Fortifying Our Lives

We build our walls with heavy stones.

We hope to hold the storms at bay.

We protect ourselves with jetties, laying one stone at a time.

We pile indifference, anger, prejudice, resentment, and fear

until our harbor can’t be penetrated

Love and kindness can’t find their way to us…

and we blame others for our suffering.

When we don’t make an effort to reach out,

others may grow tired of trying to tear down our barricades.

We are much less fragile than we think.

We don’t realize enduring the storms make us stronger.

Often the very things we fear don’t pose a threat to us.

We must be careful when we hide behind the wall;

we might possibly drown in a storm of our own making.

We don’t need walls to fortify our lives.

If we move just one of those rocks,

we’ll make a space for life-sustaining changes.

When we remove fear, we will allow love to enter.

Always love leads the way…

Living in the Gap

January 31, 2012 – The Game

The starlings frenzied over the lawn, twittering and flitting about. A single blue jay swooped low clearing a path through the black pebbles of starlings only to scatter the robins from the nearby tree. He’d plunge toward the starlings and the red breasts of the robins would quickly flame the cedar again only to have him as quickly try to claim the tree as his. Finally the starlings and robins tired of the blue jay’s game and flew off. Alone, the entertainment was over, so the blue jay soared to catch up with them. How often in life do we want something merely because someone else has it? And then once we get it, do we really want it after all?

The Sisters

Sisters. No other woman knows you better or loves you more…or at least, has the capacity to do so. Even if you think she doesn’t know you at all, you’d be surprised at how well she really does understand you. No one knows your early history as well as a sister. No one else knows how to use it to your advantage or against you the way she does. She knows your weak spots and your strengths. She can make you or break you. You know it and she knows it. No other relationship carries such power. It’s what you do with that power and what you allow the other to do with theirs that makes all the difference in the relationship.

Even when your relationship is conflicted, most sisters still have your back. Growing up there was probably no one meaner or nicer to you than a sister. At times, you’re one and the same. Other times, you feel like you’re from different planets. Yet the energy exchanged between you is unlike the energy of any other relationship. It has the power to diminish you or fly you to the moon. The maternal instincts battle one another. Sisters are fueled by competition, stifled with jealousy, and driven by love. It’s a constant clash of control and surrender.

There’s an emotional connection those without sisters don’t get. We see through one another and feel their pain and elation as deeply as they do themselves. Often we are one another’s strongest cheerleaders. We live among the roots that bind us.

Above all, admit it or not, we care what our sisters think of us. We can’t imagine life without them. They were the ones there from the beginning. The ones we trusted to teach us the ropes, or we were the ones who ever so patiently molded them into miniature versions of ourselves. We’ve cried on one another’s shoulders. We’ve made one another cry, but we’ll be damned if we’ll allow anyone else to hurt them. We remind them of the stupid things they’ve done in life, all in the name of not repeating mistakes or to remind them of how far they’ve come.

Sometimes you just don’t get what you feel you need from your “real” sister. You reach to other women who validate you. They become your sisters in spirit. They are your encouragers of life. They are the ones who pick you up when you are down. They feed you when you’re too weak to eat. They lead you through the darkness. They hold your hand just so you know you are not, nor will ever be, alone.

Relationships are tested as we take liberties where we wouldn’t in other relationships. We have unreasonable expectations as well. We trust them to tell them everything; we might trust them to tell them nothing.  Neither is right or wrong. It’s all a matter of relationship. Sometimes we’re just plain disappointed in the sister relationship. We feel they’re not giving us what we need…or we think they expect too much from us. That’s when it’s time to take expectations off the table and accept one another for who we really are as adults. We sometimes have to drop the sibling order of relationship and try to be friends of an equal partnership. We have to put aside childhood differences and start over. Sisterhood is like marriage, it needs nurturing and takes two to make it work for both of you.

(I have four sisters.  I am the youngest. I am separated by twelve years from the oldest, nine from the next, and five from the other. We each have different relationships between us. Through the years our relationships with one another has changed as we have changed. I can only hope the future will bring us closer.)

My three sisters, mom, and me. I'm in the center.

Living in the Gap

January 30, 2012 –Ordinary moments

I’m sitting on the sofa like most evenings. The dog lay at my feet, snoring to her heart’s content. The noise of her breathing is louder than the grandfather clock and the dogs barking across the street. The humming of the dryer and whooshing of the washing machine are barely heard as Wylie’s snorting rises to meet the vaulted ceiling. I start laughing, and she looks up as if to say I’ve interrupted her beauty sleep. She settles back onto the rug as I sip a glass of merlot. DirtMan quietly edits his photographs on the computer beside me. I look around to see the reflection of the lamp in the picture window and a neighbor’s porch light as the beams seem to reach out into the night to shake hands. I am thankful for the comfort ordinary moments offer me.

Choices

We stand at the corner post.

Do we go left or right?

One way is possibly success,

the other possibly failure…

But who is really to say?

One thing’s for sure,

sitting on the fence will get us nowhere.

Living in the Gap

January 29, 2012 – A Moment in Time at Fort Monroe

Scent of salt water in the air,

a touch of dampness against the skin,

chilled with the sea breeze,

and yet the sun still tries to rule the day.

Squawks of gulls flying overhead

flags whipping in the wind,

barking dogs and laughing children,

and the very hallowed ground where history made its mark.

Some things still the same, and some forever changed.

****pictures and post about Fort Monroe is forthcoming.

To The Beat Of The Falling Rain

Living in the Gap

January 28, 2012 – Rain storm

While many find rainy days to be depressing, I’m beginning to find comfort in them. I think they’re anything but dreary…so much action! Today the downpour traveled with the wind. Rain pounded the ground, bouncing to crash again and again until it either seeped in the earth or built puddles upon the grass and streams along the pavement. The leaves on the bushes tinkled and clinked as the raindrops pinged away at them. The forsythia branches hung low from the weight of the falling clouds…the squalls continued to tear at it; its branches dragging low to the ground struggling to lift into the moving air and water. Blankets of rain sprayed the house and pavement, ranging from gentle drip drop splattering showers to thumping harsh torrents. The rainstorm seemed to be a drummer who just couldn’t find his beat. The drummer boy wore himself out, and as he napped the sun came out to play.

The House Of Sacredness

Photo by Dirt Man

We are each a house of sacredness.

Our lights shine, and the Light shines on us.

Holiness resides within each of us.

We are loved, and we love in return.

We are blessed, and we bless those we touch.

When the wind blows through the trees, we are not shaken.

We fear not, for we have courage.

We know the Light also shines through the very same trees.

We trust beyond ourselves.

We have faith our needs will be met.

We know the Light will lead us through the darkness.

We know the path of life will be lit for us.

We know the Light will guide us home.

Let your light shine and follow where it takes you.

Shine on.

Living in the Gap

January 27, 2012 – Tricky Weather.

The hyacinth and daffodil stems face the sun and grin as they begin to peek through the ground. Soon they will cower in the wind, afraid Jack Frost will take them down.

Coming Into Our Own

“Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goals.” ~ Henry Ford

You are here at this place and time for a reason.

You belong here right now.

Every day you become a little bit more of whom you are going to become.

Don’t reconcile to be one of the others; be the person you were born to be.

Know that you were made in the image of love.

Remember you hold the power to be anything you want.

Feel good about the person you are; you are one of a kind.

Take your dreams into reality; don’t settle for less than you deserve.

Let your inner wisdom be your compass and commitment and faith be your pavers.

Be accountable to yourself today because it will make a difference tomorrow.

Recognize the yearnings of your heart; listen as they whisper to you.

Awaken to the music of your soul; stand up and dance.

Love what makes you uniquely you.

Make the choice to be happy every day.

Live with an attitude of gratitude.

Care not what others think; free yourself.

Trust to live as the beautiful soul you are.

Don’t fear life’s lessons; live life from the inside out.

Have the courage to be where you are and go where you need to go.

Be aware of your blessings each step of the journey.

Allow yourself to feel the joy along the way.

Know you are capable.

If you can dream it, you can believe it.

If you can believe it, you can breathe it.

If you can breathe it, you can achieve it.

When you achieve it, you will live it.

“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.” ~ Ambrose Redmoon

Living in the Gap

January 26, 2012 – Useless thoughts

The ceiling fan turns round and round, kind of like endless thoughts spinning through my head. The blades pursue the shadows it has cast upon the ceiling to no avail, much like I chase those thoughts that seem to run nowhere quickly…yet always just out of reach.

Going Back Home

This is the home I lived in for the first half of my childhood. We moved when I was about nine or ten. I went to see it about fifteen years ago, and it has changed hands at least three times since then. I went back for another visit a few weeks ago. The homeowner not only allowed me to roam and photograph the grounds but graciously allowed me to go through the inside.

It is amazing how different things look through memory or maybe is simply how I saw them through my childish eyes. The house seems to have shrunk, and the scary noises have gone somewhere else to live. Out buildings have fallen down, and the woods have grown up. Still, I could hear the childish laughter echo through the halls as the footsteps chased one another up and down the grand mahogany stairs…oh sorry, that didn’t happen; I was reminiscing.

This is actually the rear of the house, but we called it the front because that is where the driveway is and the entrance we used.

It was only a few months ago that I found out the purpose of those curved concrete formations. My friends and I used to pile hay on them and pretend they were beds and we were staying at an inn and hitched our horses to the post. I had no idea they were supposed to be used to hold an oil tank because we had a coal furnace.

They are in the midst of renovations, and have only completed half of the front. We spent many a day playing on that porch.

This side of the house had the coolest windows ever though the other side had the awesome window seats.

These steps are on the rear porch of the house (the part we called the front!). They led to the dark, dank, and coal dusted basement.

This was my father’s workshop/storage shed. To me and my friends, it was a giant playhouse. He only used the downstairs for his tools, so we had pretty much free reign of the upstairs. Between that and the barn was a tiny little building that held hoses that could be hooked to the reservoir in case of a fire; fortunately they were never needed.

This was the reservoir. It drained during the 1969 flood (Hurricane Camille) and never replenished. I guess when the dam was damaged that was never repaired. (It connected to the Rockfish River on the other side of the road.)

This rock wall stood as the interior wall of the lower level of the old barn. A rock wall surrounded both banks on each side of the barn. The ramp that led into the front top level of the barn was open on the sides…actually only a foot or so; just a big enough space for small children to climb into. My friends/neighbors and I used to play archaeologists. We dug for treasure though we found none. We mostly wanted to unearth the mummy we knew was encased in the red blanket we kept digging up….and we were not convinced the bone we found belonged to a dog!

The house was built circa 1890, and is now on the Virginia Historic Register. It had many lovely architectural features inside and out, not to mention the slate roofs on all the buildings and the use of soapstone on the foundations. The home was originally built for the company manager of the soapstone plant.

Living in the Gap

January 25, 2012 – Connecting with my sister

My sister called me and I was talking to her the postman rang the doorbell. He handed me a package. I remarked to my sister that I’d received a package addressed to me, and I hadn’t ordered anything. She was quiet the entire time (unusual, so I should have known she was in the process of “getting me got”.) I kept saying how I didn’t know who sent it and I hadn’t heard of the company and it didn’t say who it was from…and WHY would anyone send me a Dale Earnhardt, Jr. coffee mug. Still, she didn’t say anything until I read the top of the invoice and noticed the sender was HER! And then I asked her why she sent it to me…it was for Dirt Man! So of course, then I had to give her a hard time for not addressing it to him. We got a nice little laugh at how she let me go on and on and on. So, maybe I should read more and talk less, huh?

Loose Tooth

My father was a man (and still is!) who said what he meant and meant what he said. There were no questions asked as there was no need since he’d just spoke his deal loud and clear. However, as a small child I did not understand how to read humor between the lines. My Daddy was a teaser. He teased anyone and everyone. Unfortunately, it took me many years to get this. This delay in my understanding caused me much undue stress as a small child.

This is the tree I hid out in for an entire day (or so it seemed!)…all because I feared Daddy was going to pull my loose tooth out with a pair of pliers!

We were eating breakfast on a Saturday morning. I was shoving my food to one side and chewing slowly. I was being ever so careful not to disengage my loose tooth and swallow it. Who knows I might have started growing dentures or something. After all Daddy had said if I ate watermelon seeds I’d grow watermelons in my tummy.

Daddy noticed I was twisting my mouth about as I was eating. I was usually a scarfer, never a methodical eater. I told him I had a loose tooth.

“Well, I can take care of that for you right quick.” His hazel eyes twinkled of devilment, and his grin was even more sinister. I could feel the pain as I would flinch as the cold metal entered my mouth. I could see the blood spill upon the hardwood floor. I knew I was done. My eyes must have grown to the size of the saucer his coffee cup was placed on. I shook my head no, and he chuckled.

“Just let me go out to my truck and get them.” He reared back in his chair, pushing it away from the table as if he was going to stand up.

I started crying and ran from the room. I ran straight through the house and right out the back door. His laughter trailed my every step.

I scanned the property and quickly decided the cedar tree was my best option.  First of all, it was the easiest one for me to climb. Secondly, it had a perfect view of both the front and back of the house. Thirdly, the long scraggly limbs would surely conceal me. And most important of all, I could easily catch someone else leaving or returning to the house for an update on Daddy’s wear-abouts.

I climbed higher than I’d ever dared. I was almost as afraid of coming back down as I was of Daddy pulling my tooth. I nestled myself in the midst of braches. In fact, I wedged myself at a point where I could not easily step to the branch below. I curled one leg around the limb and pushed my other leg against the trunk for support. I rested my head against a downward swooping branch. I could see a bird’s nest above me. The birds fluttered about but my infringement upon their tree had ceased their singing. I watched the activities of my siblings and listened to their banter. I peeled the stringy paper-like bark from the tree. I crushed the blue berries, releasing the pungent aroma into the air. I did everything I could within the limits of the tree to prevent my boredom and pass the time away. My heartbeat did not slow down nor did the queasiness of my stomach cease for the entire time I sat in that tree.

After what seemed like eternity, I saw my sister prance through the yard.

“Pssst.”  I knew she heard me because she was looking around like she was trying to figure out where the sound was coming from.

“Up here”, I added. She smiled as she caught sight of me.

“What cha’ doin’ up there?” She asked as she started climbing up to me.

“I’m hiding from Daddy.”

“Why?”

“Because he’s mean!”

“Why do you say that?”

“He’s gonna’ pull my tooth out with those huge pliers he keeps in the toolbox on his truck.”

“No he’s not. He was only joking you.”

“He means it, and it’s gonna’ hurt.”

“Tell you what. I’ll sneak you in the back door. I’ll take you upstairs and pull it myself.”

That did not sound like a good plan to me. However, her process sounded much better than a pair of pliers with Daddy towering and snickering at the other end.

She took me by the hand and led me down the tree, putting her arms around my waist and lifting my down the precarious spots. Once we reached the ground, she put her hand like a fan over her forehead and Indian scout style surveyed the yard for grown ups. When she detected the absence of activity, she pulled me, stumbling across the lawn and up the stairs of the back porch. She peered through the screen to door to assure the coast was clear. She ran, dragging me up the back steps to my sister’s room. Why I trusted the one person I fought most with in life was beyond my understanding. I can only surmise that she was also the one person who always had my back when we were on the bus or at school.

She took a spool of black thread from my sister’s bureau. She unwound a long strand and bit it off with her teeth. She wrapped and tied one end around my loose tooth and had me stand near the door. She tied the other end around the door knob of the open bedroom door. Before I knew it she had slammed the door shut. I was standing in shock, blood drooling down my chin and my tooth swinging like a pendulum from the end of the thread. Then I heard the ping as it fell to the floor. A few drops of blood scattered between me, the tooth, and the door.

“You did it. Let’s look at you in the mirror!”

I grinned my snaggled expression in the oval mirror of the Victorian vanity. She reminded me the Tooth Fairy would be coming to see me as she wiped the blood off the tooth and from the floor with a tissue. She handed me the tooth and told me to go show Daddy.

We went downstairs to find him. He was still sitting at the kitchen table reading the paper. (I guess time seemed to drag on much longer than it really did!) I pushed my closed hand in front of his newspaper and opened it to expose my first lost baby tooth.

“Good thing you did it yourself because those pliers would have really hurt.”

A big sigh of relief passed my body about the same time a grin spread across my Daddy’s face.

Living in the Gap

January 24, 2012 – Misty Morning

Thick and uninvited, mist settled on the morning like dust on the furniture. Everything was gray; the sky, the trees, the air… The atmosphere was so heavy it hung like a bulky shawl across the shoulders. No chirping birds or barking dogs; it was as if the fog had stifled sound in its grip.

The Certainty Of Uncertainty

There are times in life we feel uncertain. Our minds are clouded with worry. Anxiety gnaws at our stomachs and weighs us down. Every moment is spent wondering what is going to happen next. There is no joy in the present moment. It’s all we can do to lift one foot in front of the other. We function on auto pilot, not giving much thought or consideration to our actions.

This kind of worry is unnecessary. It is a waste of our time and energy. Life is, has been, and always will be uncertain, and that is all there is to it. Though we take precautions and make wise decisions, there are things out of our control. We can do every single thing right on our end and the results are not what we want or even expect. We don’t have the ability to see the big picture. This is why we must have faith. We must trust that all will be well in the long run.

The first thing we must do is let go of expectations. Life will not always flow according to our plans. When we stop calculating our own moves and anticipating the moves of others, we are free to live now and allow life to unfold without unreasonable concern for ourselves.

Often we think our decisions are precise and are sure of the outcome only to be wrong. Doubt takes over and we second guess our own actions, motives, and desires. Our hearts can be in the right place and things still not turn out to what we consider our benefit. Sometimes it’s simply a life lesson.

Unfortunately, we don’t always get to pick what we want to study in the school of life. Sometimes the subject picks us. Even when this happens to us, nervousness will not help us get through it. While relinquishing control of the situation at hand does calm our uncertainty, it doesn’t make us any surer of the outcome. The act of letting go will comfort our hearts and ease our minds…thus we are assured we will be fine.

We need to learn to live our lives with a certain amount of uncertainty or at least without expectation and be open to what comes our way. There will always be junctions on the road of life. One way might be shorter and appear more rewarding; however the other might be the scenic route with options you’d never considered. Uncertainty might just send you down an unknown and ultimately gratifying road of life.

If life were lived neatly following an outline, it would take away the freedom of choice, the possibility of opportunity, and the adventure of the unknown. Uncertainty will always remain; but freedom, opportunity, and adventure lead us moment by moment into the future. One could say the certainty of uncertainty fuels the fires of life.

Prompt: Uncertaintyhttp://www.writingthroughlife.com/a-weeks-worth-of-journaling-prompts-uncertainty

January 23, 2012
Living in the Gap – Sweet Simplicity
The mixer hummed as the butter, cream cheese, and sugar gurgled, plopped, and mixed into a lovely white frosting. I slathered it atop the first layer of the red velvet cake, a bit chintzy I might add since I contemplated not having enough to cover the top and sides. The aroma of sugar tantalized my senses as I refrained from salivating in my bowl. The top cake layer bubbled air pockets across the surface. I was sure the icing would peel it away from the base and present itself to be a crumbling red and white polka dot mess of sweetness. Alas, worry has no place in the kitchen…for it is where culinary art is created. Waves and swirls of frosting spread across the red surface to reveal a snowy delight.

Keeping Sunshine In My Spirit

Living in the Gap

January 22, 2012 – Finding sunshine in the rain

After running errands in the cold drizzling rain I was finally back in the safety and warmth of my own home. I snuggled into the softness of the sofa with the aroma of homemade chicken and dumplings comforting me. Through the window I watched the rain gently fall creating a grey shield through the trees. I listened to the pitter patter of the shower as it tapped upon the roof. The wind swept in from time to time creating a whoosh on each side of the house. I felt enveloped in the house with downpours on three sides. I was secure as I relaxed to the rhythm, a slow steady drumbeat. My breath was even and heartbeat slower than that of the downpour. I slipped into that state of just being. I was settled here in my house, but more than that. I was at ease in my house; my body, my skin. This was one of those times my mind didn’t jerk me out of my spirit, but they were congruent. I could hear the music playing, but it was silent in my home. The music was coming from inside me. I could hear “You are my sunshine, my only sunshine. You make me happy when skies are grey. You’ll never know, dear, how much I love you. Please don’t take my sunshine away….” Yes, we not only make our own sunshine, but we are the sunshine within ourselves…and nobody can take that away.