling of my house into a sanctuary for serene meditation and prayer. The busy mom struggles to find time to meditate before she drifts to sleep each night. I now luxuriously bathe in prayer and thoughts that are no longer drowned out by, “Can you drive me to practice, have you seen my homework, will you wash my uniform, will you tuck me in bed?” I loved those days, and yet, I realize that God was not first in my life; my children were. He still continuously blessed me with His love. Now I understand the importance of putting Him first and thanking Him everyday for the privilege to be a parent- the greatest gift I have known. I am no longer as busy and have learned to enjoy a time of rest and refueling. My hubby is as busy as ever, but we both take time at the start of each day to count our blessings and pray for direction in helping others. The nest has changed but it is not really empty. Our love still fills it. Love that has room for all that wish to share our abode. This is the same for Linda who fills her house with family and friends on a regular basis. If you need a quiet place away from the busy, or if you need a little more connection; come on to my house. We can cook and laugh and pray together. It is a nest where you can rest.
Last week, I came unraveled. We joined the East Cooper Shag Club, and our first official dance was at the Snee Farm Country Club. I bought new shoes with smooth bottoms for easy spinning on the wooden floor. We took lessons from the professional, Kae Childs, to learn the basics. We practiced in the kitchen so that I would learn to quit leading. We studied the page on etiquette, and we were ready for a good time. Saturday night, we entered the lobby of the club house and introduced ourselves because we saw only one person we knew. After buying a 50/50 raffle ticket, hubby and I went to find the food and beverage. As I sashayed across the floor, there was a tiny tug so imperceptible that I did not realize the hem if my jacket cast a line of thread like it was fly fishing. When I suddenly turned to see what was tugging at my leg, I reeled in four feet of black thread that hubby might have been standing on. I had to untangle it from around my leg, around the bottom of my jacket, and pull it in from the doorway of the grill room. Imagine if this had happened on the dance floor. I could have caught a few shaggers and tied us all up to the pillar. Oddly, the hem stayed in place and my dignity was in tack while I tucked the ball of thread into a secure section. Being unraveled is an old term for what women today call a “hot mess”. That is how I look after dancing when the sweat is trickling down my face. Losing my temper or composure is a rarity, but my children have all seen it. And I have seen them come unglued. The underlying reason seems to be a loss of control in a situation. We are a family of planners and we do expect the entire world to love and embrace our plans. I have learned to be more flexible as I realize that sometimes God has different plans for us. I have also learned to consider prayerfully to plan with God’s purpose in mind. Kae writes about this is her book, “Life is a Dance, Whose going to Lead?” It takes practice to find a rhythm and a flow. Shag dancing has an emphasis on “find a spot and stay in your slot”. That is good advice to keep from crashing into others and coming unraveled. We will continue our lessons and go to many more dances because we won the raffle at the end of the evening. Get out your old Motown records and dance wherever you may be.