Loss Happens

Loss happens. To everyone, and more than once. In fact, life could be seen as a progression of things we gain and things we lose and leave behind.

I’m not priming you for a sad story. This tale is one of those inconsequential, odd things that happens to me every now and then, but catches my attention a little more than usual. It’s another earring story, of which I have quite a few.

Several years ago, shopping in a second hand shop in Alachua, Florida I noticed a display of earrings on a rack at the checkout desk. They were probably handcrafted and were all Swarovski crystal in various combinations, drop earrings with pretty silver hooks. The pair I decided to get were several clear crystals with some blue crystal beads on top. I got them because I wanted something blue.

Since then I’ve worn them a number of times without incident. They are nice but I would call them unremarkable. Yesterday I had them on during my visit to the doctor’s office and as the young child (or so she appeared) who took my blood pressure laughed at them and said “Oh wow, you’ve got snowmen earrings. How cute.”

“No, you’ve got it all wrong. They’re not snowmen, they’re just geometric shapes. Not snowmen.” To be truthful I couldn’t even envision what they looked like at the moment, and it had NEVER occurred to me that they looked like snowmen so I couldn’t understand why she thought so. Later, I looked at them and had to admit that they could look like snowmen, if you’re one of those people to whom everything looks like something else. There are people like that.

Today, I’m wearing blue again and decided to stick with the same earrings. At lunch, my friend Char looks at me and remarks about my snowman earrings. Obviously, since it’s summer in Florida and 90 degrees in the shade, everyone is thinking snow? Maybe? I don’t know, but I had to tell her she was the second person in two days to come to that conclusion, after several years of no one ever settling on that. We laughed.

After lunch I did several errands, including being called to pick up the husband at work. He had donated blood and was feeling not so well and wanted to be driven home. His office is only a short distance away so I decided to bike over and drive his truck home too. I am a good girl and wear my helmet all almost all the time and don’t like to wear dangling earrings with it. But, there was only one to take off.  Somewhere since lunch, one of my snowmen must have melted, or something. Lost.

I remember stepping away from the counter at the bank and saying “Did I drop something?” But it was one of those sixth sense things that makes you think you might have heard something, even though nothing is in sight. I probably should have looked harder, but no, and I’m not going back either.  It’s not that I have anything against snowmen – on the ground, in the winter.  Not in the summer, not on my ears, just sayin’…

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NOT a snowman, right?

#AtoZChallenge: U

Up. I give up.

I’m sorry. U is my least favorite letter. There is no favorite thing that starts with U, not for me. I thought of stretching my theme but it would seem disingenuous (a word I like, by the way) to write on a subject that isn’t a thing or that isn’t really FAVORITE.

Instead I am giving one of my favorite quotes – one that I think is encouraging to all of us who are not famous or greatly influential. The letter “u” is used 12 times. See if you can find them all.

Her full nature, like that river of which Cyrus broke the strength, spent itself in channels which had no great name on the earth. But the effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive: for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.

From “Middlemarch” by George Eliot

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#AtoZChallenge: My Favorite Things Q

Quiet

Is it a “thing” or the absence of a thing? I don’t know. As much as I love quiet, I see it has many different perspectives.

 

“It is so quiet back here!”

“No, it is most certainly not quiet. Close your eyes and listen.” It was a game she loved to play with children who visited. She would challenge them to come up with something.

They would close their eyes and concentrate. Before long, one of them would notice the insects. “I hear buzzing in the trees.” And about that time the katydids would come alive with a surge of sound, turning up the volume to defy quiet.

“I hear cars somewhere.” It was distant noise, but the beep, beep, beep of the truck backing up was much closer. They all nodded and listened some more.

On rare occasions, like today, the train half a mile away blew it’s whistle at about the same time as a jet went overhead. She always had to laugh when transportation so fully represented itself. They caught it all and laughed with her.

“I hear the trees, or maybe it’s the wind.” Another child said softly, a look of intense concentration on his face. “I heard a bird too. I guess it’s not so quiet.”

“But you’re right, it’s quiet sound,” she said, not wanting them to be totally wrong about quiet, because she loved it too.

 

It should be quiet at night, or at least that was her opinion. She knew others thought differently. She flung her arm over to his shoulder and rocked him back and forth until he quit snoring. She was glad the tornado roaring in her dream could so easily be vanished, at least until he relaxed and started up again.

He was going for a sleep study soon but it had taken a while to convince him he needed it. She knew he couldn’t be getting good sleep when his breathing was so erratic. The sudden gasps and variations of ragged breathing, interspersed with no breathing were not healthy for him (or for her).

As aggravating as the problem was, she had to admit, the most terrifying times were when she heard nothing but quiet.

She awoke and realized the headache was gone. The TV was off and he had gone to bed. It was quiet and she was flooded with relief.

 

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The world had always been more quiet for him and he liked it that way. He was used to it and couldn’t understand how people who heard everything could bear the noise.

 

What time of quiet do you notice most/like best?

 

 

#AtoZChallenge: My Favorite Things I

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Indigo Glass

I have always found the deep blue of this glass to be irresistible. It’s never been that it matches any of the décor in my rooms but that it has a singular attraction all it’s own. Deeper than the blue of the sky, or of water, it combines reflectivity and translucence in a jewel-like way.

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twelve (!) of these glasses in the set probably because they are so durable

On one of our rare anniversary outings, we celebrated in a quaint Florida town known for it’s antique stores. Purely as a self-treat, I bought a set of juice glasses that have been a delight ever since. They are heavy and sturdy, defying breakage, and yet their color and shine add a luxurious nature to whatever I put in them.

I put most of my indigo glass together on a shelf in my china cabinet because I think they make a more defined statement when grouped together. I look at them a lot and am consciously aware of visual pleasure as I look.

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Many of my indigo glass objects are garage sale “finds”. In particular, the carafe with pour spouts on both sides. Its blue is not quite as indigo as some of the other pieces but it is definitely in the blue family and it is lovely.

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As with all collections, I will probably part with them when I no longer have space to display or store them. But for now they are special and favorite.

#AtoZChallenge: My Favorite Things G

Grandma Gwen’s Rugs

This exercise of  claiming favorite things has been interesting. I’m suddenly aware of how many of my favorites have to do with farm/country style life and the accompanying values. Today’s topic continues along that line as it shows creativity, thriftiness, simplicity and usefulness.

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This newest round rug is a favorite… but then so are all the others.

Grandma Gwen is my mom but I got used to calling her that when my kids came along. She has always been good at sewing and making things because that was what country lifestyle required. Over the years she has become famous in the family for knitting, crocheting and now making crochet rugs – rugging! This craft was one of the ways that large pieces of cloth, like sheets and curtains, were turned into a needed floor covering when they were showing signs of age.

Grandma Gwen finds her cloth in various thrift shops and garage sales, sometimes for free and occasionally at a price, if it’s a desired color. She groups the fabrics in color families that are pleasing to her, or ones that she knows will go with a particular décor. She tears the cloth into strips about 2 inches wide and stores them in plastic grocery bags.

She starts by folding the raw edges of a strip into the center and folding again so they don’t show. As the strip is prepared like this, she winds it around her finger like a spool. Then she starts crocheting a chain the length of the center of her rug. She turns the work and does single crochet back along the strip. At the ends she adds stitches as the rug grows in size.

Almost always, there is a rug in progress and they become gifts for children, grandchildren and friends. I love them, and lucky me, I have lots of them. They not only add color and character to the rooms they are in but they also feel like a gentle massage underfoot. Many family members have taken classes from her on how to make their own rugs because they are so beautiful, fun and useful.

She Loved

I’ve had a bent toward independence most of my life and kind of wrestled with the question of whether I had ever had a mentor. I had my mom – she was always my first “go to” person, but being mom was her job, a position all its own.  There were a lot of other people I knew and I spent a lot of time thinking about their experiences. I did that in order to avoid their pitfalls. It seemed like a good idea not to learn firsthand what I could learn vicariously. But a mentor?

So I was a bit surprised when I did think of someone.  I thought of Elaine and immediately knew why she came to mind.

It wasn’t because she had any kind of corrective role in my life.  I don’t think she ever pointed out specifics about my child rearing or my work habits.  She didn’t tell me to keep house better or spend more time with the kids.  What she did do was make time for evenings playing cards with the husbands, and invite us to watch fireworks over the golf course from her nearby yard.  She had tea parties with my young girls and met me for breakfast after my night shifts at the hospital.  We went to a crazy restaurant where they had beaver on the menu and laughed while she tried it (she tried it).  She loved people and was always telling me about the interesting ones she met.  She wanted to be better at helping them and studied to be part of the Stephen ministry at her church. And the thing that fed my soul the most, she always acted like she enjoyed our times together.

Part of the attraction for me was the difference in our ages and stages of life.  Elaine was already married to my cousin and living in her first home when I was a young teen. She hosted me and several of my same age cousins at a family wedding, putting up with our late night antics and endless harmonizing to “Moon River”.  She was beautiful, but not arrogant.  Years later when I was married, working, mothering and struggling to keep it all together, she was still beautiful and gracious in a way that  time and experience had only magnified. She was honest about the parts of life that weren’t perfect, but didn’t dwell on them.  She gave me the message that those imperfections didn’t have to define one’s life, that they offered opportunities for growth and satisfaction.

We moved away.  For a couple of years I only saw Elaine when we came back to the hometown on vacation.  I worried when she was diagnosed with leukemia, but she went through chemo, bought herself a wig and carried on as she always had.  It was a shock when her disease took a turn for the worse.  Within days she was gone.  I did not get to say goodbye.

I did not fully realize how much I loved her until she was gone. Knowing her was a singular experience.  I can’t think of anyone else who gave of herself and spent time with me in quite the same way, noticing the highs and lows of my life and responding with encouragement and love. And that, simply, was it. She loved.

Those Moments

There are moments of reflection, and I seem to have a lot of them lately, where I think “what if I never get to do this (fill in the blank) again?”  I have done a bunch of really fun things that I never intended to stop doing but haven’t had a chance to repeat.  

Last week, cleaning files, I found my maps and notes from my two Appalachian hikes.  I know the exact section I wanted to do next but have not gotten back.

And later, the three day walk for breast cancer – I did 60 miles and it was so gratifying to have made it to the end. I’m having trouble with my knees now and wonder if it is permanent or temporary.  

I found the handbook for the trail ride my daughter and I took across Florida, the menu from the chuck wagon, and the schedule of ranches that where we camped. My horse lives four hours away from me now and I rarely ever get to ride. Will it happen again?  Have I put these plans and dreams away?  

All this came to mind yesterday, at the pool of all places.  I don’t go to a pool very often but I have always loved to swim.  My childhood was full of long afternoons at the lake swimming and making up water games with my brothers and friends.  Here I was with Gracie, who is eight and in that early stage of water love that I remembered so clearly.  We had a few little races and tested how long we could hold our breath underwater.

I got one of those moments of reflection.  Some body memories never leave you and I could sooo feel the arch of my back and the body swirl of a backward somersault in the water.  Thought I, to myself, “do it again, it’s only water, how could you possibly hurt yourself?”  

(Are you poised for disaster?)

I was right, it didn’t hurt.  It felt downright good. (fooled you?)

 Gracie was very impressed and we spent a few minutes while she tried it and practiced.  As we did, we migrated to the height of water most convenient for her, about 3 1/2 feet. .My next backward flip demo was a little short on water depth, and I found myself kissing the floor of the pool at the bottom of my circle.  Well, not even that really. I scraped the tip of my nose and chin, but the redness kind of disappeared into the sunburn I had already gotten. I appear unscathed.  

It’s kind of nice to find that you CAN do it again, sometimes. You might have to think it through and be a little more careful, but you can do it.  If you want to.  If you don’t care that you are the only person over 60 in the pool doing handstands and back flips… just sayin’.

Container Queen

I am in the middle of a revelation.  I am the Container Queen.

I have been paring down, cleaning, throwing away as I go through the various rooms in my house.

Someday, someone will be glad I did this.

 Today, going through my gardening supplies and equipment it was suddenly, glaringly obvious that there were containers everywhere.  Boxes, tubs, baskets, carry-alls, jars, vases – all sizes, made of many different materials, some full, some empty but waiting for just the right thing to go in them. I have to acknowledge this “thing” I have for containers and maybe (???) do something about it.

Yesterday I spent about an hour breaking down cardboard boxes that I had saved for someday when we move.  Some of the boxes had come from FedEx or USPS, from Mary Kay, and some I even hauled home from work because they were a handy size.  My garage shelves are stacked with boxes of canning jars,Tupperware that I can’t bear to throw away and plastic containers to hold … other containers, yes. I have baskets and bowls that I couldn’t resist, but at least they are decorative.  I even pick interesting containers out of other people’s garbage (painful confession).  My employer buys expensive almond soap in these really cute boxes which she thinks she throws away, but they are containing my button collection now. 

Almost anytime there is something to be contained, I can think of something I have that is just right for the job – because at least half my containers are empty and waiting.  Do I have a problem?  I don’t know.  But I have to say it does feel kind of good to finally be queen of something.  

how about this one?
how about this one?
or this one?
or this one?
or this one?
or this one?
this one?
this one?
how about these?
how about these?
i will need this, probably, someday...
i will need this, probably, someday…
containers in containers
containers in containers
containers under other containers (I really did find the top one in the garbage)
containers under other containers (I really did find the top one in the garbage)
this has to be useful
this has to be useful
these are TOO cute!
these are TOO cute!  I could go on and on… hmmm, guess I did. 

 

 

Lost and Found

two bracelets, three earrings
two bracelets, three earrings

I suppose there are some people who never lose things.  I am not one of them.  In fact, there are certain things that I lose consistently, so much so that I plan for their loss.  That would be jewelry, and earrings in particular.  Losing things that you really like is heartbreaking, but at the same time it opens the way for some really good stories of recovery.

In my early 20’s I had one boyfriend (and only one) who had really good taste in gifts of all kinds – flowers, adventures, restaurants, and jewelry.  He bought me a pair of yellow gold earrings that were simple but beautifully designed.  I loved everything about them.  I must have lost them at least half a dozen times.  Once they were lost for over a year before I found them under the bed in the guest room at my parent’s house.  The first time I lost them was the most traumatic though.  I had only been married for a few months (but not to the guy with the good taste in jewelry) when the husband and I took a camping trip.  We were tenting for a week in Tennessee at a big reservoir near Oak Ridge.  The campground was super nice with big tent sites and a convenient bathhouse.  And then one day my earring was missing.

Why is it that no one ever tells you that you have only one earring on?  My ears are right out there in plain sight, but I am always the one who suddenly realizes that one is gone.  I ransacked our tent, shook out all the sleeping bags,  went through our suitcases, looked in every crack and crevice of our van. I backtracked to all the places I had walked.  Pretty much went around looking at the ground for at least half a day.  Then on the day we were leaving, I decided to have one last look in the bathhouse.  I found it in a pile of slime and hair over the drain of one of the showers.  Gross.  But did I care? No.  I was just in awe that I even thought of looking there.

One year for Christmas I told my daughters to tell the husband about a set of jewelry that I had admired in a store.  That’s how I have to do it with the husband – but that’s not a bad thing because I always end up with something I like that way. There was a necklace, a really pretty bracelet and earrings, and he got it all for me.  It wasn’t long before I lost the bracelet.  Everybody at work helped me look until we finally gave up.  I was so upset that I went back to the store and bought the bracelet again.  Somehow that helped, It was expensive but it helped.  Then I lost one of the earrings. Back to the store,  but you know they won’t sell you just one earring.  You have to buy a pair.  I decided having three was a good idea for someone like me.  I never knew when I might need a spare.  Months later I found the bracelet.  It had come off during a cooking demonstration when I was getting a pan out of the oven drawer of the range. I still have two bracelets and three earrings.  Good insurance.

I really like silver, but because it tarnishes all the time, I like white gold even better.  One vacation I splurged on a pair of white gold hoops. (Okay, I got them in Walmart, but they were real gold and they weren’t cheap.) These hoops have a clasp that drives me crazy – they come open with very little provocation.  I’ve lost them three times, one time for every year I’ve had them.  The first two times I found them in really crazy places involving strange medical equipment that is hard to describe, so I won’t.  But the last time I again gave up after several days of searching parking lots and offices I had visited.  I bought another pair which I did not like as well.  That was two months ago.

Last week, after my medical check up, I decided to re-take my blood pressure at home because I didn’t like how high it had been.  I have the old fashioned cuff and stethoscope, and there around the tubing of the stethoscope was my earring.  Who knew?  Good thing Walmart has a good return policy.

I told the story to my eldest daughter, who also loses things.  She said “I wish God loved me as much as he loves you…”  Oh yeah, it’s nice.  But I am quite sure he loves us both the same.