31

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Today Alex is 31. I talk to him, think about him. What do you say, when the years aren’t adding up on this planet any longer? Do you still say “happy birthday?”

I think about other birthday celebrations for those who are gone, the way we honor heroes who left a mark.

We hold parades, declare holidays, and remember their gifts. We look back with gratitude, and find inspiration in stories of lives well lived.

Alex left his mark too, on so many lives. He left stories of kindness, humor, a strong work ethic, his unique vision of life. He left grand memories.

There won’t be any parades today, and businesses will all be open as usual. Other than a few people who know this date as his, to the rest of the world, it’s just another Monday.

But for those who love him…it’s the first birthday without.

We had a running conversation about this time of year…me always trying to find a gift he would enjoy, and him standing firm, saying all he wanted for his birthday was a sandwich.

I don’t remember how that got started. When he was still a kid at home, the tradition was always that the person celebrating their birthday got their dinner of choice…favorite home cooked meal, or favorite restaurant. Somewhere along the way, Alex decided to keep it simple, and started requesting “just a sandwich.” In mom mode, I could never do that. A sandwich wasn’t festive enough. Sometime in the teen years, he began choosing pie as the birthday sweet, lemon icebox or key lime, to mark the day and round off the evening, candles burning and presents stacked, ready to be opened.

A couple of weeks ago, I saw the birthday reminder from Amazon, sent to alert me that June 18 was coming up. Then a reminder popped up on my calendar.

As if I needed that.

Though there’s no danger I’ll forget his birthday, and no need to remind me to buy a gift for him, I won’t take him off my birthday calendar, or Amazon reminder list. There are already so many ways he’s missing from life. His phone number is no longer his. He doesn’t have a mailing address any more. His bank account is closed.

I won’t erase him from my lists. It’s not that I need any reminders to think of him. But it’s important to me that his name is still there.

Like so many pieces of the tapestry of loss, there’s no logic to my thoughts. I couldn’t tell you why I can’t take him off my Amazon gift list, or delete his address from any of the other sites where it lives. I just can’t. Even though I know that deleting an address doesn’t mean anything…doesn’t change any facts, and doesn’t lessen his place in my heart…I won’t do it. Somehow it means something to me to see it.

In this new era of life, without Alex, everything counts, everything matters. It’s strange the way this works. When someone you love is living, of course they’re important to you, and you’re concerned with them, and for them, and things that impact them impact you. But when that person is gone, and what you have left are the memories, photos, physical reminders of their lives, and the digital footprints left behind….it’s all important, to a level you can’t begin to understand, until that’s all you have.

It all becomes sacred.

Where once I loved the boy / man, now I cherish the traces of him, wherever I find them. So nothing is meaningless, not even the email from Amazon to remind me of his birthday approaching.

And yet nothing fills the void.

I’ve been fearful of this day. Wondered how it would feel to wake up and know there’s no birthday call to make, no sandwich joke between us, no hearing if he liked his gifts. Nothing. Just nothing.

But today, as much as I miss Alex, I’m celebrating his life, all 31 years of it. Somewhere he’s 31, and he’s probably having a sandwich, hopefully with bacon.

There are 364 other days in the year to mourn him, to feel the sorrow of loss. Today, I’m just choosing to find the joy, and to be thankful for his life. He was amazing, and a gift.

Alex taught me many things, some of which have come in the past months. Even now, I’m learning through him, because of him. Today is another of those gifts, teaching me, reminding me, that lives intertwined don’t unravel because one has moved to another realm. They’re still connected, and always will be.

The people who touch our lives, and whose lives we touch…our stories are forever joined. Alex will be forever young, in photos and human years. But in my heart, and in another world, he’ll keep having birthdays.

“There are three things we cry for in life: things that are lost, things that are found, and things that are magnificent.”
Douglas Coupland

Alex has been each of these: found, magnificent, and lost. He is lost to us now, for a time. But not forever.

And that is something to celebrate.

Laura, Will, & Alex, June 18, 2017

Alex’s 30th birthday, with friends at the Colorado Renaissance Festival, June 18, 2017

“The beautiful thing you did, that no one knows about, or forgot, it’s there always; light, grainy light- even if cruelty gets its hands on it. It’s done. You were born. No taking that back.” 

~ Thank you, Laura, for the quote. It’s perfect. ~

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Where did summer go?

The last time I posted was July 7. The months since have been a whirlwind of travel, work, family, guests, and healing.

Yes, my foot is healing. It seems slow to me, but since this is my first experience with a broken bone, maybe I’m just impatient. I’m still wearing flats…no heels since June 30, which is a long time for a short woman to go without a boost in height. But thankfully, the pain in the fractured area is almost completely gone.

We trekked back to the South in July to see parents and extended family, and took a few extras with us. Riley and Jack and Stephanie made the trip and soaked up cousin and grandparent time.

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Jack found a sign with a familiar name:

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There was crafting (thank you Pinterest!)

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And we ate just a wee bit…both my mom and my mother-in-law are cooks of the first order. And we had to have Cock of the Walk fried catfish. No trip to Mississippi is complete without that familiar stop. This time we worked it in on our way back to the airport. We were down to the wire, but we got our fill of the classics: hush puppies, fried dill pickles, and the star of the show, southern fried catfish. (If you’ve never had this southern staple, do yourself a favor and put it on your list to track down. Make sure the fish is farm raised, and that you find a good restaurant with a cook who knows how to fry. Your best bet is to go south.)

Stephanie and the kids went home, and Rob and I spent a few days in New Orleans between visits to parents. Although August in Louisiana is not for the faint of heart, the old downtown areas of the city are charming, and the food was amazing. I’ll be having some more of that next time I head south. 🙂 We celebrated our 36th anniversary, and walked off some of the calories, exploring the French Quarter, visiting the National WWII Museum (which is excellent),

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and wandering through the Arts – Warehouse District, and up, down, and around Bourbon Street.

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We ate at three wonderful restaurants, trying something different each night we were in town. And each was an experience worth repeating: Revolution, Domenica, and Restaurant August. You know you’re in a food paradise when everyone gives you their top restaurant picks and everyone has a different list…there are so many great choices! And we didn’t even go to any of the iconic restaurants. I wanted to eat where locals eat, and we hit the jackpot. I seriously think you can’t go wrong in that city, as far as dining.

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Also fun, at breakfast we had watermelon juice. Now how cute is that?

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And shrimp and grits. Ah, food of the south!

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Now, ask me about the humidity and that’s a different conversation! It takes a lot for me to feel hot enough to appreciate air conditioning, having lived without it for most of my life…you just don’t need it that often in the foothills of Colorado, or in Alaska. But I was grateful for it in New Orleans! I honestly don’t know how people survived in the south before AC.

I never go south without bringing back a little something. This time I hit tomato season, and although I never really get my fill, I had several tomato sandwiches during our visit (only white bread, mayo, sliced tomatoes and salt, thank you!). And I brought back enough to have a round of BLTs in Alaska. Just another tasty thing I hand carried all the way. Lucky for me, tomatoes are allowed through airport security!

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We had some cousins come up for a week after our trip south, and got in a little bear viewing:

And finally, Riley and Jack just spent a week with us, their first time to visit without parents. It was fun, and reassuring that I could find my way back to child-caring mode. We’d kept them before in their home, but this was their first time to stay with us in our home without mom and dad on hand.

Oh, we had a good time!

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Neighbors shared kids to play with and a trampoline to jump on.

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There was a fierce Uno battle, and we broke out the Chinese checkers.

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The weather cooperated while they were here. We had beautiful days and perfect evenings.

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There were shenanigans:

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And just when I thought Jack’s energy knew no bounds, he crashed.

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Last Saturday they had their first float plane trip, traveling from the Metlakatla airport (also known as the float plane dock) over to Ketchikan, to catch the Alaska Airlines flight to Seattle.

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It was a fast trip to take them down on Saturday and head back up Monday. Sunday afternoon, we made it to a local fair:

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And now, catching my breath, I know why the past two months have been a blur, and why I’m pooped!

Why, hello, September, and all things pumpkin! It was a glorious summer, but I’m ready to get cozy!

 

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Walking may be hazardous to your health

Walking…we take it so for granted. Just last Friday I was walking effortlessly, no thought required. No planning for how to get myself around.

In fact, in our current state of car-less-ness (that means we don’t own a vehicle) I walk more than I drive, or ride. It helps that we live about a five-minute walk from the clinic where we work, so walking to the office is simple, something I do in all weathers.

Last Friday I was walking to work, as usual. Laptop bag, phone, and coffee in hand, I was within sight of the door when I mis-stepped…tripped…slipped…something happened. Suddenly, I was flat on the ground, everything I was carrying scattered around me, and I got up with that stunned and shaky feeling of “what just happened?!” You know the moment when you’re not sure if you’re about to laugh or cry, or laugh and cry.

Well, you know how awkward you feel in these little situations. As I began to very carefully pick myself up, not sure yet if I’d done any real damage, embarrassment kicked in, and my initial shock turned to hope that no one saw my spill. I felt like a cartoon character with the wind knocked out of me and my dignity spilled on the ground with my coffee. You know the very flat version of a cartoon that’s suddenly one dimension? Yep!

Not that I have that much dignity to be concerned with…I’m not one to walk around thinking too highly of myself. But it’s never fun to be upright one moment, and splatted on the ground the next. It’s the shock factor, you know?

I gathered myself and my belongings, beginning to think about my technology and hope it was all safe (only a few months ago I dropped my phone and experienced the trauma of a shattered screen, and let me tell you, that left a mark!). I got inside the door and then hobbled to my office to inspect me and my things for damage.

Skinned knee, check. Cracked glass on my phone, check (though this time it was only a lower corner, so not quite as devastating as before). Laptop was ok, thankfully it was in a padded case. Coffee was mostly saved, thanks to my indestructible container! 🙂

The real damage was to my foot. There were no protruding bones, but it hurt. It hurt quite a lot, actually! I was wavering between “I think I’ll sit down and cry about this” and “no, no, I’m fine, really!” You know, that song and dance you do when you hope if you downplay a situation, it’s going to be ok without intervention. If you need intervention, that’s never good.

So x-ray? No, I’m really ok, thanks! Something for the pain? I’ll just grin and bear it, I’ll be fine! (Big smile here!)

I remembered I had a conference call scheduled that morning, so I decided to go back to the house and join the call while I sat with my foot propped up. I dug a bag of frozen green peas out of the freezer drawer and put it over the now-rapidly swelling part of my foot. Ahh…better!

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Ouch, that hurts!

I babied it all weekend. And it did feel a bit better by Monday. But wisdom said it would be best to have it x-rayed and know for sure if I’d fractured anything.

Peter, the x-ray tech at the clinic, was hopeful right along with me. He told me he’d x-rayed breaks that weren’t swollen at all, and injuries that looked terrible but were fine. So I confidently thought my foot would fit in the latter category…not pretty, but hey, I was walking on it, right? Well, limping, anyway.

Um, no, not right.

The radiologist’s read found a fracture in the 5th metatarsal. It’s the type that sometimes doesn’t heal well…you have a “non-union” of the fracture, and 20-30% of these breaks end with surgery to repair the damage. That’s a wee bit alarming to hear.

So this is my new look, for the coming weeks:

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My summer fashion statement

No cast, but a rigid-sole shoe that keeps me from bending my foot as I walk-limp around. I’m pretty motivated to be compliant. I have no desire to be in the 20-30% group and be meeting a surgeon later this summer! My hope is to be done with my new shoe by late July. I’m traveling then, and I really don’t want to be sporting this lovely look. I miss my heels already! And Riley and Jack are spending a week with us at the end of August, and I definitely need to be my fully-mobile self by then. Have you ever tried limping to catch a four-year-old?

Anyway, the whole experience reminds me just how much I take for granted. Like simple walking. The ability to go and do and manage life without crutches, boots, or hobbling around is so important.

After a vision of spending the summer in a cast, or on crutches, or needing a wheel chair to get through airports has sunk in, I’m mindful. I was told to have my foot x-rayed weekly for the next three or four weeks to keep a check on the healing progress, so I’ll do that. I was told to take calcium, so doing that. I was told not to flex my foot, so I’m trying to be very aware of that movement, and avoid anything that will stress the injury.

Who knew a simple mis-step could cause all this bother?! Still looking for the upside here. The best takeaway so far is to be more empathetic toward anyone limping around and dealing with injuries. (Not that I wasn’t sympathetic before…but now!) It’s definitely not fun, and puts a damper on life when you have to think about every step…is it worth getting up to do (fill in the blank)? And already feeling a bit off-balance makes me uncomfortably aware how easy it would be to trip and re-injure myself. I don’t like feeling limited, or lacking confidence to do the most basic thing we humans do…just walk.

If you’re walking around without having to think about it, be thankful! And be careful! Trust me, the slightest mis-step, and you too could be modeling the latest fashion in the healthcare shoe industry!

Well, here’s hoping to be done with this in a few weeks. Looking forward to wearing heels again, and having matching shoes!

 

Spring cleaning, done!

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Chocolate milk on my wall

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the new floor…

It’s that time of year when spring cleaning joins the line-up of regular chores. I don’t think spring has really arrived in this little corner of Alaska, never mind what the calendar says. But I’m ready to be out of winter mode, so I’m ignoring the chilly temps, and the fact that yesterday it snowed again. I’m just getting on with my list.

This year spring cleaning comes with a twist.

We’ve moved into our clinic housing twice in the past five months. The first time was in November. The second time was last weekend, after a total move-out the week before to have the flooring replaced.

Let me tell you, that was not in my game plan!

The community owns this clinic housing, provided to us as a benefit to working here, and to their credit, they maintain it nicely. I’m not sure of the processes at work…maybe there was grant funding that had to be used, or some other resource that was specified for maintenance work on these homes. Anyway, right after we moved in, back in November, we learned that the flooring of all six clinic homes was slated to be replaced this spring.

Alrighty then! Let’s just say that information motivated me to unpack very lightly.

Understand, I’m almost always a fan of new and improved, and I’m certainly grateful for any housing updates that come my way.

But, I didn’t foresee it would mean a total emptying out again, and being displaced for a week while the work was done. I had an unrealistic expectation of doing it room by room, sort of a vision of being able to move things from one room to another without moving out.

But nope, it was not to be. We emptied as much as we could into the garage, and the rest went into shipping containers, while we went back to temporary housing.

When I peeked in on the house last week, it looked like a construction zone. Equipment everywhere, flooring in various stages of being torn out and replaced. The appliances, the baseboards, even the toilets were removed so the new installation could be put in, wall to wall. And that’s as it should be.

While the furniture was out, we had a large accent wall painted, and that’s brought some much appreciated color into the every-room-in-the-house-off-white look.

We have new wood-look vinyl throughout the house, except in the two bedrooms, which have new carpet, installed in squares for easy replacement.

The dark floors look great, seams matched and neatly finished. The guys did a good job, and I tried to show a little extra appreciation with snacks and treats over the course of the week, in true Southern style. Southern women have a need to feed, I think. (I don’t know if it’s programmed at birth, or when that response is installed, but the reflex is automatic. People working? Bring food!) I think they got the message that I appreciated their efforts.

The past week has been all about restoring, touching up some walls with the off-white paint, adding a bit more of the accent color, cleaning up, and settling, again. (Putting fresh paint on walls is like a contagious virus…I see the finished look, and begin to think…hmmmm..what else needs a touch of color?)

Aside from the new floors and paint, the upside is that every surface has been wiped and refreshed. The process of ripping up the old material put a fine film of something over all the flat surfaces, so there’s pretty much no inch of this space that hasn’t felt the swipe of my cloth, and a little disinfectant sprayed on to add to the feeling of clean.

I’m one of those odd people, I like to clean, I’ll admit that. But even I don’t usually do my whole space in a week. Looks like I’m on the ball this year, thanks to this floor project. And because the appliances were all moved out to accommodate the work, even the space under the fridge and stove are clean. Aaahhh!

So, if you’re looking for motivation for spring cleaning, just go ahead and replace your floors. I guarantee you, the one will induce the other! Nothing like a little remodeling to get you moving!

Happy spring, happy cleaning, and happy me…new paint on the walls, new floors underfoot.

I’m pooped, but at least for the coming week the chores are already done! 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

Spring, glorious spring!

“Let it rain on some days,
Let yourself shiver on some cold nights,
So when it’s Spring you’ll know why it was all worth going through.”
― Sanhita Baruah

After a snowier-than-usual winter, this week brought some sunny days, and with the first day of spring, a spring in my step as well. Sunshine will do that for you, when you live in a rain forest! 🙂

You’d think that in SE Alaska, snow would be common. You would be wrong, at least at sea level, and in this small region of the state. Rain is common, storms are common, but not snow. This year my boots got to walk all over town as I had the chance to wear them most days the past six weeks. I’ve turtle-necked my way through, and now, as April approaches,  I’m looking forward to shedding a layer or two. It will be nice to put away gloves and scarves, and walk out without the extras.

As winter leaves, I feel the flow of spring-time energy. I picked up a paint brush yesterday to freshen up a wall or two; such a simple thing, but exciting after a hiatus of tackling projects. Spreading color on the walls was therapeutic and nourishing, a visible illustration of what I felt happening in my spirit.

I’ve filled the pantry, and after two years of minimal cooking, I’m trying new things, dishing up old favorites, and using cookware that’s been out of sight and out of mind.

I’m reading again, books that speak to my heart, and some new finds prompting me to thought.

I’m thinking of the curious combination of spring strength and softness…the strength it takes for green leaves and tiny flowers to push into the sunlight and the softness of the  early morning sun on my face as I walk to work. I think about the strength it takes to keep moving and growing through all the phases of life and the softness of heart that comes with experience and age. (Sometimes hearts harden with age, but I’m choosing not to do that.)

Strength and softness: that’s the combination I want in my life. I love strength of spirit, will, and courage. I love the softness of kindness, generosity, and gentleness.

Spring reminds me that the harshness of winter is disappearing, and the sweetness of the next season is here.

Seasons exist in all realms of life, and seasons of energy, creativity, and accomplishment are no less real than the seasons of the calendar. Manifesting in different ways, the results are sometimes visible, sometimes not.

I’ve learned that human seasons rarely match up with the calendar. I’ve learned that sometimes you can push yourself into the next phase of life, and sometimes, like a flower waiting to bloom, you have to wait for your next season to arrive. Some things you just can’t hurry.

I’ve learned that you can’t force what isn’t ready. “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”

When you’re ready for a new season, it will appear. In good time, but not before you’ve done the work to be ready to move forward.

The past couple of years have been quiet, times of growth and discovery. And those times are vital. All humans need time to percolate a bit, time to let life flow around and over, time to make sense of what was, what is, and what’s changed.

I sometimes call it wandering in the wilderness.

Good to do, but also good to come out of.

No epiphany required for the sunshine of springtime to remind me, it’s time to get busy. Time to paint, and plant an herb or two, and a flower or two, time to create in the kitchen, time to shift to a new season.

And while my hands are busy, it’s good to practice the values of strength and softness.

How about you? Are you feeling the pulse of springtime? Tell me about it? I’d love to know what spring sunshine prompts in you!

~ Sheila

The day before the day – Election, 2016

It’s been a long hard run for all of us weary spectators to the blood sport of American presidential politics. Are you as exhausted as I am?

I’ve posted before about this sad chapter in American history. How did we get here? I know there are enthusiastic supporters for both major party candidates, but I can’t help but feel that whoever wins, we’ve all lost.

We’ve lost our collective dignity, and I believe, a large measure of world respect. I’m embarrassed for the whole lot of us. I can’t imagine where we’ll go from here. I think it will take a long time to rebuild faith in our process, in our system. So many charges of corruption and both major candidates being unfit to serve…it’s disheartening to think this is what we’ve come to.

I know elections from other eras also had a lot of mudslinging, accusations of dishonesty and scandal. Maybe what we’re experiencing isn’t unique. But it feels that way. It feels like we’ve stooped to new lows, as a country. I want debate discussions to be about issues that affect us all, not about salacious personal details or possible criminal charges. I’m tired of the national political figures seeming more fit to be in a soap opera than the next leader of the United States.

I want to believe. Maybe that’s just naiveté I never outgrew, but I want to be able to believe in our leaders. I don’t care if the president is man, woman, black, brown, white, or whatever ethnic background…I just want this person to be honest, and to try to do what they promise. I’m not looking for perfection. I am looking for sincerity.

And as important, I want to believe our system is honest. How can any of us feel good about anyone winning the election if we can’t believe it was won honestly and fairly?

I’ve given up hope for this election. I couldn’t vote for either candidate, though I did vote down ballot. But here’s what I do hope:

  • I hope we’ll see a grass-roots movement rise up and demand that both major parties clean house, clean up any whiff of corruption or dishonesty, and improve their internal processes to allow more access, and more transparency. It is disgraceful that we have two candidates who are widely disliked and distrusted. What does that say about us as a nation, that these are the best we could field for this office?
  • I hope we can have a national conversation about the lessons learned from this cycle, and what we can do better…surely that would cover almost everything that’s happened.
  • I hope we’ll find ways to require voter id from everyone, and at the same time ensure that process leaves no one out…voter id requirements should never be used to limit voting.
  • We need to talk about the pros and cons of early voting and any voting options that reduce voting on election day. I understand the value of absentee voting, but I also think all these voting options make it more difficult to ensure voting is fair and that votes are counted accurately. Whether I’m happy about any election outcome or not, I want to believe results are accurate based on actual votes. It demeans the process and erodes faith when we can’t believe in our system, whether the charges are that one party is trying to stuff the ballot box, or the other party is trying to suppress votes. We need clean voting, and we need to make it an easy task…in this era of brilliant technology, surely we could sort this out?
  • I think we need to redesign the process as to the way some states seem to matter, and others don’t. You see this during primary season, and definitely for the national election. So many states are really just taken for granted…maybe that’s inevitable given the known voting records and demographics, but still, it feels unfair and unbalanced that half a dozen states, or maybe even a single state, can be make-or-break for the winner. Another reason to require everyone, in both primary and national elections, to vote on the same day.
  • I think we need to shorten the election cycle, by law, so we end these never-ending runs for office that begin as soon as the last vote is cast in the current cycle. Enough! Give us a break from the madness! Spend some time doing the job, not simply campaigning to keep the job at the next election.
  • We need to limit the amount of money anyone can spend on a campaign. We need to find some way to both control the money that special interest groups throw at the process, and open opportunity to candidates who are not personally wealthy or come from political pedigrees…in other words, make it possible for “average” Americans to have a shot at political offices, even the highest one. When I say “average,” I don’t mean to dismiss education or pertinent experience…those requirements should be a given…but we definitely need new ideas, new blood and innovation.
  • I’ve read pros and cons about term limits. I think our system would be healthier if politicians could not become entrenched for life, regardless of job performance. Same for judges, at all levels. I particularly think Supreme Court judges should have service limits. Elected officials should serve and move on to something else, and I’d also like to see regulation of politicians moving into lobbyist positions…I’m not sure much good will be achieved with term limits if politicians can simply move next door and continue to be part of the process in the private sector. I really think we need some way to ensure that once a politician has hit term limits, he/she is required to return to civilian life rather than stay on in the political arena of influence.

I’ve said I’m less concerned about who wins than that the winner be a person of integrity and that they, and their entourage, be people of honor. I would like to think honor still exists among those who seek high office.

I’m not one to advocate for rebellion or violence, but I’m convinced after the travesty we’ve witnessed, with all the drama, name calling, and dirty tricks, we, the American public, deserve better, and should demand change before we go through another electoral cycle.

You have to be an adult to vote. I would like to believe I have choices of responsible, honest, and honorable adults to vote for. We have serious problems, and we need serious candidates to step up. But we, the voting citizens, have an obligation here too…we need to raise our voices to demand change, demand honesty, and get involved at every level to ensure that happens.

Maybe then we could get excited about voting again.

Frames

Last summer we rented a house built beside a stream. The house wasn’t air-conditioned, and even in the temperate climate of Hawaii, it was stuffy without the windows open, and ceiling fan running. So we slept with open windows, and the sound of water running through our nights.

A funny thing, I noticed the stream didn’t bother me. I noticed it because running water at night usually does bother me. When the source of the water is a toilet that keeps filling, or a faucet that isn’t completely turned off, I hear the trickle of water and I can’t unhear it. It annoys me, keeps me awake, disturbs my rest.

What is the difference between the two? The stream was actually louder than a trickle from a toilet that keeps filling, or a leaky faucet.

I think the answer is how I framed the noise. The stream, I told myself, is soothing, natural, a white noise that’s calming and peaceful. It’s a good thing.

The leaky faucet or ever-filling toilet…nothing soothing about those sounds, and I feel like I have to get up and address the issue. To ignore it would keep me tossing and turning all night.

It’s all about the frame I put around the noise, and the story I tell myself.

Ah ha…

I wonder how else I demonstrate this principle in my life?

Some issues have to be addressed, have to be challenged, have to be sorted out.

But how many battles do I fight that don’t need fighting? What if I tried to re-frame the things that bother me, to see if re-framing changed my attitude?

It’s a question worth considering, and worth answering.

Can I see differently? Can I frame people in my life through a different lens? Can I use a filter of kindness and patience to help ratchet down frustration?

There was a time when I was impatient with life, a time when I wanted everything to be fair, and it bothered me a lot to see inequity. I saw life in a concrete way, with little tolerance or allowance for the realities of the in-between.

I thought if I complained about unfairness or things that needed improving, that would help. Instead, it mostly created conflict.

The reality is many situations are colored in shades of gray. Most relationships have their strong points and weaknesses. People are a mixture of great character and qualities, and habits that annoy, distract, and grate on nerves. Work is usually the same mixed bag…things we like, things we don’t, or maybe even things we hate.

Some elements in my life are less-than-perfect, and I’ve come to accept that. After all, I’m not perfect either, and I know it.

The challenge is always drawing the lines: what can we re-frame or accept…live with, if you will…and what issues will we dig in and fight for?

There are things worth working for, things that need to be changed. But a lot of what frustrates just isn’t important, in the big picture.

And yet, so much of the little stuff gets in the way of the good stuff! The irritants of life derail the day, shift the focus, sharpen tones.

I need to do a better job of framing. I need to recognize that the habits that annoy, or the things that go wrong in my day, are not worth angst, and certainly not worth spreading my frustrations to others.

Why do I let something insignificant be more important than the people I love, or the issues of real value? I think it’s because the small things are often the barriers of the moment…those “in your face” challenges that lead to a spike of temper, raised voices, impatience or unkindness.

That’s not who I want to be on any day.

And so I remind, and re-train, and ask myself, on a regular basis, “how does this help?” How does it help my day to bark at my husband, or tell myself a story about all the things that have gone wrong since I got up this morning?

Perspective, re-framing, choosing to live out of kindness and patience, rather than frustration…none of this makes me a saint. In fact, it’s hard work to coach myself out of these attitudes. But living with intention makes me happier and calmer. And that’s a gift to myself that’s worth the effort of re-framing.

I find it’s a lesson I have to re-visit often. I remind myself of the good things, the great people in my life. I practice gratitude. I ask myself what will matter in a year, or even in a week? Will it be this issue that flashes up to cause anger, or make me feel like I’m doing more than my fair share?

Please understand…in the words of Ann Voskamp, I’m preaching gospel to myself. I don’t do this well, or all the time. But I see it…I see how often I’m my worst enemy, letting the little things become big, and forgetting what’s truly important…the laughter of someone I love, health, opportunity to do something good with my day.

So, re-framing…perspective…gratitude…the lessons come packaged in different ways, but the bottom line is always the same. I have the ability to shape my life, my happiness, by what I focus on, by choosing the narrative I rehearse to myself.

I have the power. You have the power in your life. That’s the thing…we each have this amazing potential to frame our lives with joy and humor, or to frame our lives with anger and impatience.

Once more, for today, I promise myself to see differently, to show patience, and to ask my favorite question, “how does this help?” It’s a habit that requires daily practice, this effort at re-framing.

And maybe I won’t have to worry about that trickle of water I sometimes hear at night. 🙂

~ Sheila

 

Come visit Story Revisioned

Hello! If you’re wondering what’s happening with Grace and Life, it’s largely been on hiatus, resting while I’ve worked on a new site, Story Revisioned. Grace and Life will continue, but I hope you’ll also check out the kid on the block, and let me know what you think.

Story Revisioned grew out of my growth. As an author, I know the value of revising my work. As a human being, I know the power of using vision to revise my personal story, my life story.

The junction of these two realities…that every life requires revision, and revisions are best designed using vision and intention…Story Revisioned is the result. I wanted to create a place, a home, to exchange stories with readers. And I wanted to create a site which allows me to offer what I’ve learned, what I’m still learning. You see, these aren’t just stories to entertain…they’re stories with meaning, with a point to make, or an overcoming to celebrate.

You’ll find helps and encouragement, tools and inspiration at Story Revisioned. I hope you’ll find challenges too, ideas worth sharing, and making your own.

Please visit and look around, wander through the pages, stop and leave a comment if you’d like. Better yet, leave your story. My hope is that visitors will feel welcome and empowered, nurtured and stimulated by what’s offered. We’ll all learn from each other, shall we? I’d be honored if you sign up to follow by email. You’ll find opportunity to do that, as well as a welcome gift, when you follow this link.

See you over there!

~Sheila

Body of work

It sometimes happens that I get busy and lose track of the days, or I’m traveling, or for some other reason (and yes, there are many) temporarily set aside my blog.

I used to feel guilty when that happened, and come back to it thinking I should post an apology…like I had abandoned my readers, small audience though it is.

I don’t worry about that any more. Not that I want to come across as disrespectful to readers…believe me, I appreciate everyone who reads, who follows the blog, who comments. I appreciate you, regardless of how or where you choose to engage, through Facebook or Twitter or via email.

I’ve realized, six years into this journey (six years!) that this is a marathon, not a sprint. I’ve had the conversation with myself…will I be blogging five years down the road? Or ten? Will there be some new and exciting way to communicate that we haven’t even imagined yet?

Regardless, I hope to be around for a long time. So while I’d like to sign a pledge saying I won’t miss another day, or another week of posting, that’s probably not going to hold up. I go in cycles…very consistent with writing, then not so much. And try as I might, I haven’t found a cure for life happening, getting in the way of all my best intentions of regular posting.

But instead of apologizing for my irregular creative rhythm, now I’m taking the long view.

First, while I’d like to flatter myself that readers are eagerly watching for my next post, I know that most everyone out there is like me: busy, often over-committed, and full of good intentions. I’m not worried that readers will take it personally if I don’t post as faithfully as I would like. Readers have lives too, and while I don’t take for granted that a blog follower will always be there, I hope many will be like me…when I see a blogger I follow has a gap in posting, I don’t take it personally. I’m just glad to see them writing again.

Second, I’m coming around to thinking of what I post as a body of work, one that I hope will become a legacy, of sorts.

Not everything I post is save-worthy, by any means. Some of it is personal musing about family or travel, a recipe or some other tidbit of life I share.

But now and then, I write from a different place…a place of the heart no less sincere than when I write about family. But these posts are the ones that could have a life beyond the day of posting. These are the ones that come from hard-won wisdom, trial and error, personal epiphanies, or one of my designated roles in life, my alter-ego as a cautionary tale of one sort or another.

My writing in this vein is not from “let me enlighten you” it’s out of “let me share what I learned the hard way so you don’t have to go that route.” These posts aren’t about what a wise woman I am, they’re about wisdom that’s fallen on me through mistakes and personal growth.

It’s this work I’d like to think is part of a legacy I’m growing.

I can’t say it clearly enough…this isn’t meant to sound prideful. It’s acknowledging I want to share the things I’ve learned, mostly painfully, with anyone who can hear my voice. That’s all.

So, a body of work is what I’m about here, in between the frivolous and light-hearted moments. Because we all have those too; and anyway, who wants to be serious all the time? Some days I just want to share a birthday wish, or rave over my latest find.

What about you? What body of work are you producing? Are you consciously shaping a legacy? I’m curious…what does legacy mean to you?

~ Sheila

 

 

 

 

Happy #29, Alex!

 

Today is Alex’s 29th birthday, and I’m missing him. I don’t see his face as much as I’d like, for as long as I’d like. That’s the reality of living states apart. The months between visits add up.

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What’s a mom to do?

I wish I could do more. I wish I could make his favorite dinner, bake a treat for him. He’s a hard one to gift, he doesn’t need much. He’s a minimalist, and let’s me know it.

He’s a march-to-his-own drummer guy, and I’ve known that for most of his life. He always finds his own opinion, his own way, his style.

I’m proud of him, this son of mine who grew up to be confident and funny, edgy and spiritual, hard-working and loyal, somehow all in the same package.

I don’t always understand him. With mom-like precision, I sometimes say exactly the wrong thing, even when I’m trying to get my words right. It’s one of my gifts, I suppose…I installed his buttons, at least some of them, so I find them with ease.

He’s a man, and also still becoming. I’m eager to watch his story unfolding, see where he goes, what his choices are. He’s surprised me, marching to the drum he hears. I can’t hear the beat, but I’m confident he knows the way.

Happy birthday to my son!

~ Sheila