The Inbox is Always Open

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I wrote a blog post last week about unconditional love. I wrote it about myself and my own unique journey in life, because all anyone can truly know intimately is our own stories.

I received dozens of personal messages in response, both from people that I know and people that I don’t. It was the biggest number of messages I’ve ever gotten about a blog post.

All but one of the messages were people telling me how much my words helped them. People came forward and shared their own stories with me about their journeys with family and friends and spouses, and about how they were trying to find love without a “but” attached to it. I will always honor that trust and I feel humbled when I can create a safe place for those needing to tell their truths.

Two of those messages were from people who wanted to tell me that they were touched by my post, but couldn’t comment publicly for fear that some of their friends may de-friend them if they supported what I wrote. They specifically asked me to remain silent about their contact with me. This always hits home with me, because I’ve been told to “be careful” and “not talk like that, or else” for my whole life. As if my own organic words and thoughts and opinions aren’t valid enough to share. Or are inherently dangerous somehow.

Because of this, it has been a real work in progress for me to even find my voice. The messages I received from those who can’t yet speak publicly remind me vividly of when I was not allowed a voice, at least not one that disagreed with anyone.

But when I write from my heart, almost inevitably a message shows up from someone that I don’t know, or some ex or old friend that I haven’t seen in years, wanting to tell me how mean and cruel and spiteful I am. And to point out the ways that I have hurt them. Because they are quite sure that what I wrote was a direct attack on them personally.

If I look at the big picture and take a helicopter view, or just look at statistics, it appears that my words helped more than they hurt.

Because here’s the thing…. If someone is looking for a reason to make it about them and be upset with me, they will always find it.

Just like if someone is looking for the best in me, they will always find that, too.

After the last drama-filled message that I got, I realized that I stopped writing. Again. Or rather, stopped sharing what I wrote.

Without thinking, I let myself be silenced again.

But since I’m not out here preaching hate or drowning bags of puppies, it’s ridiculous that I should not be allowed to speak. Especially because my words are always about how we are more alike than we are different. They are about common ground and love, never exclusion or hate.

So I am going to keep coming here and speaking my truth. I will not gossip or name names because that is not how I work. But I am a writer by nature. I feel compelled to share my stories and thoughts with the world. I’ve been doing that for many years now, in notebooks and on my blogs and in my articles and in my novels. But I do so in general terms about my thoughts and feelings on love and life.

No one is under attack here.

But it seems that in these divided times, honest feelings and thoughts can be perceived as hurtful or cruel. This is true on all sides, with each and every issue we face. It seems that the mere act of starting a conversation, or asking a question, can be views as “an attack.”

This is true not just for me, but for all of us. I can’t tell you how many people have told me lately that they have been blocked and de-friended and yelled at and black-balled from their people. For small things that turned huge. This is not something that is only happening to me. I get a little more attention for it, is all.

But if we are not allowed to speak our truth, how the hell are any of us going to fix any of this? It seems to me that gossip and ignoring the issues are not fixing America the Broken, or its citizens.

Every person that is my “friend” is here is by choice, and someone I connect with and know. But I’m not selling you anything and I’m not forcing you to stay. I get no monetary benefit from your presence. I merely gain the pleasure of your virtual company.

But you should know that I’m not going to sit down and be quiet about any of the things that matter in this life. It is far too important right now to keep the conversation going.

And if the things that I write bother you, you may want to ask yourself why.

The inbox is always open, folks. At least on my end. But we can’t fix it if we all stop talking.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Universal Time-Out

 

Life around here is always pretty full. But this past summer, when 80 degree days were in full swing, I had a particularly busy period, brimming with photo jobs and settling back in from vacation. A bathroom floor we were trying to finish, along with getting ready for a party with 40 people at my house and a visit from my dad. I was bustling around doing too many things at once. And I can operate there for a while, quite productively. But we are not machines meant to go at high speeds for long periods of time, at least not without some rest periods. There are seasons for everything.

I believe that if we don’t take these rests for ourselves, the universe hands them out to us. Like the next playing card you pick up in Monopoly. I call this The Universal Time-Out.

I rarely take these time-outs for myself. Rather, I wait until a brick wall in the form of some nasty cold or injury to take me out completely.  This past summer when I was running around trying to get it all done? I cut my hand on a glass jar. Deep enough to stop me from cleaning or sanding a bathroom floor. Or doing much of anything for the better part of a week. And it hurt.

“Nope. You’re in time out” said the Universe. And I took it. Because then I had no damn choice.

So I’ve been looking for these little moments. These places where I find myself in time-out (like a long grocery line or a slow-moving toddler). Places where I could pause and let it be. Because my instinct, truth be told, is to go running around “fixing” it. Find a shorter line. Hurry the kid along. Just make it happen. But I think there are lessons to be learned from the sitting still.

This morning I sat down with my brand new and lovely fingerling yarn to teach myself to knit some socks for the very first time. I had my knitting basket full of everything I’d need. My iPad with the pattern on it. A book to listen to once I got going. Lincoln was all nice and quiet with his toys because it’s Monday and Brice is in school so he can play with whatever he wants.

And then I took out my knitting and realized that I had to make the skein into a ball. But, that’s okay. That’ll be fine.

It took about 45 seconds to realize that “okay” or “fine” weren’t really the correct words. And within 3 minutes, I had a nice tangled mess of lovely yarn that must be dealt with before I can even start to make socks.  I don’t even know how it happened.

And I suppose I could just set the yarn down and go about the rest of my life.  There is always something to do.

But maybe, the universe is telling me that today is a good day to curl up and untangle some yarn.

I think today, I will listen.

 

 

 

82 and Sunny

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A friend posted a photo this morning of a car with a license plate that read “82 N SUNY,” which I assure you, it is not. At least not where I am standing. It’s below zero right now. Freaking stupid cold that freezes the stuff you didn’t even know you had in your nose. Cold that makes your face actually hurt. Avoid-outdoors-at-all-costs-cold. Stupid cold.

But this little photo made me pause. And my first thought was, “Uh, it ain’t 82 and sunny here, so, you know, fuck off.” Because it’s cold, and the cold makes me crabby. And everyone else might be crabby too because morning drop off at school today was totally horrendous. So maybe I am not the only one longing for warmer days with sunshine on my face and fresh air that I can walk in without the risk of freezing my face literally off.

But then, the license plate got me day dreaming about swimming in the warm lake at the cabin we rent each summer. I got lost in the thought of just floating there in the water, bobbing on one of the kids’ pool noodles.

I thought about crouching at the fence line photographing a softball game. The crack of the bat and the sweat rolling down my own back from the mid-day July sunshine.

I thought of putting fans in the windows to pull in the night summer air and shutting down the house as the light of day breaks to keep the house cool.

The breeze on the porches and the birds in the vines.

The kids in the yard picking dandelions and racing with the dog. And everything is green.

And a little bit of 82 and sunny crept in. Even though it’s cold enough to cuss about, I found a little 82 and sunny of my own.


 

 

Two Years

 

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It’s the crunch of the leaves and the smells of this season. The cold bite of the wind through a warm day and the dark blue of the sky.  It’s how the steam rises from rooftops on crisp mornings when the sun hits them, and how the vines that grow all over my house are changing color. All of it signifies this season of fall.

It’s my favorite season. It always has been. Though I’ve always loved the hot days of summer, there is something about the way autumn shows up. How beautifully it is able to let it all go.

Which is precisely why, though I would still call this season my favorite, I’m kind of disenchanted with it at the moment.

My mom fell and broke her pelvis two years ago today. In the busiest period of my life, amidst the crunching leaves and beautiful changing colors. Like so many pivotal moments, time stood still and I noticed. I noticed so clearly the colors and smells and feelings of that fall. Because I was clinging to some normalcy outside of the everyday life that was taking away my mom.

As soon as I found out about her pelvis, I knew that it was the end. I recalled her doctor telling us the previous winter that she probably had one year left, give or take, unless she fell and broke a hip, in which case she’d be gone in a month. As it turns out, she lasted almost 2 months after her injury. But she was not the same, and in so many ways, who my mother was left her after she fell. She was heavily medicated, still in a lot of pain, and her whole body was shutting down. There was a handful of very lucid moments that almost gave me hope, but mostly she used those times to settle her affairs and say her goodbyes.

But it’s two years later and I so badly want to enjoy this lovely season. To feel happy about it, but mixed in is the bitterness of those terrible 2 months. Because we are creatures of habit who look to the past to guide us. And this lovely autumn makes me think of falling in love when I was 16. It also reminds me of the lovely October day that I met my husband, and when my niece Addison was born, and trick or treating as a kid. And my mother dying.  Autumn has become all of those things for me.

I tell myself, because it’s true, that we are beings that get to choose. We can only think of one thing at a time. Our brain does not have to run the show. We can choose our thoughts, but like all things, this is a practice. And a work in progress.

I will have to choose the joy-filled moments, over and over, for the rest of my life. There is no one-stop-shop where I can purchase a bag of something and be fine about my mother’s death. The hard stuff, like the great stuff, is built in as a part of our foundation. We would not even be us without it.

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So I will take today, with the lovely autumn light and the wind blowing brightly colored leaves off the trees, and I will miss my mom. I will let myself be sad right now. And then I’m going to remind myself of a better memory every time the breeze tries to pull me back to sadder times. I will bring my mother with me through my life in search of what is beautiful and worth remembering. I know that this is how she wants me to carry her with me.

Mr. Watts

 

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This is Watts. He’s our big orange tomcat. Can you tell he thinks he owns the place?

We adopted him from my cousin’s farm a few years ago. He was tiny and hungry and needed a home. He came to us startlingly protective of his food, and sort of fierce, yet willing to cuddle up in my sweatshirt and nap. He got really sick when he was still a tiny guy and we had to get him IV antibiotics. We were all so worried that you’d have thought he was a real baby. He is the least friendly cat I’ve ever owned, but even with his “dark side” as we call it, we all love him so much.

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Even as a tiny kitten, he has always been a commanding force. My niece Riley started calling him Mr. Watts when he was just a couple months old, and it fit so much that we still call him Mr. Watts. Which is funny because we don’t really stand on ceremony around here and the only people we give titles to are teachers. And cats, apparently.

Watts will gently headbump Steve, or try to clean my face if he’s in the mood. But most times, he accept a handful of pets from Steve or me before he gets frisky and starts to warn us to knock it off. He doesn’t hurt us, but I wouldn’t really test him. He puts his teeth on our hand without hurting us, just enough to tell us to back the hell off. He’ll come hang out with us on the porch or in the living room, but he insists on having his own chair and would never sit with us or beside us.

That said, Watts is the animal who would protect us from some evil force should we need it. I have no doubt that if something bad occurred, Watts would go down swinging as the one who tried to save us all. He will occasionally be cuddly and want our affection, but the majority of the time, he merely tolerates our affection.

When I took him to the vet the last time, he kind of freaked out and wouldn’t let anyone touch him. Not even me. They gave him something to calm him down and sent us home with a borrowed pet crate, for the protection of all of us. So, he’s kind of a wild card.

You can see why we might worry about bringing, say, a little kitten, into in the house.

Only here’s the thing about my tough guy Watts. He loves babies.

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All babies of all kinds. He loves the kids in some way that makes him seem like a completely different cat. His patience with them far exceeds what any other cat I’ve had would accept. He is happy to be cuddled with and kissed and dragged around. He works diligently to sneak into their rooms at night so he can sleep with them. He is mellow and sweet. He is a lover.


Every day, I watch my big beast of a cat play with our tiny kitten, Eleven. She wraps her paws around his neck and bites. In return, he cleans her. She wrestles him and bites him and he allows it. He plays back so gently that she doesn’t need to cry out. He wouldn’t hurt her. It warms my heart, this love. This sweet gentle love coming from my tough guy.

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It makes me think we all have this. These gifts hiding just on the other side of our dark side. That even a rough and tumble tomcat has a gentle side. A kryptonite that turns him to putty.

We all have something that make us crumble and turn to love.

There’s a Mouse Stuck in a Glue Trap in My Kitchen

There is a mouse in my kitchen, in the back of a drawer, stuck in a glue trap.

Naturally, I’m in the living room, writing about it. Why? Cause I can’t do anything about it. Hell, I can’t even look in the drawer again.

We bought a very old house this fall. Very old, like 118 years old. A huge old house, like 3,200 square feet. And it sat empty for over 2 years. So, a house that’s just empty means centipedes the size of house cats, and mice.

We knew this. I mean, we saw mouse poison and even a few dead mice when we first inspected the house and again when we cleaned it. But we have cats. And really, I’ve lived in houses that had mice before. First off all, because I lived in poverty for years and that means the houses aren’t’ always the best. But I’ve always had cats and that has always immediately solved the mouse problem. They take off for the hills. Until now.

The problem is that even though this is a very nice home, there is a sort of a belly to the house, a undercurrent of places that exist only inside the walls of the house where the cats can’t get to but the mouse (mice?) can. Behind drawers and inside cabinets going into walls that have been renovated over the years. So the mice aren’t scared of the cats there. They are safe there.

I thought of poison but I have kids and even tucked back, it’s too scary. And besides, if a poisoned mouse gets eaten or played with by a cat, the cat gets poisoned. No good. Plus, then the mice will most likely die in the belly of the house. Mice are small, but who wants decomposing small rodents in the house. No. Just no. Poison = bad.

I settled on glue traps. The mice were only showing droppings in the back of 2 drawers and in the cabinet with the cleaning supplies. Perfect. I tucked glue traps back there with some graham cracker stuck in the middle for bait.

This morning, mouse in trap number one. Stuck. ALIVE. Looking at me and squirming. I just shut the drawer.

Fuck.

Now what?

I went to Google. I love Google. It’s my favorite website. I only got so far as to type, “Caught m…” and the first suggestion was, ‘Caught mouse in glue trap now what”

Ahhh, Google. It’s so nice to not feel alone.

Google suggestions….I could hit him with a crow bar. Or a sledgehammer. Or put him in a few bags and drive over him with my van. There was big debate about humane versus inhumane going on…

The thing is, I’m probably a Buddhist. At least, that’s the religion that speaks to me most of all. And in Buddhism, there is this whole “ahimsa,” thing, meaning “non-harming.” A cosmic karma of sorts where all living beings are the same energy and if we harm one, we harm ourselves. I really believe in that. So I let spiders out of the house if I can. I really don’t want to hurt much less kill anything. But mice can’t live here either. So where is the line between harming my family and harming rodents? I don’t know. I do know that they can’t live here and share our house, but I’d prefer the line didn’t settle on a sledgehammer either. I Googled further.

Apparently, I can put the trap and mouse in a sealed container and fill it partially with vegetable oil and “bathe,” the mouse in the oil to free him. Once I free him from the trap, I can take him to a field at least one mile from all buildings and set him free, being careful all the while to wear bite proof gloves and not touch him to avoid diseases. And to do all this fast enough to not suffocate him. Sounds fun, yes?

But it’s literally 0 degrees here this morning, so I’m kind of thinking that setting a wet vegetable-oiled mouse out into the wild this morning might kill him anyway. Thoughts???

So, what to do?

Naturally, write about him, or her. It could be a her. I have no idea. I left it in the drawer and I’m avoiding my kitchen. I’ll play with the baby and hope that’s the only mouse we have. It’s possible.

Happy Friday, all.

P.S. I’d attach a photo, but I really can’t re-open that drawer.