Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Hand of the Universe Smacks Me Upside the Head

I Didn't Have Time to Practice
Compassion and Loving Kindness

Or So I Thought . . .
Kitchen Sink Wisdom

Not Today's Mess, But Close

Up to my elbows in soapy water, I was annoyed. So annoyed with myself, and frustrated. Last night, I watched the documentary Happy and first thing today I wanted to do a compassion and loving kindness meditation.
Instead, I spent my meditation time talking on the phone and cleaning the kitchen that I left a mess last night. In addition, I created more mess this morning putting together the bread dough that was rising on the counter. Measuring cups, spoons, flour, last night’s baking pans, the pastry brush stiff with butter that had cooled overnight . . . each of them cried, Wash me!” So I did.
I swabbed the sink, looked at the clock, and realized I didn’t have enough time to practice compassion and loving kindness—not today.
Just then the giant hand of the universe reached out, gave me a little shake and a gentle smack upside the head, and commanded, “Snap out of it! What are you thinking?”
I reviewed my morning. My daughter is grieving because a loved friend and former co-worker died yesterday. Our phone time was spent talking about what she loved about him, how much she’ll miss him, and just how sad she felt. She had some time to reflect and share before she stepped into her busy workday.
That mess in the kitchen? Later today, I’ll attend a service for my friend’s father, who passed away Thursday. I baked bread to take to the family home following the service. This morning, I decided to bake yet another loaf.
My heart was heavy still, thinking about life, meaning, family, friends. But my ears and hands had been busy. . . busy practicing compassion and loving kindness. I realized didn’t need to meditate. I already had.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

$5.35 Plus Tax: The Price of Honesty

Doing the Right Thing
Isn’t Always Right
Making a Conscious Choice to Steal

A camisole, but not the camisole

$5.35. That’s the cost (minus tax) of the camisole I decided to steal. No, I didn’t walk into ________ (retail establishment to remain unnamed) with a suitcase-sized purse and stash said camisole when nobody was looking. No, I didn’t go into the dressing room with a stack of clothing, remove the tags, and hide it beneath the clothes I was wearing. At first, I didn’t even decide to steal it. That came later. Of course, as the saying goes, “It’s complicated.”
Camisoles are the bulk of my summer wardrobe. Light, cotton, colorful, cooling, they’re perfect to ward off body heat on steamy Florida days. They don’t cover much, but it’s easy to top them with a blouse when I leave the house.
That ease is why I bought several of them when unnamed establishment advertised that they were on sale. Because I didn’t decide to steal one, I took five of them to the register, paid for them, and left. Later that evening, buyer’s remorse set in, even though the total cost was only a bit over $25 for the five. Guilty about my lapse in frugality, I checked my receipt to tally what I needed versus what I wanted. I counted one, two, three, four . . . only four. I checked the actual camisoles and counted one, two, three, four, five. Ugh! I had removed all the tags and thrown them away, so I didn’t know which one was unpaid.
“No problem,” I thought. “I’ll take them back to the store. Even without the tags, someone can check them and I’ll pay for the unpaid one.” Decision made, I felt honest, like a “good” person.
“And that’s when the problems began,” is a favorite line of mine from the children’s book, Elbert’s Bad Word. It applies here. The problem began because I know someone quite well who works for unnamed retail establishment. Other employees at unnamed retail establishment know that I know that someone. I imagined marching my honest self to the customer service desk, receipt in hand, and doing the right thing. But as I thought about it, the right thing started to not seem as right as it did at first.
That receipt will instantly track the cashier who made the mistake. Cashiers have one of the most difficult jobs in retail today. Although they have no responsibility for prices, merchandise in stock (or not in stock), damaged goods, and credit scores, and they don’t have psychology degrees to deal with the myriad, complex personalities and moods they encounter moment to moment in their jobs, many customers behave as if cashiers do have all of the above. It’s a stressful, largely unfulfilling job, which is why new faces show up behind retail counters on a regular basis.
I don’t know the cashier who missed scanning that one camisole. She could have two strikes on her work record. She could be a single mom. She could be stressed. She could . . . anything. I simply don’t know. All I know is that she made a mistake. I also know that she will have a strike on her work record if I take that receipt back and do what I think is the “right” thing. Also, by doing the right thing, I compromise the work relationships of the person I know who works at unnamed retail establishment.
If it were a stereo or a higher-priced item, I would do the right thing. I don’t feel good or righteous or even committed to the choice I have made in this situation. I don’t know what is right. However, I believe the negative repercussions would be too great for $5.35—plus tax.
Yet, on another level, I feel like I must make amends of some kind. I have decided to steal the camisole, but I haven’t yet decided what form my amends will take. Deciding to steal has been a difficult choice. I hope my choice of which amends to make is easier.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Knowing What to Keep and What to Throw Away

Step Away from That Compost Pile!
Not So Fast.
That Orchid (or Life Experience)
Just Might Bloom

This beauty hid its face for two years.

“Throw them away. Big box stores shoot these orchids up with so many steroids, it’s their own version of biking the Tour de France to get them to bloom at the same time. They will never bloom again.”
Never is a really long time. I’m grateful that the case of my orchids, never translated to two years, which might be a long time in some instances, but not so much in the orchid world.
An orchid-growing newbie, I thought I knew far more than I did. When I saw the post-Valentine’s Day orchids sitting on the clearance shelf, I figured I was getting a bargain. And, of course, I would get them to bloom again, soon. Wrong. My two orchid plants languished in their pots, green, limping along, but not doing much. A year later, I consulted someone I considered an expert and received the throw-away advice. "But it’s green, the leaves are growing," I thought. But leaves are not what attract people to orchids, it’s the blooms. It didn’t look like blooms were going to happen. But I wasn’t ready to give up.

Turn Your Trash Into Treasure?
Make a Silk Purse from a Sow’s Ear?

I have a long, bleak history of trying to make the proverbial silk purse out of a sow’s ear. I have picked things from trash piles and thought, “Oh, I can fix that,” only to realize that I could not and soon placed the item in my own trash pile. A stained-beyond-being-wearable garment? Not a problem for my trusty stain-fighting arsenal  in most cases, but not all. Another item for the ragbag. A relationship that continues to go nowhere? If I only just ­­­­­­____________ (fill in the blank), I can fix it. I can make it better. I’ve been single for many years, so that fix didn't happen. I still have dreams about the beyond-dysfunctional house in which I lived during my teen years. In those dreams, I paint, I repair, I clean, I remodel. But when I wake up, nothing has changed about that time. And once again, I am reminded that some things cannot be fixed, that some plants will not grow, that some orchids might not bloom.

Some, but not all. I loved and wore a flowered outfit I got from the Junior League of Raleigh Thrift Shop for years—as soon as I removed its nasty stain. An old friend still has the priceless Swedish Christmas decorations I pulled from a trash pile. Although the relationships with which I struggled the most ended, some vestiges of cooperation, friendship, and even kinship remain. The house from my teen years? It still sits on its lot in Lake Park, Florida, but I don’t have to live there. I don’t have to visit there. In fact, the next time I’m in the area, I don’t have to drive by it—ever again.
A dead tree sits in my side yard. I couldn’t save it. It is destined for a proper grave near my compost pile.
The orchids are a different story. For Mother’s Day last year, my daughter’s gift to me was membership in the Vero Beach Orchid Society. At the first meeting I attended, I learned about the Florida Orchid Growers (FOG) group on FaceBook. At that first meeting, and from almost every post on FOG, I also learned that “You’re Doin’ It Wrong” applied to almost all my efforts in orchid growing.

Throwing It All Away Doesn’t Always Apply

Life was present because the leaves on my two thrifty orchids were green, and they continued to grow. I saw no evidence of blooms, but I followed the advice I received and a few months ago, I began to spy evidence of bloom spikes. Thrilled doesn’t come close to how I felt. Once about to become compost, these orchids were going to show me their faces. My anticipation was keen.

Two years is a long time to wait for a bloom. The first year was a waste because I was doin’ it wrong and had I continued, more compost might have been a reality. However, this silk purse became a reality and I am rewarded in the richness of beautiful blooms. Patience has been a virtue. The knowledge I gained is my friend.
Knowledge is key in this experience—and in others. If a trash pile item or a relationship is irretrievably broken, knowing that and acting on it is the wise path. If a plant is withered, bug-infested, and festering with mold, then compost—or even the burn pile—is the right path. Often, it takes time, and patience, and education to know the right path. Choosing that path, and walking it with patience and wisdom can often bring us to blooms, on orchids and in other aspects of life.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Spring Sneaks into My Sister's Garden

Sneaky Spring
Spring-ing into My Sister’s Garden

White iris
The Vernal Equinox doesn’t happen in My Sister’s Garden until March 20, which means it’s official tomorrow at 7:02 a.m. here in Central Florida.
Vernal: What’s that? It means spring. Often heralded by the first daffodil or crocus in northern climates, unless one pays attention, you could miss the signs of life in semi-tropical areas where plant life stays green most of the year. In areas such as mine, flowers don’t so much burst into bloom as meander, which is a nicer way of saying sneak.
I’m paying attention. Here’s what’s blooming in My Sister’s Garden the day before spring officially begins:


Blue morning glory

Yellow Tabebuia

Monday, March 18, 2013

Why I Visit My Lexie's Grave

Why I Visit My Child’s Grave
After 26 Years, I Still Do

Alexa’s grave is in a lovely spot of the cemetery called Devotion East. If it’s been too long since my last visit, I look for the sign because so many graves are placed in that area that it’s sometimes hard to find. Also, unless a grave has a distinctive marker, after several years, they tend to look alike, the flat marble stones with bronze plaques weathered from years of sun, wind, and rain. I know it’s just north and east of the Royal Poinciana tree, so that helps, too.
Some might ask, “Why go there? She isn’t there.” Some also might wonder, “Why, after all this time, do you still visit the grave? It’s not like anything is different.”
I know she isn’t there. I also know that not much will have changed each time I visit. The Poinciana might be a bit taller, the grass might be encroaching the stone a bit more. The metal might need more than a touch of Brasso to bring back its shine. But she will still be gone from the land of the living. And I will still stand, grieving parent, at the foot of her grave.
Some might note that our spiritual connection transcends the grave and that I can commune with her love and light and wisdom at any time. I know that’s true because I have experienced and continue to experience those connections on a most profound level.
I know I don’t need to visit Alexa’s grave to feel close to her or to feel connected to her in some ways. But in other ways I do need to visit her grave. The connection during my busy life is often fleeting. I see a photo, I hear a song, I share a memory. I weep a bit. Yes, because even after all these years, the sadness doesn’t go away. And I know it never will.
However, those photos, songs, memories, sharing with family and friends often are fleeting. They come during the course of a day, during the course of a life I continue to live without her. For the most part I live it well, in spite of that longing that does not get fulfilled and will not.
I visit Alexa’s grave because it’s a time to pause. It’s not a fleeting moment of a memory. It’s not the melody of Tiny Dancer coming into my ears and heart when I know she’s contacting me, telling me to listen up, to pay attention.

The Royal Poinciana casts a cooling shade on Alexa's grave.
I visit Alexa’s grave because when I do, it’s easy to put aside all distractions. The cemetery is quiet. It’s calm. The Royal Poinciana casts a cooling shade on the grave. The grass springs light beneath my feet. I note that someone else loves and misses her, too, because regardless of how much time has passed since my last visit, someone, perhaps more than one someone, makes certain that the vase is always filled with flowers.
I visit Alexa’s grave because at that time, I feel connected to her in ways that are sometimes more solid than others. Perhaps it is because of that pause, that time out of my regular life, my routine, my list, my commitments. Most often, it’s just me there, remembering the love, remembering the joy, and feeling that short time when she was here with us.
I visit Alexa’s grave to talk to her, to thank her, to simply be. I know I can do that at other times, but I often do not. I visit Alexa’s grave to take the space away from present time, to have a few moments with just a mom and a little girl, whom I miss and love.
I visit Alexa’s grave because when I turn to walk away, I am ready to embrace life more fully, to love more fully, to express, to be aware. I visit Alexa’s grave because it’s a fine reminder to cherish everything I still have.