Tag Archives: happiness

He Simply Doesn’t Know Better

Our Snowmaggedon turned into Snowmanothin’.

The kids were full-on, wide open RAMPED up about having snow this weekend. I got pretty excited too after my trip to Fresh Market to lay in a weekend supply of brie, crostini, cornichons, sushi, and bruschetta. We went to sleep Friday night to the sound of rain on our roof and temperatures dropping quickly. Friends to the west were already posting pictures of fat fluffy flakes. Wheeeeee!

I woke in the middle of the night and went right back to sleep with a smile on my face. The sound of rain had been replaced with a serene quiet that whispered, “Snow.”

I woke just after dawn and rolled over to peep out the window at….the browny browness of our deck.

Clusterflake 2017

Clusterflake 2017

“Aw, man,” I muttered. “The kids are going to be so disappointed.” I went back to sleep with a little gray cloud of gloom over my head. There goes our special excitement for the weekend.

I finally dragged myself out of bed late in the morning, sure that the children would be piled in a warm and dry heap of despair by the back door, their sleds quietly dry rotting in the tool shed.

Instead, Carlos met me in the hallway, dancing with glee (and nekkid, because that’s his weekend ethos).

“MAMA!!! IT SNOWED! IT SNOWED OUTSIDE! IT SNOWED!” He pulled me to the deck to show me the SNOW.

And that’s when it hit me–he doesn’t know any better.

Carlos is my snow baby, born during the big Christmas snow storm of 2010. That was a snow that I’ll never forget, but it’s not exactly a part of his memory. He also got a fat lip and a black eye during the ice storm of 2014, but I don’t think he remembers much of it.

He’s never been to Utah for snowboarding in a foot of fresh powder. He’s never made a snowman. He doesn’t know what the world looks like from atop a glacier in Austria. He’s never watched the giant pandas at the National Zoo play in the drifts of snow. He’s never been in a snowball fight. He’s never stood outside in the dark and marveled at the quiet of fat fluffy flakes falling all around.

To this cheerful lark of a child, IT SNOWED. He saw this snow for what it was, not for what it wasn’t. Sometimes it’s good not to know better, because it keeps us from comparison. It’s hard to allow happiness to float if we’re always comparing each experience to all of our other experiences to see how it measures up.

Oh, to not know any better so that I can enjoy what is before me.

Pants added in post-production.

Pants added in post-production.

G captured this photo of our boy “playing in the snow.” Boots are for snow. Jackets are for snow. Pants are for SUCKERS.

The Grind

As this load of laundry that has thus far cost me $4358 to do spins in the dryer, let me tell you a story about why I was sobbing in the flooded basement over a broken old coffee grinder that I clutched to my chest with affection that would have better suited a beloved stuffed animal from childhood.

I was diagnosed with pneumonia last week. The nice doctors gave me three kinds of antibiotics and the instructions to drink lots of fluids and get as much rest as possible. So I spent the entire weekend in bed with fevers that rattled the bones followed by sweats of the Sahara (kinda like any spring in Georgia). I missed my kids, I missed having breath, I didn’t even want a cupcake. Awful. By Monday morning, I was so worn down that I despaired.

Now, when you are a lady person of my age whose pelvic floor has lived under the tyrrany of a couple of babies, you have a little secondary problem with a wracking cough–you pee. And when you’ve been drinking 200 ounces of water a day to stay hydrated–you pee a lot. Hell, even with wearing a pad I was coughing so much I was piling up laundry. On Monday night (at 12:30) I decided to run a load of my comfy sweats. When I still couldn’t sleep at 2 a.m., I checked on it. Water was pouring out of the machine, into the kitchen, into the pantry….G unplugged the damn thing. The sink in the basement wet bar just below it had backed up too. Water was EVERYWHERE.

We spent an hour sopping up with towels because the shopvac would have wakened the kids. I got an hour of sleep that night.

On Tuesday, I spent another day trying to rest. I also spent $1000 on plumbers trying to open the laundry drain line. Nope. Gonna have to run another. At least the fever I had had for six straight days was gone and I was beginning to have some hope again.

So Wednesday I was in the flooded basement wet bar slowly moving stuff out of the way of the plumbers. That’s the thing about pneumonia–the short of breath thing leaves me so fatigued, I have to remind myself to do ordinary things slowly. I was actually feeling powerful because today I am remembering that I can be resilient. This body–this fat, old, graying, tired, unadorned, skirted bathing suit wearing body can bounce back. I can live with less AIR for a while and endure. This body can make PEOPLE and hold them until they are ready to join the world, even if they do make you pee a lot.

Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or
weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who
sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless
the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the
joyous; and all for your love’s sake. Amen.

My friend Linda (who even offered to do laundry) had posted this prayer for compline from the Book of Common Prayer today because people are hurting for the terrorist bombings in Brussels. I love that prayer. Robin shared it with me after Richard died and I still clutch my heart at “shield the joyous”  We’re all hurting lately, it seems. Hurting because orange idiots with debatable penis sizes are crowing about how when they are boss of the planet they’re gonna bust them bad guys right the hell up. And hurting because we aren’t shouting Ankara? and Ivory Coast? It’s exhausting. Makes you want a cup of coffee and I don’t even drink the stuff.

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Earlier, I had posted this image and a friend told me he wished he could be as open about his atheism as I am about mine. I told him that I had made an intentional decision to talk about it because people might become less scared of atheists if they realize that a lot of nice normal people really don’t think we need religion at the helm of our government. He agreed, but said it’s hard to give up on the idea of a god. I don’t need to persuade them out of their belief in a god–I need to persuade them that there are lots of valid ways to be a decent person. He made the point that people like their religion because it makes them think there will be a reward at the end, not nothingness. True. It’s scary to think of nothing after this. It’s hard to think we go through the grind only to find that grind was all we get. I’m OK with that. My reward isn’t at the end of my life. My reward is my life, even with the grind.

coffee2

I stacked the popcorn machine and the yogurt maker and some contraption of G’s and the crystal growing experiments and my vintage tins in the messy grit on the floor. The idea of moving is hard, much less doing it at half speed.

Then my hand fell on the little old coffee grinder with the cracked lid. I clutched it to my chest and cried. It’s the first time I’ve cried this whole long feverish week. It belonged to Richard and it’s one of the things I kept because it said so much about him. Every morning he would fill it with beans from Trader Joes then carefully place his thumb over the hole before turning it on.

coffee grinder

“Why don’t you just get a new one?” I’d ask. “I like this one, even with the crack,” he’d answer. He kept it because he didn’t waste money. I kept it because it reminded me of him. We all have our reasons for what we hang on to, whether it be a cracked grinder or a lost love or a faith.

We survive the grind.

Just like the coffee is already in the bean, the heaven is in us, right here and now.

I climbed back up the stairs, slowly slowly slowly, and fixed myself a Diet Coke while waiting on the plumbers.

A Little Patch of Blue Will Do

It’s been raining for a solid month. How do I know? Because the day my dad went to hospice–poured buckets. It rained until the day he died. Then it rained some more but we had a beautiful blue sky day for the funeral. Then it rained some more and then October was over but it is STILL RAINING. Here’s a haiku I wrote about the weather:

Rain rain more damn rain

Yep still raining rain rain rain

Rain rain rain rain fuck

(That is COPYRIGHTED, y’all, so don’t try to sell it to Hallmark.)

Even on a good day, I’ve already got a wagonful of depression to drag around. Add to that a layer of grief, a layer of rain, a layer of daylight saving time and a snotty cold and it has made for a really bleak week. Oh, then my doctor pointed out to me that I weight 20 pounds more than I did when Carlos was born. Cherry on top.

The grayness is eating into my brain. But right around lunchtime today, a weird soft glow came through my office window. I looked up to see a patch of blue hanging over the soggy trees!

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I made a RUN for it. I walked the longest way possible down the stairs, across an extra parking lot, around the E.D., past the puddle-covered helipad, up stairs and down. I crossed the street so I could walk without the old oaks dripping on my head. People I passed on the sidewalk looked like little squinty moles rising up into the light.

Then up ahead, another patch of blue:

marti's

The line snaked out the door but the wait is always worth it for Marti’s at Midday. When I ordered a half Paige (tuna melt) with a half/half mint tea, Marti winked and said, “This one’s on me.” I’ve learned to just say thank you when she does that and put what I was going to spend on lunch in the tip bucket. A few minutes later, she handed me my lunch, blew a kiss and said, “Love you.” Her blue eyes twinkled with loving kindness.

The rain began to plinky-plunk again. I really wanted to sit outside and enjoy the patch of blue sky while it lasted. Then I remembered that there are a few tables on our cafeteria patio that are covered. Victory! I claimed one for myself and pulled a book out of my purse:

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Check out that little patch of blue, huh? (It’s about two inches above Justin Theroux, for those of you having trouble focusing.) If you are watching “The Leftovers” on HBO, the book is well worth the read. I watched some of the first season and one recent episode from the second season. Lots of differences in the novel, so it’s interesting to compare how one had to be turned into the other. And Justin Theroux. There’s that.

So I was feeling pretty good, out of the rain, enjoying the last 30 pages of a book, my favorite lunch on the side. I choked up over one scene (No spoilers!) featuring Jill, the teenage daughter who has lost so much in the story. She stood up a person whom she was supposed to meet in favor of hanging out with a cute boy:

She felt a little guilty…but not guilty enough to do anything about it. She could apologize tomorrow, she thought, or maybe the day after.

I ran into some friends, she could write.

Or: There’s this cute boy, and I think he likes me.

Or even: I forgot what it feels like to be happy.

Yep. Sometimes I forget what it feels like to be happy. Today was a nice reminder.

As I got up to leave the patio, I saw one more patch of blue out of the corner of my eye. There sat my friend, Pat, also taking advantage of the shelter of the overhang so she could eat her lunch in the fresh air. Her back was to me and I thought about leaving her to her private time–she’s a nurse who doesn’t get a lot of down moments during the day. Just yesterday, she gave me a hug in the cafeteria. I wanted another one. She was another patch of blue on my trail.

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Look at that smile! Pat is one of those people who has been encouraging me for years. Whether it was through grief or motherhood or boring days or thilling ones, Pat never fails to tell me that everything will be OK and I will be too. We talked for a few minutes and she told me how much she enjoys reading these stories on Baddest Mother Ever. I got my hug and another one to spare. Thank you, Pat.

That lunchtime adventure really turned my mood around. I followed the “blue clues” and found myself a little happiness. This afternoon? It poured. As my dad always says–said–“It’s raining like a cow peeing on a flat rock.” I can’t change that. Any of that.

And that’s OK. I just have to find enough happiness to keep going. During those times in life when it’s raining and it’s been raining and it’s going to rain for another week, a little patch of blue will do.

Sunday Sweetness–“Start the Day In Happiness, In Kindness”

Here’s a beautiful sunny day kind of poem by Mary Oliver, read by the author:

Want more of her work? Follow this link:

 

Want to read a classic Baddest Mother Ever story about kindness? How about:

Panning For Gold Atop Lookout Mountain

The White Stuff

bird-678917_1280Q:  Do you know what the white stuff in bird shit is?

A:  It’s bird shit, too.

 

There’s no difference, y’all.

There’s no better part of shit that makes it not quite so shitty.

Just after Richard’s cancer diagnosis, my friend Karen and I were having a talk. Her husband has survived chronic leukemia for over twenty years. Steve has CLL–the slow kind of leukemia–whereas Richard had AML–the very fast kind. Karen and I were talking about the way cancer blows up your life in one KAPOW kind of instant. She said, “It’s like you’re at a party then being handed a big ole shit pie to eat while everyone else is having cake.”

We laughed over that, then she said, “At least they give you a spoon!” Karen, always the optimist. I’ve learned a lot from her over the years.

I was thinking about this story today with good reason. You know how you find that sweet sweet parking spot and think, “I am so lucky! None of these other suckers saw this sweet spot! Ha HA! I am GOLDEN. Score!”

Yeah.

poo_1And you come back to your car after work and find it covered in an explosive row of bird bombs…and realize that the empty parking spot sits directly beneath a comfortable perch of a powerline…and maybe those other suckers knew that?

So I spent a few minutes thinking about bird poop today, and the white part and the shittiness. Before I got too bogged down in the shit that came with that sweet parking space, I thought about the GOOD things that came my way thanks to that parking place. I got to walk to my office under giant pecan trees. My steps bounced over the squishy black mulch of a tidy path that winds past gardenias just warming up in the sun. I watched squirrels skitter to their trees and birds flit past.

I feel LUCKY every time I walk that path, into a job I love then back to my car to get to a home I love. So even if there’s a little bird shit on my car, that’s a small price to pay for all the rest of it.

Living is always going to be like that–there’s the greenish part of the bird shit and the white part…and all around it, the sky part and the tree part and the skittering part and the gardenia part.

It’s a question of where you choose to look. Bird shit is the price we pay for bird song and little robin nests filled with blue eggs. The worst parts of my life were still part of my life, bumped right up next to the best parts of my life. All or nothing.

Sure, I’ll park somewhere else tomorrow. Still enjoy my walk and smell the gardenias, but with a lesson learned!

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100 Words About Happy Things

(Casey at “Life With Roozle” issued a 100 word challenge…here’s my answer)

drop-556895_1280Spent some time crying in the car today, in the rain.

But Heather and Pete took a baby home from the hospital. Anna brought 3 Sumos to my front door. There were doughnuts and Spiderman Legos and a new book from the $2 table. Erica bought herself a bracelet and Casey brought flowers home. It’s Andrew’s birthday and Nicole loves him. Pam sent a picture of blue sky over Springfield to prove that it does happen. Carlos in his bathrobe with slicked down hair. Vivi chose a purple shirt for picture day.

Some days there is crying. But there’s also all this, everything.

A Sumo and a Sparrow Meet In a Grocery Store

Kroger is turning into my meditative place, like an ashram with a deli. I seem to have a lot of epiphanies there–about peaches and crushes, parking lot rage, or canoodling in the pasta aisle. This week, I cried a little in the produce section after I made three loops and realized that the Sumo mandarins are gone again. Maybe FOREVER.

About a month ago, in the grayest gray of February that ever dared to gray, I got annoyed during a traffic jam in the produce section. You know when people just leave a cart in the middle of the aisle instead of parallel parking it? Grrrr. As I waited in my cloud of righteous indignation, an Asian grandmotherish woman waited for the produce manager to peel an orange and give her a sample.

“See how easy they peel? They don’t look like much but they have a great flavor. Real sweet.” He held a half of the orange in one gloved hand and offered her a wedge. As soon as she put it in her mouth, she began to smile and nod. Her husband got a plastic bag from the roller and started pawing through the bin of oranges. And still, I waited for them to move.

sumoBecause I was forced to wait, the aroma had time to get to my sniffy little piqued nose. Dang–that DID smell good. And it sure didn’t smell one bit like February. I grabbed four of the knobbly oranges with the weird sumoesque topknot thingy aroung the stem.

The next morning, I plopped down like a dirty snowman on the couch at the beginning of another gray day. As I peeled the Sumo, Carlos climbed up beside me and we shared bite after bite. I swear that orange kept me from crying that day.

At night, the oranges stopped me from snacking on sweet stuff. In the morning, they started my day off right. For a glorious week, I ate them morning, noon, and night.

The next week when I returned to Kroger, they were gone. I asked the produce manager if they had any in the back. I NEVER do that. He returned with the news that the Sumos were gone and they probably weren’t getting any more. They had been too hard to sell. Too many people looked at the ugly outside and passed them up for a dependable old navel.

I cried, y’all. I stood right there in front of the lunchbox sized apples and sank into a citrusy funk. My inner monologue was pretty much, “Oh, RIGHT. I forgot that I can’t have ANYTHING nice.” Yadda yadda February yadda.

I moved on to Cuties, but it wasn’t the same.

Then the next week, like magic, the Sumos were back. I spent scads of dollars on two bags and hid them in the car and in my office so the kids wouldn’t gobble them up. I know, that’s pathetic, but you do what you gotta do to make it through February. I stretched the Sumos until the calendar rolled over to March.

Maybe this weird new hybrid fruit was catching on! This week, I had my hopes up that Athens had seen the true path and the demand for Sumos would carry us until springtime.

Nope. They were gone. Again. I made three trips around the piles of grapefruit, tangelos, mandarins, lemons, ugli fruit…nope.

Dammit.

Before I could get to feeling too robbed, I heard an outside sound there inside the Kroger. Chirping. Up in the steel rafters, right above the produce section, a tiny sparrow flitted overhead.

I’m sure someone (probably the produce manager) thinks of that bird as a nuisance. I don’t. Sure, it’s gonna poop on something eventually, but there’s a narrow chance of getting pooped on just about anywhere you go.

That little bird cheered me up. It really doesn’t give a damn about whether there are Sumos this week or not. It makes a meal of whatever is left over or dropped. Imagine the plentitude it has foundinside that store! No cats, no hunger, no wind, no rain. Always warm and dry. We could look at it and think, “Poor thing is trapped in here, away from its natural home.” Or we could look at it and think, “Dude…Jackpot!”

It reminded me of that little bird in Bermuda that I wrote about in A Life Made of Crumbs. Gimpy, we called him, due to his little twisted leg. Every afternoon at four p.m., he hop-wobbled around the terrace at tea time, making a feast from the crumbs we dropped from our scones and cucumber sandwiches.

Well, this story has gone on so long, it’s the middle of March. So I guess I made it out of February, Sumos or not. Jackpot!

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