Summer According To Me

“When we are unable to find tranquility within ourselves, it is useless to seek it elsewhere.” ~Francois de la Rochefoucauld

I chased butterflies

and bumblebees,

and even kicked back a few of these.

I climbed mountains

and waded streams.

I rested upon nature’s dreams.

I stood in wonder and awe

at all of the beauty I saw.

I stopped to smell a flower or two

and relaxed by campfire when the day was through.

“And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”  T.S. Eliot

Sprite’s Keeper: What I did on my summer vacation

Dandelions In The Outfield

He pounds the leather mitt across his thigh as his head tilts upward watching an airplane plunge through the clouds.

Oblivious to all the screaming people in the stands and the players running by him in the field, he pulls the glove off his tiny fingers and tosses it into the clover.

Smiling, he stoops over and picks up a dandelion.

He lifts the bud of sunshine to his nose, and his grin spreads to his ears.

The ball whizzes by him. It lands a few feet past him. Fact is he doesn’t even see it.

His coach yells his name. We call out to him. He doesn’t hear us.

He is intent and content gathering as many dandelions as he can pack into the hollow of the mitt he’d strewn on the ground.

The coach gives up and focuses on the other t-ball players.

We watch him in sheer amazement.

Once in a while the noise of the airplanes flying overhead breaks his concentration and he stops long enough to watch the white streaks rip across a patch of blue sky. Occasionally he replaces his smile with a determined clench as he continues plucking the sunny beauties from the earth.

The inning ends, and he’s sitting in the grass still fingering the small yellow blooms. His coach yells to him, and finally goes out to get him.

In all his boyish splendor, he runs to me with flowers in his hand and a smile on his face. “These are for you, Mommy.” I pull him into my arms and hug him tightly.

He runs off for a snack. I sit in the stands with flowers in my hand and a smile on my face.

****I don’t recall whether they won or lost the game. I only remember the joy on the face of my child, joy that spilled from his heart to his face and into mine. I witnessed my child digging for something extraordinary in an ordinary moment, and then shared the joy of his finding it.

Peace Can Be Found Within The Storm

When we are present in each moment, the past gently rolls up behind us and the future slowly unravels before us. ~Rev Richard Levy
                                                                          

It’s true I’ve never given much thought to “symbolism” of animals or insects until recently. After a visit from two lunar moths in two days, I looked up the symbolism, it just so happened to fit with things that were happening at that time.

Saturday, just hours before Hurricane Irene’s arrival, while all was still quiet and calm, a praying mantis made his presence known in our back yard. So again I did a bit of research to see if the symbolism fit into our scheme of things…and again, maybe it’s coincidence.

Though I think if I were a bit more mindful, I’d find synchronicity all around me. I know that I often do when I’m in tune, but many times I let chaos flood my mind and I lose that connection which grounds me.

I found that it is said that praying mantis come to us when we need peace, calm, and quiet. What more of a perfect time than between an earthquake and a hurricane?

The symbolism of the mantis include stillness, awareness, creativity, patience, mindfulness, a sense of calm, balance, and intuition. This is why the mantis is referred to as a symbol of meditation and contemplation.

During a time of chaos, what could be more comforting than the feeling of stillness? Maybe it was an assurance that all would be well. Though I was at complete peace throughout the hurricane, I didn’t look up the mantis symbolism until well after the storm had passed.

I think in knowing that we had done all humanly possible to prepare and trusting in God to deliver us was enough. However, I did take comfort in knowing we had friends and family all over who were praying and sending positive thoughts and well wishes along the east coast. And of course, we had a growing Wylie trying to intimidate Irene!

Gentle In The Night, Irene Came And Left

We are fortunate to report this is the worst of our damages.

Every hurricane past, I’ve been a frantic mess of anticipation. In wait of Irene, I was relatively calm. Maybe it’s because I’ve finally learned in life it’s no use worrying about things of which I have no control. All one can do is be prepared. Being a scouting/camping family (and the fact that Dirt Man is usually more than prepared!), I felt assured we could handle being without electric for a week or so. My main concern was the possibility of tree damage to our house.

I am counting my blessings this morning. We have debris cleanup, small limbs, twigs, leaves, and pinecones; nothing major. We were spared. Maybe Wylie’s growling at the wind and rain really did intimidate Irene! Maybe it was the protective force of all of the prayers, positive thoughts, and well wishes from our family and friends. Maybe, Irene just had other plans. No matter the reason, we are grateful, and hope others made out as well as we did.

The storm did not even seem to be hurricane strength as it passed over us. At times, the rain came down in sheets that hit the pavement and bounced back. Other times, just a steady downpour. The wind swooshed as my trees and the neighbors mingled, shook hands, and danced the night away. The worst was the sound of limbs and pinecones pounding the roof. The noise only woke me up a few times.

We lost power at 5:55 pm. We turned our main switch off, and turned it back on when we woke up this morning, so I’m not sure quite how long we were without power. We had candles and battery operated lanterns, charged batteries on our ipod touches, kindle, laptops, etc… We brought out the board games, and had plenty of beer and food. It was actually nice in a way to have our sons be “forced” to spend time with us!

I’m off to clean up Irene’s mess…

We have lots of these limb "daggers" throughout the yard.

On Waiting For Irene

Thought I’d give you an update of hurricane conditions here before we lose our electricity. My friend who lives in Chesapeake lost power over an hour ago so we probably won’t be far behind.

Yesterday I made fifteen dozen cookies. I figure if I go down with the house it might as well be with a cookie in my mouth. No, seriously I failed to buy sweets at the grocery store, and my boys are here riding out Irene with us. They thought a case of beer was not enough so Youngest went out in the flying debris and bought two more. My thought process was that I wanted to be coherent to take any necessary action. Maybe their thought process was “ignorance is bliss”!

Not much rest last night as Dirt Man gets weather alert text for our zip code. His phone went off four or five times during the night for tornado watch, tornado warning, and water spouts. Of course, the pelting rain and beating pinecones on the roof also did not make for a restful night.

I made a big breakfast for all while we still have electricity and took a hot shower and blow dried my hair since I might not be able to do it for a while. Sorry, I missed your call Sister Peggy while I was in the shower. My folks and siblings have all called to check in on us. Chances are that once Irene pays her visit, we won’t be able to get back in touch with them, depending on the cell service.

Just heard that three homes in the Sandbridge area lost their roofs. Irene is still one hundred miles from us, but apparently she has sent her peeps ahead to set the tone. Wylie is sitting in the front window growling at the rain and wind. I think she is trying to intimidate Irene. The dog also will not go out to the bathroom. How do you make a dog understand the weather conditions are not going to get any better for a long time? And no, I’m NOT going to attempt to toilet train an 80 pound dog!

Eye of the storm has stalled…only hope that does not mean it’s picking up strength. Currently the rain is falling in shifting sheets and the wind is howling and dropping pinecones and small branches from the trees. Our street is not flooded yet, only the ditches have filled. The dog is now growling at a tree limb floating down the street ditch. I opened the door in an attempt to get a photo, but thought better of it. When I opened the door, I was met with an odd scent. Dirt Man told me it was a mix of bayberry and pine as the trees are clashing together.

So basically things here are a bit mild in comparison to what is to come…

Post-Earthquake/Pre-Hurricane

God moves in a mysterious way, His wonders to perform. He plants his footsteps in the sea, and rides upon the storm. ~William Cowper

This afternoon (note I’m writing this on Thursday), I noticed the sun was blaring through the windows of the house. It was so bright, it was blinding as I attempted to walk outside. I actually had to shield my eyes. The wind was whipping the tree limbs back and forth. Suddenly, rain dropped like the Times Square ball, and it was over as quickly as the stroke of midnight. I couldn’t help but wonder if this was some weird post-earthquake/pre-hurricane weather.

Yes, just a few days ago Virginia was the recipient of an earthquake, quite uncommon for the east coast. All week our efforts had been focused on preparing for Hurricane Irene. Anyway, I was sitting on the sofa about ten of two in the afternoon. The house started shaking and a noise like a jet propeller swooshed through the house. I thought it was a Navy jet flying WAY too low (possibly headed for a crash landing!) or maybe something like a compressor in my house blowing up (though I did NOT hear an explosion). Needless, to say it scared the crap out of me. In no time, my mother called and asked if we’d just had an earthquake. I replied, “Well, if you just felt what I felt 225 miles away, it must have been one.” We were fortunate not to suffer any damages from the 5.8 earthquake.

We are now bracing for Hurricane Irene. We’ve been through several of them here at the beach. This is a big one headed right for us. From what I understand it is far stronger and larger than any I’ve experienced. I think it was probably 03 when Isabelle hit and it was only a category one by the time it reached us. Still, it was a mess, mostly tree and limb damages…and no electric for about four days in our neighborhood though many were out of power for weeks. The wind alone was incredibly frightening as limbs crashed all around us. Did I mention we have twelve HUGE trees in our yard? There’s a monstrous oak to the side of the house by the driveway and extremely tall pines surrounding us. Most of our neighbors also have lots of trees. Though we live at the beach, we are not Oceanside.

Most likely at the minimum damage, we will be out of power for awhile. If that’s the case, I obviously will not be on the internet. From the looks of the forecast, electricity will probably be the least of our concerns. For now, I’m signing off…

This is what faces my back door.

This is to the side of the house.

The Progression Of Language

My heart stood still until I heard that first cry, an utterance of life.

From that day forward I listened for every gurgle, whimper, and coo.

I reveled in every attempt at communication.

Then came da, ma, ball, and dog.

Then an adamant NO.

You progressed to mine.

Nothing thrilled my heart and ears more than when the words I love you, Mommy spouted from your sweet lips.

Suddenly I can do it by myself became your mantra.

Along came your brother, and you asked, Can we put him back in your tummy? When I replied he was here to stay, you asked Can we ‘fro’ him in the ‘crash’ can? When I said we must love him and take care of him, you shrugged your tiny shoulders and accepted it as a way of life. You sang to him and teased him and taught him all you knew.

In no time, there were two of you charging through the house.

The norm became I’m telling on you, It wasn‘t me, He hit me, or I win. You lose. Nanananana! Chatter and laugher echoed through our house.

The questions never ended. You both wanted to know why and how and when. I was constantly asked where one item or another was.

You shared your secrets, your dreams, and your frustrations.

My name changed from Mommy to Mom.

Then you became teenagers. Periods of silence ensued.

The I love yous were less often, or at least not in public.

Conversations became leave me alone, I need a ride, and I need some money.

Can I borrow your car? was even once replaced with Mom, I’m sorry I wrecked your car. What’s for dinner, Mom? was the most frequently asked question by both of you. If you weren’t at home to ask in person, you called to find out.

You trust me enough to share your plans and your heartaches and to tell me to butt out when I am being too nosy.

You thank me for the things I do for you and remind me not to worry.

You’ve grown into men of few words, but you don’t hesitate to speak the most important ones I love you, Mom, and now you even say them in front of others.

Sprite’s Keeper Spin is Language

A Year Of Loss

We never understand how little we need in this world until we know the loss of it. ~James Matthew Barrie

This has been a year of loss for most of us.

It’s no secret the economy sucks. Most of us have been greatly affected financially. Many of us have lost our butts. Do any of us remember what a 401K plan was?

Due to the declining economy, many have lost their jobs. Small businesses have been hit particularly hard. In turn, many of those people have lost their homes. Some have found other jobs, but needed to relocate to make a living, leaving their families and friends behind.

Others have lost their homes and material possessions due to natural disasters such as flooding, earthquakes, and tornados. They’ve had to somehow gather resources and rebuild their lives.

We’ve lost our pride for trusting in the wrong people to help us out of this mess. Unfortunately they’re the very ones who got us into it in the first place. When we will ever learn? But then again where else can we turn? Those very people lost their heads; I’m talking about Congress here. It seems their own welfare means more to them than the people…maybe they will just lose the votes at election time…

Many of us have suffered the loss of loved ones for various reasons. My family has lost a number of relatives this year. Loss of life is the most difficult loss of all. People can’t be replaced.

And throughout this year of loss, we have gained in terms of infinite wisdom. We’ve learned that we really can live with less “things”. Even though money does make life easier, it doesn’t buy happiness. We’ve learned how resourceful we can be. We’ve learned to lean on one another and to share with others. We’ve even come to know ourselves through the grieving process. Above all, we’ve learned to appreciate all who are in our lives and all we have.

Though we seem to lose more and more time every day, we gain memories to replace those moments. Throughout our losses, love still sustains us.

Stairway To Heaven

We climb to heaven most often on the ruins of our cherished plans, finding our failures were successes. ~Amos Bronson Alcott

We often follow the manuals of life provided by others. We take it step by step not expecting to be waylaid from the instructions…however things don’t always turn out the way others tell us or we plan.

Nature’s stairways lead us to beautiful places. Life’s stairways do the same. Sometimes we aren’t aware that in fact we are taking the first or second step to a new scene in life. We just look back someday and see the stairs we climbed.

We have literal staircases, natural and manmade, and we contain internal stairways. Among these passages we each have our own personal staircase/connection to the Almighty. So do we really need someone else to build us a staircase or an escalator to get there?

We often think we build our own staircases, but do we really? Maybe we simply climb the stairs provided. Or maybe we are just treading along and heaven scales the staircase to walk along with us.

Not Your Average Ninety-nine Year Old! (But What’s Average About Being Ninety-nine?)

I have a special knock I use on her door so she knows it’s me. That is, if she can even hear it. If not, I have to use my key and yell to her to undo the chain. Or I call her from my phone.

This time I knock. Tap. Tap./Tap. Tap. Tap./Tap. Tap. It takes a couple of minutes and she asks, “Is it you, Sue?” I don’t like to be called Sue, but I’m ok with her doing it. At ninety-nine, she’s earned the right to do what she wants. I tell her it’s me.

The door opens a crack. She peeps from beneath the chain and asks, “Do I know you?” I think it must be a bad day since I told her it was. Then she laughs and I know she’s messing with me.

I come inside and she asks me if I have the time or mind taking her to pick up her medications and to the grocery store. I tell her I have all the time in the world, that I am hers for the day. She smiles and claps her hands.  She asks if we can stop to get P&B. That is code for pizza and beer. I tell her certainly. I think to myself, now my diet is blown to hell, but she’s worth every calorie.

She shows me her new hair color and asks me to check out her eyebrows as she’s dyed them as well. She says she can no longer see well enough to color them in with pencil. She goes to her room to get dressed and asks me to go over her checkbook to make sure she entered everything in correctly. She comes back out sporting crimson lips and a wig. She asks about the balance in her checkbook. I told her she’d added $50 instead of subtracting it. The color drains from her face.

“You mean I have fifty dollars less than I thought?” I nod yes. She asks me to style her wig. I finger it a bit, not much because it is actually in place.

“Watch this.“ She bends from the waist, knees straight, and touches the floor. She’s slightly more than twice my age, and I can’t do that. Heck, I’ve never been able to do that!

“Show off!” I tease her, and she touches the floor again for good measure.

 She tells me how impressed her cardiologist is when she does that. I’m impressed as well. She tells me how all the girls at the doctor’s offices come in to admire her skin when she has an appointment. The woman does not have a single wrinkle. Who wouldn’t be shocked to see skin like that on a ninety-nine year old? They have her chart so they know her age. Of course, she doesn’t know that I know how old she is. She once told me she’d never tell me or anyone else her age. The only reason I know is her nephew told me. He asked her why she didn’t want anyone to know, and she replied that she didn’t want people to treat her like an old woman. He replied, “But you are an old woman!” Her retort to him what that even so no one needed to know.

I ask her if she’s going to wear Nellie. “Have I got the mail?” she asks, thinking she is repeating what I’ve said.

“No, what about Nellie?”

“Nellie. Oh yes, I guess I might need my hearing aide.”

The temperature is in the eighties, but she says she needs a jacket.

We go to the pharmacy first and then to the pizza place she loves. I remind her they don’t serve beer. “The hell with the beer. The pizza is good.” On the way in she says “I want to treat you this time. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. Understand?“ Her forehead is scrunched, and I know she will be hurt if I don’t allow her to do this one thing, so I agree. The last time we were there, she inquired from the waitress, “What kind of a pizza joint doesn’t serve beer?” This time when the waiter asks what we’d like to drink she replies, “Since you don’t serve beer, I guess we’ll have water.” After he leaves, she tells me that she bets he thinks she’s a drunk.

When we get back in the car, she tells me I’m pretty. I laugh and tell her, “Remember I know you can’t see!” She has poor eyesight due to Macular Degeneration. She has to use a magnifying glass to read the numbers on her oven dials. She laughs and tells me how she complimented her eye doctor and he told her the same thing I did. She insists she still knows beauty.

While we were on our next errand, I happen to get a text message from a friend who delivers mail. The name on the package is Dick Hurtz. No joke. We are crossing a street, cars stopped in both directions, as I relay this to her. She stops dead in her tracks and doubles over laughing hysterically. We’re both almost rolling in the road. Who doesn’t love a ninety-nine year old with a sense of humor? And who ever said all old people are grouchy?

We get back to her place and she tells me that she has some dishes she wants to give me. They belonged to her mother. She says they’re at least fifty years old. I know they’re probably over a hundred. She gives me some other pieces she says has been in her family for over a hundred years. We sit on the floor in front of the cabinet and pull out the dishes. Her face brightens as she tells me stories about each piece. I revel in the history and the love. When we finish, she tells me she’s not sure if she can get up. I realize my back is stuck and tell her I’m not sure if I can get up.

“Maybe when no one has heard from us for three days, they’ll come looking for us!” she says. I tell her I don’t even have my cell phone in my pocket to call for help. After we stop laughing about being stuck, I pull myself up and then help her to her feet. She is surprisingly steady once she’s upright.

She insists we have a shot of Amaretto while we pack the dishes in newspaper. I tell her not to let me forget to take her laundry with me. “I give you such trouble.” I assure her she is no trouble what so ever. We chit chat while I wrap the dishes, and then she gathers her laundry. When we finish, we sit and chat some more with another shot of Amaretto.

As I walk out with her laundry, she says, “May God bless you and your family ten times over for all you do for me. No, one hundred times.” I remind her that I do what I do because I care about her, and I want to do it. She hugs me tightly, and tells me she loves me and I’m like a daughter to her. And being the fine Italian lady she is her last word to me on every visit is “Ciao”.