Life Topics

Mid-Life

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Opening the door, she stared at him with a perplexed look on her face.  He was there to pick up the kids for an overnight visit and stood in the doorway.  She was expecting him, but he looked different.  This transaction was typically uncomfortable, as the separation was still new, only this encounter was different.  Olivia stepped back and looked directly at his ear before she announced his arrival to the kids.

“So, what’s going on with your ear?” She slowly said in an acidic tone.
Jason smiled and replied, “Oh, um, this?” pointing to his diamond studded earring in his left ear.

He had gotten his ear pierced two weeks after he left the house.  He knew it screamed mid-life crisis, but why not.  Jason had spent the better part of his life living within the lines as a dutiful husband and father.  The piercing wasn’t planned, but he was delighted at how it looked – very cool.  It also brought a smile to his face knowing that Olivia would hate it.

“Yeah, that”, she said.
“I guess you could call it an earring” he replied with pleasure.
“I think it looks stupid” she continued, “What are you having a mid-life crisis?”
Jason tensed up and quietly replied in almost a whisper, staring into her eyes, “perhaps I am.”
“I get it, this must impress the ladies” she said sarcastically.
“No, it impresses me.  I did this for me, something for ME”, he strongly avowed.

Olivia shook her head in disapproval and turned to see what was taking the kids so long. She was somewhat shaken by seeing this change in Jason.  This tiny earring was a line in the sand.  It meant that he was starting to live his own life.  Yes, it was a small thing, revealing that her husband was already turning into a different man, a single man.  He would have never been so free-spirited if they were still married, and she liked it that way.  He was not the man who left the house last month, and that scared her in some small way.

Jason held his ground in the doorway, feeling an emotional freedom.  The piercing was just a start to his new life, his mid-life.  He would always be committed to his children, and to the support of his ex-wife, but everything else would be different.    No more living a robotic and planned lifestyle.   That’s over.  From now on, his days would be a spontaneous construction of joy; building experiences and relationships without the assistance of a safety net, or an overbearing wife.

Jason and Olivia spent a year after the earring encounter fighting over what was his, hers and theirs.   It was a difficult and emotional journey claiming ownership on things they had built together.  He gave in more than not, just to move the process along.  In her mind, she gathered points against him with every asset she acquired.  The kids were somewhat stable, but uncomfortable and confused at times, as they were both under  8 years old.  But, in the end they each had a new life to be happy about – he with a new companion 11 years his junior, and she with a comfortable home in the suburbs.

Jason celebrated the divorce by buying a new convertible sports car to go with the pierced ear.  With the wind in his graying hair, and his girlfriend next to him, he felt completely content.  He didn’t know where this road was leading him, but he was game for wherever he ended up.

Life Topics

Nana

Irish-Soda-BreadI ran down the long staircase, rushing as I lost my breath.   She was at the bottom of the stairs waiting for me.  Nana had passed 10 years ago, but there she was standing on an oriental rug silently watching me, dressed in a wool coat with her back against the front door.  I saw Auntie Mary standing next to her, looking into the room to her left and right.  Mary had died a few years before Nana, which broke her heart to pieces.  It broke everyone’s heart really.  They were now constant companions in their world, just as they were in life.  The three of us stared at each other as I caught my breath, standing on the landing.  Why were they here?

The house was an old Victorian where I lived with my then husband.  It was a magnificent house that showed off the glory of it’s time.  Crown molding, hardwood floors and fireplaces anchored the rooms with splendor.  I loved the house, but hated the marriage.  The growing struggle to keep a meaningless marriage together was exhausting, set against the grand harmony of this structure.  I had to get out.

Both Mary and Nana were now totally focused on me.  I tried to talk, but words wouldn’t come out. There was an expression of sympathy from Mary, and I slowly nodded my head to signal to her that I was OK.   But, I wasn’t OK.  There were so many things that I needed to talk to Nana about, to have her save me.  She brought comfort to me when she was alive, just by giving me tea or feeding me her incredible butter-slathered Irish Bread.   So many times, after she passed, I looked for the nourishment only a grandmother can give.  I wanted Nana to talk, but she just smiled at me.

Turning, she opened the door and walked out to the front porch.  I could see Mary move into the formal parlor out of the corner of my eye, as I slowly followed Nana outside.  It was a cold autumn evening that smelled of maple leaves and frost.  I followed in a hypnotic daze, as my shoes crunched on twigs and leaves.  She stopped at a bench that I don’t remember ever being on the property, and we sat down.

I put my head in her lap and started to cry.  I cried for bad choices that I had made, I cried for getting into a bad marriage,  I cried for not being a better mother, I cried for not being the ideal daughter, I cried for global warming for God sakes, I cried for nothing at all, and I cried because I simply missed her.  She had been gone much of my adult life.  Still silent, she rubbed my back and arm and told me without speaking that she loved me and will always watch over me.  I would have loved to hear that sweet Irish brough, but it wasn’t important at the moment.  Everything was said.

I haven’t been visited in my dreams by Nana since that night, but she does live in my heart.  I think of her often when I need relief, the way she rubbed my back on that bench.  I have a wonderful mother, who is an incredible grandmother to my children.  She comforts them, and gives them tea when they need it.  Her Irish bread is good, just not as good as Nana’s.

Life Topics

Dark Waves

dockLargeWater anchors my dreams.
Memories bob upon rippled
whispers and the thirst of
the moonlight.  I can hear
my name.

Bullfrogs inspire cricket songs.
The lightning tells my story.
Soft rumbles from angels
above, warning the lake of
the coming downpour.

Dark waves lapping are
a burden to the shore.
Step into the warm water with
dew drenched feet and
wipe the tears you
do not have.

Let the striking rain tell you
secrets in your sleep.  Wishing
on stars is not a promise.
Hold onto the thread that
weaves shadows and light.

Life Topics

Claws

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Crouching down I leaned his head against my chest and reached over to cut his claws.  Scout was laying on his bed, content after drinking a bowl of cereal milk.  Now was the time to move in. He flinched every time the clippers came near his paw.  I know he trusts me, but this exercise is too much for him sometimes.  Slowly I cut each front claw being careful not to cut below the quick.
With the snap of each cut, I could feel his body tense as his mind raced to find an escape route.

Halfway through, he struggled to stand up, but I pushed him back down to finish the job.  Grabbing his hind lower leg, I turned the paw so I had a vantage point.  He pushed against my chest trying to move me away. The pads of his feet were rough, so I firmly placed my fingers between each one, while
gripping the top of the paw with my thumb. The back feet are tricky.  It was hard to tell how much to cut.  Snap, shiver, snap shiver.  I was almost done, as I reached for the second hind leg.

Taking the last paw in my hand, I enveloped him to keep him calm and to be precise.  He was anything but calm.   I didn’t want to miscalculate the cut length and hurt him.  Snap.  Snap.  Snap.  Scout  suddenly pushed himself into a sitting position, and was halfway to his feet, when I saw last claw that I trimmed.  I made him bleed.  Enough was enough, he wasn’t playing anymore.  I felt so guilty as I watched him jump from his bed to cross the room.  He layed down behind Jamie, giving me a distrusting hound dog look.  I almost completed this pedicure without incident, but now I’m the bad guy.

Note to self (and others):  leave the claw trimming to the professionals.  Even if you have the confidence to do-it-yourself, in the end it’s not worth it.  You can lose the trust of your best friend.  Although, we are rebuilding our relationship with scratches and delicious cheese.

Life Topics

Pray for the Witness

[4 Haikus]

Reach for the living
Touch leads to mistrust ahead
Fold up your feelings

Anchor the deadbeat
Bind them with loving sorrow
Escape leads to doom

Pray for the witness
shame enables admission
Take away the crime

Evade the guilty
Life mistreats the innocent
Accept the true self

Life Topics

Staples

ToDo

Staple like papers,
bind them together by fact and
context.  Forget not the
buried, for the bottom of the
stack will get to breath in time.

Pile high the papers that
gather anxiety and dust.
Scribbles show my wanderings.
Staple my thoughts to
some evidence.

Pick a time to attack the growing
mass, like it’s a cancer growing on
your desk, growing in your mind.
Bills will be considered last.

Prioritize your senses,
like a cat stalks it’s prey.
Embrace the low hanging
fruit.  Make Lemonade.
Dig into your
campaign with half-hearted
interest. Leave nothing out.

Weakness is caused by delay.

Life Topics

Have Mercy

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I woke up surrounded by strangers.  We boarded the boat at 10pm the night before, in Tokyo Harbor.  My son and I were visiting my brother for 10 days, and my sister-in-law, Hiromi, thought it was a good idea for me to visit her friend on a remote island.  Her friend, Raymond, was teaching English as a second language to the native children of Nijima Island. So, my son and I, alone, boarded the ship not knowing where we were going or who we were going to see.

In the bowels of the boat, we carved out some space on the floor amongst hundreds of Japanese travelers.  These were the economy lodgings; a few square feet of carpet.  Shoes were removed and left in the small aisleway.  Adam and I took our spot, sitting indian-style, and tore open a bag of cheese doodles.  While we crunched on our snack, I could hear muffled conversations that had the word “Americano.”   They were talking about us.  Adam was 5 years old, and gave little notice to his surroundings as he chomped on his food.  But, I became worried with the chatter, as well as the captain rattling off life-saving instructions in Japanese over the loud-speaker.  People listened intently, as they moved their heads from one point of reference to the other.  Obviously, I did not understand where the life jackets were, or where to go in the event of an emergency.  I was screwed.  After realizing this, I nervously glanced over at my sweet child with his face covered in cheese dust. I couldn’t help but smile.

The 10 hour journey was uncomfortable, but we managed with what we had, rolling up our sweatshirts to make pillows.   I opened my eyes in the morning to see palm trees through the portholes.  What an amazing sight.  People were snoring all around me, when in my half-conscience mind, I noticed that Adam was not there.  I momentarily panicked, but realized he couldn’t have gone far.  He was always independent, so his absence was not really a surprise.  I jumped up, put my shoes on in the aisle, and headed to the upper decks.

As I emerged from below, I was in awe of the sight of Japanese fisherman coming from around an island cove.  I squinted in the sun, while watching their tiny boats bobbing up and down in the rough waves.  It looked like at any time one of these waves was going to break the boat into pieces. Each boat would emerge from around a shoreline and speed past our ship every two minutes or so.   The wind was gentle and kind, keeping the air crisp but not cold.  I had one eye on the fisherman and the other looking out for Adam.  He finally appeared chasing a boy a few years older than him.  I turned to embrace him, as he smashed into my legs.

After calming Adam down, we walked along the pristine deck, stopping every few minutes to soak in the sight of the chain of islands we were passing.  The boy and Adam decided to continue their game of chase, as I stood at the railing of the boat.  A Japanese woman walked up to me and started a conversation.  She told me that she was on the boat with her boyfriend, and that they were very happy together.  As the conversation continued, she mentioned that she has a little boy, who she sent away to live with friends in Georgia, USA.  This was important to her because she now had a boyfriend and there was no room in her life for her son.

I listened feeling a bit odd, as I am a single mother and would never send my child away for a boyfriend, but OK.  She then asked me if I was a Christian.  I said yes, and she requested that I pray with her.
I figured it is a duty to pray with a fellow Christian if asked, so I accepted.

She began, “Dear God”
I followed with, “Dear God”
She said, “Have Mercy on Me”
“Have Mercy on me” I continued.

She stopped me right there and corrected me, saying, “No, No, Have Mercy on ME!”
My mind came to a complete halt.  I thought, this woman just deliberately dumped her kid to take on a lover, and she is looking not only for mercy from God, but wanted me to have mercy for her too.  That was too much to take.

“Lady” I said. “You just got rid of your kid for a guy, and think that you need all of God’s mercy for yourself.  It sounds to me like you have everything figured out to suit your needs.”  She implied that I wasn’t worthy to receive mercy, it was all about her.  I was disgusted.

She looked at me with feigned shock, as her boyfriend stepped closer to her.  Why didn’t I keep my mouth shut I thought.  I had a grave vision of this tall, strong guy throwing me overboard, to defend his love.  And me, not knowing where the life rings were or how to scream help in Japanese.  I slowly backed away and said, “have-a-nice-day”, as I tensely shuffled away to collect Adam at the other end of the deck.

We had a wonderful visit with Raymond on Nijima Island, going to the public baths, singing Karaoke and drinking sake.  Adam and I toured the small island, meeting craftsmen in the village.  We enjoyed local treats and traditions.  We even watched the world surfing championships on the beach one day.  So when it was time to go home, I silently asked God for mercy as we boarded the ship to take us back to Tokyo.  I said a few prayers for our safe return, and for the safe return of all on board.

We didn’t have cheese doodles for the return trip.

Life Topics

Waiting

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I check Facebook with the sound of hammering in the background.  Jamie is in the yard removing the legs to the dock.  He needs to put new legs on for the summer season, these are too short.  I just finished raking about a half hour ago.  I’ve had enough for one day.   I used to be “outdoorsy” but prefer the company of my computer as the tapping keyboard lulls me away.  It’s time for the spring cleanup and my mind is still frozen in the Winter.

I do prefer the Spring to Winter, but this time of year is a waiting game.  The dredges of the last season are scattered on our lawn.  Leaves, branches and twigs remind us of the toll our trees payed over the cold biting Winter.  Acorns crunch as I walk across the lawn, soon to be mulched by the lawnmower.  Should I think about buying flowers?  Not yet, I decide, as the temperatures are still too turbulent.  The Sun is beginning to be our ally again though, melting the Spring snow quickly and giving us some warmth as we do our chores.    I cringe when I look at the empty flower pots, thinking about the work to come.  But,  the thought of lazy summer days and the beauty of the blossoms melts my heart.

We wait for our boat to show up from the boat yard, so we continue to spend our free time picking up and unpacking.  No snow in the forecast this week.  I still don’t feel like there’s any progress, as I look at the calm lake. The lawn looks better, but the dock still sits above the shoreline waiting to be put in the water.   Temperatures will be cold tonight.  The boat will be here in two weeks, but it feels like an eternity.

I type with my feet wrapped in layers of warmth, just thinking about shorts and flip flops – and no more cleanup.  The stripped down ease of the Summer engages my mind to wander.  Why does this transition to Spring bother me so much?  I don’t mind the work; it’s just the anticipation of Summer that gets me out of sorts.  Transitions are neither here nor there.  They are usually a placeholder for better or worse things to come.

I know that this Summer will be fantastic entertaining our friends and family.  Until we put away the boat, and start raking leaves in the crisp Autumn air, waiting for Winter to come.

Life Topics

Structure

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Follow in line or you’ll
hit your head.
The ideal formula is full
of bloody thorns and regret.
Even cats enjoy one life at
a time.  Take a deep breath,
learn your own lessons.

Discipline under-minds my
attitude.  Freedom is my
reward for failing and prying
open possibilities.
Why must I have structure?
My spirit is aloft with imperfect
behavior.

Authority can smell like a
rotting fish.  Hold your nose,
and see through it.  Feign
rapt attention.
Say your prayers, and memorize
the absurd.

Backseat arguments were not the desired convention.
Good children
stay in line with the help of sugar and spice.
Claustrophobic rides provoke tempers and screaming.
Wonderful memories of disorder.

Don’t make me turn this car around!

Turn your car around.