Tag Archives: friends

Best Medicine

Over the last few weeks, our Shih Tzu, Starburst, is happy to see me every time I come home.  She runs to the door, trips around my feet, jumps back in an attack pose, leaps forward again, and then dances back.  “Oh, my gosh,” I laugh as I watch her, “you’re full of piss and vinegar today!”  And I swear she smiles at me as she wags her long, furry tail so hard that her hindquarters actually bounce off the ground several times.

After this greeting, Starburst usually runs ahead of me down the hallway.  She knows my routine.  She waits for me by my bedroom as she continues to run around in circles.  When I open the door, she runs inside the room and stays with me for the rest of the afternoon.  In fact, she doesn’t leave my side for hours.  On Monday and Tuesday afternoons, we sit together, snacking on cheese crackers, while watching American Idol on Hulu.  (She is rooting for Gabby; I’m cheering on Cade.)  She only leaves me when the show ends, the Cheese Nips are gone, and she wants to go back into the living room to her bed for a while.

Later in the evening, she scratches on my closed door and waits for me to let her into my room again.  She stretches out on the floor by my feet while I work on the computer.  Later, she will slap at my legs with her shaggy, blond paws until I finally pick her up and cuddle her close.  She stays snuggled on my lap for the rest of the evening.  “Time for bed,” I’ll whisper to her as I try to pry her up off my lap.  But Starburst will suddenly become very heavy for such a small dog.  Her resistance to leaving me is apparent as she lets her body go limp and sluggish as she tries to oppose my efforts to remove her from my lap.  I finally stand up and carry her across the room.  I sit her down in the hallway and she stands outside my bedroom staring at me while I wish her a good night and close the door.  I wonder about her behavior as I lie down in bed.  I’m not sure why Starburst has become so attached to me, but it ‘s not just the Shih Tzu.  Lately, the cat has been acting strangely, too.

Zoey, my sister-in-law’s cat, has never liked me since the day I moved in three years ago.  She did not hesitate to let me know that this was her house, and I was invading her space.  She would nip at me, scratch me, or totally ignore me.  All of my efforts to make friends had failed miserably.  But over the last several weeks, Zoey stays in the same room with me.  She sits next to me on the couch.  She lets me scratch her shiny black head.  She lets me run my fingers down her long sleek back.  I can’t help but wonder why the cat is suddenly nice to me.

At first, I thought that the animals’ behavior was cute.  Now, I am worried that it is one of those “pets know when their owners are about to die” kind of things.  I tell myself that technically these animals are not my pets (they belong to my sister-in-law), and yet I am still overwhelmed by their kindness, especially right now when I can use unconditional love the most.

My health has become my biggest concern.  Tumors and cysts are common in my family, so I haven’t been surprised that tumors have been diagnosed throughout my body lately.  I have had this problem before.  Over the years, I have had ruptured ovarian cysts, breast cysts, fibroid and benign tumors in my uterus, an enlarged right ovary, precancerous tumors and polyps in my digestive track.  And now, just a few weeks ago, my dentist discovered a bloody tumor in one of my teeth.  Over the last few weeks, I have been stressed, exhausted, and overwhelmed.  Yet, every time, I come home, there’s Starburst bouncing around happy to see me, and Zoey allowing me to be in the same room with her.  And I know, I just know, everything is going to be okay.  Pets just instinctively seem to know when there is a problem and can offer amazing unconditional love and kindness, which, of course, is always the best medicine!

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Solstice Surprise

Recently, two of my friends, Rebecca and Cindy, invited me to go with them on a day trip to Weston, Missouri, on Sunday, April 15, 2018.  I had never been to this small town before and excitedly looked forward to the adventure.  I had envisioned a beautiful, bright spring day with a warm sun and cool breezes as my friends and I strolled around the antique shops and visited the wineries of Weston.

But that’s not exactly how the day unfolded.

On the 15th of April, I awoke around 9:00 am and quickly showered and dressed.  I told my family good bye and stepped outside to wait for my friends to pick me up.  Oh, my gosh!  What was going on?

The cold air wrapped around me and caused a shiver to shake my body as white, wet particles floated in the air in front of my face.  Oh, my gosh, is that snow!?  Yes, it was snowing!

But how was that possible?  The seasons were supposed to change weeks ago on March 21.  However, spring had been a horrible tease only showing her face on a few random occasions since the solstice.  The season was playing drama games with the Midwest…and I had heard that she wasn’t being too kind to the northeast coast either.  But maybe it wasn’t spring’s fault.  Maybe winter was a cranky old woman who was refusing to allow spring to make her debut.  I contemplated the past winter season of 2017 and 2018.  The weather had been much colder than expected.  The freezing Artic air drifting over the plains caused temperatures to dip below the zero degree mark many times.  It had been colder than I had ever remembered.  And several ice storms in the last six weeks made travel difficult.

Winter just would not end.  Even Easter, on April 1, had been a cold, gray, snowy day.  Now, the flakes of winter snow, like Mother Nature’s dandruff, floated around me for a moment before I quickly turned around and ran back into the house.  The cold air chased after me until I finally slammed the front door shut.  I stood in the living room and looked out of the large picture window as the flakes continued to dance on the air.  I didn’t venture back outside until I saw Cindy’s car pull into the driveway.  Then I ran out into the cold air once more, and shivered as I yanked open the car door and crawled into the backseat.  We were finally on our way to Weston on this winter (but should have been spring!) day.

It was about a 45-minute drive to Weston, and I still had a hard time getting warm even though we had stopped along the way for cups of hot coffee.  After Cindy parallel parked in front of the pink and white building of the Weston Winery Company, I hesitated before getting out of the car.  The snow had grown heavier and wetter, and I had to admit that I was a little annoyed that we didn’t have a bright spring day to enjoy.  But there was nothing we could do about it.  As I took a deep breath and stepped out into the cold, Cindy was suddenly standing beside me as she said, “Well, now that we are out of the car, I can give you a proper hug.”  And soon, her arms were around me and we held each other close.  Rebecca and I shared a hug as well and, suddenly, I didn’t feel so cold anymore.

My friends and I walked down the street with snowflakes falling all around us as we talked and window-shopped, and I soon forgot all about the winter weather.  Even with the harsh winter conditions, I was still enjoying a fun, relaxing day with good friends.

After shopping around for a while, we finally decided to stop for lunch in a small, rustic upstairs café of one of the antique stores.  I sat in the wooden chair closest to the large window.  As I chatted and laughed with my friends, I stared out the window and watched all of the people walking down the main street as snow fell like white glitter around them.  I felt so warm and peaceful that as we left the restaurant and walked back down the street to the car, I realized that it had been a perfect day.  I don’t think I have ever enjoyed a winter day so much.  Yeah, I love winter.

But then, just one week after that cold day in Weston, Missouri, I was sitting with my friend, Chandra, on a black, iron bench next to Wyandotte County Lake.  We sipped iced coffees and watched the ducks and geese chase each other around the muddy bank.  We were enjoying a warm, 70-degree day with gentle cool breezes and bright sunshine.  Chandra and I spent the afternoon talking, laughing, and enjoying a glorious spring day.

And I suddenly realized that it really doesn’t matter if it rains, snows, or thunders; it doesn’t matter if the temperature is 35 degrees or 70 degrees?  The weather doesn’t matter; I felt blessed with good friends, happy days, great moments, and surprising solstices that will create amazing memories.  Every season I have the privilege to enjoy is an amazing gift, and I am eternally grateful.

Vibrant Red

It all started with a very simple comment.  A co-work looked at me the other day and asked, “When are you going to dye your hair again?”

I was a little surprised by her question.  It was true that I hadn’t paid a lot of attention to my hair lately.  Life has been so busy that I really hadn’t given a lot of thought to my style or color.  Over the last several weeks, I have just been washing my hair in the evenings and then giving it a few quick strokes with a brush before rushing off to work in the morning.  I don’t fuss with my hair for the rest of the day.  This is fine for me.  I have never been an “every hair in place” kind of girl.  I like my hair wild.  I admit though that sometimes it looks a little too wild, a little too untamed.  I don’t think I’m lazy.  I just have more important concerns than the color or cut of my hair.

Yet, I felt myself cringe a little as I looked at my coworker.  Her hair is always creatively styled and her makeup always looks professionally applied.

I hesitated for just a moment before answering her question.  Unfortunately, my reply wasn’t very motivating.  “I don’t know,” I answered.  “I’ll take care of it when I have more time.”

“Well, it doesn’t look bad right now,” she assured me, “but your color is kind of faded.  Your hair is the color of a peach.  I always picture you as a vibrant redhead.”

Her words made me smile. A vibrant redhead.  I had experimented with that color in the past.  I loved it, even though, I reluctantly admit, that years ago, it also made me very uncomfortable.

When I was born, I was completely bald; there was not a single strand of hair on my smooth, tiny head.  As I grew into a toddler, I had just a few wisps of pale blond hair.  My mother always loved to tell the story that when I was three years old, she had pulled the few strands of my hair up to the top of my head and secured them there with a small plastic barrette.  While we were at the grocery store, a man kept staring at me before walking over to the basket I was sitting in and looking down at the top of my head.  “Oh, she does have hair,” the man said to my mother then.  “I thought you had just stuck that clip straight down into the top of that poor baby’s head.”  Mom always thought that was adorable.  The story though haunted and embarrassed me for most of my life until I finally learned to laugh at myself.

But awkward comments were to be expected.  My childhood hair was always very fine and pure platinum blond.  I was very different from my both sisters who had thick hair.  My oldest sister was a dark brunette, while my other sister was a redhead.  We looked like a rainbow when we stood side by side.  The full light spectrum was always reflected off our hair whenever we were together.  I was the lightest, the palest everywhere we went; I was the one who always seemed to fade into the background.  Being a very shy child, I didn’t mind.  I rather liked it that way.

As I grew older, my hair darkened, until one day, when I was about 15, a neighborhood fried commented to me, “You’re going red!  Oh my gosh, you have red hair now!”

I was horrified!  I didn’t want to have red hair!  Red hair was so rare where I was growing up that my sister was continually teased about her coloring.  She was always noticed and the center of attention at any gathering.  I didn’t want that.  I wanted to stay pale and blonde and wallflower-y alone.  But I couldn’t fight it at the time.  Against my will, my platinum blond coloring continued to darken to auburn.

After a few years, as I slowly gained more confidence, I grew into my hair and I was proud of the color.  I wasn’t vain about my appearance.  There was still too much about my body that I hated.  I wasn’t thin; my long feet turned out awkwardly.  But I started to appreciate my red hair color which made me look much different from other people….in a good way.  I liked the idea that my hair was uniquely my own.

My hair wouldn’t stop changing color, though.  It went from a pale blond to a light red to a dark red until gentle gray strands began to shoot out all over my head.  I started to get gray hair at an early age.  I was only 26 when the first few gray strands appeared.  I must have inherited this trait from my maternal grandmother.  Grandma Edie was completely gray by the time she was 27.

Okay, I may have slowly learned to enjoy my red hair but I wasn’t so appreciative of the gray, even if it was premature.  It just made me feel old and I cried every time I was asked at a fast food restaurant if I wanted the senior discount.

It was time to dye my hair.

At first, I decided to relive my childhood and dyed my hair platinum blond like Marilyn Monroe.  But I’m not Marilyn and the color just once more made me look pale and washed out.  My life had changed; I had changed, and I was no longer accepting the wallflower position.  Red is the color of my soul.  But just like figuring out the dosage of prescription drugs, it took several experiments with different products, mixtures, and timing to get the right tint of red that made me feel the most comfortable.  Some reds were just too brassy for me; others made me look like a large carrot; a few dyes turned me into a pumpkin head.  I even tried burgundy once and really liked it until I realized it had faded to pink.  Yes, that’s right, I walked around with pink hair for several weeks before I finally took the time to dye it again.

Several shades later, I finally found the hue I liked the best and thought was the most flattering for my features.  I loved being strawberry blond.  It wasn’t too dark for me and the red shined brightly out in the sun.

This was the shade I had been using when my coworker made her comment to me.  The problem wasn’t with the dye but with the fact that I just hadn’t taken the time to touch it up again.  My gray roots were beginning to show, but I still didn’t really care.  It was true, though.  I was a peach with rotting, gray areas.  I decided to freshen myself up and started shopping through hair dyes that afternoon.  I reached for the box containing my usual strawberry blond formula but then stopped.  A vibrant red?  I had tried that before and many people made comments that my hair was a spark, a fire, a beacon, a siren.  But…vibrant red…Yeah!  That’s me!  Feeling adventurous and frivolous, I bought the red dye and hurried home before I could change my mind.

That afternoon, I mixed up the color and quickly applied it to my hair.  I wasn’t very careful with it.  I wanted to hurry up with the processes.  I’m not girly-girl enough to spend a lot of time on my hair.  I really didn’t want to mess with it.  I put the dye on and waited half an hour before rinsing it off.  I wrapped a towel around my head and squeezed out any additional water.  I took off the towel and didn’t really pay much attention to the color.  My hair is usually dark when it’s wet…no big deal.  I was sure it would be much lighter once it was dry.

Um…wrong!

About an hour later, I looked at myself in the bathroom mirror.  “Oh, my God, what have I done!?”  My hair was certainly vibrant red, the color of blood, Midwest harvest summer sunsets, cherries, Mars, and measles.  I was horrified…it was horrible.

Too make the situation worse, my sister-in-law, Mary, was very nice as she complimented me on the new hair color…but then kindly pointed out there was a big problem.  Because I had been in such a hurry to complete the process, I hadn’t realized that I had missed applying the mixture to a large chunk of hair in the back of my head.  Peachy strands stuck noticeable out through the red.  I was shocked as I stood with my back to the bathroom mirror holding up a hand mirror in order to stare at the back of my head.  But there was nothing I could do about it now.  I didn’t have any of dye left.  And besides, it was late.  I needed to get some sleep for work the next day.  I went to bed knowing I had no way to fix the situation.  I spent most of the night telling myself all kinds of things: My color doesn’t matter.  I am not my hair.  I cannot be defined by the way I look.  Who cares what other people think or say?  Other peoples’ opinions shouldn’t matter to me.  It’s only hair, just dead protein.  I can change it again.  I could cut it all off and it would grow back again.  No big deal.

But it was no use.  I have to admit that I, who never really fussed over my hair, felt stupid and ugly.  Maybe I was upset because this was absolute proof to me that I am completely klutzy with hair and make-up.  I would never be beautiful.  I can handle that actually.  I know I am a good person.  But I didn’t know if I was ready to face the awkward comments from people concerning the way I looked.  I didn’t know how to respond.  I didn’t know what excuse I could give.  What was I going to do?

The next morning, I walked into work with the collar of my coat pulled up over the back of my head.  I ran down the back hallway to my locker and yanked it open.  I suddenly sighed with relief as I discovered the answer to my dilemma.  I had forgotten that yesterday my supervisor had handed out Santa hats to everyone.  I never liked wearing the hats which usually were too big for me and put a lot of static into my fine hair.  But now, I grabbed the hat and plucked it down onto my head.  The peachy patch in the back of my head was now covered.  I couldn’t tuck all of my hair underneath the hat so I allowed bright red strands to hang around my face and shoulders.

But then, something really unusual happened.  It was so strange, I still don’t quite understand it.  Almost everyone who saw me that day complimented me on the way I look.  I heard endless comments of “Wow!  Love the hair!”  “  That’s a great red!”  “  What a beautiful shade!”

Now, of course, I didn’t let anyone see the peach patch in the back of my head, which could have easily changed everyone’s opinion.  I also admit that I wasn’t very gracious about the compliments.  I was so taken by surprise by everyone’s comments that I responded by saying, “Th…Thank you…?  I really don’t like it myself.”  Or I said, “Thanks…I’m trying to get used to it myself.” Why did I respond that way?  Why couldn’t I have just said “Thank you” and walked away?  But never feeling very secure with my looks, I felt so ugly and unsure of myself that compliments were hard to accept. I felt the need to apologize for who I was and what I had done.  I had to keep insisting to everyone that I was unattractive.

That evening I bought more hair dye and corrected the error I had made the day before when I colored all but the back of my head.

Now, my hair was completely vibrantly red…and I smiled as I looked at it.  It suddenly felt so right!  Yeah, maybe it was attractive.  Yeah, maybe I did look good.  As I brushed out my hair, I had thought about the compliments I had received that day.  I realized then that opinions didn’t matter.  No one’s thoughts about another person were important.  And hair is such a trivial matter.  But what I responded to now was everyone’s kindness when I was feeling so low and unsure of myself.  I smiled as I thought of everyone’s loving, positive reactions when I was feeling so ugly.  That’s all that really seemed to matter.

So now my hair remains a bright red.  I always loved red but was always worried about people laughing at me or teasing me.  I realized now that the reason I wasn’t comfortable with Mars red was because I was afraid of other people’s opinions.  Even now, there are strangers who walk by me and groan, “God, that’s BRIGHT red!”  Or they call me “beacon.”  But it doesn’t matter now, because I feel good.  It’s funny how I love bright red hair when I love myself.  I need to trust myself and know what I like and not worry about other people’s thoughts.  Hair doesn’t define the person I am inside.  I know who I am so what matters what happens to my body?  I know what my flaws are…I know where my scars are…but it’s strange how they don’t matter if I don’t focus on them.  I am very happy with my hair if I don’t give it too much attention.

I’ll keep my hair red for now.  It is uniquely and personally me.  It defines who I am and is part of my journey.  Maybe someday, I’ll change it again but right now I feel happy.  Besides, I am not my hair…I could dye it purple if that’s the way I feel.

Um….someday…

I smile as I think now of my coworker.  She was right…

I am a vibrant red!

Possessed

Nothing is yours.  It is to use.  It is to share.  If you will not share it, you cannot use it.” –Ursula K. LeGuin, The Dispossessed

Unnecessary possessions are unnecessary burdens.  If you have them, you have to take care of them!  There is great freedom in simplicity of living.  It is those who have enough but not too much who are the happiest.  –Peace Pilgrim
Over the last few years, my brother, Tony, has been asking me to move back to our hometown of Kansas City, Kansas.  I grew up in Kansas and, to this day, my immediate family still resides there.  My brother and sisters are settled, happy, at peace.  They’ve raised their families, worked hard, and created nice homes.

I have always been the wanderer, flitting from place to place, living periodically in apartments, hotels, and cars. I owned nothing but a few books, some CDs, TV, computer, and a change of clothes.  I don’t own a home.  I won’t buy furniture.  I don’t hang pictures on the walls of rented spaces.  I hate clutter because it makes me feel like the walls are closing in on me.  Funny, but when I am “settled” in an apartment, I tend to have frequent panic attacks.  To remain calm, I usually don’t keep many things around me.

Many of my friends didn’t seem to mind my lack of furniture when they came to visit me.  They always happily sat on the pillows I would toss around on the floor.  We would sip hot tea or coffee.  We would talk and laugh without distractions. We would look into each other’s eyes instead of glancing around the room.  Many friends originally thought my lack of furniture would feel awkward.  To their surprise, they usually discovered that my home was warm and inviting.  Friends were always welcomed and honored in my home even if they didn’t have a comfortable place to sit.

My last apartment was in Palm Springs, California.  To say I had a simple decorating style would be an overstatement.  I had decorated the apartment in the “Early Wal-mart tub” style.  Seriously…I had just purchased plastic tubs from Wal-mart to hold my CDs, books, papers, and underwear.    I slept on an old army cot.  I explained my decorating style to my friends this way.  “When I have to leave again, I don’t want anything holding me down or holding me back.  I just want to be able to throw my things in my car and drive away.  I want to be able to leave at a moment’s notice and not have to worry about things.”

Possessions have always been a problem for me.  In the distant past, with my first apartments, I did try to create a sense of home by purchasing appliances and furniture.   But when the urge and opportunity came upon me to move, I didn’t know what to do with everything I owned.  I didn’t want to pack it and move it.  I didn’t want to deal with it even if I was just moving ten miles away.   I would just give my things away.  That was a very strange situation.  I would call my friend, Julie, and tell her I had a vacuum, microwave, TV to give away.  She would answer, “I really would love those things, but I’m too busy with the kids right now.  Can you bring them over?”  So I would load up my car and drive the things over to Julie’s home.  Then my friend, Sara, asked for some of my things.  I would load up my car and drive the items to her house.  Next thing I knew, I was delivering random stuff to all of my friends’ homes.  Why didn’t I just move everything to my new apartment!?  I was moving the things all over town anyway!  I don’t know.  I honestly don’t know.  I just kept given my things away without even considering taking them with me.  For some reason, this odd ritual just made me feel free and unburden and I would repeat it with each move.

Until recently…

A few years ago, things changed a little for me.  I thought I would finally settle down in Southern California.  I had a good job and was making extra money.  I still wouldn’t buy furniture; that was too big of a commitment.  But I did indulge in buying additional books and CD, which really make me happy.  But a strange thing happened.  Staying in one place caused me to accumulate more things.  And the worst part…I got attached!  Seriously, I became very attached to my books, my CDs, my DVDs, my clothes.  I became selfish.  I didn’t want to give anything away.  I wanted my things…the things I had worked so hard to acquire.

So, a few months ago, when Tony again asked me to move back to Kansas, I responded honestly.  “I don’t want to give up my things again.  I always give things away every time I move.  And Kansas is a thousand miles away from California.  I don’t want to give everything away.”

“You don’t have to give your things away,” Tony laughed at me.  “Why would you do that? Bring it with you.  Hire a U-Haul, get a van, hire a moving company.  You don’t have to leave it behind.”

But still, I resisted the move for a while until I finally decided last month that it was time to return to the Midwest.  I decided that Tony was right.  I didn’t have to give away anything I wanted to keep.  I would just pack it all up, put it into storage, and then hire a company to move it to Kansas when I was ready to return to the Midwest.  I soon notified my leasing company that I was leaving my apartment and began to pack my “things.”  Now, as many times as I have moved, I still don’t know how to pack.  That’s because I never took the items with me before.  Now, I just went to Home Depot and purchased a stack of boxes and some tape.  I just started throwing random pieces of my life haphazardly into the boxes and taping them up.  I placed the boxes into a small 5 X 5 storage unit.  For some odd reason, I was pleased that my whole life could fit into the smallest space available.  I think it was reassurance to me that my life wasn’t cluttered.  I wasn’t hoarding anything.  i really wasn’t attached.  I began to breathe a little easier as I closed and locked the door of the storage unit and drove away.  For several weeks again, I traveled unburdened through Northern California, Oregon, Washington, and Canada.  I was totally unencumbered.  I was able to breath and feel free once more.

And then…

I was ready to return to the Midwest.  Before making the journey, I first had to meet the movers at the storage unit.  I apologized a few times when the movers complained that the boxes loaded with books were so heavy, but I didn’t really worry about it.  I just watched with relief as the two large moving men placed my 24 boxes, the sum of everything I currently owned, onto the truck and took it all away.  I had my freedom and I would have my things.  Tony was right.  I didn’t have to give anything away.  I was able to keep my possessions….and I was able to drive back to Kansas without feeling the weight and heaviness of my possessions.

But then…

Once I was in Kansas, anxiety began to build up in me.  Twelve days later and my possessions had still not arrived.  All kinds of thoughts and worries hammered away at my brain.  What if the moving company had been a scam?  What if the movers were going to hold my things for ransom?  What if my items had gotten lost, damaged, or stolen along the way?  What if the only time the moving company could deliver I was scheduled to work at my new job?  The “what if’s” built up with endless anxiety.  “Stop it,” I tried to tell myself.  “It doesn’t matter.  It’s just ‘stuff’.  Let it go.”  But the stress kept me awake at night.  Yes, stress…over ‘stuff.’

Finally, I received a call from the movers letting me know that they could deliver the items the next day…well, night.  They would not be arriving in Kansas City, Kansas, until 9 pm.  I told them that was fine.  I didn’t care if they didn’t arrive until midnight.  I just wanted my items delivered and the whole thing over with.  The movers didn’t show up the next evening until around 10:30 pm.

Tony had just gotten home from work when the moving van arrived.  I was fortunate to have him there.  The delivery was a little rough.  The truck driver actually passed up Tony’s house and was halfway down the street before realizing his mistake.  He suddenly brought the truck to a loud screeching stop and then backed up with lights blazing and the annoyingly loud reverse “ding” sound echoing around the neighborhood.  The noise brought several neighbors to their front doors.  Tony’s next door neighbor, an elderly woman dressed in a purple bathrobe, fuzzy slippers, and pin curlers, stepped out onto her front porch.  I couldn’t quite hear what she was shouting at Tony, but my brother answered, “It’s okay.  It’s fine.  It’s just a moving van. They are delivering to my house. “

The elderly woman shouted to Tony again.  After he reassured her that the van was there make a delivery, not to rob the neighbors’ houses, the woman went back into her home and quickly shut and locked her door.  Tony and I stared at each other and then turned our attention back to the delivery truck.

“Oh, my God,” Tony suddenly declared. “What is that driver doing?  He doesn’t know what he’s doing! He doesn’t know how to drive that truck!”  Tony went running out into the street as he watched the driver steer the truck right up into another neighbor’s yard.  Tony tried to flag down the driver and get him to turn in the other direction.  Tony walked up to the side window of the truck and after some discussion, the driver finally stopped the truck in the middle of the street.  Tony walked back to me shaking his head.  “Oh, man,” he sighed, “the neighbors are not going to be happy when they see their yard tomorrow morning.”

I just stared at my brother in surprise, completely incapable of responding.

The large, red-haired driver now climbed out of his seat and walked to the back of the truck.  He pulled up the door and I was suddenly staring at all of my boxes…all of my crumbling, smashed, opened, mauled, tattered boxes.

“Did you pack this stuff?” the driver asked me.  I just shook my head yes.  “Man, way too heavy.  Those boxes weren’t strong enough for everything you packed.  And the tape you used…absolutely useless.”

“It was books,” I answered meekly.  “I packed books…”

I didn’t know what else to say as the man now began to gather together the ripped boxes and throw them down off the truck.  Several of my books fell out and scattered across the driveway.  I was so thankful to have Tony there.  As the mover threw the boxes off of the truck, Tony and I gathered together the pieces.  Tony placed the boxes on his dolly and rolled them into the garage.  Many of the boxes were so heavy, the two men had to lift them together just to get them onto the dolly.

“Way too heavy,” Tony shook his head at me.  “Why did you pack everything this way?”

I could just shrug my shoulders helplessly.  I wanted my things this time, I just remember thinking.  I just really wanted my things.  I didn’t want to give them away again.

Finally, the 24 ripped and tattered boxes were inside the garage.  I paid the mover and thanked him for his help, even though Tony did the majority of the heavy lifting and hauling into the garage.  When the mover drove away and the neighborhood was once again quiet, Tony and I stood in the garage together staring at the boxes that were open and/or fallen over.  I was shocked, surprised, and speechless.

Though I truly appreciated Tony’s help, as I stared at all of my possessions, I didn’t feel happy or relieved.  I didn’t feel excited or elated.  No.  Instead, I felt humiliated.  I felt embarrassed.  I was absolutely horrified.  All of that fuss. All of that upset and worry and stress.  All of the annoyance to the neighbors and all the work Tony suddenly had to do…for this! For this dilapidated, falling over, crushed, and scrambled pile of boxes.  All of that work and worry for all of my absolutely worthless material things!

I felt myself burn with shame.  I was so angry that I had let material things own me, control me, and load me down.

Tony was incredibly gracious about the whole mess.  It was as if he knew that this was the total sum of my net worth.  He had more respect for the remnants of my life than I did.  He smiled.  He said he would find stronger boxes for me.  He said he would help me repack everything and make sure it was all there and all safe.

I just wanted to throw everything in the trash now and forget about it.   I wanted to sell it all on EBay.  I wanted to place all of the boxes in the front yard and let someone just walk off with them…if he or she could even lift the boxes!  I wanted to have a garage sale and sale everything at discounted prices.  I wanted to pack everything up into my car and deliver to the homes of my friends.  After all of the struggle and all of the fight over all of my junk, it just didn’t seem like it mattered anymore.

Two weeks later, and all of the boxes are still sitting in the garage.  I haven’t unpacked them.  I hadn’t even looked at them.   I haven’t gone through any of the boxes or rearranged them in any way.  I have an aversion to looking at them or touching them.  The boxes make me cringe.  They remind me of my once horrible attachment to things that didn’t even really matter in the first place…I just want to get into my car now and drive away from the whole, God awful mess.

I want to live out of my car again.  I want to sleep in the backseat and keep battered paperback books on the passenger seat beside me.  I want to listen to music on the car stereo and cruise through small ghost towns throughout America…alone and free.

But for now, I’m buried under a mountain of junk that keeps me trapped and weighed down in a quasi-normal life.  Why did I insist or believe that I couldn’t move without my things this time?  Was I just using my things as an excuse not to move again?  And now that I am in Kansas, will I ever run free again?  Maybe I just want to feel love…love of life, love of thought, love of spirit…Maybe I just want to feel love instead of taking cold comfort in material things.

I remember reading in a Buddhist book about the theory of attachment.  I paraphrase the thought, but it basically said that it was okay to have things but don’t become attached.  You must know that all things are impermanent.  Have things but don’t allow yourself to become sad or disappointed if they are lost, stolen, or broken.  They are not the sum of your life, of your existence.

I don’t know why I let myself, for a period of time become so attached to my things. Maybe I just needed it for a time to feel like I was accomplishing something.

But now, I think I could just walk away and leave everything behind…and I would be okay.  Yeah, I would certainly be okay.

Sunday Mornings

I didn’t always like Sundays when I was a child.  When I was in grade school, my family attended church every Sunday morning at 10:30.  It was a ritual I was expected to perform without question and without choice.  As a result, instead of feeling peaceful and blessed, I remember just feeling anxious, exhausted, and bored.  Even though I had visions of angels, I didn’t feel connected to religion.  Though I didn’t understand it at the time, somewhere in my heart, I was developing my own faith, my own belief system.  Now, that I am older and feel free to express my personal feelings and thoughts, I have become more spiritual, loving, and faithful.  Even though I am not a churchgoer, I love Sundays now! I look forward to Sunday mornings all week.  I enjoy the simplicity and laziness of a beautiful Sunday morning.  To me, there is just something so peaceful and enjoyable about Sundays.

I don’t want to rush around on Sunday mornings.  I don’t want to feel stress or anxiety.  I usually spend Sunday mornings studying, reading, writing, and contemplating life while indulging in a large cup of black coffee.  So, on this Sunday morning, May 3, 2015, I woke up around 7:30, got dressed, and drove to a small café for coffee.  I sat in a small booth in the restaurant and unpacked the three books I had brought with me that day.  Several years ago, a teacher told me to always carry around three books: one for study, one for entertainment, and one for prayer or spiritual awakening.  Everywhere I go now, I travel with a bag of books.  Since this was Sunday morning, I decided to concentrate on the spiritual awakening.  I opened up my book by Brian Weiss and took out my notebook.  I usually take notes on everything I read unless I’m reading for entertainment.  I found myself completely relaxing now as I opened up my notebook, picked up my pen, and began to write down information on the immortality of the soul.  I breathed a heavy sigh as I felt my body relaxing.

Suddenly, I found myself jumping when I heard a loud voice shout, “What the f**k did that mean?”

I shivered and cringed for a moment as the strong male voice continued to shout.  “Man, that was the strangest s**t I ever did see,” the man hollered.

Loud, unfamiliar voices make me uncomfortable. I remember my father’s loud, stern voice and the anger his words would conveyed.  I get nervous around loud noises, especially when I am out on my own.  There have been so many news stories of people being horribly violent in public places.  I worry that someone will strike out at me for some reason and I have no protection.  As the man continued to shout, my first thought was, “I need to leave.”  I put down my pen, closed my notebook, and grabbed my bag…

…But suddenly I stopped moving.  I sat silently for a moment.  Instead of yelling now, the man was laughing; the sound echoed around the room, bouncing off the walls.  His laughter wasn’t cruel, maniacal, or hateful.  His full, loud laughter instead was joyful, happy, and hearty…and it made me smile.

I glanced up, and straight in front of me, sitting at a table, was a group of four young men and one young woman.  The man who had been yelling was dressed in a stained, torn tank top and khaki shorts.  His long, curly, dark hair was pulled back under a blue folded bandana.  His companions were dressed in a similar fashion.  All five of the people sitting at the table looked like they had been lost in the desert for a few days.  And yet there was something still so fresh and beautiful about them.  They were dusty not dirty.  They were loud but not angry.  They were cussing but not offensive.

The people were a strong contradiction to my day.  My quiet Sunday morning had been interrupted and yet it still felt peaceful.  I was reading about the immortality of the soul and watching people express their true spirits right in front of me.  I am alone and yet felt connected to the people around me.  As the group sitting across from me yelped and hollered and laughed, my day seemed to be more loving, serene, and calm.  I loved their energy.  I loved their spirit.  I loved the way they playfully teased and laughed with each other. The five people seemed to remind me that even though I am an older woman, I am, every day, growing younger.

After about another half hour, the five young people left the café and I returned to my book.  I couldn’t concentrate now though.  I felt pumped up, energized, and ready to get on with my day.  I didn’t want to sit in quiet contemplation today.  I wanted to laugh.  I wanted to scream out.  I wanted to be heard.  I felt so blessed to see people so alive and joyful today.  What more could I have possibly prayed for?  My peaceful Sunday morning had been suspended, and yet I have never felt so close to God.  Sundays don’t have to be quiet, but they can always be blissful.

Good Friends

A few weeks ago, I ran into an old friend I hadn’t seen in a while.  We didn’t have a falling out or any upsets.  Our lives had just started to move in different directions.  Due to families, jobs, tragedies, responsibilities, and blessings, we had just gotten involved in our own lives and lost touch for a while.  I believe our surprising reunion wasn’t a random incident.  We tend to weave our way in and out of each other’s life in perfect union with God and the universe.  We were destined to see each other again.  This moment had been divinely orchestrated.

I was on break from my job and decided to fill my car with gas before returning to the campus.  I had pulled up to one of the pumps in the Sam’s Club parking lot.  As I pumped gas into the tank, I was just mindlessly glancing around at the cars and people that surrounded me.  Suddenly, I noticed a small blue car sitting right on the other side of the pump I was using.  My attention was drawn to the white stencil that covered the back of the window.  The curvy lettering joyfully advertised the services of a puppeteer.  Smiling, little, white childish faces decorated the bottom of the window.  Oh, my gosh, I know someone who drives a car just like that! I turned slightly to the right…and there she was, my friend, Jane.  “Jane?” I called out to her.  Honestly, that was all I had said and suddenly I found myself wrapped in her embrace and we were talking again as if we had never been apart.

As our gas tanks continued to fill, Jane and I excitedly shared updates about our lives.  Jane was still doing her puppet shows and had gotten married again.  I was still teaching at the college and had published a book.  Both our lives had stayed the same and changed so much.  Jane asked me if I would like to come to dinner at her house one night.  I agreed and she informed me that she would contact me through Facebook soon.  Our tanks were filled and our hearts were open and we decided to go our separate ways before we held up the line of people waiting patiently in their cars behind us.

A few days later, Jane contacted me and we arranged a time to meet.  I happily went over to her house on a Friday night.  Even though some things had changed, there was a warm familiarity to Jane’s home. I love Jane’s house, which is filled with pictures and mementos from a life filled with love, obstacles, successes, and journeys.  I love homes like this.  I’m not a snoop.  I only go into rooms I am invited into and I only look at items that are out in the open, not hidden away in drawers or cabinets.  But I love to see the pictures and memories that create a life.  In any friend’s home, i usually will gaze at the family portraits on the walls.  I’m the guest who will joyful look at all of the photo albums and baby books over hot coffee or iced tea.  I respect and treasure my friends’ memories as if they were my own.

Jane’s home is a special treat.  It is clean and fresh, but filled with items that signify a well-lived life of love and blessings, of obstacles overcome and dreams yet to be fulfilled.  I stood in Jane’s living room and looked around at the dolls and toys, afghans and doilies, pictures and books.  “Oh, don’t mind the mess,” Jane stated as she waved her hand.

“No, it’s fine,” I assured her.  “I think it’s much cleaner than my apartment.”

“I had a friend over the other day,” Jane told me.  “She looked around the room and said ‘Oh, Jane…are you a hoarder?’  I said, ‘No, I just need a bigger house!’”

I looked at Jane and started to laugh.  “No, seriously,” Jane tried to defend herself.  “I do!  I’m not a hoarder.  I just need a bigger house.”

I couldn’t have thought of a more perfect response.  Life really is all about perspective now, isn’t it?  Does anyone else really know the treasures we hold in our hearts?  People are constantly looking at each other from the outside and being so critical.  Do we ever really look at another person from the inside?  I looked around Jane’s living room again, feeling the love and the kindness that permeated the sacred space.  I thought the room was beautiful.

The whole evening was warm and comfortable as I had dinner with Jane and her husband, played with their blind cat, and explored Jane’s massage room.  It was obviously clear to me.  Jane was not a hoarder.  She is not owned or ruled by things.  She is guided by memories and emotion.  She is buried under kindness and compassion.  She is her own person living her own full life.  Jane’s home reminds me of my favorite saying:“You weren’t meant to fit in; you were made to stand out.”  Jane stands out and I really hope other people see Jane’s happy and determined personality throughout her home and in her life.

At the end of the evening, after a great homemade meal of salad and lasagna, I hugged my friend and her husband good-bye and climbed into my car.  I waved at my friend as I drove away.  We promised that we would stay in touch and not let so much time pass by before we saw each other again.  That was three months ago.  Jane and I have stayed in touch through random messages on Facebook.  We are trying to arrange another time to get together.  She and her husband have gone to Vegas, had relatives visiting from out of town.  We both had holidays, friends who needed our assistance, and work responsibilities.  It doesn’t matter, though.  Jane and I are connected in a cosmic way.  I know Jane and I will see each other again and, over glasses of iced tea with honey, there will be more pictures to look at and many more stories to tell.  We are contradictions and undeniable truths.  We will show each other how we stand out and belong together. But above it all, for now and forever, we are good friends.

Valentine’s Day

Due to family obligations and work situations, a good friend and I had not had the opportunity to connect for a few months.  Last Wednesday, I sent her a text message.  I asked if she would be free to have lunch together soon and catch up on our lives.  My friend, Olga, answered me by texting that she was free on Saturday.  I excitedly let her know that Saturday would work for me as well.

The next day, Thursday, however, I suddenly realized that Saturday was Valentine’s Day.  I had completely forgotten about the holiday and wondered if my friend would have plans with her family.  I sent her another text message to remind her about the holiday.  Would Saturday still work for her?  Olga quickly answered back.  Yes, Saturday was still good.  She had no other plans.  Is Saturday good for me?  Yes…unfortunately….I had no other plans for Valentine’s Day either.

So I woke up early and went to the gym.  After my workout, I showered and quickly got dressed for the lunch appointment.  On the way to my friend’s house, I impulsively decided to stop by Wal-mart to grab a few small Valentine’s for her children.  I picked up small heart-shaped boxes of chocolates and sticker books for both of Olga’s little daughters, Jolie and Valkyrie.  Before I got to the register, though, I thought about the fact that Olga usually had several of her nieces and nephews staying at her home.  Since this was a holiday, I would feel awful giving to Olga’s two daughters and leaving the other little kids out.  I quickly tried to add up in my head how many nieces and nephews Olga had.  I quickly grabbed several more candy boxes, sticker books, and boxes of Transformer trading cards.  I paid for the items and then ran out to my car.  I drove over to my friend’s house.

I parked in front of Olga’s house, grabbed the Wal-mart bag, and climbed out of the car.  I walked up to the front door.  Before I could knock, though, the door opened and Olga’s sister, Lucy, stepped outside.  We shared a quick hug before I walked inside the house.  Lucy’s little daughter, Jay, was waiting inside the door.  The child suddenly threw her arms around my legs and gave me a deep hug.  I was surprised that she remembered me.  It had been several months since she had seen me.  I pulled out a candy box and a sticker book and handed it to her.  “Happy Valentine’s Day!” I told her.  Jay shrieked with excitement, grabbed the items, and ran down the hallway to the back bedroom waving the book and candy box over her head.

“Say thank you,” Lucy was screaming out to the little girl.

At the end of the hallway, Jay stopped and turned around to look at me.  “Thank you,” she squealed before turning and running through the far right door.

“Go on,” Lucy told me.  “Everyone is in the back bedroom.”

I walked down the hallway and entered the same doorway Jay had disappeared through a few seconds before.  Jay stood by a small table showing three other small children the treasures she had just received.  The children looked away from their coloring books and stared at the heart-shaped box of candy that Jay held out to them.  I didn’t want the other children to think I forgot about them, so I quickly pulled out of the bag the other boxes of candy, books, and trading cards.  I was surprised how thrilled the little kids were with these simple treasures.  They excitedly hugged the heart shaped boxes to their chests and giggled delightedly!  And they wouldn’t stop climbing on me!  They held my hands and wrapped their small arms around me for hugs and kisses.

After a few minutes, Olga was ready to leave.  I handed the Wal-mart bag to Lucy and let her know that the rest of the candy and sticker books were for the other small nieces and nephews who were not present at the time.  Olga and I left the house then and went out to a local Chinese restaurant.  We spent the next three hours sitting together, talking, crying laughing, sharing.  The whole experience was a reconnection of our friendship.  A beautiful 10-year friendship that is as fresh and clean today as it was when we had first meet in 2004.  My friend and I have been through a lot together.  Relationships, marriages, breakups, pregnancies, children, moves, job changes, emergency room visits, spiritual awakenings, deaths.  Though a few months can go by before we see each other again, I have never doubted her friendship and kindness.  After 3 hours, we left the restaurant and headed back to her house.

I walked with Olga up to the front door of her home.  The door opened and Jay pulled into the living room.  I stood in the kitchen and played with the kids.  I laughed with Olga’s children, Jolie and Val.  I held hands and teased with her nephew, Junior.  I watched Lucy’s small baby, Javin, stumble across the living room while he laughed uproariously.  I watched Jay perform endless tumbling routines around the house.

Finally, I told Olga and Lucy I needed to head back home.  Jay responded by wrapping her arms around my legs as I tried to walk to the door.  “I don’t want you to go,” she whispered as she held tightly to my legs.  She turned her head back to look at her mother.  “I don’t want her to go.  Her has to stay.  I want her to stay.”

“No,” Lucy told her.  “Jamie has to leave now.”

“I go home with her,” Jay stated.

I laughed then.  “Oh, I don’t think you want to come home with me,” I told her as I bent down to give her a hug.  “You don’t want to come home with me.  I’ll make you do the dishes and clean the bathroom.  You’ll have to do the laundry.”

“I’ll do it!  I’ll do it!”  Jay screamed as she jumped up and down excitedly.

“Oh, she will do it,” her mother laughs.  “She tries to do half the housework around here.”  Oh, so I guess that threat wasn’t going to work with Jay.  It usually keeps me away from home.

I laughed then and watched as the children continued to run and dance through the house, all of them holding the small, heart-shaped candy boxes.  After a while, I told Olga I needed to head home.  Before I was able to make it to the door, I was buried underneath a flurry of little bodies all hugging and kissing and screaming for me.  I hugged each of the children good-bye before I was finally being able to step outside of the house.  I walk over to my car, climbed in, and headed for home.  As I drove along Ramon Road, I thought of the stories, secrets, and emotions my friend and I had shared at lunch.  I thought about dancing and playing with all of the beautiful children.  I was amazed that simple heart-shaped boxes of chocolate could create so much excitement.  I suddenly realized then that I had just had one of the best Valentine’s Days of my life.