Life Up North: The Doll Collector

Some people think clowns are creepy, scary, sinister. I feel somewhat the same about dolls. I had a moment today that was steeped in “doll creepiness” as Mom and I were casing out the Salvation Army thrift store.

Salvation Army is a semi-regular stop for Mom because she is curious and always amazed at what she can find for a quarter, or a dollar – something she might have to pay a lot more for somewhere else, and so much more convenient than running all over the county to garage sales.  I find it amusing too, but also a little sad. There are so many things that are clearly in the last stages of their existence. It’s like a nursing home for household goods.

Occasionally there is something new or almost new, but that is also sad. Who would part with a perfectly good item unless there was trauma, duress or sadness involved? Maybe a death, or a downsizing move, or just the inability to maintain… all possible. I’m thinking something like that happened with the doll collector.

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I entered the store and within a few steps became aware of the dolls. I noticed them first in a bin, lying piled on top of each other. A few baby dolls, but most were collector items, perhaps like American girl. Some had exquisite faces and hair and all were in full costume. Little replicas of people with unseeing eyes staring around in all directions – some were watching me. I’m sure of it.

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And then I saw the shelves. Dolls lined up, standing at attention, oblivious to me as I examined their dresses and coats, straightened their hats and tucked their hair into place. Personally, I would not make a doll stand out in public with its hair frowzy and messed, and a big pink sticker on its face. They are/were someone’s little people who have been uprooted, left homeless and unwanted because of some dire circumstance. Surely, they are due some compassion and respect.

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Could this sticker not have been placed elsewhere? And that hair!

I can only imagine that it must have been a hard decision for someone to take them all to the thrift store, when they could possibly have been sold for more. Maybe there was no grandchild to give them to, or maybe there was no time to advertise and find new homes for them, or maybe they couldn’t stand reliving the memories. Have it over and done with.

I’ve just emptied a house and moved myself. I know the feeling.

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Poor, brave darlings!

Sad, and kind of creepy. Just sayin’…

A Vow to Soften

I did not write this. It came to me from a friend and was written by Rachel Macy Stafford.  I found words in it to make my own.  I think there is something here for everyone to take to heart.  Read and see if I’m right.

 

My Vow to Soften

I’ve had enough of my hard edges.

I’m tired of straining my voice.

I’d like to loosen up and laugh a little more,

Be a positive rather than a negative.

 

I’d like to feel the upward curve of my lips.

I’d like to surrender control of things in which I have no control.

I’d like to let things unfold in their own time, in their own way.

I’d like to participate joyfully in this fleeting life.

 

I’d like to be softer

Towards him,

Towards her,

Towards me.

 

And this is my vow:

I vow to listen to opinions – I don’t always have to be right.

I don’t always have to agree or have the last word.

 

I vow to hand over the hairbrush, the pile of laundry, the school project,

The task before us. “How would you do it?” I will ask.

I vow to step aside and respect a new approach.

Success might be difficult to see at first; I vow to keep looking.

I vow to be more accepting of quirks and mannerisms.

I vow to be more accepting of tastes and styles unlike my own.

 

I vow to remember he is in the process of becoming; she is in the process of finding her way.

And they are more apt to do it if I stop telling them how.

 

I vow to regard “weaknesses” as hidden strengths.

Inner gifts can be nurtured when I stop plotting ways to alter, change, and “improve”.

 

I vow to greet my family and myself with a loving smile, no matter what happened yesterday.

Grudge holding only hurts us all.

I vow to pause before correcting.

I shall take a moment to consider if the mistake even needs to be mentioned at all.

I vow to stop nitpicking until it bleeds.

I vow to demand less and inquire more.

 

I vow to listen

Consider

And expand my thinking.

 

I vow to be a voice of encouragement in a demeaning world.

I vow to be a silver lining spotter in my family’s little world.

I vow to be softer today than I was yesterday – a softer voice, a softer posture, a softer touch, a softer thought, a softer timetable.

 

 

I vow to be softer towards the imperfect human being inside me and beside me.

 

By being softer, I can hear more, learn more, feel more, and love more.

At last I will fully see.

I will see his colors.

I will see her colors.

I will see my colors.

Perhaps for the very first time.

 

The colors might take my breath away,

Bring me to tears

And offer long-awaited peace.

 

I shall soften in order to illuminate the colors of the soul.

I shall soften so the human being within me and beside me can shine.

 

©Rachel Macy Stafford 2016

 

 

 

 

Pink Cloud and the Man Who Lives in the Woods

20180209_182854630926522.jpgFrom where did this one pink cloud come? So singular and alone it was floating in the path of light coming sideways in the evening.  Is it the evening because it divides the night from the day evenly? That’s what I was thinking about. I had to stop and take a picture of the cloud.

Darkness was approaching, and so was a man on a bicycle. He was a friendly man and called out to me, also on a bicycle, and to the husband who was walking. He asked about the electric bike I was on and came over to show us a picture on his cellphone of another electric bike he had just been looking at. He talked fast and easily about bikes, having put about $4000 into his ride, with special rims on the wheels and a rear approach sensor. He was a serious rider. In fact, he only rode bikes, because he had lost his license a while back.

He was riding home, well not exactly home. He was riding to his tent in the woods. Yes, homeless for the time being but making the best of it. Clean (had just showered at a shelter today), well groomed and nourished, and looking more like a yuppie fitness freak than a vagrant, he gave us several stories of life in the woods. He was a loner by choice and kept his camp clean and decked out – 2 tents, because he had lots of stuff. Oh, and he was a veteran of the Gulf War.

He was employed at Goodwill Corporate for three years now. He had another valuable bike which he kept locked up at work. It had always been a problem to keep it safe while he was away from camp. What was he to do, chain it to a tree?

He wanted to get housing but he just didn’t make enough where he was, and there weren’t any better jobs that he knew of.  He told us where his last three camps had been, and I knew every one of them, had driven/walked by and thought “now if I were homeless I might try to hide in there”.  The place he had been just before Hurrican Irma had been by a creek. That night he came home from work and everything he owned had floated off in the flooded field. He said it was a real pain every time he was made to move. When you have a big camp, it takes quite a few trips to relocate it all. Sometimes they don’t give him much time to do it. He has to leave stuff behind.

The husband was getting antsy, tired of standing and listening and it must have been obvious. The man’s  name was Jody. He apologized for talking so much. It was just that he didn’t get to talk very often, especially to strangers who didn’t know anything about him and asked questions that didn’t sound threatening. He rode off on his really cool bike. I’m not going to say that I didn’t think about offering him a meal next time he rode by, or a shower, or maybe a yard to camp in next time he got chased out. I did think of those things, but he sounded like he was handling life pretty well so I said nothing.

Eulogy to Grey Kitty

Things change.  Back from a ten day trip, I spent the morning picking up the water bowl, the food bowl, cleaning out the litter pan, putting the towels and sheet used for bedding in the laundry, uncovering the furniture in her “sick” room.  Then I sat alone at my writing table thinking about all the times that sitting there would have guaranteed a cat in my lap within a couple minutes.  I will miss her and she was a good cat.

She came to us as a kitten, found alone by one of my daughters in a city parking lot.  She was very young, very scared and spent the first week hiding under my daughter’s bed.  We weren’t sure if she would make it.  What a way to start.  I think her memory of that contributed to her quietness, her timidity, her reclusive nature.  She grew to tolerate other cats but was never one to initiate friendship or cuddle up to any of them.  She grew to trust some people and be affectionate but that trust had to be earned. The sound of strangers in the house always made her disappear. She would come out from her hiding place when things got quiet again.

her magnificent green eyes and a pretty white bib

her magnificent green eyes and a pretty white bib

When my daughter moved away to school she left Grey Kitty with me, which was fine since I had grown fond of her.  I had inherited another cat from my second daughter and it would have been nice if they had gotten along but they didn’t.  They fought like, well, like cats.  They had both grown up being “only cats” and didn’t want to share their humans.  We had to keep them separated or there were consequences of loud cat growls and tufts of fur everywhere.  Once when we were away they were accidentally shut in the same room.  We found them sitting quietly in opposite corners pretending nothing had happened, but the room told a different story, way different.  I thought they might have gotten it out of their system and become friends, but no.

Grey Kitty was hesitant about all kinds of things.  There was the usual cat maneuver of standing in front of an open door, debating whether or not to go through.  She had the nervous tail tic.  It drove me crazy and I would sometimes pick her up and make the decision for her.  But most of the time, in deference to our friendship, I just waited until she either bolted out or sauntered in the other direction.  I think my willingness to let her be who she was made her like me as much as she did.

She had patience with me as well,  Many times she would come up on my lap and get settled for a good sleep and minutes later I would have to get up to answer the phone.  She had patience in the kitchen. She knew the sound of pans rattling and cans opening and would appear at mealtime.  After circling my feet for several minutes in an attempt to get my attention (trip me) she would sit quietly and look at me with her best stare.  The stare would continue right up through the meal until the husband would relent and give her a small bite of people food.

One day, years ago, I thought I had accidentally killed her.  She was in the garage when I closed the door automatically and turned my back to go into the house.  For some reason she waited until the last second to try leaving and got caught under the door.  When I looked again I could only see the back half of her and the door was down.  She evidently had been crouching low and hadn’t triggered the safety beam.  I slapped the control and ran to get her but she ran out faster than I could get there.  I was pretty worried about her but decided if she could move that fast she probably didn’t have a broken neck.  She was always a little leery of the garage door after that.

As she grew older, she began to be a very picky eater.  Dry cat food was not good enough.  Canned cat food was better, but only certain kinds.  She started losing weight, and her breath smelled awful.   Tests at the vet’s office showed kidney disease, so we tried various brands of special food.  She didn’t like any of them.  Finally, to keep her from starving I let her eat anything she would eat.  She was pitiful, and her soft meow changed into a more raucous sound that was disturbing and insistent.  I think she had nausea.

This story ends as you might suspect by now.  I took GK to my daughter the veterinarian and she and I, compassionately and with tears, euthanized her and laid her to rest.  She served a purpose in my life, as I believe animals were meant to do.  These awesome creatures that God made to share the earth with us make us think, make us love, make us give of ourselves and make us aware that we are not alone.

Now it’s a bit simpler at home – I don’t have to shut the doors to prevent cat fights, I don’t have to search for obscure brands of special food, I don’t have to clean up sick messes.  Simpler, but not necessarily better. I’m just sayin’, she was a good cat and I miss her.

P.S. This is not to be interpreted as a request for another cat.

Today’s List

Today I made a list, which I almost never do anymore.  There were some important things that I didn’t want to forget.  I am never sure of my lists – are these the most important things? what am I forgetting? can I possibly do it all? But I did make the list and then prayed that if it mattered at all, I would be directed what to do.

And then I did other things, none of them on the list.  I guess it didn’t matter?

But it was ok.  I had made the decision someone else’s.

Today I helped my employer, somewhat longer than I had planned, but she needed it.

Today I returned a phone call and as a result, someone who needs a place to live, might have exactly what they wanted.

Today I fed someone who couldn’t feed herself. The food looked disgusting (pureed) but she ate it.  She had no response except to swallow and look at me once or twice. I felt overwhelmed with compassion.

Today I called the above person’s husband and told him that his beloved wife with Alzheimers was clean, fed and safe for one more day.

Today I came alongside someone who was helping someone else and hopefully answered some of his questions and encouraged him.  We made copies of his friend’s last will and testament.   We went to a restaurant and I had a strawberry shake while I watched him eat his burger and fries.

Today I let my cat sit undisturbed on my lap for half an hour.  It was the only time I was stationary at home and it did me good too.

None of these things were on my list, but they were on God’s list and ultimately I was very satisfied.  I’m making a list again for tomorrow but I’m not going to worry about it. The God I believe in is also making a list which is far better than mine. Hopefully as I trust him, my list will match his more and more. That is really all he asks of me.

Not Easy Being a Horse

the lucky ones
the lucky ones

They really are beautiful animals, horses.  When I think about it very long, it starts seeming strange to me what an network of industries has been built up around this one animal.  Even though they are not used for work in average situations anymore, are not a common means of serious transportation, they are large, eat a lot and require a good amount of care – still people are so enamored with horses, especially women.  You see horses standing peacefully in a field, or yard or stall and you naturally think “people ride those horses”.  No they don’t, not necessarily.

I spent three days with Doc Julia last week.  She hurt her back and needed a lackey to help lug her equipment around.  I love watching her work and was glad I had the time to go.  It was three days of meeting more horses than people.  Horses with infected ears, horses with kick wounds, horses with bad skin and sunburn, horses with worms, horses, horses, horses…  It seems being a horse in today’s world, especially in Florida, has a lot of hazards.

First of all, if you’re a horse, you had better belong to someone with a little extra cash because you eat like a horse.  There is a good reason for that common saying.  Horses eat continuously (except when sleeping).  They are grazing animals and are most healthy when they can have a little bit of hay or grass going through their system all the time.  My daughter’s horses live in a big pasture which appears to be green with some kind of plant but the reality is that the good grass is pretty scarce.  Horses don’t like to eat most weeds.  (They only like to eat the ones that aren’t good for them – that’s how smart they are.)  Bales of hay cost from $7 -$15  and you get what you pay for in quality.  And most horses down here also need to be fed some kind of pelletized feed, or oats – also costly in the amounts needed.  There is also the supplement market which rivals the human supplement market in competitive fury and complexity.  $$$$$

All this eating does amazing things to a horse’s teeth.  They wear down where they rub against each other.  If their bite isn’t perfectly balanced (and most of them aren’t) they get high places, points, and hooks where there is no wear.  It can get difficult and painful to eat if these areas aren’t filed down and smoothed.  Enter horse dentistry.  $$$$  In the three days I spent  with Doc Julia we did eight dentals.  Think about your own experience with the dentist.  Now try to imagine this happening to a huge, clueless animal who doesn’t like it any more than you do.  Yeah, right.

Horses that eat the wrong thing or not enough of the right thing get sick.  They get ulcers, diarrhea, constipation, stomach ache and bowel obstruction.  Again, if you are a horse you had better have an owner who is willing to call the doctor for a house call because you could die quite suddenly in great pain and agony if you don’t.

If you are a horse, you are on the lookout for anything that could be preying upon you.  If you get scared, you move fast to get away.  You run into barbed wire fences and tear up your skin, you step in holes and break bones.  You can hurt yourself in your own stall.  Your life depends on being able to stand on your feet but your hooves are subject to all kinds of conditions that could disable you.  You founder, you get eye infections, you get rain rot on your skin.  You are a horse and you had better have an owner who loves you.

All this brings us back to the peaceful scene in the pasture – horses grazing on green grass, tails swishing, manes moving with the breeze.  Many of these horses can no longer be ridden because of age or infirmity.  They are there because someone likes to look at them, pet them and spend money on them.   They are there because someone has memories of their better days and loves to see them happy and content.  I’m just sayin’,  they are the lucky ones.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where’s the Lid?

Who would expect mayhem in such a peaceful place?
Who would expect mayhem in such a peaceful place?

It’s as if someone left the lid off the crazy bottle lately and little demons are spilling out all over.  Evidently I completely missed a life or death battle next door last night.  True, the person who related the story to me is a bit given to drama –  if he was really being chased around the yard by an angry woman with a shovel, would I not have seen that? Sigh.  We have two adjoining houses in the oneacrewoods.  We’ve rented out the second house ever since my parents stopped coming down in the winter.  I would say that probably 75% of the renters have been people we enjoyed having next door.  The other 25% have given us some bizarre stories to tell.  I have come to understand that this is all part of being a landlord and no matter how careful one tries to be, situations change, things happen.  The ideal appearing applicant is still a human being with life problems and things can go crazy down the road. I wonder if the message I see in all the recent events is that it’s time to make life a little less complicated.  Simplification can be a beautiful, freeing thing and I might be ready for some of that.  What am I going to want to put up with in five years? ten years? or, for instance, when I’m 90? This week I went to visit the 90 year old lady, living by herself, who needed some help dealing with her security company (read about it here) .  We were able to solve that problem without too much trouble, but I became aware of other problems that come with age and limited mobility.  After we cleared a place off at the table where months of mail was stacked, our conversation turned to how she hadn’t eaten much that day and wished she had a complete food for herself like she did for her dog.  Some sort of pelletized people food would be ideal.  She still drives her truck to the store for milk but she admitted that it was getting a little scary.  And yet she hesitated at my offer of help.  Her mind knows she is not taking good care of herself but her body makes it hard for her to do any better. We are all getting older and we need to watch out for each other and help each other when we can.  I’m just saying, who do you know who needs some  looking after?  Food for thought.

A to Z Challenge: W for Watch

Looking through a drawer I came across five watches that I’ve worn at various times. All of them had stopped running and probably needed nothing more than a new battery. One of them had a cracked crystal.  I took them to a jewelry store to get them going again and when I picked them up the clerk said “no charge”.  They were all running and set to correct time so I asked why I wasn’t being charged for new batteries. He mentioned the cracked crystal and apologized.  I told him he hadn’t done it – it was that way when I brought it in.  He said he knew that, but was sorry he hadn’t been able to replace it, so he was giving me the batteries for free.  It was a small thing, but an unusual business occurrence these days. I don’t think I’ll forget it.

When was the last time you experienced someone taking responsibility for something for which they were not responsible?  And doesn’t that speak of a confidence and grace that is generous and non-threatening? I was grateful in this situation and the good will created will likely take me back to that store to spend money at some point.  This is in sharp contrast to times when responsibility is avoided or denied, when the most important thing seems to be pinning the blame somewhere.

I was thankful for this little object lesson that God dropped in my path and I’ll try not to forget to put it into practice. I think it’s about being humble,  not in a self deprecating way but with confidence. I am valued enough that I can willingly accept responsibility for my own mistakes and maybe for a few of someone elses’ as well.  It doesn’t really matter who is to blame.  And I’ve found that after years of using my phone for getting the time, I kind of like wearing a watch again.  Just sayin’…

 

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A to Z Challenge: V for Vet’nary

The equine veterinarian practices bedside manner
The equine veterinarian practices bedside manner

One of my all time favorite tv series is James Herriot’s “All Creatures Great and Small”. How interesting and fun it is to now be watching my daughter live out her own version of that story. Real doctors treat more than one species, or so it says on the back of her t-shirt. Doctor J is a vet’nary specializing in large animals, mainly horses but also cows, pigs, sheep, goats and other farm creatures.

 

Although this is a long standing dream of hers, to be a vet, and she finds it meaningful and satisfying, it is not always pleasant, convenient or easy. In fact, it is often unpleasant, inconvenient and hard. She has a mobile practice and travels from farm to farm with her truck full of supplies and equipment. At present, the area she covers is wide and she spends much time on the road. Many nights she is not home until 9 or 10 and still has her own animals to care for, oh, and herself to feed and put to bed. …

 

Sometimes when I visit, I ride with her and pretend I’m part of her team (after all, I am a nurse – I know how to fetch a scalpel or a suture, or the lubricant…). From my daughter I learned how to hold a sheep and how to pull a horse’s tongue out of the way while his teeth are getting filed (floated). She has saved a choking horse and set a lamb’s broken leg. She does ultrasounds and x-rays on her patients lugging heavy equipment cases to the field or the barn. She endures the most awkward positions for hours while sewing up a bad laceration or bandaging a difficult area. And she is often called upon when owners decide that their animal needs that last compassionate act.

 

And who would have thought that someone with sensitivities to organization (sock drawer perfection) and cleanliness (professional house cleaner) would develop such a high tolerance for dirt, manure and horse spit? It’s all part of the job for Dr. J., Equine Vet’nary.

 

how to hold a sheep getting it's leg x-rayed
how to hold a sheep getting it’s leg x-rayed

the Doc and her x-ray equipment
the Doc and her x-ray equipment

A to Z Challenge: G for Gone

the clock is still ticking...
the clock is still ticking…

G is for Gone

“Gone Without a Trace” is the name of a TV show of course, but I have my own list of people who have disappeared from my life (without my permission). They were important people and I really didn’t expect to never see or hear from them again, nor do I believe they did this purposely. It’s possible they are still around but I cannot find a trace of them anywhere. On the outside chance that any of the missing ever reads this, please know that I’m just wanting to know that you are still alive and I don’t mean to be a bother.

First among the missing is my one and only maid of honor at my wedding! I spent a year and a half with Karel Schmitt in nursing school. We were roommates and partners in escapades of all kinds. A couple years later, she was the only close friend who could make it to my Wisconsin wedding in January (nice timing huh?) Karel was a cute, peppy blond with an infectious smile and a wonderful sense of adventure. Maybe that’s why, shortly after, she also got married and according to the last letter I had from her, moved to some southeast Asia country where her husband’s family was starting a chicken farm. It seemed a little strange to me at the time. And the letters stopped. She was from St. Cloud, MN and had a twin whose name was Karen, I think. Granted, this is a pretty cold trail, but I have looked for her several times over the 40 years I’ve been married. She’s pretty much gone.

The second mystery is the disappearance of a beloved youth pastor and his wife. They were a young, intelligent couple who cared deeply for the people in our church and served the young people, including my own two girls, with a passion. That’s why when the church went through a very tumultuous time of change, they had to leave to preserve their emotional and spiritual health. We helped them load their furniture and clean their apartment before they moved. They gifted us with their grandfather clock. It still keeps good time and has a beautiful chime. (Okay, they said they had never liked it because it was so noisy – just not their style. But we like it.) It has to be wound every week so I think of them often. He was/is a handsome, part Asian man named Sui Shia and his wife was Christine. She was a budding journalist and writer. They both wanted to move someplace to further their education and Sui probably changed profession. He had many interests.

I am not a professional people hunter but I have the internet. That’s where most of my searching has been. Will I find them? Do they want to be found? Good questions.

 

Has anyone out there seen my people?