No dessert in the desert

Here we are as February is coming to a fast end, two months will soon be over in 2012. I’m going to sound old, heck, I feel old while I’m sitting here hanging in traction but time always marches on, ready or not. It seems I just decided what I was giving up last year for Lent and now I’m in the midst of another. Last year I tried this sort of funky thing where instead of giving up something I told myself I’d do more. I tried to study more, pray more, give more, do more, you get the idea, the things that were difficult I tried more, not less. It sort of fundamentally sounded like it went against the sacrificial aspect of Lent but it truly was supposed to be a penance to do “more of” the things I didn’t like or at least, felt like the things that didn’t like me.

That was too complicated in the end so I’m going traditional this year, I’m just trying to show up for Lent, I’m going to try to remember it’s Lent. When I want to go to the drive thru to pick up something quick and easy to eat I’m going to try to remember I do have food at home and I can eat that when I get there. When I want something I’m going to try to remember my little girl friend in the orphanage in Port-au-Prince that would literally find a crumb on the floor and instead of gobbling it down she would divide by however many others were in the room. A small child and she knew more about sharing and giving of herself than I’ll ever know. This might sound selfish and delusional but traction it seems to me is like Lent, it is about showing up, remembering, completing the task at hand, no room for BS, no forgetting, no I’m too tired, no I don’t feel like it, no, it’s not fair. In addition, Lent is doing what you said you’d do but not making a big deal about it, or as my Mom would say, “no broadcasting it.” There’s no need to go on about saying no thanks to dessert, passing on seconds or giving up the fancy morning coffee. Lent is being out there on your own, no fuss, no frills, no extras, no pity parties, real life stuff, just you and God. AND, the last time I checked there wasn’t any chocolate growing in the desert.

Yep, I’ve not found sacrifice a bowl full of fun but if you stick with it you do find something new. I owe Lent for any ability I have to sit here in traction, the more I grow to understand Lent the easier the traction gig is for me. When it comes down to it really, isn’t it just about taking away life’s distractions and excuses, learning more about your true self, therefore, knowing more about God.

Alix

I’ve been thinking about a person today that went about his life doing what he thought was expected of him. He was the kind of individual who’s always there to help you but you rarely see him, he’s quiet and in the background and seems to prefer it.

He’ll open a door for you and carry your groceries up the steps, before you have a chance to know he’s even there. He’ll make sure everyone is safe and accounted for, he magically appears at your car to carry the heaviest thing and drop it at your door without even knowing you wondered how you would even get it out of the car. He’ll water your plants and clean up the yard, he knows who belongs and who doesn’t.

The world might ignore someone as them, we seem to care about other things. There will always be someone more educated, smarter, with plenty more money, but I dare you to find a harder worker and someone who did their job any better.

The person I’m thinking about is no longer living, he died in the earthquake two years ago in Haiti. Alix was his name and if you haven’t ever known a man like I’ve described then you’re at a great loss. Alix would suddenly make a five gallon jug of water appear at your door early in the morning when you were still sleeping and he somehow remembered that you were running low. He did this all the while he had a large growth on his back the size of a grapefruit that he couldn’t afford to have removed. He’d watch the court-yard at night as everyone slept and somehow managed to work his job all day keeping everything going. Alix also had a family and when he did take a break from work he was there for them, from my understanding that is how he died. He had survived the initial quake but ran home to check on his family and died in the aftermath as a wall collapsed on him. He bled to death in his yard.

The world needs more Alix, a man who would answer the community telephone, track you down, all the while doing his best to try to understand a language he didn’t speak so you could talk to your family you were so missing in the States. I’m sitting here in traction Alix thinking about you and what a wonderful man you were and all these days after your death you are still very much missed.

Appliances with attitude!

Did you ever think about your appliances, large and small, having personalities of their own? I think my washing machine is lazy, the dryer is maniacal, toaster is short-tempered, the refrigerator is loud and never cleans up after itself and please, don’t even ask about the garbage disposal! As far as I know they have not come alive, I’m not Dwight K. Shrute, I don’t believe in robots and zombies taking over the world.

I’m just sitting here in cervical traction and thinking about how each of these household appliances takes an explanation for operating instructions, beyond the manufacturers’ recommendations. The washer seems to have a favorite cycle and if you ask for more than that you risk a Zumba dance recital in the laundry room. The dryer works over time, you have a heck of a time shutting it off, the toaster is feisty, cinnamon toast is beyond its job description, it seems everything has issues.

If I tried a house swap like in the movie, The Holiday between Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet characters I’d have to leave a dozen special directions. (I was always taken out of the moment with that movie because I couldn’t imagine being organized enough to turn my place over to a stranger in 24 hours!) I’ve often thought about renting out my place or letting a friend stay here while I stay with family; come to think about it I’m not sure how much of a headache I’d be leaving them. Maybe I’ve created these problems by not being more pro active with these silly machines. Calling in repair folks or just replacing them at the tenth sign of trouble. Yet somehow I’ve slowly accepted their faults, maybe I like knowing that in order for something to work you have to really “know it” or as my Mother would say, “sweet talk it.” There are people in our lives we have to “sweet talk” every so often and sometimes I have to “sweet talk” my own body to get it to do what I need it to do. In the morning I have to give myself a pep talk, to get these bones moving. I get tired of my body hurting and on a cold morning like this I am very tired of “managing pain” but maybe as a result I give more allowances when it comes to dealing with everything else in life. I realize nothing is perfect and I’ve not seen anything in a long time that even comes close, we all have weaknesses, we all could do a better job, some one is always there to point out another’s faults. Maybe not operating smoothly builds creativity, patience and cooperation in ways we’d never have guessed.

Trying to find the bright side today of waking up with swollen, stiff fingers, this after traction, traction, traction, oh, but I really like my stove!

Waiting and remembering

As I’m sitting in traction today waiting for the last few minutes to pass I begin to think about how silly it is that I’m impatient with time passing slowly. December 7th, the date that should “live in infamy” has just passed for another year, this year marked 70 years. I heard it mentioned a couple of times on the news but certainly not in any conversations I had with others. I suppose in 70 years September 11th will quietly pass as well. Those that are still alive that lived thru it will never forget, but will future generations remember?

Reading how men tapped on the steel of ships the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor causes my own embarrassment as I wait out a few minutes. Those heroes were among the first to die waiting in sunken ships for help that would arrive too late, or as in the case of the USS Arizona could never arrive. It is unimaginable to me to comprehend the fear and horror of being trapped alive. The sinking of the Arizona killed twenty-three sets of brothers.

This life for unknown reasons will have moments filled with such agony for some and their families and for others, they will gratefully or otherwise never know of anything more inconvenient than a traffic jam. My thoughts and words feel very inadequate today as I remember those that died at Pearl Harbor. Courage, fear, faith, forgiveness, honor, respect, peace, hope……all these words are better understood when we remember.

What do I look like?

That was my first thought today when a young man, appearing to be about 15 years old, sitting in the front passenger seat of the car that pulled up next to me at the gas station asked me a question. Another boy, looking 16 or 17 hopped out and started pumping gas and as he did the younger boy yelled over to me, “hey, do you have a cigarette?” I was flabbergasted and said no as I was shaking my head in amazement at the question. No one has asked me that question in many years. Before I sit here in traction and analyze why he asked me, what do I look like, somebody that smokes, was it my sunglasses, my youthful appearance, nope, I have a shitty spinal column, but I’m not delusional. I’ve already recognized he simply found himself in a convenient situation to ask. Yet, I do find myself focused on how sad the random experience left me feeling.

After I got over the shock of the question I wanted to ask him some questions, I wanted to preach to him, I wanted to tell him what a gift his health was, how fragile it will seem someday. I wanted to tell him, heck no I don’t have a cigarette, that stuff will kill you and you are too young, yada, yada, yada….but I felt like all he’d hear was the parental voice from the Charlie Brown animations and just see it as some crazy person at the gas station “yelling” at him.

All the things any reasonable person would want to say to a teenager about the dangers of smoking crossed my mind, but also came with it the bigger question, WHY! Why on earth in 2011 is a kid still asking to bum a cigarette and in a gas station where we could blow up no less!

I need to get out more, or maybe less.

Somebody lost a bet

I saw a homemade sign in someone’s front yard, situated on a corner lot, it said,”Doris is the Domino Champ.” It seems there must have been a bet and somebody that plays Dominos with Doris lived up to what was promised and placed the sign for anyone that passes to see. It made me smile.

Within minutes of being outside these days you see the signs of Autumn and with that comes Halloween decorations. I’m amazed how each year it seems the spooky is celebrated more and more and how much adults seem to participate as much as children. We go to great lengths to entertain ourselves, tease one another, celebrate the big and small. Maybe for some it makes the mundane pass more quickly, but I’m not sure why we want that. Sitting here in traction is mundane, it’s very ordinary for me now and my mind looks to be distracted. I’ll typically review the day or think about something I just read or evaluate how I think something I’m working on is going. Sometimes I have an agenda when I sit down here, I want to work thru something on my mind and sometime I want to be entertained. I’ll listen to music or watch something on the computer or type. There are so many grand productions in this world, you can’t watch an award show without thinking about all the hoopla that went into the airing of such a shindig. I like small things, I like thinking about Doris kicking butt in Dominos and everybody celebrating with her. I like planning a Halloween party for children but I’ll sit out the ‘who looks better as Michele Bachmann’ contest this year.

I also like thinking about the older gentleman in front of me in the bakery today, he gave great time and consideration to selecting two Danish pastries. He took his job seriously, he reviewed all his options, he was thoroughly enjoying what he was doing. He was living in the moment and it left me thinking some of us could use more practice.

Color explosion times two

My favorite season is here, I love the Fall! This year I’ll get the special opportunity of experiencing two Autumns. I’m going to Vermont this week and I hope to see their color explosion show and then when I return home it will be time for the leaves to do their beautiful thing here. It’s sweater time, scarf and hat time, not too cold and snowy to change your plans time, but it’s not sweltering and sticky time.

Thank you for time marching on and for all that the Fall reminds me of, all that it brings back to me every year! Traction is going on the road and I’m packing this thing up as soon as I finish typing.
See you next month!

Today

When you’ve experienced your own broken heart you easily recognize one in another. Today watching families revisit the sites where they lost their loved ones on September 11, 2001, you aren’t surprised how much their pain is still so close to the surface. Some pain is too big to fade, the best you can hope for is learning to live with it, to go on, not let it defeat you, yet respect it.

Today for me is also a day where two precious souls in my life are being baptized. Reminding me of eternity, how life truly doesn’t end, perhaps not in the way we’d like but in a way we can never imagine on this earth. To fortitude, peace, love and courage, may we never forget what is lasting and let go of what gets in the way of our remembering that every single day.

Action Traction

I’m sitting here thinking that I’m 2 plus years into the cervical traction gig and I wonder how many times that actually translates into sitting here. When I started in July of ’09 I was told to do traction five times a week, more if needed. Then I was dropped down to three times a week and now I maintain a two-day a week schedule, but if my symptoms return I bump it up one or two times more a week. Frankly, I don’t know if I’ve done traction 300 times or 30 times, it’s a routine now and even though it has its moments where it’s uncomfortable and even painful you do what you have to do to maintain feeling in your arms and hands, right people! It’s such a simple thing without much work involved but the results produce much action. A day or two of tingling fingers, arms that feel like they are two pieces of string blowing in the wind, that motivates me, or probably would anyone, to get back to traction pronto.

So here I am on Labor day when we celebrate those that work and I’m trying to do my part to keep active, to keep moving, to keep working because that’s what us humans do best. We labor, we move, we produce, we manage, we provide, we are action. Even in the slightest ways of moving, an infant in a car seat doing their job by wiggling their toes and flailing their arms and smiling their toothless grins, a person left to a nursing home bed can move mountains with their courage and the compassion they bring out in others……I gotta remember even if I’m not skydiving I’m working, I’m living, I’m in action, I’m alive and well.

Have it your way…….really?

Today a young man waited on me at a fast food restaurant and as he handed me my change I immediately knew it wasn’t the correct amount. So quickly before he could leave I said, please recheck this, I handed you a 50 dollar bill, honestly I did, can you please check your register. So he looked down and said, “oh shoot, you did, I’m so sorry, I thought it was a 20.” I said no problem, easy mistake. He then handed me 33 dollars. I began to walk away and instead realized, nope, still not correct. So I said, Oh excuse me, see, I gave you a 50, I spent 7 dollars, so you owe me 43 dollars. He looked at me like I had just spoken to him in a foreign language and he then apologized again. By this time two co-workers appear and the person who originally took my order was so flustered he walked away mumbling, “I don’t know what’s wrong!” So I explain the situation and they both look at me like I’m nuts. Then one of them says, “just a minute, we will try to figure this out.” I tried to repeat the simple details of the transaction once again and as I do one of the workers reaches for a calculator. I then said, just think about it, I gave him a 50, I spent 7 dollars, you owe me 43 dollars. Yet, apparently that’s too distracting and silence is required to figure out this equation. What felt like several minutes later the employee with the calculator gives me a rather stunned look and says, “we still owe you 10 dollars!” Sadly only arriving at this answer after he minuses 7 from 50 on the calculator and double checks the 33 dollars in his hand.

I’m worried. Not just about these three employees at a fast food restaurant, I’m worried for all of us. I know there’s a joke here about how many people does it take to make change inside of a phone booth or something like that but more importantly, if we have a person give up in embarrassment or defeat and the two that are sent in to remedy the situation are just as baffled, I’m not sure where to begin. But if they want me to answer the question on the side of their bags, THIS, is definitely NOT my way!

You know what, I’m just not going to think too much about this one, besides, I have ten more minutes of traction to distract me, but who’s counting.