The Hard Work of Resting

August 5, 2017

20170805_093237-1I am technically resting, sitting in a comfortable chair, wondering what it really means to rest. It is Saturday, which always reminds me that there is a seventh day of the week, at least on the calendar we use. And on the seventh day of creation God rested. He looked at all his work and was satisfied, and then he rested, or stopped working. He didn’t stop because it was the seventh day. He stopped because he was done with a project. Resting is fun when you are done with a project, but what if you don’t feel done?

Of course, I am not God. I need to rest for other reasons like being tired and needing to refresh and recharge. I’m enough “in God’s image” to wish that I could look at my work and pronounce it good, finished to a satisfactory point, so I could rest. But I’m more like my human composition – I have to be commanded (kindly) to not work myself to death.

To rest must also have a deeper meaning than to do something that I consider fun. I pepper my time every day with fun. I knit, I do solitaire challenges, I sit and read, I ride my bike, I watch TV. I have a lot of fun, restful activity. In all of it my mind is engaged in something other than work. But none of that requires me to engage with God or my own mortality. What does that is aging. The longer I survive, the easier it becomes to think about God and what his plans might be.

I become more interested in looking back, trying to see a pattern, a progression. I become more interested in the clues in my environment that inform me of how God works. I become more impressed that he actually has a written word of instruction – one that has surpassed the effects that any of its scribes could have imagined.

This week we had a storm. It wasn’t a particularly bad one, but it cleaned a lot of dead wood out of the trees. I suppose that is God’s purpose in a storm, whether it be in the woods or in my life. Today, as I rest, I’m going to think about how it is that things become new, with dead stuff removed, and appearances changed.


I Fell for It

I did it.

You know those ads that you see all over Facebook these days – the ones where a person’s wrinkles and bags disappear in the space of minutes while they fan their face? It’s all due to the fabulous cream they dab on in minuscule amounts. I’ve watched several of these “shows” over the past few months and decided it was time to see if they were giving me the straight scoop. I have good enough skin for someone my age but there are times when I’d like to make a few things go away. I ordered some.

But I waited until I got a good deal – a free sample with the only cost being the shipping and handling. I will try anything (not really) for $5 if it’s compelling enough. And then I left the country for two weeks where I couldn’t get on the internet easily and the husband, at home, was left in charge of the mail.

“Hey, you got a box with some skin creams or something in the mail.” Along with “There are some charges on our credit card that are strange. Did you order something from Beauty Store Online?” It was hard to deal with it from the other side of the world so I made a mental note to self. Self, when you get home, make sure these charges aren’t more than postage, and figure out what the strange part is.

Today was the day. Perusing our credit card statement, I found there were actually five charges, from three different company names, with three telephone numbers. Two were around $100 and three were $5 and under. So I started called the associated phone numbers to find out what was going on. At three of the numbers the same recording was played followed by some waiting music and then a hang up. At the fourth number, I connected with a real voice, from India most likely.

Fortunately, I could understand his English pretty well. And he could understand mine well enough to find my account and verify the charges. Next, he heard me ask for the account to be closed and the charges taken off. According to script, I’m sure, he offered the following information:

They didn’t have sample sizes, and the product needed to be used for longer to see results, so of course, they sent full size product. Didn’t I want to see results?

Next, I hadn’t responded to tell them how I liked the product so they had charged me for it. But since I was only expecting a sample (as stated in the ad) they would give me a chance to buy more at 50% off.

Next, okay if I didn’t want more. They would close my account and send me email verification. I would only pay for the product received.

Next, in my case (and only my case, mind you) they would take 50% off the price, since I was so upset.

Next, by special permission they would take 75% off the price.

As I was once again, calmly, telling them to close the account and take all the charges off or I was going to file a dispute with the credit card company, the connection was lost. Actually, I was kind of surprised that I stayed connected as long as I did. Almost every call I make gets dropped at least once, thank you Verizon.

Do you ever get surprises like this? I guess I deserved it. Most of the time I ignore ads, knowing that life can get complicated pretty quickly over the internet, with credit cards, and unproven companies. Yeah, I deserved it. Thankfully, the credit card dispute person was very helpful and compassionate and I ended up with no doubt that the whole matter will be resolved to my satisfaction.

I’m a Mary Kay girl and am sticking with what works (I even sell it – shame on me for experimenting). I’m going to work on loving my wrinkles and taking good care of them. Just sayin’, buyer beware….

Cute containers, but the stuff smelled a little strange.

For Mother’s Day

20170512_162317-1Hi Mom,

It’s Mother’s Day weekend and I can’t be with you – seems we’re hardly ever together this time of year. I wish that was not the case. I’ve been thinking ever so hard about what I could do or say to show you how much I love you, care about you, respect you and enjoy you. Nothing I think of quite fits the bill. We should talk sometime about what things make your heart glad so that I won’t be wondering.

I guess we all like to know that we’ve accomplished worthwhile things, helped others, added to the well-being of society… all that sort of thing. Do you wonder what you have done? I ask because I think we all have those alone moments when we are uncertain we’ve mattered in any way (I have them). Even if we think we have done our job, we’re not sure anyone else would second our opinion, ha ha. So I’ve thought of a few things you’ve done for me and will try to express them in a thankful way.

One of the most important things centers around the idea of contentment. There are so many people who are not content and are difficult to be around. They can’t even voice a statement of fact without it sounding like a complaint. You, on the other hand, are able to express even things that trouble you without complaining. I can’t imagine you whining about anything. You’ve shown me it’s possible to be this way and that it is a good choice. I’ve seen that everything doesn’t have to be perfect for me to be content. And because you are content in so many situations, it is a pleasure to be with you. I want to emulate that so that people will want to be with me as well.

From you, I’ve learned that pleasure can be pursued in many small ways – anyone can do it! (Should do it!) The pleasure of coffee in a special cup, a favorite meal (even though it be fast food), a preferred morning ritual, a favorite view of the neighborhood, a pleasurable activity (even though it be thought of as work) – are all the kind of things that should be included to make life happy.


You’ve shown me that grieving and joy are not mutually exclusive. You’ve accepted loss as a part of life and don’t let it spoil the present or take hope away from the future. That’s huge.

You’ve been a champion of humor, of adventure, of seeing new places and doing things differently. I guess I would call that bravery. Sometimes it is brave to laugh when you could cry. It is brave to go, to join, to do, when you could sit home and do nothing. It is brave to choose “different” when we suddenly find we can no longer do “the same”.

There is much I’ve learned from your gracious way of stepping back from things too. It’s not always about saying “yes”. Sometimes it’s necessary and right to say “no”. I say you do it graciously, because you do not make others feel sorry for you, or make them feel guilty for their own choices. I guess that ties back in with being content and showing it to others.

I am more and more aware that there is no avoiding the process of aging (at least no desirable way) and am so thankful that, in you, I have an example that I want to emulate. You are the leader, you are showing the way, and you are helping me to not be afraid. Thank you.

Other miscellaneous things you’ve taught me:

  • Never stop drinking coffee.
  • Never stop digging in the dirt, gardening in some fashion.
  • It’s just money.
  • Being clean can make things almost like new, use Oxiclean.
  • Never pass up a colorful piece of cloth.
  • Always be reading something.
  • Let people know you like them.
  • Never assume you have it all figured out, or that you even should.






The Birthday Problem

I have no one to blame but myself.  I think it all started for me with that first picture (I have no actual memories of the event),  the one where I’m in my high chair with a cake with one candle in front of me.  I have an unknowing look on my face but I’m about to start a lifelong habit of expectation.  People are lined up on both sides of the table and I’m obviously the center of attention.  And why not, it’s my birthday.

Ever since then birthdays have presented one kind of problem or another.  Sometimes it’s a problem for those who remember and must plan an event, a card on time, a meaningful greeting or those who forget and have to assuage their guilt.  Other times it’s a problem for the birthday boy or girl who can’t decide if they want people to know or if it would be better to pass the day in anonymity

There are some people, the husband for instance, who must not have had their birthday expectation pump primed in infancy. There is never a hint about the approaching holiday. There is never a post birthday let down.  It’s just another day and these people might even be surprised if you remind them that they are a year older on that day.  There are others who, like me, anticipate what might happen with a fair amount of excitement.  I have a list of these kindred souls.  Some years I even go out of my way to feed their birthday appetite.

And so it was several years ago with my friend J. Carroll Barnhill.  He talks about his memorable birthdays and always includes the one where I kidnapped him out to the beach with a picnic supper.  He hadn’t been there in years and it was quite a trick to get him out of his boots to wade in the surf.  A little sand on the fried chicken, a picture of the sun setting with a sailboat silhouetted against the sky, and you have a birthday memory.

There was also the year that he actually cleaned off the back porch and I got him a swing to hang from the rafters. Another time we had a breakfast party with a stack of whipped cream frosted pancakes for a cake.  And the year he turned 80, I managed to get the word out to most of his family and friends for a get together complete with presents and pot luck food.  Why do I do these things? Because I know he loves the fuss.  How do I know that?  Because, like a kid, he is reminding me that his birthday is coming.  Sometimes once, sometimes twice or more.  He clearly hopes to have fun because of what happened on seven, twenty-seven,thirty-three.

This year, knowing I would be out of town on the infamous day, I took him out to dinner at a restaurant.  It wasn’t his favorite restaurant but it was convenient and he had a good meal.  And we enjoyed ourselves.  It’s your day J. Carroll and I’m giving you a little notoriety on my blog to memorialize the event.  Happy birthday fella!.  Hope you’re having a great day.

Here you go, birthday boy!  Not bad for 80+.
Here you go, birthday boy! Not bad for 80+.

The Older Generation. Party!!!

It happened so quickly. Suddenly, I’m giving a New Year’s Day party that’s about three times bigger than I anticipated.  I don’t do parties like I used to and I’m kind of wondering about myself.

For about a week I have been planning to take the New Year’s holiday shifts with my client, Jack. The other girls have taken so many extra days while I’ve been gone, including the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays so it’s fitting that I should give them a holiday off.  Besides, working for Jack is hardly like working at all.  I have to go beyond nursing responsibilities to things like determining what chores stress Jack out and how can I help with them?  Sorting mail and helping fill out insurance forms are common tasks, as are cleaning and organizing closets, getting rid of clutter.  These are all things Jack’s wife would do if she were alive.  And some days that’s how I decide how to spend my time, asking “what would Carol do?”

On New Year’s day I thought Carol would probably enjoy seeing Jack watch football with a few of his friends.  So I suggested that, if he felt up to it, he might invite a few people over.  Jack is doing so much better these days, getting stronger and more independent, and well, he jumped at the chance.  For seven months his friends have been visiting him in the hospital and doing things for him so he is eager to host them for a little fun.  Jack is probably the most hospitable person I know. After retiring from the Navy he spent over 20 years arranging conventions for different associations as their hospitality expert.  He loves to take people out to eat.  And he and Carol used to entertain in their home quite often.

Today I explored the details of what Jack had in mind.  I had already given him the bare outline of my intended menu to see what he thought of it.  I asked him how many people I needed to get ready for.  He started making a list.  It took him a while, but finally he said twelve or thirteen. That was about ten more than I envisioned so I began conscious breath control and sat and thought a bit.  He went back to the list and a few minutes later he amended the number to 19, because surely there would be some who wouldn’t be able to come.

There you have it.  I’ll be throwing a party at Jack’s house for pretty much all his close friends, most of whom are over 50 and many of whom are over 75 (Jack is 81).  I think it’s pretty safe to say that activities will be limited to eating safe food and watching several hours of football, early football, probably the Rose Bowl, party over at 8 pm,

I think I remember how to care for a house full of people, and I’m pretty sure I’ll have a great time seeing Jack have a great time.  But this whole thing did kind of sneak up on me, and I have to say that sometimes I kind of wonder about myself…

What do you think you are going to be doing on New Year’s Day?  

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.


Today I will think of all the spent hours of your life that translated into food for my body, clothing to cover me and as much security as you knew how to create.  Today I will consider that you started out as a teenage man with little instruction in family life, except that you grew up in a family yourself.  I will think about the times you changed your path and the uncertainty you must have felt as you searched for a better way to provide.  I will think about why you would fall asleep in your chair at the end of all those long days – not from laziness or drunkenness or escapism, but because you were physically exhausted.

I will realize that as a human you probably experienced sadness, frustration, anger (oh yeah), despair and doubt and yet you never bothered us children with any of it.  We had little knowledge of your struggles because you were a man and we were self absorbed children.  You taught us how to work alongside of you, but you always worked harder and longer.  And yet I can remember that you sang in the barn, and whistled and tried to yodel.  You modeled that it was possible, and desirable to enjoy work.  You gave me the idea that sometimes when trouble seems overwhelming the best thing to do is just go out and work at something.  Sometimes the trouble loses interest and goes away unfulfilled.  And at any rate, working is better than worrying.

As you’ve grown older with so many limitations ganging up on you, your persistence to do what you can inspires me (and scares me, but, hey… how can a nearly blind man on a rider mower cause any trouble?)  I see you teaching lessons of humility (when Mom is right and you are wrong), lessons of love (when you rub Mom’s feet and wash the dishes), lessons of trust (when you put those unsolvable things in God’s hands).  And you still whistle now and then and have Pandora playing on your cell phone, announcing your presence as you go.  I honor you for all of that.

Today I will grieve that as a society we have almost lost the concept of honoring our fathers for anything. Temptations are everywhere, expectations are high, psychology focuses on faults and there is nothing that cannot be blamed on a father.  I will remember how hard it is to be the head of anything, particularly a family.  I will be thankful for you – that you have not run away, that you are my dad, my father.

One of my favorite pictures of you, Dad
One of my favorite pictures of you, Dad

Grandma in her Garden

My Mom loves to garden.  I call her Grandma sometimes because I have talked to my children about her for years and years. She is their grandma, my mom, Gwendolyn Boone Smith.  Gwendolyn who never had a middle name and didn’t need one because her first name was long enough for two. Grandma keeps saying […]

Where Did I Put that List?

Somewhere I have a list of things I wanted to write about but since I don’t remember where it is, maybe I’ll write about forgetfulness.

You know, I really don’t think it’s early dementia or Alzheimer’s. I think I’m just too lazy to commit every little detail to memory. I put high value on being free to act upon inspiration as soon as it hits.  This means that whatever thought preceded the new idea gets … forgotten, I guess.  I don’t quite understand what happens to it. Most of the time I don’t care either.  If it’s truly important it will come around again. I remember lots of stuff, just not when I’d most like to remember it.

Names? Where did I put my keys? Where is that missing credit card? Why didn’t I remember to record the last six checks I wrote? Is that baby shower tomorrow or next week? Did I close the garage door?  Did I turn off my cell phone ringer?  Did I turn on my cell phone ringer? What was that password? Did I take those clothes out of the washer? (no, they dried in there and that’s why they smell so funny).

The really good thing is that I’m an equal opportunity forgetter.  I forget the bad things as easily as the good things. I can’t remember much childhood angst, any really. I don’t remember details about bad grades in school, losing boyfriends, my several car accidents.  When I’m asked about my most embarrassing moment (and don’t we all get asked about that occasionally?) I’ve memorized one, just one, and only for that purpose. There have been many but I can’t remember them. I think that’s a good thing.

So, do I have a remedy for my forgetfulness? Yes, indeed I do. I don’t tell anyone unless I get caught.

I can have a decent conversation with someone without saying their name. I can look it up after.

Most of the time, if I’m patient, the lost gets found. Like the uncashed check I found in my pants pocket after two months – it was still good.

I still go kind of crazy over the missing credit cards, but hey, if that didn’t happen my purse would never get cleaned.

Memory is not all it’s cracked up to be.  I might be losing my mind but if I keep my mouth shut, probably no one will know.  I’m just sayin’…