10/31/17

And so today’s moment of happiness despite the news.

For years now, I’ve walked labyrinths. I believe they helped me to meditate before I was meditating. There’s just something about setting my feet onto a path where I know I can’t become lost.

I’ve used labyrinths for help with creativity and in times of emotional uncertainty. I often walk in feeling scrambled, and then walk out, not with a solution, but with a feeling of steadiness and the sense of a solid path in front of me.

There is a labyrinth in La Crosse that I discovered my first time here and that I’ve walked each time I’ve come. Last year, I taught a class on creativity and the labyrinth, setting students walking that certain path, and then letting them rip on a story or piece of artwork. It remains one of my most joyful teaching experiences. When I made my plans to come to La Crosse this year, I knew I’d be walking the labyrinth. But then I realized it would be different this time.

The labyrinth is located outside of a cancer center. Its intended purpose is to bring peace to cancer patients and survivors. This year, that’s how I would be walking it.

It didn’t take very many steps before the tears came. I wasn’t surprised by them, but I was surprised by the force. I felt like I was being wrung out. You know how you can wring out a towel, then loosen it, then wring it again and still get more water from it? That was me this afternoon. Wring and pause, wring and pause.

When I got to the center, I stood and folded my hands. There is no bench at this labyrinth, so I just stood in the exact center. Folded hands, bowed head.

I receive three emails every day, just for fun. One is a fortune cookie, which you click on to crack open. One is an astrological forecast. I’m a Leo. And one is “A Note From The Universe”. This morning, each and every one had the same message: “Don’t be afraid to ask for help.”

I’ve often been told that I seem like I’m not afraid of anything. Seem is an important word.

In the center of the labyrinth, head bowed, hands folded, I decided to not be afraid and I asked for help. I have no idea who I asked, but I asked. I asked for help in recovery. I asked for help finding Michael a job. I asked for a return to a feeling of safety.

Someone told me, right after diagnosis, that I would never feel safe again. I find that hard to accept.

So I asked for help.

Then I started the walk back out.

Throughout the walk, on the way in and on the way out, the same red leaf kept skittering into my path. It was directly in front of me when I started, and I stepped carefully around it. Each time I started to cry, that red leaf moved in front of me. I stopped my walk, noted it and moved on.

Red is one of my favorite colors. It’s a color of strength.

As I stood in the center of the labyrinth, the red leaf blew in front of me again, stopping by my toes.

And right before I stepped off the labyrinth, it blew in front of me again.

By the time I stepped off the labyrinth, I was no longer crying. My shoulders were relaxed. My head was up. Despite the cold air, I was breathing steadily. I didn’t feel wrung out. I actually felt pretty good.

The windows of the cancer center line the wall behind the labyrinth. When I looked inside as I was stepping off the labyrinth, I saw a row of five women standing there. One raised her hand with the thumb and first finger together, in the A-OK sign, and then she pointed at me. I nodded and smiled. All five women raised their fists in the air and smiled back.

An old labyrinth walked with new intention. A persistent bright red leaf. A group of five anonymous women who took the time to make sure I was all right and who raised their fists in triumph and strength and solidarity.

Today’s moment of happiness.

And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.

In the La Crosse labyrinth in 2015.
The labyrinth today.
The persistent red leaf.
The labyrinth from above. My last view before I left.

10/30/17

And so today’s moment of happiness despite the news.

This afternoon, as I moved around my hotel room, I made a concerted effort not to make the bed. I’m not crazy about having someone come into my room when I’m traveling, preferring instead to have everything set up the way I like it and not having to worry about it being touched or moved. I am territorial to a fault, I know. While I’m here, this is MY place. Entrance is by invitation only.

But making the bed. When I travel with my husband or daughter, they both make fun of me for making the bed. I’m supposed to be on vacation; I’m supposed to be relaxing; I’m supposed to not do any work. So why make the bed?

Don’t make the bed, I said to myself. Relax.

When I left home yesterday, I also deliberately did not make the bed. My husband claims he makes the bed every day when I’m gone, but well, I figure that’s one of those white lies that spouses tell each other. I knew the bed wouldn’t be made again until Thursday morning, so that when I returned to our bedroom, the bed would be tidy and his secret would be kept. But why make it before I left, since he didn’t care one way or the other?

So I left it, even though it made me feel itchy.

And now, today, I found myself averting my eyes whenever I walked by the bed. Which, in a hotel room, is often.

As I got ready to leave my room for a trip over the river to my favorite park, I forgot to avert my eyes and I glanced at the bed. I became suddenly awash in a memory.

During a visit from my parents years and years ago, I became sick with the stomach flu. I was very pregnant with my second child and my first child, just turned two years old, was sick with the flu before me. It was the first time he was sick with such a thing and as a still young and very worried mother, I spent two nights sleeping on the floor by his crib, to make sure he was all right. The morning after that second night, I woke up and immediately fell ill.

Having the stomach flu is a horrible thing. Having it when you are very, very pregnant is a nightmare.

My parents, both terrified they were going to get it too, stayed as far away from me as they could. Twenty-four hours later, when I dragged myself out of bed, I was staring at my ugly self in the bathroom mirror when my mother called through the door.

“Is there anything I can do for you, honey?” she called. She didn’t say it, but I knew she wanted to add, “Without actually touching you, of course.”

My mother insisted my siblings and I make our beds every day. By 9:00 a.m., even during school vacations and weekends. Even when we were sick. She at least made our beds for us if we were sick – we just had to be out of bed and onto the living room couch by 9:00 so she could do so.

Despite the discomfort of getting out of bed and moving to a couch throughout all the years of my childhood, through the flu, strep throat, bronchitis, mono, I will be the first to say that when I would get back into bed that night, the smoothed-out bed, the plumped pillows, the freshened blankets, always felt amazing.

“Mom,” I said, staring into the mirror that day, “would you please make my bed?”

And then I wrapped my pregnant self into a robe that no longer fit and went downstairs to the couch. When I returned to the bed several hours later, and I slid between the cool smooth sheets, tugged the blanket up to my chin, rested my head on a pillow that wasn’t squashed and sweaty, I knew I was taken care of.

So today, I made my hotel bed. When I climb into bed tonight, it will be with that same feel of being taken care of and watched over. Even if it’s me that’s doing the caring and watching.

And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.

My home in La Crosse, WI…until Thursday morning.

10/29/17

And so today’s moment of happiness despite the news.

I have two places on this earth (so far) that feel like home even though I’ve never lived there. I don’t know why these places call to me, but they do. The first is definitely Waldport, Oregon. I go there as often as I can, on retreat, usually for two weeks at a time. The little house I stay in has the ocean out the back door. The house, the ocean, the beach, the town itself…there is something about the whole package that just makes the world drop off my shoulders and my breath come easier. I don’t understand the attraction, as it’s colder there than I would like. But it feels like home. I often dream of it.

I wasn’t able to go this past summer, because of dealing with breast cancer. I’ve been feeling its absence. The reason I needed it more than ever was the reason I couldn’t go.

But I have another spot, an Oregon for me in Wisconsin. And that’s La Crosse. I think it’s primarily the Mississippi River that calls me here. I am happy when I’m next to it, happier still when I wade in. And so, with a visit to a book club in La Crosse on Wednesday, I decided to make up for my lack of Pacific Ocean by coming early to La Crosse and hovering as near to the river as I can.

It’s water for me. And that’s something else I don’t understand, because I don’t know how to swim. You’d think I’d be scared, but I have no fear of water whatsoever. When I am near water, whether it’s the Fox River, Lake Michigan, the mighty Mississippi or the temperamental Pacific, something in me eases.

And I’ve been needing easing.

As I drove here today, I was waiting for one particular spot. I can’t pinpoint it exactly, but as I drive over a hill, Wisconsin suddenly changes her personality and erupts from the earth. Our gently rolling hills become flat-top bluffs and there is a long-distance vista of rising curves and I know the river is close by. Just as the land surges skyward, so does my heart. I was tired today as I hit that point, tired with the fatigue still left over from radiation, but I felt that surge. My foot pressed involuntarily down on the gas pedal and Hemi carried me faster.

I felt a lightening in me. The beginning of the ease.

It took me a little bit to find my hotel – I’m staying in a different place this time, choosing a hotel right on the river so that I could have her right there, right there, right outside my door. The Mississippi exerted a magnet pull as I unloaded the car, but I insisted on self-discipline. I believe in finishing work before pleasure, and so I unpacked, put away my clothes, set up my toiletries, my computer, put the book I’m reading by the chair, set out my headphones for meditation, plugged in my sound machine. Then and only then did I grab my coat and run to the river.

And I mean run.

It was raining. It was cold. I didn’t care. I ran to where the walkway stopped and the next step would have dropped me into to the water. I was all alone and the evening light cast everything in my favorite shade of blue. The river was quiet tonight and she whispered, so I whispered too.

“Hi. I’m back. I’m so glad to see you.”

I was getting soaked in the rain, but it was the river I soaked in. Her sound, her perfume, the curves and bends to my right, the bridge like a necklace to my left. And just like when I stand by the Pacific Ocean, the world dropped off my shoulders and I breathed easier.

Tomorrow, I am heading across the river to Pettibone Park, and I don’t care how cold it is, I am walking in to the river and taking her into my pores. I will wash my face with her.

I can’t wait.

And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.

The river greeted me.
She left a light on for me.

10/28/17

And so today’s moment of happiness despite the news.

I had Grandbaby Maya Mae today for eight hours. Michael was at work and Olivia had a friend over, so it was pretty much just me and Maya. I’d hoped to take her to the Domes, but then when Olivia invited a friend over, I had to pick the friend up in the middle of the afternoon, and with the Domes’ closing time of 4:00, our visit wasn’t going to work out. Then I was going to take her to a pumpkin farm, but with temperatures in the upper thirties and drizzly rain and Maya already sniffling with a cold, well, that wasn’t going to work either.

So since I knew that Maya is a huge fan of My Little Pony, I decided to take her to the theatre to see the movie.

Me. My Little Pony. Oboy.

It was an adventure for Maya, her first experience in our theatre’s new Dream Loungers. She learned very quickly how to push the button that made the seat recline and come back up…and she discovered that when done just right, the leather makes a lovely kid-comedy farting sound. This sent her into gales of giggles which sent every child in the theatre into gales of giggles, and soon, even though the sweet Little Ponies were being threatened by these monster-looking things (they really were scary), the theatre was rocking with child-laughter…and some adult-laughter too, actually.

As the movie went on, I couldn’t help but notice that one pony, a rock star named Songbird Serenade, looked a lot like Sia, one of my favorite female vocal artists. When Songbird Serenade finally opened her pony mouth to sing, I knew without a doubt that this was Sia. That voice!

I contemplated this for the rest of the movie. Sia is not known as a bouncy-jouncy happy-happy Pony-song type singer. Her songs are serious and moody, and that’s part of the reason I like them. But here she was, as a pony singing about rainbows.

After the movie, Maya and I went to pick up Michael from work, and then there was a break for a bit. When it was time for me to run to McDonalds to get our supper, Maya asked if she could come with me, rather than staying home with Grandpa Mike and Aunt Olivia.

“Sure,” I said. “You can come.  But why?”

“Because you’re fun, Gamma Kaffee,” she said.

I’m…fun. Fun?

I don’t think I’ve ever been called fun in my entire life.

A couple months ago, when In Grace’s Time was released, I was startled when it was called “delightful.” My work has been described with other d-words, like dark and disturbing, but never delightful.

Fun. Delightful.

As I buckled Maya into the back seat of Hemi, and received a Grandbaby kiss on the nose for my efforts, I contemplated this too.

Sia can be a My Little Pony, singing about rainbows.

And I can be fun, and my work can be delightful.

How about that?

If I ever meet Sia, I’m going to give her a high five. And I’m going to hug her tight and whisper in her ear, “Isn’t it great when people begin to realize you’re three-dimensional?

Isn’t it great when you yourself realize it?

It is.

And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.

Maya Mae in the Dream Lounger! Complete with popcorn, soda, and a Water Baby (the blob in the seat by the popcorn).

 

10/27/17

And so today’s moment of happiness despite the news.

I was on the phone tonight with a client from Massachusetts. We finished discussing his pages and he said, “Oh, I have to tell you…”

He works as an ER doctor and he was talking to a radiation oncologist at his hospital. My student said to me, “You know all about radiation oncologists now.”

Yes, I do.

Well, this radiation oncologist has an obsession with watches. He collects them, reads about them, knows all about them. So my student said to him, “You should read this book by my writing coach. It’s called The Home For Wayward Clocks –“

“Oh!” the radiation oncologist said. “I’ve been told about that book! I need to get it!”

He’s been told about that book. A radiation oncologist out in Massachusetts who has never met me or heard of me has been told about that book.

Heeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

This came on top of receiving another review of In Grace’s Time today. This reader said:

This was a lovely book about a pain that goes beyond the norm, and of finally coming to grips with it – in the right time…With a different style of writing, this book could easily have slid into sappiness, corniness or drivel, but it didn’t. It was well-written, and I can only imagine how real it must be to find yourself drowning in pain so deep that you’re helpless to reach out to save others who are drowning with you. A beautiful story.

And again:

Heeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

I was often told, and I often tell others, that we have to develop a tough skin as writers. And we do. There’s a lot of rejection in this life. But here’s the trick. While we need to develop a tough skin for the negatives, we need to keep our skin soft for the positive. We need to soak it in. Take a bath in it. Revel. When those positive comments come, it’s wonderful.

Two examples of how the negative tends to stick harder to our toughened skin than the positive tends to soak in to the softened skin:

  • In all my years of writing and presenting, there has only been one time that no one showed up for the event. Just once. Not only did no one show up that awful night in a Green Bay bookstore, but no one came into the bookstore the entire time I was there. It was just me and the owner and her cats. So despite it only happening once, despite my usually filling rooms, guess what I always think about the night before an appearance? Uh-huh.
  • The reviews on In Grace’s Time have almost all been positive. There have been two negatives. Both by men, interestingly enough, and both who felt that the grieving went on too long, that Grace needed to just get over the death of her child. One man wondered why someone who identifies as gay would ever be attracted to the opposite sex. The other called my writing “average”. So despite the fact that I am receiving positive review after positive review, guess which ones I think the most about. Uh-huh.

So. I have to practice what I preach. I fully intend on taking a long hot bath tonight in the words, “lovely book” and “beautiful story”, and there will be bubbles filled with, “I’ve been told about that book!”

And yes, I also flinched a bit at “You know all about radiation oncologists now.” Yes, I do. But I forced myself to turn that phrase around.

Yes, I know all about radiation oncologists now. But if I didn’t, I wouldn’t have survived. Not knowing about radiation oncologists wouldn’t have taken away the cancer lurking in my body. Knowing about them, and knowing about medication oncologists and surgeons, means that it’s all been taken care of and I’m just fine.

I’m going to plunk that into my bathwater too.

Heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.

Heeeeeeee!

10/26/17

And so today’s moment of happiness despite the news.

Tonight, I drove my daughter and her boyfriend to his house, to drop him off after their date. As we rounded a curve in the early-dark fall evening, I peered through the black to find what for me is a sure sign of home. It was quiet in the back seat too and then suddenly, Olivia’s boyfriend cried out, “Where is the cow? The cow is gone!”

But then I found her. Her soothing brown eyes held their always steady gaze, twelve feet up in the air.

“She’s there,” I said. “They just don’t have her night lights on.”

I heard a collective sigh of relief from the back seat and I smiled. It makes me happy that today’s seventeen-year olds look for the cow just as much as I did when I was seventeen. And still do, at fifty-seven.

At a certain point in Waukesha, where Northview Road curves one way and a new curve becomes Delafield Street, there is a gigantic cow. She used to stand in front of the Golden Guernsey Dairy, but a few years ago, it became Lifeway, an organic-based dairy. The cow is made of fiberglass and she stands twelve feet tall and weighs around five-hundred pounds. She cost $3000 when she was originally purchased around 1970. According to an article I read tonight, her name is Gertrude Basse The Cow. I never knew that. To me, she’s always been Bessie.

I moved to Waukesha in 1977. I was sixteen and a junior in high school. Soon after moving here, I landed a job as a kennelworker at the Humane Animal Welfare Society, a job I loved and held throughout the rest of high school and partway through college. Whenever I went to work to tend the dogs and cats and all manner of small animals, I passed Bessie and I waved and whispered, “Hi, Bessie.” Whispered so she could hear, but whispered so no one else could.

I can’t explain why she made home Home to me, but she did. My parents moved away from Waukesha while I was in college and I didn’t return here until 1987. One of the first things I did was drive to the odd intersection to find her. I was Home.

Every Halloween, the dairy dresses her up. She’s usually a witch, but this year, she looks more like a wizard. At Christmas, a gigantic wreath hangs from her shoulders. But the rest of the year, she is a strong, tall brown and white cow, holding her gaze and her stance steady through all sorts of weather, all sorts of world events, all sorts of life.

I think of her as a strong woman and even now, at 57, I wave at her and whisper, “Hi, Bessie.”

There was a night, a long, long time ago, when I was seventeen, a very tumultuous time. I was removed from my house for one night, I was told for my own safety, and placed in a house that was for such situations. There were all sorts of kids there, for all sorts of reasons, and I was terrified and sad. But this house was right across the street from Bessie. In the middle of the night, in a room with eight beds, I was surrounded by sleeping strangers and I was wide awake. The window had a wide sill. I got up and sat on the sill, looking out at Bessie the Big Cow. The strong woman with a gentle steady gaze. She was Home. She kept me company.

I look for her now too. She is on the path to and from the grocery store where Michael is working. I see her often, and I see her at a time when I need to be reminded of safety, of strength, of endurance, and of a steady gaze.

Home.

“Hi, Bessie,” I whispered on the way to my daughter’s boyfriend’s house tonight. And “Goodnight, Bessie,” on the way Home.

Her gaze followed me as I went around the curve. And I know she’ll be watching for me tomorrow.

And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.

Gertrude Basse The Cow. To me, Bessie The Big Cow.

10/25/17

And so today’s moment of happiness despite the news.

Today, I found out that crumpets are real.

Really. I always thought they were fiction. I thought they were a fairy-tale delicacy of the Hansel and Gretel specially-made variety that only royalty nibbled on while drinking tea with their little pinky fingers extended. They would be impossibly delicious – because they’re fiction – and I figured they were shaped sort of like Bugles, those corn-flavored crunchy snacks, but bigger and flakier and just the loveliest shade of golden brown. Why Bugles? Because crumpet rhymes with trumpet so they would be trumpet-shaped.

Hey. That’s just how my imagination works. It doesn’t have to make sense.

So I have this wonderful client who is a poet-essayist-journalist. She has a British accent that puts me immediately into memories of watching Upstairs, Downstairs when I was in high school. I especially liked the character Rose and the butler, whose name I can’t remember. Joanna, my client, lives in Israel and when I skype with her, she sits in Wednesday evening, while I sit in Wednesday morning, and the magic of this time-shift-and-share still makes me amazed, even though I’ve been meeting with international students for over 20 years. Now, thanks to Skype, I can see them too, and greet their family members as they walk in and out, and say hello to their dogs and cats. The clients I Skype with are immediately inspected by my cat, Muse, who insists on being a part of the conversation.

So Joanna had crumpets in her manuscript this week. And I about fell off the page. I wrote in her margin, THEY’RE REAL? and when I met with her this morning, the first thing I said was, “Crumpets are a real thing?”

“Yes,” she said and went on to describe how you bake them and then, when you’re ready to eat one, you pop it in the toaster and then lather it up with butter and eat it while it’s still hot.

I was both enchanted and devastated. A TOASTER? You put the fairy-tale crispy golden magical crumpet in any old toaster sitting on any old counter in any old place? I like my toaster, it’s bright red, but really. For a crumpet? A crumpet should be baked in a regal rare golden brick oven made especially for royalty.

“No,” she said. “A toaster.”

And she promised to send me a recipe. I don’t bake, so Michael will have to make them and then I will toast one and I will eat a crumpet. With tea. Pinky finger extended.

I will feel royal. And fiction will become fact.

How amazing is all this. I am of an age where technology does not feel like a given. It’s as magical as crumpets. I can turn on my computer and speak to my student in Israel and listen to her lilting British accent and be transported back to high school when I sat on the floor in front of my family’s console TV and admired a British housemaid named Rose. I can make another call and speak to another student living in Israel and listen to her still-there it-will-never-go-away New York City accent and remember Barney Miller. A student who lives in Illinois can travel to France and still meet with me while her baby grandson pouts and waves. And I can admire another grandson when a student in an on-site class, who typically sits right there with me at the classroom table, flies to Portland, Oregon to visit and still sits at the table with the rest of us, looking out at us from a screen.

And through all of it, ALL of it, I can keep learning. Last week, I learned from an Australian student that a common phrase there is, “It’s time to pull my finger out of the hole.” Dear God, I said. WHAT hole? And she said she thought it had to do with the hole in the dike in Copenhagen. This week, I learned that crumpets are real and I’m going to be able to taste one.

I can keep on learning and looking around, amazed.

So I do.

And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.

I think they look like English muffins…

 

10/24/17

And so today’s moment of happiness despite the news.

You know, it’s always good when you find out you’re not crazy.

When I started the Today’s Moment in January, I said it was a way to keep me from feeling like I was drowning in our current political climate. By finding one moment a day that made me happy, I was able to realize that the gloom and doom of the news wasn’t all there was in life.

The last few months have been difficult, and current times are difficult too. I hate to say it, but I guess I have to be grateful for the Orange Asshat’s election, because if he wasn’t in office, I wouldn’t have started this blog, and I wouldn’t have thus put in place the path that would get me through what was to come when June rolled around.

Grateful to Orange Asshat? Ew. I saw today that his approval rating is at 35%, and I’m wondering who the heck that 35% is. I bet the President of the Virgin Islands is one of them.

But that aside…Today’s Moment has been invaluable to me.

Today, a friend had an article appear in the Washingtonpost.com. The headline: I Survived Cancer. So Why Was I So Sad? Pam had the same type of breast cancer I did. Partway through the article, I hit this paragraph:

But those bouts did not compare with the dark curtain that fell in my mind within my first year of survivorhood. Fatigue drowned any desire to move. Energy vanished. My concentration disappeared. Tired, brain-addled, sad, I felt worthless and guilty. How did I have the right to feel sadness? People died of cancer, and I didn’t. What business did I have wasting my life after what I’d lived through?”

I stopped reading the article and cried. Again.

All I want to do is sleep. Moving through my day right now requires the greatest effort. And for the first time in my life, I am not writing. Except for The Moment.

Last week, I said to a friend, “I know I survived breast cancer. But I feel like I didn’t. I feel like it killed me.”

Who knew that the aftermath was going to be as hard as the during? The discovery, the biopsy, the waiting for diagnosis, the diagnosis, the tests after diagnosis, the surgery, the medication, the radiation after radiation after radiation…Recovery and healing was supposed to be the spa that followed the <insert your most difficult physical accomplishment here>.

This ain’t no spa. Though maybe a warm stone massage would help…

So why is reading this article my Today’s Moment Of Happiness? Because I know now that the commercials that show glowing haloed women feeling grateful for every moment, women who suddenly have all the answers, women who leap out of bed, dance a jig, and proclaim, “I am so happy to be alive!” aren’t real. At least not right away. In fact, they present an unreachable role model. And it leaves you awash in grief and guilt that maybe those women were the ones who were supposed to survive and they’re surviving correctly, and maybe you weren’t. Maybe I can stop yelling at myself now. Stop berating myself, saying, “You’re one of the lucky ones! Start feeling lucky! Be happy! Wear pink! Skip!”

Can you picture me skipping? Me?

Why the hell was I yelling at myself to skip? I didn’t freaking skip BEFORE breast cancer, why would I do so after?

So Today’s Moment Of Brutal Honesty Despite The News: I’m sad. I’m really, really sad, mixed every now and then with rage. Not anger. Rage.

Yes, I’m dealing with depression.

But Today’s Moment Of Happiness Despite The News: I’m not crazy. It’s not hopeless. I put my own survival guide in place before I even knew I needed one. Somewhere deep inside, I must have known a change was coming and I put Today’s Moment in place.

To me, the Today’s Moment Of Happiness Despite The News is my own personal miracle. The television commercials are fake news. I will not watch them and feel badly. I will write my Moment and get through.

Bottom line: I’ll be okay, in time.

And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.

The article:  https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/posteverything/wp/2017/10/24/i-survived-cancer-so-why-was-i-so-sad/?utm_term=.868ef5fabcdc#comments

I might be sad, but I still have this.

10/23/17

And so today’s moment of happiness despite the news.

I’m still working this one through in my head as I write it, so bear with me please.

I had to run errands this afternoon. When I was through at the post office, I turned Hemi toward Pick’N’Save, to pick Michael up at the end of his shift. As I idled at a stoplight, I watched a couple walking away from me on the other side of the intersection. The man was clearly in pain. He would take a step, then swing his other leg, held straight, in an arc, and then gingerly put his foot down. Every now and then, his torso began to twist and torque and the woman beside him placed a hand on his elbow to steady him. They stopped, then moved forward. And again.

When the light turned green, I pulled up alongside them and rolled down my window. “Sir,” I called, “sir, would you like a ride somewhere? Can I help you?”

He and the woman peered in at me. And when he smiled, it felt like the rainy day became sunny. “Thank you, ma’am,” he said. “Thank you so much. I appreciate it. But we’re just going to the bank there.” He motioned to the next building. The woman smiled too, and patted his arm.

So I drove on.

When I pulled up to the grocery store, I looked around for Michael. There are no benches outside the store, so he was sitting on the sidewalk, leaning against the building. He looked tired. It was now 2:30 in the afternoon – he’d been on his feet at work since six in the morning. When you’re used to working in an office, switching suddenly to eight hour shifts all on your feet takes a physical toll.

When he got into the car, he pointed to an older couple a few parking rows over, loading bags into their large pick-up truck. “See them?” he said.

He then went on to tell me how he was sitting there, waiting for me, when this couple came out. They looked at him and one said to the other, “I wonder why he’s sitting on the sidewalk.”

“Must be he can’t afford a car, working here,” the other said.

And then they walked off, as if Michael couldn’t hear them as he sat there.

So I drove Hemi down one aisle and up the other, so we could be in direct eyeshot of this couple as they sat down in their truck. I stopped and idled, Hemi’s wonderful engine making our presence known. And we looked at each other. They could clearly see Michael. The man who was sitting on the sidewalk.

I thought about what to do. Roll down my window. Yell, “This man sitting on the sidewalk? Could be because he’s been on his feet since six this morning and he’s tired. Could be that he doesn’t drive because of a disability. Could be that he’s waiting for his wife, who drives this pristine Chrysler 300C Hemi. Could be you are absolute clueless idiots.” I thought about it.

But then I just drove away.

I simmered through the trip to the bank, the drive-thru at Starbucks, picking up our daughter from school and then our drive home. I thought about all that I could have said, could have shouted, and I regretted not saying it.

But then I thought of the man with the sunny day smile, and his “Thank you, ma’am, I appreciate it.”

One thing that I have learned over and over since I took up this blog is that there are kind people in this world. I’ve seen kindness extended over and over and over again. And I’ve come to the conclusion that despite the ugliness we witness every day, kind people outnumber the hateful people. The hate-filled people.

I thought of the man I offered to help, of the woman by his side.

And I thought of the couple I glared at in silence, but then moved on.

There is kindness in me too.

And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.

…and offer it often.

10/22/17

And so today’s moment of happiness despite the news.

I’ve learned that there are some definite pluses to my accountant husband working in the deli of a grocery store.

*He comes home smelling like the 35 pounds of salami he sliced. World’s best cologne! Just ask our beagle.

*He brings home deli fried chicken for dinner, and he remembers that I love the BLT salad.

*And the stories. Oh, the stories. Really, really interesting people come to grocery stores.

But still. On Sunday mornings, it’s tradition for Michael and me to sleep in. When we wander downstairs, we sit side by side in our reclining loveseat. During the fall and winter, we turn the fireplace on. During the spring and summer, the windows are open and a breeze slips through, along with the sounds of a city on Sunday. There are usually two snoozing beagles on the couch, a snoozing gigantic orange cat on the chair across the room, and a little gray cat sleeping between us. I have a cup of the hottest coffee I can muster, and a doughnut or two from the bakery (from the same store where my husband now works). He has whatever he’s in the mood for – usually some form of dry cereal. His crunching accompanies my slurping my coffee.

When we’re settled, I read the Sunday paper, always in the same order. The comics. The arts section. The home and garden section. And this week’s house sales. I show Michael the comics that make me laugh. From the arts section, I let him know which writers are coming to town and I read out loud my favorite columns. The home and garden section gives us this week’s recipes and we either find them interesting or ew in unison over those that have ingredients we’ve never heard of, don’t know how to pronounce or would just never touch.

And then we go about our day.

I love Sunday mornings.

I felt strongly today the drawbacks to my accountant husband working in the deli of a grocery store.

*Weekends are no longer “off”. I woke up alone.

*Half of the loveseat was empty. I still had the dogs, the cats, the newspaper, the fireplace, the coffee and the doughnuts, but…half the loveseat was empty.

*The comics didn’t make me laugh even when they were funny.

*I read through my favorite columns in silence.

*Even the recipes that were appetizing weren’t appetizing.

*I went about my day, but I kept an eye on the clock.

At 4:00, I had my Today’s Moment Of Happiness Despite The News.

He came home, smelling of salami and carrying a bag of fried chicken and a plastic container of BLT salad.

He came home.

And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.

Michael Giorgio.
The author.
The teacher.
The accountant.
And now the deli man.
And the best husband ever.