Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Booger, Booger on the Wall

Booger, Booger on the Wall
Who the Heck Flung You There?
“Booger-Flinging Capabilities”—
Who Says That?

There it isthe dot to the right of the TV 
Booger, booger on the wall, from whence cometh thou? That’s not quite how I asked the question yesterday. It was more like: “Ewww. Is that a booger?”
Vacuuming clumps of dog hair and mounds of dog and cat dander high enough to resemble anthills wasn’t gross enough. Just as I pushed the vacuum in front of the television and looked to my right, there it was—a booger on the wall! “Is that your booger?” I asked my son. It was more of an accusation than a question because it certainly wasn’t my booger.
If my family were normal, the accused child would say, “No way! Not me.” However one defines normal, it is not a description fitting anyone swimming in our gene pool. Instead of lying and saying, “No,” my son looked at the distance from “his” chair to the wall, and said, “I’ve never gotten that good with my booger-flinging capabilities.”
“You’re the only person who’s been here!” I said.
“What about Chelsea and Timothy? They were here a few days ago,” he said.
“Don’t blame them,” I said. “This booger is fresh. It’s not dried and crusted. Get it off, now!”
What family has such conversations? Mine. And what family uses the wording booger-flinging capabilities? Mine. Not only are said family members booger-flingers but they also are intellectual booger-flingers with vocabulary and grammar skills.
A day later, the booger, now drying and getting a bit crustier, still maintains its place on the wall. The kid is truthful, but he isn’t too obedient. I’m ready to step into martyr mode where “Nobody around here does anything. I have to do it all myself” and clean the booger off the wall. In the future, I’m not even going to ask, I’ll just put on my hazmat suit and get to work.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Earthy Crunchy Self Starts Talking

“Stop Whining and
Do What’s Right for You”
Earthy Crunchy Self
Gives Me a Talking-To

Earthy Crunchy self insisted I hang the clothes on the line.    
Dog-walking for the morning was just about over, so I headed down the dusty shell-rock road toward home. I scanned my mental list to set my priorities for the day. “Write” was first on the list. I stepped inside and heard the washer’s final spin of the load of clothing I started earlier. I added “put clothes in dryer” to said list.
Earthy Crunchy self, however, had other plans. “The sun is shining, and only the fewest tiny clouds dot the sky. Rain is forecast, but that’s not until later,” she said. I knew then that she wanted nothing more than to trot outside to the clothesline, basket of wet clothes and clothespin bag in tow, and put those wet clothes on the line.
“But I want to write, now,” I argued with Earthy Crunchy self. “I have work to do, lots of work to do. I have deadlines to meet.”
Earthy Crunchy self shook her head and said, “Hanging clothes on the line is a part of who you are. You will always want to write, and you can do that as soon as you hang the clothes. You also will always have work to do, whether it’s something you’ve manufactured or real. Stop whining and do what’s right for you.”
Who I am. Earthy Crunchy self is right. I love hanging clothes on the line. It’s not about saving money, although that’s a consideration after seeing last month’s electric bill when I didn’t use the clothesline. Hanging clothes on the line is friendly to the environment, and even that small action means the slightest domino effect takes place. I use less fossil fuel; my electricity bill is lower; I don’t have to work as much to pay said bill; and by using that time to do the work I love, I come closer to the day when I do only what I love.
Hanging clothes out to dry in itself isn’t as much as a life-changer as I would like it to be. I don’t see myself living the life of my dreams just because I put some wet clothes on the line today. But living the life of my dreams will come with the combinations of ordinary things I do each day—things like writing, hanging clothes on the line, gardening, eating well, and rather than being judgmental and insisting on getting my own way, trying to focus on compassion and understanding.
I listened to Earthy Crunchy self’s direction to be who I am. I walked outside in the wet morning grass, got my clean shoes dirty, and hung the small load of jeans on the line.
When I came inside, Earthy Crunch self was satisfied. She said, “Now go write. The clothes will be dry in a few hours. I’ll be back to remind you to go outside and take them off the line.”
I sat down and started writing, which is another part of who I am.

* * * * *

What makes you “who you are”? Earthy Crunchy self would be pleased if you were to practice that today.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Cost-Ineffective Saving for a Sunny Day

Cost Ineffective
Sunflower Seed Saving on a Sunny Day
Ensuring That Sunflowers
Keep Shining in My Garden

“No way is this cost effective,” I said as I sat on the concrete tugging seeds from a spent sunflower bloom. It’s hard to free the seeds from their covering when the blossom isn’t completely dried, so I pried, pulled, and plugged away at my self-imposed chore.
Sunflowers grow throughout much of the year where I live. The season's first crop had wilted flowers bursting with seeds. My Florida gardening book advised that it’s now a good time to plant sunflowers and I want more—without spending any more, that is. I clipped the flower heads and sat in the shaded doorway and began separating the seeds from the flower head.

It wasn't easy to remove these seeds from their "home" in the spent bloom.
As I sat, I noted I could buy a pack of seeds for less than $2 and have them in the ground long before I would finish plucking them from their home in the flower head's caverns. I then wondered if I really had to be cost-effective in this situation. I could have been inside baking a week’s worth of bread or cooking brown rice to add to meals for the next several days. I could be planting something edible from the other seeds I already own. I could be checking the fridge for whatever would be compost in a few days if I didn’t cook it first. I even could have gone to my desk and put in a few weekend hours.

Picking the seeds for my next batch of sunflowers was satisfying, gratifying. 
But none of those options were appealing. I was seated on still-cool concrete, and although it wasn’t cushy like my favorite armchair, I wasn’t uncomfortable. The shade blocked the sun’s rays as they got higher and hotter. As mundane as it seemed, gathering the seeds was gratifying, even if it didn’t “save” much in the money department.

It’s Not Always About the Money

It’s not always about the money. While I picked the seeds, I planned when and where I would plant them. I imagined watering them, watching them germinate, and then seeing them grow. I looked toward the garden and saw what these will look like when they flower. I calculated the number of days until I’ll see the new blooms. To continue the cycle, I also imagined that sometime in three months or so, I’ll be cutting flower heads, drying them, and gathering more seeds. Late July will be too hot to start a new batch, but September might be a good time to sow even more seeds. And the cycle shall continue.
Generations ago, seed gathering and seed saving were cost-effective (and the effort still is in many cases today). Seed saving guaranteed food for the next year’s planting and harvest. Seeds were passed down from generation to generation. Some seed banks still exist to ensure the existence of many heirloom flowers and vegetables and other plants.

I saved the bachelor button seeds this year
to ensure I'll have these beautiful blue blooms
again next spring. 
This young sunflower is from saved seeds.
My generic sunflower seeds won’t be part of any generational hand-off of seeds, but I shall continue gathering my own generations nonetheless. Seed packets cost only a few dollars, but I know it’s not always about the money.

* * * * *

SeedsaversExchange is well known for their efforts at keeping heirloom seeds in the growing community. They can be reached here: http://www.seedsavers.org/
A Google search on “gathering seeds from your garden” nets thousands of sites where you can learn about saving your own seeds and getting your own generations going.

Bachelor button, sunflower, zinnia, and nasturtium seeds
(clockwise from left to right) for future planting

Miniature zinnias from saved seeds

Next year's blooms are tucked away in the
nasturtium seeds I've saved.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Time for Soul Amendments

Soul Amendments
Auto-Correcting the Soul

“I have found that soul is rarely at its best...unless amended.”
“Soil....yeesh....auto correct.”
             — Sherry
 (Florida Orchid Grower on Facebook)
Amend your soil. Amend your soul.
 A soul-crushing week began on April 15 for Boston and friends, which means pretty much the whole world. Bodies and spirits were crushed as well. One would have to have been disconnected from everything the last twelve days to not know about the Boston Marathon bombing on Patriot’s Day. The tiniest bit of healing might have begun, but for many, particularly the family members of those who were killed and for the injured and their families, healing will take a long, long time.
I don’t live in Boston, but I lived nearby for 15 years. I have family, friends and colleagues in the area. When the week of April 15 ended, one terrorist was dead and the other in custody. Much of the world is breathing a sigh of relief on that account. But much of the world is still sighing.
“Tired, just tired,” is what I hear when speaking with family and friends . . . and we were touched only in the slightest way from the horrid events. I feel it, too, an overarching fatigue that won’t quite release. I feel discontented, distracted, and unable to focus on much for long.
Discontent, distraction, and lack of focus appear on my horizon far too often, but these twelve days, it’s been worse. I’m having trouble sitting, reading, talking. I want to move, to do, but I’m not sure what to do, what to move.
Constant news updates on the Internet have grabbed my attention, as have survivor stories, wounded stories, stories of grief and mourning. It does me not a whit of good to keep browsing, to keep reading, to feed the craving for just one more story, something that might help me—and millions of others—figure out why so we can avoid ever again.
Ground orchid in need of soil/soul amendments
In this mental state, I’m reminded of a comment a fellow orchid lover made recently. I had reached out to my Florida Orchid Growing group on Facebook for suggestions on how to pot my ground orchids, which were not doing well in the ground.
Someone suggested helping my existing ground. I struggle daily to “help” my soil. Although my patio shrinks with my ever-growing potted orchid and shade-loving plant collection, I said I was determined to pot the ground orchids. But friends continued to encourage me to keep them in the ground, in spite of the soil.
Sherry’s comment plunked my orchids—and the rest of me—firmly onto the ground:

“I have found that soul is rarely at its best...unless amended.”
“Soil....yeesh....auto correct.”

Soul amendments, indeed. I replied, “Well, some ‘soul’ can do with a bit of amending from time to time. I know mine benefits greatly when I make such amendments.”
Today, I know my discontent, lack of focus, and lethargy signal that my soul needs “amendments.” I know that soul, like soil, is healthier once amended. Mine has become diminished in the last several days. I neglected giving it proper care and attention: I forgot to make soul amendments.
Weeds of fear, judgment, despair, dismay, and sorrow have crept into my soul. Like plant weeds, those soul weeds blow about the earth and land and grow just about anywhere. It is time to pay attention and not give them a place to germinate and spread. If I harbor resentment, judgment, despair, fear, and worry, I might spread those seeds myself. The cycle will continue if what I sow searches for yet another soul that will then need amendments.

Soul Amendment: The ocean
How can I amend my soul? What does my soul need? Whether for drinking, bathing, or contemplating, my soul needs water. My soul needs the ocean. The vastness, the beauty, the power, and the majesty of the ocean renew my thirsty soul. I feel my spirit wither and dry, becoming cracked and wounded, when I’m away from the ocean too long. As I approach the dunes that block my view of the shore, the salt scent, the crash of the waves, and the breeze cooling the sands are but a prelude before I reach the top of the stairs and catch my first glimpse. I step forward and I am renewed: My soul drinks it in, and my thirst is quenched.

I remember to feed my body, but
I also must remember to feed my soul.
Soul needs food. Without food, my soul will be unhealthy, unstable. Hunger comes in many forms. I’m well aware of soul hunger. It strikes when I’ve been away from church too long. It strikes when prayer is not a part of my daily life. I feel its pangs when I don’t meditate or do yoga. That hunger affects every aspect of my life. With soul nourishment, I become stronger; my lighter, healthier parts are fed.

Facing the dark leads to the light. Before the first light of dawn, the shore and the water are dark.
Soul also must face the dark to move toward the light. Darkness will come to soil and to soul. As the earth moves, the soil experiences darkness every day. As the earth continues to move, the soil experiences light every day. Most souls who have been on the earth for any amount of time will experience dark. They will experience loss, heartache, despair, lack—the result of all those weed seeds that are blown into our lives. In those dark times of the soul, it’s tempting to give up, to stay in the dark, to let the nastiest of weeds fester in our soul, giving birth to more. Soul amendments happen when we step away from the dark and toward the light.
In this dark place in which so many of us have hovered the last twelve days, the temptation is strong to hate, to judge, to strike back. The lust for vengeance weighs heavy on hearts. Vengeance, hate, and judgment, however, keep our souls in the dark, where amendments can neither reach nor heal. I, many of us, might not be ready to take the necessary steps toward the light. But when I do, when we do, those steps will transpire when I speak in kindness and compassion. I will continue to take those steps toward soul amendments when I forgive. I will amend my soul by stepping away from the dark into a place of light when I refuse to judge, refuse to condemn, refuse to gossip, refuse to hurt.
I am fortunate that none of my friends or loved ones were seriously hurt by the events in Boston and Watertown during those days of horror and despair. When I talk about my personal healing, I don’t mean to diminish the suffering of those who have a much longer, much more difficult road toward healing, toward physical healing—toward soul amendments.
My soul and the souls of many in our country, in our world, need soul amendments. We hunger for them.
Soul amendments—what better time is there than now to amend each of our souls—in the days post-Marathon tragedy and every day?
How will you amend your soul today? How will you amend your soul every day? Following are a few more ways I amend my soul.

How I Amend My Soul

Writing amends my soul.

Having blue flowers in the garden amends my soul.
The scent of gardenias and cobalt blue glass amend my soul.
A walk on the beach and noting the art and creativity
of people amend my soul.
Time with my family amends my soul.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Bathtub Poetry

Slow Baths
Ice Cream, Oceans, and Rainbows

Taking a bath—fast
Must be like
  Eating chocolate ice cream
    without tasting it
  Going to the beach
    and turning your back to the ocean
  Hearing someone say, “A rainbow!”
    and looking at the ground.

I took a long, hot bath
  with lavender-scented bubbles and Dead Sea salts.

I propped my feet at the tub’s end and
  sank deep within the warmth.

I considered chocolate ice cream, blue ocean water,
  and rainbows.

I relaxed until my arms floated
  to the bubble-covered surface.

I took a bath—slow.

* * *

April is National Poetry Month.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Afraid for Watertown, Afraid for Boston, Afraid of Fear

1500 Miles Away
and Still Afraid

I know the mile count well.
My car tires have worn a groove on I-95
from Massachusetts to Florida.
I wore this T-shirt on Friday.
I hate it when I wake filled with fear. Tap, tap, tap on my bedroom door woke me at 3:25 a.m. Friday. Just before leaving for work, my son learned of the shoot-out in Watertown, Massachusetts, and he wanted someone to talk to for a few moments. I checked the Internet and went back to sleep. I woke again an hour later to say goodbye to my friend and houseguest—from Massachusetts—who was leaving in a few minutes for the airport. I again checked the Internet: one MIT policeman murdered, one suspect dead, and another suspect on the run. I went back to bed, filled with unease.
I woke at 7:30 to a tearful phone call from my daughter who lives in Littleton, Massachusetts. She had yet to hear from her friend who lives in Watertown. As we spoke, blessed relief washed over her (and me) when she received an answering text that her friend was okay.
Fear washed over me and continued to drench my spirit as I read news reports and saw photos of riot-clad law enforcement officers stream into the city streets.
Killing and maiming without compunction was the suspects’ modus operandi, an MO that fed my fear. I felt paralyzed; my day was overtaken by care and concern for those I know and love in the radius of terror in Massachusetts. I lived in Massachusetts, although not near Boston, for 15 years. I have friends, family, and colleagues who live or work in or near the city. I know runners who have met the challenge of those 26.2 miles on Boston streets. I know people who have waited at the finish line. I know someone who waited (and was not hurt) at that line on Monday, her infant daughter in tow.
Paralysis from fear was not how I wanted to continue my day. I had fought that fear all week. But even more fear threatened to compel me to step away from my life and into the abyss experienced by so many in harm’s way. I noted that fear and my reluctance to let it overtake me on a Facebook status. Instantly, I was chastised by someone who lives just outside Boston. “Come on, Chris. You’re 1500 miles away.”
I know the mile count well. My car tires have worn a groove on I-95 from Massachusetts to Florida. Since I returned to Florida, many a week, a car bearing Massachusetts tags sits in my driveway, also having worn a groove on that I-95 path.
I also know that part of my heart remains in Massachusetts; that part is connected across those miles to those who continue to live and work and play there. In our ever-connected world, I remain connected to those folks daily, hourly, even minute-by minute at times on social media.
So, yes, at 1500 miles away, I was paralyzed with fear, worry, concern. But not only for the people in the Boston area. My fear extended across the globe because of the human condition—the human desire—to seek a place where there is no fear. In a world that sometimes seems gone mad with anger, retaliation, retribution, my instinct was to curl up, curl away from that fear whose evil tentacles fingered out and spread the vast distance across the earth.
I resisted curling up, curling away on Friday, even as I sat in my Vero Beach home. No—I wasn’t barricaded behind locked doors to be opened only to a law enforcement officer. No—I didn’t crouch in a tub as bullets raced through windows and walls. But I was afraid for those behind locked doors, afraid for those unable to work, to walk, to open their windows wide and embrace the scent of spring.
So, from my 1500 miles away, I pushed away my fear, all the while praying for safety and peace for the folks in Massachusetts.

* * *

Later, when the suspect was captured and I saw the news stories showing people cheer the police and gather in the streets to celebrate the end of the siege, I, too, was relieved—even 1500 miles away.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Boston, Broken but Not Bowed

Broken, but Not Bowed
from Boston

“I think I’m going to run next year.
Seems like the right thing to do.”

From sea to shining sea

I hate starting the day feeling broken. My heart is heavy and my eyes brim with tears as I ponder the events at yesterday’s Boston Marathon. I don’t know yet, nor does anyone, whose hand(s) lit the fuse that killed three and injured well over a hundred on a sunny Monday in Boston. Patriot’s Day should have been a celebration. Instead, yet another tragic American scene burns in our memory.
That memory is fresh. I feel the sting. And I feel the hate. So much hate. It numbs me to consider the depth of depravity that fuels such despicable activity. What can I do about it? What can anyone do? We cannot predict when the next lunatic will strike terror into our hearts and our lives. We cannot predict the time, the event, the place. That’s what those who manufacture fear want us to remember… that we don’t know, we won’t know when, where, how we will be hurt again.
We can predict a few things, however. We can predict that several someones in a crowd will run toward the danger with the aim to help, to protect, to soothe, to calm. We can predict that several someones, like the marathoners from yesterday, will run toward blood donation centers. We can predict that several someones will offer juice, food, shelter, clothing. We can predict that several someones will offer shoulders on which to lean, hands to hold, hearts to hold other hearts.
We can predict that today, in Boston and thousands of places across America, that millions of someones will refuse to be cowed, will refuse to be broken for long. We can predict that Americans from sea to shining sea will stand proud and tall and be grateful for who we are, for what we are.
We can predict that next year on Patriot’s Day, the Boston Marathon will be held. We can predict that thousands will enter, thousands will run. We can predict that those runners will hold their heads high, and run with joy, determination. They will run without fear.
I can predict that people I know and love will line up at the starting line and begin that 26.2 mile course. I might even be there to cheer one of those runners. This morning, my daughter shared with me: “I think I’m going to run next year. Seems like the right thing to do.”
I can predict that thousands upon thousands of Americans today and every day will do something because “It seems like the right thing to do.”

Monday, April 15, 2013

Angels Open Knives . . .

The Angel and the Pocketknife

“Who does this?” I often ask myself after doing whatever “this” is for the day. Yesterday, I asked again.
Rummaging through my purse while driving, I felt an intense pain. I yanked my hand away and watched as the blood poured from my fingertip. I pulled to the closest U-turn lane and grabbed some tissues to stanch the bleeding. That didn’t help, so I pulled off the road and parked. Twenty-minutes later, blood-drenched tissues filling my lap, both hands (and a shirt I had on the car seat next to me) bloody, it finally stopped.
I was on my way to a party I didn’t want to miss, so going home, even though it was five minutes away was not an option. When the blood waters receded, I took a careful peek into my purse. The culprit? An open pocketknife.
The pocketknife is not spring loaded; it’s not a switchblade. Opening this knife must be done on purpose. I’m a space shot, but I would never put an open knife in my purse. I closed said knife and tucked it in a pocket of my purse. I decided to drive to a convenience store and get some bandages. Before I put the car in gear, I wished for the first time, that I had an automatic. I was certain shifting would get the blood flowing again.
I ducked into the restroom, washed the blood off my hands, and bought some bandages. Back in the car, the bleeding started again. World’s Crappiest Bandages (WCB) was not the label on the box, but it could have been. Determined to get to the party, I wrapped my finger with napkins, secured them with WCBs, and arrived at the party quite late. The host had real bandages, which I gratefully accepted and used.
I could say, “The moral of the story is no more rummaging in your purse, Chris. You never know when you’ll slice yourself with a knife.” That’s when the “Who does this?” question comes to mind. I checked that knife later. It isn’t easy to open. I don’t know how it opened—and I’m looking for some cosmic reason as to why I had to delay getting on I-95 and driving 75 miles south. I was only a half-mile away when I cut myself. The total time waiting for the blood to stop, convenience store trip, washing, wrapping, and bandaging was at least 30 minutes.
By writing through this experience, I can answer the question.
Five minutes before I left the house, I received some life-changing news. Not in a good way . . . so far. My income took a big hit and I was frantic with worry. But I was determined to go to the party. Nothing was going to stop me. Even in my frantic state, I was going to get on the deadliest highway in America—I-95 in Florida—and drive.

If an Angel Opens a Knife,
What Else Is Possible?

Nothing was going to stop me—except a stab wound to the fingertip. I stopped. For at least 30 minutes I stopped. It’s another puzzle as to why a fingertip wound would bleed so profusely—even after pressure, elevation, the usual. Because gear-shifting was out of the question, I wasn’t going anywhere. America’s deadliest highway would have to wait.
Blood is a great distraction. It pulls you away from everything else that’s going on. Focus is shifted to one thing: making it stop. The bleeding stopped. My frantic mental what-ifs also stopped.
When I finally got on the highway, I drove slowly—and I admit I made a phone call that calmed me. Maybe the angel who opened that knife guided me while I drove because I’m safe at home and starting a new day.
And maybe, just maybe, I can find a way to trust that it will all be okay. If an angel opens a knife in my purse, then pretty much anything is possible.