Saturday, October 27, 2012
Thursday, September 03, 2009
I listened intently as various members of the group shared their experiences; some painful, others triumphant. And then the young man spoke up. I can not remember exactly what he revealed that night; I only remember that the young man who I first judged as being a hyper, vague, “tough guy” was nothing more than a kind, vulnerable, struggling boy whose main concern seemed to be not hurting his parents any more than he felt that he already had in his life. My heart broke for him and his struggles. My husband introduced us after the meeting. His name was Tim.
Over the course of the next few months, Tim would attend our weekly meetings with his parents—two lovely people whose devotion to their beloved son’s healing was nothing short of remarkable. Although Tim seemed to be in a state of uneasiness throughout each meeting, he would become amiable and funny once it came to a close. His charm and humor were endearing, and when my daughter, Kayla, started to attend the meetings with us, I knew that Tim would be appealing to her as well.
Kayla and Tim hit it off almost immediately. After one of the meetings about two months ago, Tim ran up to me with the enthusiasm of a five year old, his blue eyes lit up like a child on Christmas morning: “Can me and Kayla go bowling??” he asked. They both giggled like kindergartners, a far cry from the 23 year old boy and 19 year old girl that they were. “Of course!” I told him. “And how nice of you to ask my permission!” I said, almost sarcastically. Tim said thank you, my daughter said good-bye, and off they went.
At home a little while later, my husband and I heard a gleeful ruckus coming in the front door. Tim and Kayla bounded in, laughing about a joke only they were in on, and looking for something to eat. My husband was very comfortable around Tim, and didn’t care to change his stunning outfit of sweat shorts, black socks, flip-flops, and a very hairy chest. Upon viewing this lovely sight, Tim snorted, “HEY, SEXY!!!”, and we all broke out in a fit of laughter. Before long, Tim and my husband were having a “moonwalking” contest in the kitchen. Gas was passed and being blamed on the dog. In all of this craziness, I thought to myself, “I have never seen Tim in this light-hearted before. What a far cry from the person I thought he was the first time we met. He’s truly one of a kind.” The kids decided to watch a movie, and my husband and I turned in. I felt happy and at peace that my daughter found such a wonderful friend. I felt hopeful for Tim and encouraged by his journey to find God’s true peace in his life.
Sadly, Tim passed away in his sleep last weekend. As a person of faith, I struggle with the question of “why” and the feeling of “it’s not fair”, and every other thought that goes through one’s head when a young person dies. It just seems so very wrong. The only comfort I can find now is the knowledge that he was truly seeking God every week at church and at the meetings; he was letting go of the demons that took control of him for so long. He was in a place of preparedness to meet our dear Lord…I’m not sure if he was in that place a year ago, or if he would be in that place a year from now. But for today, in the here and now, he was.
Tim lived life on the edge. He was extreme in everything he did: some things were fun, such as surfing and snowboarding; other things could almost border on destructive. But the one thing he did to excess—the ultimate extreme—was love his family. And my soul aches for them today, as the object of their love can no longer be physically seen and touched, but only felt inside of their broken hearts.
As I looked at the grave site—the grey metal coffin, covered in surfer and skater stickers from top to bottom, the rainbow of flowers strewn all around it, and the sun gleaming on it so brightly that it hurt my eyes—I had a vision. I saw Tim looking down at all of us with a huge smile on his face, saying, “That is the most AWESOME coffin!!”
…And he was the most awesome person.
God bless you, Tim. You will be sorely missed.
Monday, August 25, 2008
Sunday, we dropped my daughter Kayla off at college. Well, "drop off" seems a bit minimal. It was more like we moved her and every ounce of her belongings in, and all that was missing was the chihuaha. My Elle Woods wanna-be seemed as though she was completely taking over her double-dorm room (oh, excuse me...it's not a "dorm", it's a "student residential hall" or some nonsense like that), and I feared that Kayla's very sweet roommate and her family might think my daughter a tad high-maintenance. I personally never viewed her as such until that day. Sadly, most of what she brought were items that both her stepmother and I felt that we could not live without...I could pretty much guarantee that we could have made it up in one car instead of two if we had just stayed out of the packing end of it. But alas, there is a bridge and a toll between Kayla and the rest of us, and I guess we just wanted to make sure we could avoid paying $5.00 each way just to bring her a lint roller or some triple antibiotic. She's pretty much all set.
So here I am, wondering where on earth the last eighteen years of my life went, and reflecting on whether or not I nurtured her as well as I could have, should have. The subject is really moot. I think we all do the best we can at a job that has no formal training and doesn't even come with a manual. We wing it, and we hope for the best. And I might say that right now, I'm happy with the way Kayla blossomed. I look forward to seeing her in full bloom someday, and she has many wonderful seasons ahead of her.
Now, onto my real garden of soil, weeds, and hopeful plantings. The strawberries are coming along as expected...I did get four or five tiny, sweet fruits back in June, and I think that's appropriate for a first planting. I hear that next year, they'll be taking over my yard. The grapes did not fare so well; as a matter of fact, they were looking rather anemic this morning. I decided to feed them with some makeshift plant food: egg shells, lettuce bottoms, lemon skins. I have no idea what I'm doing, but it sort of resembled compost in its early stages. I'm hoping the vine thinks it's yummy.
But my fig tree...aahhh, this is the trophy of my yard. I don't know why I planted it...something to do with my late grandfather growing figs most of his life, and no one carrying on the tradition (the same goes for the grapes...I planted them with the hopes of resurrecting his tradition of growing his own fruit and making his own wine. Why this skill was never passed down through the generations is beyond me). I was never particularly close to my grandfather--he passed away at the ripe, old age of 92 when I was a teen--but I'm really starting to appreciate how he lived his life. He grew his own food, and he consumed it. Of course, he also started each day with a supposed concoction of whiskey, raw eggs, and sugar. But hey, he was still standing on his own two feet until he died...
I digress. Back to my figs.
As I've mentioned, I wasn't sure if I'd like figs, but after reading about their nutritional value, I decided I was going to have to eat them whether they tasted good or not (for example, figs contain the highest overall mineral content of all fruits: a quarter-cup serving provides 244 mg of potassium, 53 mg of calcium, and 1.2 mg of iron). Although the newly-planted tree only produced about 15 fruits this year, next year we should be plenty prepared to can, preserve, and just plain eat these tasty, nutritious little dumplings. I'm feeling very hopeful, and I feel like I really accomplished something this summer. Lots of things, actually.
Now, if only I could figure out the task of pruning and protecting this tree (which I have to do with items such as burlap, I hear). But that's another story for another day.
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
At one point in the not-so-distant-past, I was feeling very depressed and did not want to bring my relatively upbeat blog down into the abyss of hopelessness...so I simply chose not to write at all. I "closed up" my blog with a farewell that included expressing my hopes to rekindle some of my artistic ability and turn it into (hopefully) something that might lead me towards a real career doing what I love. That never materialized, and the people closest to me noticed. Some of their attitudes may have even bordered on pity. It was quite embarrassing.
In time, however, I realized that the only way for me to get back on track with my life was to make some drastic changes to it...some of which were not at all easy or comfortable. But the most vital alteration to my day-to-day existence was my decision to quit my job after three fairly secure, routine years. The position had become one of stress and frustration, all of which I was taking out on my family and even my friends. Something had to give, and it had to give at once.
My relationships with the people surrounding me are precious; I have taken the time to feed these relationships, care for and nurture them, and I have been rewarded with a bounty of love and trust as a result. I took the time to sow this love and trust carefully and abundantly; unfortunately, I found that I also had to take time to do some pruning. I had to weed out anyone or anything that I felt was harmful and destructive, and would cause strangulation of what I considered to be strong roots.
What I reaped has been priceless. The quantity of relationships I once had may not be there, but the quality of the ones that have remained will carry me into my old age. With my resignation, the concern over my relationships was taken care of. One down, a few more to go.
As for my art, I have something in the works that should be ready for copyright in the next two weeks. I believe in my project with my whole heart, and have taken steps to market it internationally via the world-wide web.
Two down. Are there more?
Yes, there is this one thing. I still love to write. I still love to blog. So with the advent of my return, I have decided to try to take the blog in a different sort of direction (for me, anyway). Instead of whining about family relationships, delving into world issues, and being overly-concerned with my financial future, I have decided to journal my attempt at getting back to the root (pun intended) of what I really love: nature, growth, and simplicity. I have decided, along with my husband, that the time has come to make all those "dreams" I have written about a reality. Just because I can't have my country home right this minute, doesn't mean I can't start to learn how to do everything I want to once I do live there. Although there are many things we long to acheive, one of them is trying to learn how to self-sustain. And there ain't no reason on earth I can't start practicing right here on Long Island!
This spring, I planted several Italian Essentials, as I like to call them: tomatoes, basil, parsley, oregano, grapes, and a fig tree. This is my start. This is my pre-school, or perhaps even my kinder-"garden." By the time we own that country home, we'll practically have master's degrees on everything important, like how to store vegetables and fruits for winter use, to that most crucial of subjects, Wine-Making 101 (admittedly, I doubt I can self-sustain without a nice red). Today I even started to make my own compost and joined an international home-gardening community web site.
Dang it, this time I'm determined to just do it. And I really think I will.
Many thanks to my inspiration for this post, Simply Me. Her PA garden (not to mention her pure, easy, country hospitality) makes me long to be a better person, let alone a better gardener. I want to eat and share home-grown salad every day, not just on weekend getaways!
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
I killed two birds yesterday. Not one, but two.
Of course, it was an accident. I didn’t intend to render my feathered friends lifeless in one split second, but it happened.
I was driving along a side street with four of my individuals. I was in my company van, which is actually a 2008 Honda Odyssey, and not an immense 15-seater which one would usually expect me to be driving, considering the company I work for. We had just finished shopping for an elderly man, who is housebound, and were on our way to drop his groceries off to him.
As I coasted slowly down a side street, I noticed two birds entwined in what I assumed was a mating dance of some sort: flittering up and down, twirling around, and generally lacking any concern for the rest of the goings-on in the world, namely a van driving down the street.
And then it happened.
As I opened my mouth and spoke “Look at those silly birds!” they careened uncaringly down towards my wheel well. I heard a slight thump, and then took a large gasp of air.
“Oh no, I think I hit the birds!” I cried. As I peered through the rear view mirror, I saw it: a small wing sticking up from a brown lump in the middle of the street, almost as if it was waving “bye-bye.” My individuals were partially worried, but willing to keep on driving. I, however, had to turn the van around to view the horror of what I had done.
As I pulled up, I did not see two bodies, but one conglomeration of feathers and guts. Relieved that one bird possibly escaped this torturous demise, I rolled down my window to grieve over the one with less luck.
And then I saw them…legs. Not two, but four. I had killed these birds so heinously that their little bodies actually blended together as if they were one. Which quite possibly was their original intent, but I assume in a much more rewarding and satisfying way.
I’m still trying to figure out the lesson here, or the irony. I’m not having much luck, though.
Sort of like the time I decapitated a squirrel on Halloween, just as little ghouls, goblins and princesses were starting to appear in the streets in their quest for treats. I ran it over after it played “red light, green light”, going back and forth in the street, when it finally ignored the command of “red light” and decided to keep on going anyway, heading for my car on the driver’s side. I slammed on my brakes and noticed that it didn’t come out on the passenger side as I had hoped. I turned to look out my window, wondering if anyone had actually witnessed this murder firsthand. I saw two little old ladies in their lawn chairs at the house next to me, their mouths hanging open with painful looks on their faces.
“…He didn’t make it, did he?” I asked them.
They shook their heads “no.”
“…I ran him over, didn’t I?”
They nodded their heads “yes.”
I got out of my car and nearly passed out from the carnage. I’m not even sure what happened to the top of his head…all that was left was his bottom jaw and the rest of his body.
The ladies kindly gave me a garbage bag and a roll of paper towels. I picked up the poor little varmint and put him in the bag (and he was a hefty little critter, too…I’m betting he weighed at least five pounds). I know I could have left him there, but I figured it would be a really bad “trick” for the kids to see as they crossed the street from one house to the next. I cried as I threw him out in my garbage pail on the side of my house, and whispered a small “I’m sorry” to the universe.
Again…what was the lesson here?
I know they were only animals, but to take a life is ghastly even so. Yes, I am the person who will try to scoot the bee out of the house before I spray it with hair spray (hey, it works, and it’s not as poisonous as Raid). I am the person who cried uncontrollably when I saw the rat dying from the food he ate in the trap the county had placed in my yard. I have a definite fondness for all of God’s creatures, sometimes to a fault.
Perhaps these things happen to remind us of how precious life is, and how quickly it can be over. Maybe God allows his lesser creatures to be sacrificed so that we can be awakened to the relationships that are dying around us, the relationships that could end in a split second and won’t ever be healed because of our pride, our stubbornness.
I know I have a few of those relationships in my life. I’m sure we all do. I’ve been reflecting on how to mend them, how to restore them to their original beauty. But just as the critters made bad choices that hurt them, this is how it is in life as well. The birds’ lifeless little bodies will never be separated and the squirrel will never get his head back. So we have to accept it, mourn it, and bury it (…or at least throw it in the garbage). And then we move on.
Sunday, February 10, 2008
Sleepily, I ask him, “What do you mean, ‘a plan’?”
“A PLAN,” he stresses. “You know, like, for our future. We spend all this time ‘dreaming’ about what we want and what we’ll have, but what do we actually do that will lead us to having it?”
He did have a point. I have spent so much time writing of my dreams and desires on this blog, but have yet to put into place any sort of plan of action to help make them a reality. In my half-awake fog, I asked him if we could talk about it in the morning. He looked concerned, his eyebrows lying arch-less, straight across his forehead showing an emotion that was not quite describable at that moment. He swung to lay on his back and stared at the ceiling. I closed my eyes and fell asleep within seconds, not giving much more thought to his query.
On Sunday mornings, I enjoy watching Joel Osteen, a “smiling” pastor who some find more inspirational than gospel-driven, but someone who makes me feel good about the future nonetheless. In my area, he is on several different television stations consecutively from 7:30 a.m. until 9 a.m., of which I usually catch the 8:30 showing on
This morning, however, he did not go back to sleep. As a matter of fact, he sprung up in bed and said, “Make it louder!” After Joel’s usual introduction that included a mild joke, he immediately went into his sermon…which just happened to be all about “having a plan for your future.” He described such things as identifying what are merely fantasies and what are actual God-given dreams; he urged his listeners to write down their plan of action for one year, five years, ten years, even twenty; and he gave examples of how sometimes sacrifices have to be made in order to make the changes necessary to move on in life and to achieve your goals. This is the point in the message where his words started to hit home for me.
What some of you might not be aware of is that I was given a gift from God. Well, over the years, I have been given many gifts from God—my children, my husband, my friends. But what I’m talking about is the gift he gave me that was ingrained in me from the moment of my conception. I was blessed with the ability to draw and create, the gift of artistic ability and imagination. I would be remiss if I did not mention how I’ve spent years pushing this gift aside—it would even become a burden sometimes—and how I took for granted the complements and praise that I would receive for my creations.
About two years ago, I found a folder full of drawings and paint designs from a brief stint I held at a local college twenty years prior, majoring in art. I pulled out sheets of paper with characters that I had created, some that almost frightened me at their irony (the tiny island with one lone palm tree in the middle of the ocean with several cartoon sea creatures conversing around it; and the various vegetables with faces, arms, legs, and even names that I had created around the same time. For those of you who are lost right now, I’m speculating that I could have had a hand in creating “Spongebob Squarepants” and “Veggie Tales” had I believed in my own artistic ability when I was younger). I began to realize that by ignoring my gift, I was quite possibly throwing away the opportunity to have a very successful future.
And so, at this time, I have decided to make the very large sacrifice of discontinuing my blog until further notice. This decision makes me extremely sad, as I feel that it has been an outlet and a source of inspiration to me for the last year and a half. Reading all of your blogs and “blogging” with my “blogging buddies” has been a gift and something I looked forward to on an almost daily basis. I have learned so many different things from all of you, each one heartfelt and cherished. Although we’ve never met, I feel as if we’ve been friends for years. And it saddens me more than you know to have to give up this wonderful community of gifted writers and dear human beings for now.
I have decided to make the attempt to push myself a little farther, to force myself to grow. I can not sit back anymore and believe for a day when my dreams come true; I have to be pro-active and make them happen myself. I will consciously take the time I’ve spent on my computer, and turn it into something that I hope will become very productive for my family, and most of all, for myself. I know I have success up my sleeve. It’s time for me to pull it out.
So farewell—for now—my dear friends. I have come to adore each and every one of you, and I will be sure to check in with all of you every now and then. You have all inspired me, and I am lucky to know such wonderful people. God bless you.
(Please feel free to drop me a line now and then at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to hear from you!)
Friday, January 18, 2008
I used to think I was a woman of little patience. As a matter of fact, “God give me patience” was a daily, if not hourly, mantra of mine ever since I gave birth to my two children (and acquired two new ones from a remarriage).
As life moved on, and those stressful incidents still occurred (does any parent get through the child-rearing years unscathed?), I became frustrated that all I seemed to do was ask for patience, and all that seemed to happen was that I encountered more episodes in my life that required, well, patience.
And then my “Eureka!” moment happened. How would I know that God was giving me patience unless it was tested? What I should have been praying for was, “God, please just let me sail through life without a worry.” NOT.
Let’s fast forward to my current position as a lead activities coach, working with developmentally disabled young adults. If ever there was a job where one’s patience would be tested, this is it. Although most of my individuals are adept at performing their duties and interacting appropriately in the community, there are occasions where one of them will not handle a situation in the best manner (for instance, this week on my birthday, one of my individuals pulled my hair and slapped me because I honked the horn of our minivan to prevent someone from backing into us). But in actuality, they are not the problem. It’s the general public that I need patience with.
Today, while I was food shopping for a senior citizen with four of my individuals, I encountered impatience at its finest—and it wasn’t expressed by me. After our last item was scanned at the register, I told the young cashier that we needed five packs of cigarettes—Kent 100’s, to be exact. The young man got his manager over, and she unlocked the cigarette cabinet. She perused up and down, across and diagonal, to locate even a single pack of our desired brand—but no luck. She explained that all they had were regular Kents (since I’ve never been a smoker, I had to ask her what the difference was). I inquired as to whether or not they could be returned if he was not happy with them. She told me she would check, and she’d be right back.
As I turned around, I noticed a woman had unloaded her groceries behind me. She looked at me in a somewhat annoyed manner, and I graciously told her that I was sorry for any delay I was causing. The cashier looked at me and said, “Your total is $41.50.” I politely told him that I was waiting to see if I could purchase five packs of cigarettes, and I couldn’t pay yet. With this, the woman behind me scowled, “Can’t you just pay for what’s there, and pay for the cigarettes later?”
(I felt my heart start racing, and my blood start pumping. She didn’t really just say that, did she?)
I politely told her that it was impossible for me to do that, being that the senior citizen we were shopping for only gave us one check. She scoffed at me and said, “Well, he shouldn’t be smoking, anyway!! Why don’t you just get him another brand??”
(Okay, did she just say that, too? My blood starts pounding in my ears to the beat of my now-dashing heart.)
I finally looked her in the eye and said, “Ma’am. If I was shopping for your father…and he was all alone in a studio apartment…and he gave me a list of things that he wanted, and I was responsible to purchase them for him…wouldn’t you be happy that someone cared enough to get exactly what he wrote on his list?”
With complete disgust, she exclaimed that everything was “ridiculous”, and she didn’t have time to wait there any longer. She abruptly started throwing her items back into her cart, and then backed out without looking, crashing into another woman who was unfortunate enough to stand in Checkout Aisle 9. She turned and looked at this other woman, snarling that she shouldn’t bother waiting there, and that I was taking too much time (happily, the other woman just shrugged her shoulders and gave her a blank stare). As she gave me one last, nasty look, I looked at her and said, “Ma’am, instead of becoming all upset over being in line at the supermarket, why don’t you look at it this way? Maybe—just maybe—you were meant to wait. Did you ever stop to think that because you had to wait behind me a few extra minutes, I may have prevented you from having a car accident later in the day?”
Well, that was about all she could take.
She said something about “rude”, and stormed off into the sea of carts waiting at Checkout Aisles 8, 7, and 5.
For a moment I stood there, astonished. Here I am, explaining to her that I’m shopping for a man who is unable to do it himself. With me, I have four individuals with special needs, two of whom are very obviously handicapped with Down ’s syndrome and Cerebral Palsy. And with all of that in consideration, this woman could not even spare three minutes out of her selfish time. Let’s be real; who doesn’t wait in line at the supermarket? Isn’t it a given?
Ironically, the second she stomped off in her rage, the manager came up to me and told me to purchase the cigarettes; they would have no problem returning them as long as we had our receipt. We paid for everything with the single check the man had given us, got our receipt, and walked toward the exit.
As we strolled down the exit aisle, I couldn’t help but wonder if our friend, Ms. Uptight, was in the midst of checking out (as the woman who was behind her at Checkout Aisle 9 was almost finished doing). Gleefully, I spotted her standing behind not one, but two people at Checkout Aisle 7. And better than that, she spotted us.
Walking through the parking lot, it occurred to me: Perhaps all those years of praying for patience had finally paid off. Although I may have gotten more instant gratification from throwing a bagel at her head and telling her to jump off a bridge, I held onto my dignity (and the dignity of the individuals I was with). I was proud that I kept it together. And in the end, as un-dignified as this may sound, I came out on top (in other words, I *WON*!)…