Basking in Perfection

It’s barely past noon on hump day. The sky is grey and thick with clouds that block out even the slightest glimpse of the blue sky that I gazed upon this morning. And yet, I find myself, hands wrist deep in warm sudsy water washing the dishes with stuck on food that sat upon the counter from yesterday no less, with a smile on my face. There is a warmth in my heart that only comes from the feeling of being content. No, more than content, satisfied. No, more than satisfied happy. No, more complete than happy, accomplished. Or maybe it is all of the above together. A perfect combination of satisfaction, happiness and accomplishment with the overall understanding of being content.

This morning I woke to my ‘alarmy’. It is a phone app that you schedule alarms and choose the method in which you will turn that alarm off. You can either shake your phone a specified number of times, solve a math problem or take a photo with your phone camera. The point being by the time you have done one of these things you are awake and most likely out of bed. Thus you are more likely not to go back to sleep. I am anti alarm clock myself. I don’t recall the last time I owned one. When I got our puppy though I quickly realized I preferred to be the one who determined when we woke up than he. And so I set this alarm clock for the both of us. Each morning as it goes off I pick up my phone and turn it towards puppy who is sitting in his kennel waiting, albeit not always patiently or completely quiet. He begins to dance around in anticipation that I am going to let him out of his kennel. I shake my phone the appropriate number of times to turn the alarm off as I walk slowly across the bedroom to the puppy. I set my phone down on the fire-place mantle and proceed to put on my jacket and socks knowing the first thing I will be doing is taking a puppy outside to go potty. I’ll save you the details from there.

After walking Michael to school with Mr. Bailey (the puppy) I headed in a different direction than our typical daily route. Last night in one of those imaginary conversations with myself I had determined that puppy and I would take a longer walk this morning. We walked across Greenwood and north to 145th St to the entrance to LLandover by the Woods. A trail that goes down through the forest. It was actually one of our better walks with Bailey only stubbornly sitting down refusing to walk one more step a handful of times. You have no idea the accomplishment this is. He tends to stop and sit as any dog aproaches. Not out of fear but in hope of meeting the dog. He does the same any time a human being, young or old, is passing by. No matter if they are on the same side of the street or the complete opposite. Once in the woods Mr. Bailey was all in a-tither. He loved it! For once he was a few steps ahead of me the whole way. As we neared the end of the trail we turned around and headed back. Mr. B so far has never failed to recognize that we are ‘going back’. His pace quickened a bit more and I found that we were jogging up the hilly trail. Good for both of us. My heart began to race and my breathing labored. I was the first to slow the place. Bailey could have run the whole way back. One day I will too. At the top of the trail we slowed again as he realized we were leaving the woods and heading out into the noisyness of the streets. If only we hadn’t been heading home he would have fought me for sure. He seemed to be able to sense that the direction we were heading would lead to home and thus be worth walking on the busy street sidewalks.

Back at home Bailey spent some time out on the back deck giving Maya (one of our kitties) a hard time. She hissed and swiped ineffectively. Bailey did seem to sense she didn’t want to play, much to his dismay. Persistant as he is, he tried again and again to approach her but her mood never changed. Full on anger with growling, hissing and swiping continued no matter the direction he tried all the while his tail stub that it is wagging 100 times a minute. Finally I pulled B back and let Maya run down the deck to the yard. Not exactly where she wanted to go but better than the alternative of being with the puppy. Bailey and I headed inside where he curled up on the rug looking satisfied and tuckered out. I sat down to my computer and began writing. I began the first of what I hope will be a children’s early reader series about Mr. Bailey. This one is entitled Mr. Bailey Comes Home. Another will be Mr. Bailey Walks in the Forest. And another will be Mr. Bailey meets Griffey. I’m sure others will come to me as time goes on. I tried not to worry too much about the details just yet in regards to the vocabulary, number of words on the pages or in the book. I focused on putting the words in my mind on the screen. Editing will come later.

My home phone rang as I typed. It was mom. The one and only person other than telemarketers that calls my home phone. Each time it rings I think to myself its either a sales call or it’s mom. I hope for the latter. Mom and I had a lovely chat. Her greeting was filled with the smile that I know was on her face and her strong and warm embrace reached all the way through the phone line and encircled my body. We shared the blue sky that we were both reveling in here in Seattle for me and up north in Everett for her.

As per usual she asked how I am doing. Letting me know that she and dad pray for us every day but wondered if there is anything specific or new that they could lift up in prayer. I shared how I was doing and then let her know that Tom and I were just talking last night about Michael, our strong-willed child. So much alike and yet in this so different from his sister. On the one hand there are character traits in a strong willed child that when honed correctly are the design for a strong independent leader. On the other hand strong willed children can be tyrants, bullies, stubborn and disrespectful. Deciphering the difference, cultivating the positive traits and knowing when and how to discipline the negative is not easy. Mom offered godly wisdom with examples and scripture. Go to the source she said, the Bible and tell him that just as you are called to obey God he is called to obey his parents. Part of my job as a parent is to obey God and raise my child the right way. Which includes teaching him to honor his father and mother, to respect authority and to ask forgiveness when he doesn’t. The part I found intriguing was the idea of sharing with him that I have to obey God in training him to obey his father and I. So often kids feel like the parents are the ones telling them what to do and never being told what to do. That doesn’t seem fair. Hearing that I too am called to obey just as my son is was eye-opening for me and I hope it will be for our son as well. It was really nice to listen to advice from mom, a grandma who loves and cares for our son and only wants the best for him.

I went back to writing, taking a break here and there to hold my sweet, loving and still tuckered out puppy. After eating lunch I looked once again upon the pile of dirty dishes not getting any cleaner sitting there on the kitchen counter. It was then that I also noticed the little red light on the dishwasher indicating it was full of clean dishes. After emptying the dishwasher I ran hot water to get the task at hand done. As I washed each dish scrubbing away the dried on food I couldn’t help but noticing how I was feeling.  Content, happy, satisfied, accomplished, as though I had been doing exactly what I wanted to be doing from the moment I stepped out of bed until right then. And to think it was just barely past noon. More hours left in this day, more time to be with puppy, to write, to clean my house, to walk to pick up our son from school, to prepare dinner for our family and to clean up messes. Oh yes, there will be messes….. in fact puppy peed on the floor during part of this perfect day. In his defense he was so excited to be once again trying to convince Maya that she should play with him. She on the other hand was a hissing, growling swatting claws out mess of anger. He got so excited he peed! Oh puppy.

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Regret Nothing

Regret Nothing

Just this past week I had a very difficult conversation with my husband. Difficult for me that is. I had a hard time excepting what I had to say. What I know I need to do. I have made this promise to myself more than once this past year. In fact on the day of my first cancer diagnosis I sat in a Chinese restaurant with my husband and told him in no uncertain terms, I am not working this year. For as long as I am going through cancer treatment, I am NOT working. I felt like I was making a statement to him. An ultimatum if you will. Looking back I must admit it was myself that I was speaking to. I failed myself only a few months into my treatment when a client reached out to me with what they promised would be an easy transaction, no work on my part. Honestly, if it is so easy as to be no work on my part then why the heck would you pay me!? I took the work and promised to help them and promised them I would not let it compromise the rest I needed during treatment. In the end, a few months later while sitting in the ER no less, I texted a fellow broker and asked her to take over the work as I was doing too much. The next day they were in contract and I regretted, for a moment, handing them off and giving up my paycheck. Later that year I took on another client, a good friend actually who was going through a divorce and moving away. I couldn’t let them down or let just anyone help them through this difficult time in their lives. This friend had been my life ring so many times through this cancer journey. It still breaks my heart that she moved away, all the way to Ohio. That one turned out well and wasn’t altogether too difficult. As the year came to an end and 2017 was on the horizon I began to feel a foreboding sense that not only was my time with cancer coming to a close but my time of rest and reflection as well. Clients were lining up, a realtors dream, and I would have work from now through spring, no problem. Lying in bed I would imagine how it would be viewing it all through the lens of an optimist. Upon waking, the fear of doing too much, of needing to be somewhere other than home at the very moment when all I wanted was to rest or read or write began to creep in and overwhelm me. I would stuff it down, stifle the voice ready to cry out, “WAIT, I’M NOT READY YET!” I would find other things to distract me, to occupy my thoughts. I would tell myself over and over that it would all work out, it always does. And yet, this deep sense of regret was pouring into my very being. Filling up quickly like a reservoir when the dam has let loose. And with the flooding of regret I began to feel angry. Angry that I was not being allowed the time to reflect on the past year, the time to grieve all that I have lost both physically, emotionally and mentally. Time to think and discover who I am now, post cancer. Time to write which has always been my dream and one that I thought cancer was going to finally gift to me. In speaking to my husband I was finally honest with myself and him. I felt guilty to actually not work and yet I felt angry that I felt I was being forced to work before I was ready. And the only person truly forcing me, was me. I would not allow myself to just stop. To just be. To rest, to reflect, to write and to discover. If I did, that would be quite selfish. I would be denying my family the income I provided. I would be denying my clients and friends the excellent service I painstakingly commit to provide each and every one of them before, during and after their real estate purchase or sale. I would be letting so many people down.

Today while on the phone with a broker who is helping some of my clients and will be helping more going forward this year I said out loud what my heart had been feeling, The one person I am truly letting down is myself. I have always put others before me because I truly care and want what’s best for them. In this moment, at this time, I need to do what’s best for me. I need to allow myself this time. Time to not work, time to think, time to reflect, time to grieve, time to heal and time to discover what is next for me. And I need to do it with no regrets.

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Imaginary Conversations

A simple writing from a prompt at my writing group……

 

If only life were really like the imaginary conversations I have with myself all snug in my bed. The only weight pressing upon comes from the velvety soft blanket purchased from the mega store Costco. The warmth draws me deeper into my already relaxed state of mind. As I lay there getting drunk on my own blissful thoughts (or maybe it is the bourbon…) the next day begins to play out in my mind. An intimate conversation with myself. I will set my alarm for 6:00 AM ignoring the fact that I know full well I do not ever let my feet hit the floor before 7:00 AM. With the rare exception that a Shuttle Express will be pulling up in the wee hours of the morning, the heater running to ward of the chill that will slap me in the face as I drag my suitcase out to the driver. And the only reason that would be happening would be due to an impending flight that will be whisking me away to warmer weather in let’s say Mexico or Las Vegas or maybe to a cruise. It seems I am the only one, or one of very few in this room that loves to go on a cruise. Not for the buffet, or the shopping, as I avoid both. No, for the fact that I can walk aboard, unpack my suitcase and let the ship sail away taking me to a few different cities where I will enjoy some leisurely people watching. All the while gleaning ideas for the writing I will one day write….. but I digress. I will set my alarm for 6:00 AM. Upon its ringing I will energetically get out of bed and put on my workout clothes. I will pop in my Piyo DVD and get my workout done before the sun has even thought about peeking out over the horizon. A nice hot shower will follow after which I will head downstairs to enjoy a cup of coffee in sweet perfect silence before my son awakes. In Jane Cleaver style I will make my son his breakfast, pack his lunch and help him get ready for school. We will chat, my boy and I, about his day and then walk hand in hand in school. The one part of this imaginary conversation that will actually come to fruition. As I lay in bed gazing upon the beautiful morning that lay ahead of me my mind begins to wonder to my writing. A story begins to unfold, line after line. It is perfect! It is wonderful, engaging, dramatic…the words seem to be flowing one after another. If only I had a piece of paper to write it on. I should jot down at least the idea, the concept. And so I reach to my bedside table for a paper and pen…only to fall asleep with the alarm not set.

 

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It’s the Little Things

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My son is my hero. Truly,  he is. On Valentine’s Day I gave him a card that I made for him. He seemed surprised at what it said on the front. Around the heart I had written, You stole my heart the day you were born. Don’t get me wrong, I love my husband very, very much. He is the man, the husband, the partner I always dreamed of and prayed for. The one that would fulfill on earth what many did not think was possible. But that is another story for another day.

The day my daughter was born more than 25 years ago, she wrapped her little fingers around my hand and my heart. She was and will always be my first treasure. Her papa always called her Beansy (accept for that time period that he called her, rightfully so, Bossy Cow). She was our little beansy. Born weighing in at only 5 lbs and 10 ounces, she was small from the get go. And yet, her body, mind, and determination were strong. My little girl has grown up to be an amazingly strong woman who is and will do great things in this world for so many people.

With a daughter like that and a husband like Tom, the only thing my heart could want was a little boy. One with red hair, a few curls and fire that goes along with the hair would be icing on the cake. When Tom and I decided to ‘try’ to have a baby we had no idea if we could. For one Tom was nearly 45 years old and had never fathered a child. I, at 34 years old, although I had carried and birthed a child it had been over 15 years. In many cases with a gap that large a woman’s body decides it is no longer going to carry children. Imagine my joy when we found out I was pregnant, then when we found out it was going to be a boy, and then when he came out with red curly hair! My cup runneth over. His red hair and fiery personality are equally wonderful and at times frustrating. And yet, I find myself smiling more often than I am cringing.

If you know me well, and don’t be surprised if you find yourself saying- ‘I didn’t know that’, you know that I am not a lover of things. One of my mottos I find myself living  by is, A place for everything and everything in its place. It is something within me more so than something I strive for. Honestly if there isn’t a place for it I find myself instinctively wanting to get rid of it. Clutter confuses me and makes it difficult for me to feel as though I can function at my best. That said, there are some things that I truly treasure. Not only things that have a purpose (although that is huge for me) but things that have a story.

Last evening I found myself in front of the mirror in my bathroom doing what I do every night. Taking my breast cancer pill, allergy medicine and my calcium. I took my glasses off and prepared to remove the one of only two make-up items that I wear daily,  my mascara. As I looked into the mirror my heart sank. One of my earrings was gone. I had an earring in my right ear but not my left. I took the one out of my ear and found myself leaning to toss it in the trash. The thought that I might actually find the one that was lost did not seem possible to me. They are small and I had been so many places that day where I may have lost it. In fact, my next thought was that my puppy may have actually eaten it! The earring was in the ear that he always kisses, nuzzles and lightly chews on. More than once I have had a fleeting thought about this very possibility. I waved it off as I went about my tasks at hand. Rather than toss the one earring though I put it in my jewelry tray next to my sink where I put my wedding rings every night.

This morning after doing this, that and the other, the earring came to mind. I went upstairs and grabbed the one that remained. Bringing it downstairs I showed it to Michael and said, “If by chance you see an earring that looks like this somewhere in the house please pick it up. I lost one of them. They are special. I wear them a lot. I shared with him who gave them to me and when, making them all the more special. Michael immediately asked where I thought it might be. I could see the genuine concern on his sweet 8 year old face as his brow furrowed. He asked about all the places I had been where it may have fallen out and even contemplated the puppy eating it. I had been through the house, alongside the house, in the yard playing with Bailey and had walked home from the pet store in the dark. It could have fallen just about anywhere. I told him it was highly unlikely that we would find it but I wanted him to know just in case. Without a moment of hesitation Michael began walking around the kitchen and entry way. Suddenly he said, “Come on mom let’s go outside. Get your shoes!”

I hesitated. I didn’t want to discourage him or stifle his enthusiasm to help find my earring, and yet I highly doubted if it were lost outside that we would find it. I grabbed the puppy and clipped on his leash. He needed to go out to go potty anyway. As we headed to the side of the house I casually looked on the ground here and there. I hoped I would see it and could shout to Michael. I so wanted his efforts to be rewarded. I didn’t see it. I took puppy through the gate step by step losing what little hope I had. Michael was down in the yard looking through the grass. Having gone a different way out than dog and I. He let me know he didn’t see it anywhere. Wanting to let him off the hook, I told him it was okay and that I didn’t expect us to find it. Hearing the defeat in my voice, Michael ran up to the side of the house where I take puppy to go potty. I called after him that I had already walked through there and checked. He walked all the way up to the gate and stopped, bent down and then shouted as he sprang to his feet, “I found it mommy! I found it!”

I couldn’t believe it. It couldn’t possibly be. Seriously? Could he really have found it? He is known for teasing as he calls it. Thinking he is quite funny when he does it. Not lying, just teasing. Michael was so excited. He leaned down to the ground again as though he were picking an item up. Quickly he turned and dashed toward me with the biggest smile on his face. As he came closer, his arm out stretched I could in fact see a small shiny object pinched between his thumb and pointer finger. I could hardly believe my eyes. There in my son’s hand was the little blue and silver earring that I had lost yesterday. The very earring that matched the one that I had almost tossed out thinking it was nothing more than an orphan earring with a mate that would never be found. The earrings were a gift from a sweet friend, Elizabeth Krout. I admire her as a woman, friend, nurse and mother. Elizabeth gave me these earrings at my 40th ‘Red Carpet’ birthday party over 3 years ago. An evening I will never forget that was filled with love, laughter and friends. I would describe it as the second most perfect celebration in my life. The first being mine and Tom’s wedding. Both events having been held at our home. The earrings are small and simple, and yet they hold the weight of the memories of that special night. They mean so much to me.

Michael handed me the earring. As I held it in my hand my heart was overwhelmed. I wrapped my arms around my son and he in turn wrapped his arms around me. We hugged each other tight, so tight. Michael knew beyond a doubt that I appreciated his efforts to help me find this little earring. We lingered in our hug as I whispered in his ear telling me how happy and thankful I was for what he had done for me. It’s the little things. A little earring. A little time out of my son’s Saturday looking for my lost earring. Even if he hadn’t found it, I would have felt the love he extended to me while he searched all around inside and out for my treasure. Oddly, I believe that he was convinced the entire time that he would in fact find my earring

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Under the Quilt of Love

My childhood memories are few and far between . I have a small selection of snapshots of memories, mostly ones of pain and suffering that my father put our family through. Some are literally a photo that has been shared with me and a story to go along with it. I do not recall the memory but can hold on to the story that connects with the photo. Most of my life is stored away in a vault in the deep recess of my mind. Coping mechanism, that is what my therapist calls it. That is not to say that my entire childhood was bad. I know that those close to me who lived in the same houshold would likely cry out, “How can you say this? How can you not recall the good times we had?” My response would be, I don’t know. I can’t explain why the good is locked away and only the bad, the pain stands out strong. I believe it has something to do with the fact that I am that person. The one that calls out the pink elephant in the room when all around stand quietly by, looking the other way or whispering to someone next to them. I am the one who stops the couple in the park when a teenage boy is verbally assaulting a teenage girl. I am the one that cries out when a young girl is being taught at a very vulnerable time in her life that anger, manipualtion and control are somehow not abuse. Maybe that has something to do with why certain memories stay strong when so many others, good and I know more bad ones too, stay locked away in the vault.

There is one part of my childhood that remains very clear to me. I can vividly see many moments, the seemingly endless hours I spent at my grandma’s house. My safe haven. I don’t know if I called it that as a child. I don’t even know if I knew that is what it was. I just know that I went there whenever I possibly could. One of my favorite memories at Grandma Ruthruff’s house was not a one time event. It was a regular occurrence. Often times when I hopped off of the school bus at the end the day, I would bounce into the house only to drop my backpack and holler, “I’m going to grandma’s house!”

I would run down the street and around the corner to her home. We lived in the same neighborhood just about 10 houses or so apart. Lifting the latch of the chain link fence gate, I would step into her front yard and look to the front door. More often than not the door would be open with the screen door closed. Making sure to latch the gate tight behind me so the dog would not get out, I would rush across the lawn. Leaping over the stump in the middle of the grass from a tree long since cut down, I  reached the screen door in a flash. As I opened the door I would hear my grandma call, “I’m in the kitchen.” No doubt, my mom had called her to say I was on my way. Or maybe she just had a feeling I was coming.

I couldn’t reach her quickly as the entire living room was blocked. A giant obstacle stood between me and the woman who I loved the most, the one that I knew loved me beyond what any child could hope for. There in front of me lay a piece of our family history and one that many of us would cherish for a lifetime. Definitely one that I would never forget, even long after my material memory of it had been thrown in the dumpster by the one person who destroyed nearly everything that I loved and cherished. A framing block, for all I know hand-made, filled the entire space of the front room. The frame was nose to nose with the Davenport, which is what my grandma called her couch, at the one end opposite the TV at the other, from the front window and door all the way to the other side of the room where the my grandma’s rocking chair sat by the telephone (near the kitchen). On the frame was a lovely queen size quilt that my grandma had pieced together herself. First she cut the block pieces, next she pinned the pieces together, then she sewed the pieces together to make squares, then she made rows of the squares that would be sewn in strips., that were finally sewn into a giant quilt. It was a lot of work! Grandma was set to tie this quilt off. She would tie each yarn knot by hand. Most likely with a prayer said while doing so.

I crawled under the frame on my belly army style, until I reached the edge by the kitchen. When I stood up, I saw her. My grandma, standing in the kitchen in her house coat and slippers. We used to call her dresses moo-moos. Or maybe she called them that. Shapeless dresses made of the most simple cotton you could imagine. Nothing fancy, nothing special. Simple, practical, easy to care for. Her grey and frizzy permed hair all a muss, a smile spread across her face as she said, “Come and give grandma a kiss.” Every time I saw my grandma Ruthruff up until the final time I saw her before she died she said the exact same thing, “Come and give grandma a kiss.” She got a kiss and I got a hug. A grandma hug. She would wrap her soft and squishy arms around my entire body and pull me in close to her. Not so tight as to hurt, crush or stifle you, but tight enough that I could think of nothing else but the endless unconditional love she had for me.

There on the cutting board that extended from underneath her kitchen counter, were graham crackers, an orange ceramic bowl of homemade frosting and the box of food coloring sitting next to it. She had waited for me to choose the color for the frosting. I chose yellow. Sometimes she got out some flavorings, lemon and pineapple, and I got choose a flavor too. With the coloring added grandma would spread a generous amount of frosting between two graham crackers. Snack in hand I headed back to the living room. I would carefully crawl under the quilt on the framing blocks, turn on the TV to the PBS After School Special and enjoy my treat. Grandma would go back to tie-ing off the quilt all the while humming one song or another. Songs that she often sang to me while rocking me in the rocking chair when I spent the night on a Friday or Saturday night.

The sweet sound of her voice, the lull of the TV, the loving quilt above me and my home-made snack of graham crackers and frosting. It was all a little girl needed.

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Quiet

 

Quiet
frightening and disturbing
paralyzed by the silence
overwhelmed by the thoughts that race around in my head

 

His voice
never ending
constantly condemning
never approving

 

Alone, afraid of the emptiness
not knowing what I wanted
what I needed
no one there to tell me what to do, what to think, how to feel

 

Fast forward
the hustle and bustle of a busy life
the laughter and joy that surrounds me
friends here, there and everywhere

Longing for
just a little bit
even If only for a moment
Quiet

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Let Them Freely Say

Yesterday as I drove to a puppy play date I heard my 8 year old son say from the back seat say, “Mommy, I’m glad that we are known as the freedom country.”

I do not recall being into politics when I was a kid. I do not recall having thoughts or opinions on the President or things happening in the world. Maybe I did but just didn’t voice them or maybe my family didn’t sit and talk about things of the world. Maybe we were too lost in the turbulent ocean of our own problems to be aware of what was going on in the world outside our home.

I told Michael I was glad too. I asked him to tell me more. He said, “Mom, we watched a video in class about immigrants. One man in Japan filled out paperwork and waited 9 years to get to come to America. 9 Years! My teacher said her mom, I think it is her mom, is stuck in Mexico because of what Trump has done and can’t come to America right now. You told me about people in India and how there are really rich people and really poor people. In the video we watched we saw poor people in Kenya eat cakes made of dirt and oil or water. They eat them so their stomachs feel full when they are so hungry. Mom, people want to come to America to have a better life! What does it mean when Trump says he’s going to build a wall between us and Mexico? Where will he build it? What will happen if people try to climb over it?”

We talked for a very long time. My son had a lot to say. He wrote an article for a newspaper he started that he plans to sell at school. He has several other kids writing about topics of interest to them or drawing pictures. His article is about the Freedom Country.

I was impressed by his knowledge and thoughts.

I was humbled by his compassion for others.

I was emboldened by his bravery to speak about it to his peers.

 

 

 

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