A Little Help

Going back eight years to Nick’s birthday, a day that wore into the night, his grandmother lay facing the final mile of her own race. After 83 years full of living, now in her own final stretch, she too was encountering an unforeseen hill. She too had conditioned herself psychologically for this part of her run. We were there in her darkened room on that September 28th night. We spoke meaningful words to her as she held our hands in unspoken gratefulness for our presence. She lay entirely still yet her inner self was racing to the finish line. We remained at her side, praying that she would slow her pace, that this would not be her fastest time, that she would not cross on this day. Please not today! Then slow her pace she did as her well-lived life ebbed away. With an unseen angel at her side she crossed in the early moments of September 29th, saying softly that she saw him, right there in the room, crossing with her to the finish line of her race.

Now back to Chicago 2019. Being so near the end with the finish line in sight, Nick’s mind had begun to agree with his lead-heavy legs that he just might not make it to the end. As he struggled to keep going a race-day volunteer called out with concern. His response was such that her well-trained eye knew. He needed help. Now. She signaled and a runner’s assistant rushed to his side. This “angel” did not pull him out of the race for hydration and recuperation but put her arm around him, providing real physical support, running in tandem with his own slowing pace, speaking meaningful words—bolstering words to help re-focus his mind. He gratefully accepted the assistance and then crossed sixty-nine minutes after the elite first place finisher had crossed.

We race to win and we train to finish well not to falter. The power of another at your side when you need it most—helping you cross over the line. She had crossed over eight years before him. Now he followed her lead with the help of another when he needed it most.

Crossing Over

This is more deeply personal than most of what I typically post. Let’s see if I can tell it well. And I will tell it in two parts over two days.

Nick shared his Chicago Marathon story with me last night for the first time and I woke up this morning with a parallel running through my mind—another related story that “ran” alongside the re-telling of his difficult crossing of the finish line. He described a bit about the months of training for this event, conditioning not only his muscles, heart and lungs for the strenuous run but also preparing and conditioning his mind. Being a native of the temperate climate of SoCal, and not himself an elite, full-time marathoner, he could not possibly be prepared mentally or physically for the biting cold of that darn world-famous Chicago wind. Oh sure, you’re told about it but until you’re in it and pushing yourself through it for three never-ending hours straight you can’t really know. He said that the course itself was indeed flat (no problem there) including many curves throughout the run. Somewhere in the last mile of twenty-six, after pushing through the gradually developing pain, after psychologically coaching himself that, “yes, you CAN do this” and with every labored breath and every last cell in his body saying, “Enough! End this now,” nearing the finish there was, unexpected to a first-time Chicago marathoner, of ALL things, a dreaded hill. But there was also something else.

To be continued tomorrow . . .

It Is Well

Poor Friday. Its funny how we look forward to it more than any other day of the week. Beginning on Monday we literally count the days until dear Friday, fabulous Friday, fast-food Friday rolls around again. Wednesday, the middle child, has made a name for itself (though not an attractive sounding one) solely based on its relationship to Friday. Woo hoo ~ its “hump” day! Lovely.

But TGIF, right? ITS FRIDAY, Y’ALL! Do you hear me? I said FriYay! “Whew, we made it to Friday!” It’s not only said in countless offices but also in the classroom, the living room, the courtroom, and most any room inhabited by humans. We anticipate a reprieve from the strictures of the week as if we’re about to land on a get-out-of-jail-free space on a gameboard. Just like a classroom full of antsy school children anxiously awaiting the sound of the dismissal bell, proclaiming to one and all that the week is finally over with its long lectures, homework assignments, required reading and bad cafeteria entree’s. I personally enjoyed my school days but an ancient episode of The Simpsons seems to have stuck in my mind for no good reason at all. I thank you, Bart.

Good old Friday’s actual claim to fame is as much about the undeniable sense of joy that something we’re required to do is over. For now. And, as independent human beings, that alone is something we celebrate.

But here’s the thing, Friday is just another day with the exception of something rather significant. Its the positioning of it that makes it attractive to us. The positioning I tell you. Think about your current GPS for a moment and it may tell you, if you’re honest about it, how you feel about yourself and your life right now. Is it good only in relation to its nearness to something or someone else? Wow, from images of Bart Simpson to an enduring question, I know, but seriously, is it well with your soul just because it is?

Its not great timing for a thought provoking question like this because of it’s relation to Friyay but when you get a chance . . . sometime this weekend perhaps, give a thought to your soul.

Is it well?

Free Refills

I began writing DailyCuppaJo last December with an occasional post, off and on, just here and there really, as I began to add photos of personal interest to my Instagram account. I hadn’t noticed until someone brought to my attention that with each successive post my “captions” (as they were only meant to be), were becoming longer and wordier. It seemed that each photo I shared had a story to be told so I went with it.

Then came a challenging nudge from someone near and dear to me to begin regularly posting my thoughts, perspectives and viewpoints. Like the plot of the movie “Julie and Julia,” for a full 365 consecutive days, instead of daily preparing and blogging about Julia Child’s recipes I’ve attempted to serve up a virtual daily cuppa. Now, with three hundred-ish posts in the bag, the finish line of the challenge is in sight.

Here’s one thing about my actual online account, there’s nothing for sale here, no “link in bio” to DailyCuppaJo merch. I’m not looking for my long lost soulmate (and I hope I’ve never projected that unintentionally). I’m not writing on behalf of a business, a non-profit, a ministry or a movement. I’m just pouring out a cup on the daily to share with you. When it resonates let’s raise a hallelujah.

I’ll say this, going public with your stuff, whether it be your art or your craft or trade or simply your words, is a bit of a risk when you’re a private person by nature. It requires intentional choice to take part in a diverse and global online community. Nothing too private about that. There’s a palpable if not tangible variation of human connection that occurs with a posted image or when reading a message that stirs your soul or gives you that “me too” feeling. We are, after all, connected in this human journey we’re on.

So keep posting, keep reading, I’m gonna keep pouring a daily cuppa and I invite you to keep stopping by. The refills will always be free.

Follower

On a recent morning drive to work, taking one of my eight different routes to the same destination, I noticed a driver patiently following a slower vehicle in another lane. They suddenly switched lanes and began following me. Apparently my superior automotive handling and appropriate rate of speed warranted a follower. Funny that a simple lane change by a stranger almost felt like a complement (thank you Social Media for placing an inordinate value on the number of likes and followers we receive). Then I thought for a brief moment that maybe, just maybe, we all have a latent desire to be followed.

For the remainder of the drive an old black and white TV drama I’d watched re-played in my mind. It followed a very pretty, very lonely young woman who’d gone to the city to spend her day visiting the various shops. At some point she’d noticed a handsome young man who seemed to be at each of the same shops as she was. She caught his eye and felt a twinge of attraction—or empathy from him even. Shop by shop, maintaining a short distance behind her, he continued to follow. Was this a coincidence perhaps? Was it her imagination or was he intentionally following her? To test her suspicions she next stopped at a corner Café for a coffee. He did as well yet sat in a back booth by himself. Her heart skipped a beat. He was handsome and she was married to an older executive who had no time for her whatsoever.

The drama concluded with the deflating revelation that her negligent yet jealous husband had hired an investigator to follow her just to keep tabs. It was a sad ending really, with no redeeming message other to spotlight the very human desire we all have to be noticed.

The story put a punctuation mark on the plain fact that many a human soul just wants to be acknowledged really, to receive a nod, a small token of appreciation. There’s so much more to be said here but I’m out of time . . .

Post Office

I’ve been off my game for four days running and I’m tired of it. Perhaps this short streak all started a couple of weeks ago when I (oops) dropped a heavy object on my foot while at work. Dang, it hurt so badly so I closed my office door to ice and elevate. Oh. the. pain.

A few days after the limping subsided some new strain of contagion began quickly spreading from office to office in my building there. Though I’m a healthy one it got me quickly and I was totally down for the count. But attempting to look on the bright side this did force me to catch up on hours of lost sleep. However, night before last a new malady took center stage – a pinched nerve causing such debilitating pain that I “lost” all the hours I’d gained back.

The kind neighbor who’d brought me soup a few nights before hooked me up with a wonder working version of Tylenol that was exactly what I needed to relax—pain free—and drift off to sleep.

So what of all of that? I am thankful and how can I not be?

Earlier in the day the back pain disallowed even the slightest amount of movement. But now, being wondrously pain free and having been practically housebound for four days, it made sense (really?) to test my driving skills to see if I was well enough to drive the car around the block. It went well so I drove on until I reached the local Post Office.

Just how on earth can the USPS be experiencing financial decline when half the town was there making transactions and checking their PO boxes in the middle of a normal work day? An older gentleman gracefully bowed low as he opened the lobby door for me, sweetly saying, “after you my Lady.”

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

All the small things make up a good life. All the boring little insignificant moments that comprise the bulk of living—they bind the extraordinary life moments together. They’re like padding so the big accomplishments and special occurrences don’t clash upon each other but fit nicely into the entire scheme of a lifetime. It’s thankfulness, I tell you. Being appreciative of health, of neighbors, of the sweet fruit of the bayberry tree right there in the landscape of my town’s post office. Dear Lord, we thank You for these, Your gifts, (yes gifts) which we are about to receive . . .

Dream

Dream with me a moment. The ability is a wonderful human gift—the awake type of dream in particular.

To have a hope for something not yet realized . . . intangible because it doesn’t quite exist in any substantive form; growing very real within a heart and mind. Pondering an idea and spinning it around with hope and imaginative thought—it’s wonderful, it’s inspiring, it invigorates and fuels the spirit!

Architectural wonders and spectacular custom homes, Broadway plays and books of verse, movements for change and non-profits with purpose were all imagined and dreamt of as a “what if . . . ?” took shape in someone’s thought life.

And yet, untold dreams, some of ours even, have silently slipped into vaporous state. It is darn tricky to grasp an elusive vapor with bare hands. Perhaps it was nothing more than an impossible dream—trying to lay hold of those fleeting particles not glued together by hope or faith or purpose. There was no plan, no blueprint. The vision wasn’t written down. It then slipped away.

However, countless dreams have indeed become real and concrete and succeeded, in part, because they were clothed with a plan and developed with strategy, hard work and real labor. Oh, dream on! It starts there. But dreamer, get your toolbox out, add to it, consult others skilled in the trades. Imagine all the wonders then build them.

Flow

People and things flow in and out of our lives. When they’re “in” we enjoy them, celebrate with them, care for, train up, and in so many other ways we fully experience them for whatever the duration may be. When we lose them or they otherwise flow away from us we are left with the gift of a memory. This being a Sunday post the focus will remain on whatsoever things are pure, lovely, and good. . . It is we who are the ones who choose how to frame the memory, perhaps with a simple thin black one or an elaborately ornate gold-leafed frame, or perhaps otherwise.

This 7×12 “memory,” this amateur oil painting, was given to me fairly recently and now hangs on my living room gallery wall. Its not expertly done but you wouldn’t expect that of a budding artist in her tweens. This was painted in the late 1930’s by a young girl with a dream in her heart. It hangs from an original snippet of yarn, unframed, unsigned, but not unloved.

As my older sister and her family flowed out of my daily life here in California, headed for Texas for the rest of their days, she gave me this small piece of art. I’d never seen it before and I suppose she kept it in storage rather than inside their beautiful home. As they flowed far and away to another land this painting flowed in. Funny how that works sometimes. An object I had no previous knowledge of yet have strong ties to, strong emotions about is now in my possession. I didn’t know that young girl then—I hadn’t been born yet. But the budding artist grew and received her education and married and gave birth to three daughters and I am one.

So as a dear sister flowed away, a young girl’s artistic soul, having been captured on a scrap of canvas, flowed in. Not in place of. Memories never fully fill the void that “they” once filled. But as a unique and lovely memory with a story of its own.

Whatsoever things . . .

Rainbow Effect

Of course we learned in class that rainbows appear when sunlight refracts through fine water droplets. I’ve posted about that before. It’s textbook science and a Sunday school lesson straight out of Genesis. But have I ever mentioned my technicolor rainbow sunglasses?

Made to protect sensitive eyes from the very sunlight that is 50% responsible for rainbow beams, my special sunglasses refract light, or something less scientific I suppose, causing everyday objects to be cast with a spectrum of color. When I tilt my head just so, I see everything with an extraordinary rainbow effect. Really and truly.

Each time Marina and I go yard sale-ing together we super-score on fabulous finds. The girl has a gift for scouting out good sales up there in SLO county. On previous forays I’ve obtained rare antique books from the 1800s; a still-in-the-box, bronze kitchen faucet; a quilted coverlet that keeps me warm, and just this July, my magical rainbow sunglasses.

They look quite average so no one even knows. They were there on a long table under a tall white oak tree in a tangled heap of perhaps one hundred other pairs, just dumped out and labeled, “Five bucks each.” I assume a drugstore had a close-out or something. Having just that very morning failed at repairing my current sunnies a new pair was indeed on my to-do list.

I now take great delight in wearing my new shades. They make me smile and how could they not? But my very special sunglasses, strangely enough, are no doubt defective rather than design specific. That very defect imparts a view of everyday life in another light—through another lens if you will. And it’s quite a wonderment really.

When the simplest of things in life no longer make me smile, bring me joy, cause me some sliver of that wonderment or even a base level satisfaction, then I know I’m overdue for a diagnostic. Am I sleeping enough? Eating okay? Getting enough fellowship of some sort? Even on the cloudy days these few things alone help me see a rainbow here or there. Imagined or not. Even without the glasses.

Mermaids

We used to have combined birthday parties at the beach in Corona del Mar when we were kids. My younger sister and I are a few years apart with our birthdays falling just a few days from each other’s. So much sandy, blistering-sunburned fun back then. A beach party was my mom’s idea of an August birthday celebration and it was good a one.

Our summer moments spent in the Pacific ocean—us three sisters hanging onto a single inflatable pool float—passed by in glorious slow motion. We’d go out beyond where feet could touch and just laugh, then abruptly and wildly scream if some kelp brushed against our feet, behaving as if we’d drifted into a school of underfed piranhas. We weren’t beachy girls. We weren’t mermaids. We were creatures belonging to terra firma. We were fair skinned and never ever tanned, just peeled after the scorching burns of summer days. None of us were necessarily strong swimmers either (hence the ever present flotation device) but this was a welcome change from spending hours at the library, or the children’s wing of Bowers Museum, or the nearby family park.

We were speckled and freckled not tanned. Not mermaid children of the sea. Being a mermaid would have been a delightfully exotic career but we weren’t born to it and we knew it.

But today as grown women who’ve each gone separate ways we stand, with both feet planted firmly on the ground and say, “I MUST be a mermaid, I have no fear of depths and a great fear of shallow living.”

The best, most challenging and rewarding stuff, often lies out

there where feet can’t touch.

Stand or swim. The really good stuff is out beyond the shallows.

Image courtesy of World Market.