Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Giving yourself a pat on the back

Some days you just need to hear, "Well done!" or "Way to go!" A little praise goes a long way, but when there's no one around to say it, what do you do? If you don't take matters into your own hands, that pat on the back may never come, believe me, I know. 

Today, I worked hard. It's amazing what a good cup of coffee will do for you. I had a long list of projects and by golly, I was going to accomplish as many of them as I could, so I started with number one and began to work my way down. 

Number one took some time. I'd been reorganizing my art studio/craft/sewing room for days. I'd removed all the clutter and had started to move things back in but quickly became overwhelmed. There was so much stuff! Persevering for the next two hours, I was able to scratch number one off the list. 

On to number two. This one would only take a few minutes. I'd made a note to email some friends, write some long overdue notes, and complete an article I'd been working on for a cancer magazine. About thirty minutes passed and number two got crossed off. 

I kept working down my list. There were 7 more items to complete. One by one I tackled them. Finally, at 3:00 p.m. I finished. Whew! What a day it had been, but I felt successful, and it felt good. 

I did my best to reach around and pat myself on the back but couldn't quite do it. The scarring from breast cancer surgery had left me with a limited range or motion. Though I couldn't manage it physically, I congratulated myself mentally. It's amazing the good praise can do. 

Feeling like a well-trained puppy waiting for a yummy puppy snack, I did a little happy dance. Wagging my rear made me laugh. 

Good days have been few and far between lately. There have been so many health issues I'd forgotten what it felt like to have a good belly laugh. 

Earlier today, the skies were overcast and dreary but now the sun is out and shining brightly. With that, I feel a song remnant swirling around in my mind - " I think I can make it now, the pain is gone. All of the bad feelings have disappeared. Here is the rainbow I've been prayin' for- It's gonna be a bright (bright), bright (bright) Sun-Shiny day."


Friday, April 22, 2022

When Friday Feels Like Monday

I got out of bed and instantly started doing things around the house. While working, I turned on the Keurig to have a nice cup of coffee. Our old Keurig had died several months ago, and we'd replaced it with the newest one available. The new one has nice selections for various cup sizes and is preprogrammed to dispense that perfect amount of water according to the cup size selected, or so I thought. Usually it does, but not today. Today I selected a medium cup of coffee and got an extra-large. The excess coffee ran all over the counter and floor. I was not happy! Today was Friday, but it felt like Monday!

Next, I went in to clean out the shower, one of my most hated jobs of all time. You'd think a shower would stay clean since it's always being filled with water and soap, but no. The shower floor gets dirty! So I pulled out the tub and shower cleanser hubby had picked up at the local grocer for me and got busy. I followed the directions on the can. You were supposed to spray a heavy coat of cleanser, let it sit a few minutes and then rinse away for a clean and shiny surface, NOT! Today was Friday, but it felt like Monday!

On to the laundry. I like to condense, so I put all my clothes in one load to save water. I had packed it as tight as it would go and turned it on. When the clothes were done washing, I threw them in the dryer. After an hour, it was time to take them out and fold them. Everything was fine until I got to the fitted sheet. It was twisted and mangled and inside was something heavy. As I worked to unwind the sheet and pull out the inner contents, I found a pair of hubby's jeans, soaking wet. I was not happy! Today was Friday, but it felt like Monday! 

One thing after another kept happening until I finally got the message. It was time to sit down and slow down. I hadn't been feeling well anyway and had just come from the doctor's office the day before with a bad infection to my trachea. Antibiotics and steroids were helping, but I was wiped out. I didn't like knowing today was Friday but it was feeling like Monday. 

So I sat down to write. Getting my thoughts out of my head helps. And wouldn't you know it, after taking time to process my thoughts, it was finally starting to feel a little like Friday instead of a crazy, hectic, uncontrollable Monday. 

An old poem popped into my head just now and I think it's meant to remind me of a valuable truth:

“Don’t Quit”

When things go wrong as they sometimes will,
When the road you’re trudging seems all uphill,
When the funds are low and the debts are high
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit,
Rest if you must, but don’t you quit.

Life is strange with its twists and turns
As every one of us sometimes learns
And many a failure comes about.
When he might have won had he stuck it out;
Don’t give up though the pace seems slow—
You may succeed with another blow.

Success is failure turned inside out—
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt,
And you never can tell just how close you are,
It may be near when it seems so far;
So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit—
It’s when things seem worst that you must not quit.

For all the sad words of tongue or pen,
The saddest are these: “It might have been!”
John Greeleaf Whittier December 17, 1807 – September 7, 1892

I wonder if Mr. Whittier might have known what it felt like to have a Friday that felt like a Monday. I imagine, from his poem, he probably did. 

Monday, April 11, 2022

Lumps, lines, and lessons

Salvador tucking the carpet under the baseboard

It's amazing how something so little can be so aggravating. As a typical type A personality, I like things to be perfect, or at least as close to it as possible. So after 8 years of living in our current home, as things began to look "not so perfect" any more, I had to do something about it. 

First came the settling cracks. I was told they were typical of a new build. As the home began to settle onto its foundation, tiny cracks would appear at stress points. No problem! I'd been trained in mudding and taping sheetrock way back in 2011 as I prepared to go on a mission trip to Alaska. I knew I could fix those little cracks with no problem, and I did. 

Next came little nicks and dings on the walls from moving furniture about. Along with those came tiny fingerprints from happy grandchildren. Again, no problem. I could patch and I could paint. Those little fixes were a breeze. 

But when I started noticing lines and ridges in the carpet, I was not happy. In fact, the more I focused on those imperfections, the more irritated I became. Oh, believe me, I'd watched hundreds of YouTube videos on using knee kickers to push out those lumpy places and if I'd had one of those tools, I would have certainly tried it, but I knew this was a job for professionals. Of course, I didn't know any carpet stretchers so I got on the computer and pulled up Angie's List. They were supposedly the host of reputable repairmen, or so we thought. We made an appointment to have men come out and tackle our problems and we thought we were getting a good deal. We were told we'd only pay $300 for having the issues in 5 rooms addressed. The places that needed help weren't big, but they were bothersome to me - a veritable eyesore. I wanted those places fixed and wanted them done yesterday. 

The men came and seemed to be doing a good job. They pulled out a knee kicker and got to work. After 30 minutes, they handed me the bill. I looked over their work and the carpet seemed to be smoothed out well, so I paid them. Little did I know, their fix was only temporary. Weeks later, the lines, lumps, and bumps eased back out and again, I was upset. 

Two years later, we'd still not gotten around to having another carpet person come out to fix the floors. At the first of March, I made a plan. I was going to have those problem areas gone or else! So I got on Facebook and asked my friends if any of them could recommend a reputable company. I wasn't going to go through Angie's List again after the last fiasco. One friend reached out and gave me the name of the person who'd just done work in her house. I got the number and called the same day. 

When I spoke with Mark, he was on a job. I could hear him shuffling the phone from shoulder to shoulder as he talked with me. Oh sure, he could do the job, but he couldn't do it for at least a month. They were booked solid. I told him that was okay, I just wanted the work to be completed before Easter since we'd be having company for the holiday. He put me on the schedule for Saturday, April 9. Well, the week before my scheduled work date, I reached out to confirm the appointment. Mark responded with a change. Due to a delay from the plumbing installation on a new home, one of his big jobs hadn't been able to have been completed by the deadline. He was going to have to push my job out another day. Instead of coming out on Saturday, as originally planned, my job wasn't going to be done until Sunday - Palm Sunday. I wasn't happy about that. We'd have to miss church and Palm Sunday was a special day for us, but we had no choice so we agreed. 

Early Sunday morning, my husband and I rose at 7:00 a.m. because the workmen were to arrive by 9 and we wanted to be up and enjoy our coffee before they came. 9:00 came and went, no workers. At 9:40 a.m. our doorbell rang. A small Hispanic man stood there. He said, "I'm Salvador. I'm here to do your carpet." We were surprised. Mark (the owner of the company) wasn't coming. He's subcontracted the job to Salvador. 

We wondered, as we ushered Salvador into our home, how he was going to do the job alone. He was a tiny man, no more than 125 pounds. There was furniture to move and Mark had assured us his "team" would handle it all - no problem. Apparently, he forgot to mention that to Salvador because Salvador told me, through broken Spanish, that Mark had told him the rooms would be empty! Talk about miscommunication! 

To make a long story short, Salvador was gracious and he was a very hard worker. He was here an hour and a half and never stopped once. 

We watched him use his power stretcher to push the carpets into place and watched as he used his little body to slam against the knee kicker forcing the carpet into corners before trimming with a super sharp Xacto knife. 

Salvador's hammer and knee kicker

As he worked, I made sure to make small talk with him. Standing outside each room, I'd ask him questions about himself and his family. I learned he came to the U.S. from Mexico and had lived in Texas for a while before meeting and marrying his American wife. I learned he had 3 children, 2 were his wife's from a previous marriage, and one was theirs jointly. Salvador was soft spoken but didn't hesitate to talk about his life. He'd been doing flooring work for the past 24 years and his wife was a hair dresser. I enjoyed getting to know him. 

When he'd finished the job, he asked me to check his work. Everything was perfect and I was pleased. 

Salvador asked for a glass of water and I quickly obliged. He mentioned he was diabetic and had been struggling with his health for the past few years. I asked if I could pray for him before he went and Salvador quickly agreed. My husband and I stood with Salvador in the kitchen and I placed my hand on his thin shoulder. Slowly he removed his ball cap and bowed his head, ready for me to pray. 

I had no idea what to pray so I asked the Holy Spirit to guide my words. I wanted to pray for specific needs this hard-working man had mentioned but I also wanted to let him know how much God loved and cared for him. I don't remember the exact words I prayed but I know I asked God to watch over and protect Salvador and his family, to bless his health, and to help him know that God sees him even when he feels all alone. 

Before Salvador left, I gave him a small New Testament and asked him if he believed in God. He said he did and I was happy to hear that. I'd only planted a seed, but I knew God would water it and allow it to grow in the days ahead. 

I truly believe that every person we meet is a divine appointment from God. Either we are to minister to them or they are to minister to us. This day, was a joint blessing. Salvador ministered to me with his gentle spirit and his hard work ethic. I ministered to him by showing him kindness and love. 

I've walked into every room of our house this morning, thankful that all the lines and lumps are gone from our carpets. As I stood, looking down at the some of the loose carpet fibers leftover from Salvador's work, I couldn’t help but think there was a lesson to be learned from that experience, too. 

There are so many things we can't control in life. Most of those things are small and don't seem to matter until they accumulate. Satan loves to use those small issues to goad us and if we're not careful, those small things can turn into humongous things in a hurry. 

Salvador using the power stretcher

We'd dealt with the lumpy, stretched out carpet for two years past the last carpet stretchers failed attempts to repair it. I could have overlooked the issues and let them slide until we sold the house, but I didn't want to. Whenever I saw those places, they nagged and nagged at me. 

It may not have been a huge issue to many but for me and my perfectionism, it was major. 

I'm thankful Salvador came alone. I'm thankful he was a slight man with a sweet attitude. I was touched as I watched him work. I could tell he loved his family deeply and he'd faced many challenges in his life - not only health issues, but prejudice, too. 

I was raised to love people from all walks of life. I was taught not to judge. I'm thankful I could see Salvador through the eyes of God and be reminded that we are all precious in His sight. 

My hope is that Salvador left here yesterday feeling loved and cared for deeply. 

We prayed for him several times throughout the day and I'm sure we will in the days ahead, too. As believers, it's our responsibility to love and care for others always. We are to be the hands and feet of Jesus. 

One day, I hope to meet Salvador again, perhaps in heaven. I'm sure we'll have a wonderful visit and maybe we'll get to share a few laughs. 

Salvador was just a small, Hispanic man, but he could also have been an angel unaware. He certainly touched my life in the 90 minutes he was here. 

Looking at his hammer and knee kicker as they lay on the floor, I couldn't help but think about the hammer that drove the nails into Jesus' hands and feet. Today was the beginning of Holy Week. Today was Palm Sunday, the day Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey, later in the week, He'd suffer immensely before being crucified. He'd be beaten, mocked, and falsely accused. I wonder if Salvador had any idea. If we'd had more time, I would have shared everything. 

I hope Salvador will read the small Bible I gave him. I pray he will. 

I’ve read my Bible every day of my life since I was old enough to read and still, I find something new in the Word each day. The Bible is alive and powerful! 

Material things like homes and carpets can make our lives more comfortable, but they won’t last forever. God’s Word does! I’m so thankful God gave us His inspired Word. It is my most treasured possession. 

Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Art in the Park- a reminder of a difficult time in my life

Jason Kimes' "The Least Amount of Space"

This weekend, while visiting Tennessee for my grandson's wedding, we happened upon a unique park filled with architectural sculptures. As we wandered through this huge outdoor exhibit, we were amazed at the craftmanship. There were several sculptures that caught my eye, but one in particular, Jason Kime's "The Least Amount of Space." 

The sculpture was amazing and made of thousands of iron rods. As I walked around the piece experiencing it, I felt myself remembering a time when I hunkered down and huddled beneath the scrutinizing glare of the world. 

When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, in 2014, I found myself withdrawing from the world. Once very self-assured and confident, I was all of a sudden insecure and fearful. I had no idea what my future held. I wasn't ready to die. 

Without friends or family to consult, I retreated into myself. There, I found solace. Though I never dared trust in my own strength for survival, I knew One who would sustain me, Jesus. 

Day after day, as breast cancer seemed to devour my world of normalcy, I curled tighter and tighter into a safe little ball and what I found was as I decreased, He increased. 

I knew in me there was no good thing, but in Him, all things held together and existed. 

Though I had no idea what my future held, I knew Who held my future. 

It took years before I felt safe enough to unfurl, allowing myself to open and bloom again, but I'm thankful He gave me space and grace. 

Mr. Kime's sculpture, I noticed, was carefully constructed. Each iron rod had been welded into place to form a perfect figure. I wondered at the process behind the work and why the artist had chosen to portray the human form in such a protective position. Had he experienced deep pain in his life or perhaps felt it from someone? 

Art is such a beautiful expression of our deepest feelings. I've found it to be very therapeutic in my own healing process. Often, when I have no words to speak, I am able to express feelings with paint, clay, or other artistic mediums. 

It's important for those affected by cancer to have a creative outlet. Some wield words and others wield brushes, but not matter the tool, the result is the same - an outpouring of what's been pent up for too long. 

Seeing, touching, and experiencing art is powerful. I enjoy both participating in it and being the creator of it. 

Kimes' "The Least Amount of Space" is a thought-provoking work. It could have been named "The Experience of Pain", "Devastation," "Shelter in Place," or a hundred various titles, but Mr. Kimes chose the one that spoke to his aesthetic, and I respect that.  

Though it's been almost 8 years since diagnosis, I find myself a "work in progress." Some days are easier than others and some more difficult. If I were a sculptor, I'd have probably worked and reworked my piece over and over again through the years. I may have even smashed and destroyed it, giving up only to start over a day or two later. And that's the thing - cancer affects everyone differently. We work through it the best we can. We layer on piece after piece, rebuilding and refashioning our armor, until we begin to feel almost complete again. It's an ongoing process, one we must take both lightheartedly and seriously at the same time - much the way we view art. 

Trappist monk, Thomas Merton, says it so well - "Art enables us to find ourselves and loose ourselves at the same time.”

I hope you'll take time to let art speak to you. You may be amazed at what it will say.

Another Month is Almost Over

I was looking at the calendar today and realized we're halfway through the year already. Where has the time gone? It seems I blinked and...