Survival Kit

Today, as I was looking through items from the friend’s house, I came across some small bags. They were labeled “Survival Kit”. A small brochure inside gave crucial survival information, tips, advice, and a list of what should go in the kit. I found it very interesting .

Is there room for some hay in there?

It was obvious that it was written back a while. This, for instance, among “items that might also prove useful” – quarters for emergency phone calls. Right. I wonder if recent generations would be able even to guess at how one might make a phone call with a quarter.

But most of the ideas were amazingly still good ones. I think that’s because survival is questionable only in a true crisis when the things we normally depend upon just aren’t there. The brochure called out several situations we might label as being critical, but followed up with this comforting advice:

“And remember, you can live through almost anything. Most survival is simply an inconvenience. Unfortunately, it is usually the individual who turns the survival situation into a life or death circumstance.” How true. How important it is to think clearly, avoid mistakes, and not panic, to conserve energy and resources for when they are most needed.

Then I had to laugh (and marvel) at the wise inclusion of this general rule of survival. It is probably the most universal and still practiced action, even by those who haven’t prepared for it. Here it is…

“Regardless of personal belief, most people confronted with survival have found great strength in asking for God’s help.”

Imagine that. What a timely reminder.

The Final Mess

It’s not done till it’s all done. This is not a political post. There are other messes.

How many of us have never moved from one house, one location to another? Those few who have stayed put all their lives have not experienced the final mess. I have seen it multiple times. Maybe it’s possible to learn to avoid some of it’s aspects, but… no, I think there’s always a final bunch of weird stuff that turns into a plague at the end.

Sometimes I have gone room by room, trying to collect the most valuable items and making sure they are packed. That is not the hard part. As the “keep” boxes stack up and increase in number, I start looking for a way to sell the “not so important” stuff. That can take a while and is a skill, a real job actually. Then there is the stuff that can’t be sold and I beg my friends to take off my hands, followed by the stuff that I have to load up and donate or take to the landfill. When it goes to the landfill, I am paying for it to be taken off my hands.

Who would have thought this little storage chest would have created a buying frenzy on the marketplace. I must have had it priced too low.

Lastly, there are the things that didn’t make it into any of the above categories – probably just hidden somewhere, or forgotten. This stuff is sitting on the floor, because all the furniture is gone. The boxes are all used and gone so there is nowhere for it to be packed. I’ve picked these items up a dozen times and not known what to do with them, and I still don’t know what to do with them. No one is around to want them, but they are good enough to cause guilt if put in the trash. They are the final mess.

I’m almost there with the project I’ve been working on – packing up a house for friends of mine. The last two days I listed big furniture on Facebook marketplace and spent most of both days answering questions, texting and meeting people as they came to pick things up.

The wise people bring pickup trucks, preferably empty, and a team of men. Other people, well, maybe being wise is optional. It will all fit in there somewhere.

This load… what can I say? Luckily they didn’t have far to go.

Since this has not been my own house, and I am uncertain what the final destination of some items should be, I am taking them home. My house is starting to look like their house, my garage like their garage. My closet smells like mothballs just like their closets did. I’m hoping if they remember something they still want, I’ll still have it here somewhere.

I wish I had been thinking more about writing as I was dealing with this house project. The April A to Z Challenge is coming up and I should have taken pictures of items through the alphabet as I was packing them. I’m sure I could have covered every letter. As it is, I will have to think of another theme.

A Story for the New Year

“When you ask God for something, when you put the matter in God’s hands, you must then be aware that what happens is his doing and he deserves credit.” My paraphrase of something I heard Joyce Meyer say.

We have spent many days readying our friend’s house for sale. The friends are in Florida now, and expected to come back and live in the house in the summers – be snowbirds. That plan changed. The house was put up for sale and a cash contract came within two weeks. The house was very full of twenty years of shopping trips (they were collectors) and a home daycare business that required many toys, children’s clothes, videos, DVD’s. We knew they couldn’t return to empty the house and we were willing to do it for them. My brother and I, and even Mom, have spent many hours sorting, and dispersing things.

Earlier this week we had two strong, young men helping us take furniture from the upper story of the house down into the garage. One of them came down to me as I was working in the basement and handed me $500 and an envelope with a card in it. “We found this when we removed a drawer from the dresser. This envelope had $500 in it.”

I was elated. The owner of the dresser (soon to be 95 years old) had asked me to search carefully in those drawers because she had a “feeling” that she was missing some money, had perhaps hidden it and forgotten where. I had looked in the drawers but had not taken them out.

I opened the envelope to see who the card was written to and found another five hundred dollar bills! I texted the owner, shaking my head and laughing about this crazy, but happy discovery. I put the bills in my front pack. The card was too big so I discarded it in one of the many trash bags being filled. I went about the rest of the day in the house, to the store, to the thrift shop, outside to get the mail, in and out of the truck numerous times. I often reached in my pack to get keys or credit card. Mentally, I was aware of having a lot of money in my possession.

That evening as I took the money out to a safer place, I was mystified to find only $500, not $1,000. I did all the usual purse and pocket and car searches, and finally went back to the house hoping to find the card. Maybe I wasn’t paying attention and had left money in the card? I dug through bags of trash and finally found the card but it had no money with it. I went to the store (Walmart) and asked. My prayer was “Lord, if I dropped that money without noticing would you please provide an honest person who had to turn it in.” I figured it would have to be the Lord’s doing if that happened. But it was not at Walmart, although I got a great deal of sympathy from the lady at the service desk.

Zeb prays too.

I told my brother and asked if he had seen the money and picked it up. He had not. Discussing the situation with him, and with Mom, I began to wonder if there really was $1000 or if I was seeing the same $500 twice. There was so much going on, so many interruptions. If some of the $1000 had fallen out, why would there be exactly half of it left? Why not $300, or $600? I started to doubt what I had seen and done, and honestly that bothered me the most.

However, I decided that having prayed and asked God to help me, I would just let him help in whatever way he wanted to. I wasn’t finding the money but I had told my friend that she had $1000 coming and that’s what she was going to get. I made up the difference from my own funds. I didn’t stop wondering what had happened, but I didn’t stress out like I normally would over that amount of money.

Today I went out to my vehicle to get my water bottle and saw, on the floor of the backseat, a bank money holder with my friend’s writing on it. In it was $500.

Right away I thanked God for letting me know I was not going crazy (yet). And now I’m thanking him for the lesson in trust. I didn’t know that the money would be found, because I have lost things dear to me that haven’t been found (yet, again). But I’m learning to trust God’s ability to take care of situations in ways I can’t think of. He can take care of me, and of other people effortlessly, and money is not even a consideration.

Just like saying thank you is always important, it is doubly important when I know I have asked for help. Credit where credit is due is a biblical principle that I love and adhere to. I find it in the words “in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your path” Proverbs 3:6

I’m still wondering, and would love to see a replay of how that money got where I found it. But I am content for now to acknowledge God’s goodness, his ability to teach effectively and possibly his sense of humor. Thanks God, just sayin’…

December Wreckage

I crashed. Taking off from my walking challenge was intentional Christmas Day. I don’t know what happened the day after that but no walking was done then either, (Oh, that’s right, it was the husband’s birthday. He got my walking time.) By Saturday night I was like wreckage. I sprawled in the recliner and looked terrible, felt terrible, and probably acted terrible. I was complaining and practically weeping as I tried to explain it to mom and my brother and niece. The frustrating part was not knowing why the sudden drop in energy, motivation, positivity. Was I sick (Covid, aaaagh!) or was I having endorphin withdrawal? Was that even a thing?

Yeah, two in a row. Not good.

I forced myself back on the treadmill last night and tonight. I guess I feel better, but it was really strange and I’m not completely out of that bad space yet. Honestly, it was having to report in here that kept me from quitting – and the fact that my family was laughing at supporting me and being sympathetic. Thank you guys.

After my pity party over at Mom’s I was walking back to my condo and momentarily all the bad stuff was forgotten. The snow that had been drifting in all day, and the dark, and the lights were so arresting I had to stop in the freezing cold and just look. The snowflakes were so large and flat that the light reflected off them everywhere. The dark sky was a complete contrast to the glittery, sparkles on the ground. Winter moments like these are the reason I can stand to live up here.

I wish pictures could do justice to what I saw. Not even close…

My Newest Friend

My focus areas are writing and walking (being active) and I believe in having cheerleaders. You’re probably doing something too. I think you also should get a cheerleader, to cheer you on!

December 15th. Today I was tasked with finding a home for some toys, a large size garbage bag full of interesting dolls and stuffed animals. Right away there was the problem of wanting to keep them all because they were so cute! My inner child was having a heated conversation with my Marie Kondo conscience about where these “items” would live in my house. I did the right thing and decided to donate them, but this one little guy would not get back in the bag. We have already bonded.

He looks a bit like Eeyore with stripes but I sense his inner excitement. He is going to be my cheerleader when I’m writing. He will sit on my desk and say nice things, like “you are absolutely flying across that keyboard!” and “that emoji couldn’t be more perfect”. Welcome my new friend. I’m searching for a name for him. The tag (which I cut off) on his butt was so worn I could only make out the letters MADEIN, but that’s not going to be his name.

I did learn some useful things in the podcasts I watched today. Thank you Anna LeBaron). I learned that the number one rule in using social media is to be social. I can’t remember the exact quote, but the heart of it was that if you aren’t having fun on social media, you are doing it wrong. I like that. I love reading others on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter who are having fun with what they write. The fun keeps me engaged so I’m there when they sneak in something profound, encouraging, genuinely helpful and thought provoking. Fun is so good, and it can change lives. I think that’s in the Bible somewhere.

Also life-changing, my 10,000 steps have been dutifully performed. My cheerleader friend was there giving me “that look” of his. I’m wondering about his hooves which definitely need a trim. Or maybe he’s not really an equine? Anyway, looking at him made me thankful I could walk, and that’s just what I needed to get it done.

“That look” gets me all fired up for exercise!

Talking about My Brothers

The interesting thing that happened today, in addition to getting my 10,000 steps

was a phone conversation with my cousin who loves to study and talk with others about relationships. I had to think about how to express what she loves to do, and I’m not sure I’ve got it just right. She wants to learn what it takes to have good relationships with other people in order to love well. She and her husband have helped others through Marriage Encounter workshops, and she is also the person who comes to any family event armed with questions to spark discussions. She likes hearing what others have to say. And don’t we all feel good when someone wants to hear us?

Today’s question worth thinking about was “what does it mean to be a good sibling?” I have four brothers, and I would call all of them good. It was an interesting exercise to define and talk about what “good” meant.

We are not above wearing cheesy reunion T-shirts for the sake of family togetherness.

Although we Smiths grew up together, we have gone our separate ways, lived our very different lives, in different parts of the country. We all have families of our own. Because we are talking about siblings, not friends or business associates or any other connection, making family of origin a priority has to be part of the definition. I love that my brothers, from time to time, have all taken the initiative to connect with each other, with parents and with me. We visit each other and make it a priority to be at family reunions and landmark events. We don’t stalk each other. We don’t demand to know every detail of each other’s lives, but when there is something to talk about, we are pretty sure we can find a family member who will take the time to be a good listener. We want to help each other when there is a crisis.

My Dad died a few years ago, and I love the way my brothers have taken care of Mom since then, each in their own special way. My youngest brother’s wife died this year and there we all were, wanting to share the loss and grieve together. One of my daughters had a pandemic wedding this fall and once again, family showed up to help and witness the special event.

Because we have met often over the years, our children know each other and have a special regard for family as well. They try to make sure that no one gets left out of the “cousin club”. I am so proud of all my nieces and nephews for their efforts to stay connected even as they have started their own families and gotten very busy.

Proud of the way the next generation of cousins has stepped up to honor family.

My brothers and their families are all interesting people and we have a common history. Those things should be more than enough reasons to want to know each other, to initiate and pursue connection. We aren’t doing it perfectly but we are learning as we go. It’s fun.

I would wish that everyone could have the blessing of good relationships between siblings, or other family members. I know sometimes it isn’t the case because living as family is a complex, and often messy business. I am glad today that I took time to think about how I can be a good sibling to my brothers. It is a topic worth much thought, just sayin’.

Real Conversations, Real People

December continues with the dual (and totally compatible) goals of writing and walking, although not at the same time.

The weekend is always refreshing because I have the opportunity to interact with the world and reassure myself that there are still real people out there. Breaking news! We are not just talking heads on computer screens, figments of our imaginations and the internet. I was able to identify several people by their eyes and hair (or no hair, whatever…). Today I had three or four socially distanced, but meaningful, conversations with friends. Today, I went to “in-person” church.

Yep, hair and eyes, people. That’s all we’ve got. Frightening.

The husband also looks forward to going. We’ve been talking this week about the value of face to face, eye to eye, contact and how good it is for the brain to be stimulated that way. Evidently, imaging studies have shown heightened brain activity with this kind of contact. I think we knew it was important for babies to have eye contact with their caretakers for bonding purposes, but this goes farther.

Supposedly, the only other animals, other than humans, that show this response is dogs. The person I heard this from was very apologetic to cat owners, but perhaps they need to do more studies. My cat looks me right in the eye and I know she’s thinking. I am also trying to think what she might be thinking, which means we both have heightened brain activity. I really like dogs too and am in awe of the uncanny knowledge they have of their owners. Dogs have the eye thing down, perfectly, I might say.

My cat wants to bond with me every time I sit down, but her whiskers tickle too much.

So we went to church and were reminded that this is a natural time of the year to be nurturing our sense of hope. Not just hope that pandemics end, but hopes that there is a real God and that he came once, and he has plans to come again and make all bad things good.

Following that I spent another afternoon packing boxes and bags, helping my friends who are selling their northern house. And then, of course, the 10,000 steps on the treadmill, while listening to two hour-long podcasts. I’m listening to writers, authors and editors talk about various aspects of writing. Even online, this kind of connecting gives me ideas (and makes the time on the torture machine go much faster). Maybe you’ve noticed on the sidebar of this blog that I’m a Hope*Writer. It’s a valuable group for all kinds of hopefilled reasons.

Last but not least in any way, my accountability pic of the day!

Today’s Four Good Things

There were four very good things about this day. They were good things to me because they made me feel very alive and stimulated by new insights. They spurred me to action.

The earth is still spinning in space. It’s a good day.

The first was seeing an amazing sunrise, with my favorite morning people. I love watching the sky, the clouds and light doing their thing at the beginning and the end, like bookends of the day.

The second thing was a set of lessons on recognizing and understanding more about shame and the part it plays in people’s lives. It was so enlightening that I finished nine lessons. I couldn’t stop. Thank you Dinah Monahan! I would sit in any class you were teaching.

A third good thing was hearing an interview with a very insightful writer who said so many profoundly helpful things about writing. Everything she said was meaningful and gave me ideas about collaborative writing (and about life in general). I wanted to try new things right away. I had to take action and buy her book immediately on Kindle. Thank you Diana Glyer for your “Bandersnatch” book and I hope I have time this weekend to read it.

The fourth good thing was that I made my step count for the day once again. It was a combination of treadmill, walking outside, and just getting around doing life. I’m finding that it’s a commitment that’s not always convenient. For instance, it means getting sweaty two or three times a day and having to decide whether to shower and change clothes – yeah, that’s right, I don’t always do it.

You might think this picture is too big. That’s okay, you can think that. It makes me feel good to look at it.

But I feel like it is doing me some good. I’m sleeping differently because I’m physically tired at the end of the day. I’m starting to get some lower blood pressure readings, and although I’m not usually in a bad mood, I feel my mood is better than usual. It feels so good to have done something challenging.

Today as I was walking outside, sweating underneath my winter coat, and hoping my phone wouldn’t run out of battery, I kept getting texts from some poor scammer. Whoever it was (and I don’t think it had to be a woman), they used the same tired story of wanting me to be their Mary Kay consultant and help them with a big order for a daughter’s wedding. I don’t know why I get pleasure out of playing with these people for a bit, but I do. I tell them they can order off my website, which is where they got my phone number. And then it branches off into why they can’t do that, followed by how their boss is going to cut me a check for the product. Their boss? It’s such a lame story that it always amazes me.

The good part is that I did get home before my phone (and exercise app) ran out of battery. I’ve also taken a shower, finally, and will be ready for a clean start tomorrow. Just sayin’…

Old Feet

Today brought more lights.

And more steps. I’m 7 days of walking out of 9 in December and still going.

I’m noticing something about my feet as I continue to try to do 10,000 steps a day. For a while now I have a felt lump on the middle of my foot, right on the pad next to my toes. I used to take my shoe off and look for a rock, but now I know I won’t find one. It’s called Metatarsalgia, which just means pain in the metatarsal region. It hurts for the first half mile of walking, then it kind of flattens out and may not bother me the rest of my walk even though it makes my foot feel kind of round on the bottom.

In fact, both of my feet seem a bit rolly polly on the bottom and I sometimes lurch to one side or the other and have to make a correction. On the treadmill where the path is quite narrow, I can’t get off too far to the side or I’m losing balance and doing a bad thing. I have to focus on stepping “just so” whenever I’m not holding on to the grips. You have no idea how old this makes me feel, unless you’re having the same thing happen, of course.

Mom has been remarking about the same thing happening to her for years now. She thinks it’s neuropathy, and there probably is some of that involved. She prefers to go barefoot as much as possible, so she can feel the floor or the ground. When she wears shoes she can’t balance very well and worries about falling. The shoes feel so weird to her.

My siblings and I all have some version of whatever this is. Sometimes it’s numbness and tingling, and sometimes it’s pain. We are all hikers or work in physical jobs where we need our feet so this is disturbing. It looks like it’s an inherited trait, and I don’t think there is a remedy.

This isn’t really a story, but more of an observation and an inquiry. Does anyone else have information about Metatarsalgia?

Let’s Have Some Light: Conclusion

In the month of December I’m combining story telling and exercise in hope of making one more of a habit, and one less boring.

It was a great relief today to walk outside for all 10,000 steps. December 8th and I have 6 winning days toward my goal.

And here is the rest of the story.

After my hasty trip to Walmart, I hooked up my new extension cord, with a new 3 plug adapter, and plugged in the new net of lights BEFORE I put it up on the tree. It worked, a tangled bunch of wires and lots of little white lights. Great! Thinking I had the problem solved, I plugged in the set of blue lights as well, and both sets of lights went out again. This happened over and over as I tried different cords and configurations, and finally I was too cold to think about it anymore. I quit.

Two mornings later, I mentioned my problem at morning chat time with my brother and Mom. My helpful brother walked over to my condo, plugged in my lights and got them both to work without doing anything special. We couldn’t decide why they had been healed of their electrical problem. Actually, the net was only halfway lit up, which was still a disgusting problem, and since it wasn’t on the tree yet I let it sit for another day. Ignoring it worked once, why not a second time? Those light strings are like naughty children, kind of.

A day later I picked them up and brought them in to examine the troublemaker. The plugs on lights have little sliding doors on them with fuses inside. Extra bulbs and fuses were wrapped and taped to the string so I got some out and replaced one fuse, and then the other without success. Half of it was still dead. I had it on my lap, wondering what else I could try, sharing my frustration with God (nothing is too trivial for him) and I noticed an empty socket! A bulb had fallen out, and when I put in a replacement there was light everywhere.

Looks a little like an alien invasion, but it’s not as dark anymore in this one small spot.

I went out and hung it on the tree, very carefully I might add. What a lot of trouble for a relatively un-artistic result. I might not be done yet but I need a break from decorating. There are plenty of dark days ahead, I can do it later.