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We take so many things in life for granted; a trite but true statement. Our refrigerator went on the blink this past week. It simply stopped working sometime during the night Tuesday/Wednesday. I noticed it when I went to get my morning yogurt and discovered it was room temperature and tasted. . .funny. So while I was at work my husband called an appliance company to come repair the thing. And as is often the case, no one could make it that day but we were put on the schedule for the next available appointment; Thursday afternoon. Thankfully we live in a cold climate, so we salvaged what we could by putting the frozen food in the trunk of the car that sits in the driveway most of the time. The rest of what could be saved was placed in a cooler on our back porch. We made do. Unfortunately when the repairman (yes, it was a “he”) took a look at the now empty refrigerator, he discovered the controls were broken. How? We do not know.  But thanks to modern technology, the nice repairman ordered the part that very moment via his handy dandy “notebook.” He told us the replacement part would arrive late Friday afternoon, but since he does not work on weekends, we would have to wait till Monday for the fridge to be repaired. But hey, we are campers–sorta. We are managing well despite the irritation of an occasional urge for something from our makeshift refrigeration setup late at night. To satisfy the urge, one of us has to bundle up, go outside and rummage through a car trunk to find the “necessary” food item. All of this has helped me recognize how much we take modern conveniences for granted. Today it is the refrigerator. Another day it may be electricity, or gas, or a bed to sleep in, or even food on the table. I have clients who have had to do without the things I have just listed, as well as no refrigerator. That is another whole story, though. For now, I am grateful for our refrigerator and the convenience it affords us.

The phone rang and surprisingly Richard picked it up. He never answers the phone! When he hung up he told me M, our neighbor two doors down, had left a bag of goodies by the kitchen door. When I retrieved the bag, it was filled with fresh scallions, parsley and basil from her garden. The lilies pictured here grow in M’s yard. Our neighbor on the west side of our house stops to chat when he sees me trimming back the rhododendron bushes. Neighbors to the east moved into their home just weeks before we took possession of this house. We talk over the fence and share notes on the joys and trials of moving into a new home and neighborhood. I haven’t officially met the neighbors across the street to the north, but we wave to each other when we are out. They seem friendly and their young daughter and their neighbor’s daughter (northwest of us) enjoy playing with each other, and I enjoy hearing their laughter while I work in our yard. We have new neighbors that began moving in to their home just yesterday, also across the street from us, northeast corner. Part of what makes a home warm and welcoming is the community where one lives. This is proving to be an inviting community. This is also a multi-cultural community. When I look at those who surround us with open arms, we are different races, religions, cultures, ages, and interests, yet neighborliness characterizes the people on the street where we live. I am truly grateful for this home and our wonderful neighbors!

A few days ago I posted a gratitude for beautiful flowers that my children sent to me for Mother’s Day. Today the roses still adorn my dining room table, albeit a bit worn and drooping. They will be gone soon, but the memory of the love and thoughtfulness they represent will linger long afterwards. As you can see, even in their “old age,” they exhibit an exquisite beauty. I suppose most people would have discarded the roses by the time they appeared wilted and discolored. Such a metaphor for life! As I age, I am discovering that each age and stage has its unique gifts to offer. The skin increasingly sags, the joints stiffen, the eyes dull with passing time, yet the most beautiful, loving, compassionate people I know are the ones who are aging. But like these beautiful roses, they become more beautiful with age. It occurred to me this morning that I am truly grateful for aging . . . my aging process and those of many others who bless my life, too. So, here’s to aging and the beauty of the process.

With books and papers spread across the dining room table as I studied and typed away, I chanced a glance out my diningroom door to see a Robin perched on the deck fencing. My yard is not lush like the courtyard we left when we moved here, but it certainly has possibilities. Seeing this bird reminded me that although the sights and sounds have changed somewhat, there is beauty here, too. I am one who always (or almost always) keeps my camera at the ready, and this moment was no exception. The camera was within arms reach so I slowly picked it up, focused and while still sitting at the table amidst all the books, I took one shot. This was the only photo I got. Startled by the click of the shutter, the bird immediately took flight. But I did go out and spread a few seeds across the beam in hopes of attracting other birds to this spot. A proper bird feeder will go in soon. This morning (5:00am) as I type this, darkness still envelops us, but the birds are chirping up a storm. Ahhh…  I love the sights and sounds in our new home! I am grateful for discovering the life outside my door!

Chaos rules now. How can one move from a small apartment to a full size house with a full basement and roomy bedrooms and still not find places for “things.” Ah, the joys of moving. On a bittersweet note, there are features of our previous abode that I miss, like the glorious view out on a luscious courtyard where flowers bloomed, birds warbled, and squirrels scampered to and fro. I shot a few last photos of flowers in bloom just outside the window before we left that sweet apartment for the last time. But already I’ve heard birds in nearby trees, and seen squirrels at play in our yard at our new home. We have beautiful rhododendrons and azaleas just outside our living room window, and the back yard is waiting to be landscaped (by me) and planted. We now have a “proper” dining room where we hope to feed many guests in the years ahead, and even a “guest room” for those who choose to stay a while. Our neighbors appear to be friendly, and we are already making new acquaintances. Once we create order here (which may take a while; coursework is as demanding as ever!), I have no doubt that we will find all sorts of sweet and wonderful, awe-inspiring surprises. We always do. So today and everyday, I am grateful for our new home!

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Last shots from our apartment window:


TWO MEN AND A TRUCK truck in front of a home

TWO MEN AND A TRUCK truck in front of a home (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Thanks to Two-Men-and-A-Truck, we are now in our new home. There is still clean-up to do in the apartment, but we now live in our new home. 🙂 I would write more but in the midst of the chaos of moving, I still have papers to write and studying to do. I had to take a few moments though, and say how grateful I am for the movers who moved us, Two-Men-and-A-Truck (I wonder if women can be movers, too?)

 

It has been years since the family, all of us, joined together in one place at the same time. My children, pictured above, along with their families, are scattered near and far, as are my siblings. This year we all made an effort to come home for Thanksgiving. 2011 has been an eventful year with painful losses that remind us of how fleeting life is. We all felt the need to get together to celebrate this life we are given, the family within which we have our being, the joys that we celebrate, and the compassion and support we offer each other over pains suffered. It was a joyous time that ended too soon, as usual. And as usual, I missed getting a lot of “essential” photos, but the ones I did get are priceless. Between us all, I am hoping that we can put together a family album that includes everyone. But whether we do or not, I am grateful for the kids and all my family coming home for the Thanksgiving holidays. 🙂

Last night the phone rang late ~ too late. I sensed something was wrong. I didn’t answer it right away, rather let the caller leave a message. After all, I was probably being melodramatic. About ten minutes later however, I couldn’t let it rest and anxiously checked the phone messages. David, my brother, with urgency in his voice told me to call back immediately, the it was imperative that I return the call. I found out that Dad had an abdominal aneurism rupture. He was rushed to the hospital and was in surgery as David and I spoke. David’s parting words were “this does not look good.” I called the kids then I began praying. Prayer is a huge part of my life, not just in emergencies, but every day. When things like this happen however, there is an added fervency, one prays with intense kavannah. Around 1:30am I got the call that Dad had done well in surgery and had responded excellently to the skilled surgeons and other medical personnel as they repaired five ruptures. He is now in ICU at Jewish Hospital in Louisville, KY, and the prognosis looks good. But last night we didn’t know what the outcome would be. Today I find myself paying attention more, to life, to people, to voices, to family. Everyday we walk this earth is a gift. My dad has been given the gift of more days and we’ve been given the gift of more time with Dad. I love you Dad. I am beyond extremely grateful that Dad pulled through emergency surgery to repair a ruptured abdominal aneurism.

 

Yes, boxes.  This is not one of those pretty, picturesque, feel-good gratitudes.  Rather, this is more practical, businesslike, real life gratitudes that are a result of unexpected  and/or unwelcome events in life.  One thing I’ve learned in my 58 years is that everything has a silver lining.  We may have to look for it.  The good in the situation may wait to be revealed years or generations later, but there is definitely something to be grateful for in every circumstance.  Family and friends know how much I dislike frequent moves.  Yet, here I go again.  We have lived in this quite-comfortable apartment all of seven months.  By the time we reach eight months I will be packed up and ready to move again. Ugh. . . Moving as frequently as we do however, I have come to appreciate the value of cardboard boxes.  I don’t know what folks did before the cardboard box, but this ubiquitous item is indispensible in our lives.  We box everything up!  Boxes are reusable, too.  Once we’ve moved, and the boxes are unpacked, I flatten them out and store them in anticipation of the next move.  (Actually, the next move I’m getting rid of the things!  Working “the Secret” if you know what I mean!!!  hahahaha) At any rate, with every box that is packed, I am aware that we are moving closer and closer to our moving date.  When I allow myself to think about “the move,” I get a little excited (but don’t tell folks; will ruin my image!)  Every move brings with it new possibility, exploring new places, making new friends.  Boxes help me get there.  So today’s gratitude is not about pretty flowers, nor are lovely landscapes or attractive items of any kind involved with this gratitude.  Rather, I am grateful for the lowly, unappreciated-yet-necessary box!

Dad found this desk in some odd place (junk yard ?).  It was pretty beat up with missing drawers and doors and knobs, etc. Other than the fact that the thing was falling apart, Dad saw its utilitarian value and began work crafting facings and hand-hewn handles for the drawers, a slanted lift-up top to sit on the desk (it is a draftsman desk after all), etc.  He sanded and varnished it until he was satisfied that it wouldn’t look to atrocious sitting somewhere in our home (hidden from view in some back room corner.)  We drove into town and found a swivel-seat bar chair (Sears ?), and found an old chair pad at a yard sale that almost fit the seat. . . almost. . . good enough! Once completed, Dad used this desk for years.

Some years ago I noticed that the desk was pushed aside and had become more of a catch-all than a desk-in-use.  I commented to Dad that when the day came, I would be interested in getting the desk. His ears pricked up, and then he began to tell me how cumbersome it was, not as useful as he had hoped, took up a lot of space, was ugly, etc. Did I still want it?  Being the romantic that I am, YES, I still wanted it!  In no time flat, Dad moved the desk to my apartment. (In retrospect, Dad acted a little too quickly on that cue!) I was thrilled for all of thirty minutes!  It became a catch-all for me, too. And just like Dad had warned, it became a cumbersome, bothersome, hideous piece of furniture that took up valuable space in small apartments.  And as often as we moved, carting the desk from place to place was proving to be a pain in the neck.  I was bummed, but what could I do? The only reason I kept the thing was because my son expressed interest in it “when the day comes.” With Dad’s words in my head, I began issuing warnings to Tim.  Just like me, my romantic son still wants it. . . “when the day comes.”  (Maria, don’t feel obligated to take the thing into your home.  Or, if you do, it fits nicely in a basement.)

But then I read about some interesting research confirming the importance of standing and walking upright on our feet and moving a lot through the day. And just as importantly, sitting for long periods of time is truly bad for our health. Furthermore, once the damage to our sitting-for-long-periods-of-time-day-after-day bodies is done, it cannot be undone! In other words, the lifestyle of this techie world is bad for our health.

I got to thinking about the desk and how I might use it to improve my health (I am a very sedentary person–reader, writer, dreamer, ponderer–ask my kids.  Heck! Ask Richard!).  I removed the slanted “draftsman” top, bought a 2′ x 4′ x 2″ piece of walnut instead, and placed it on top of the desk to create an even surface for my laptop and other “desk-type” items.  I found a tiny book shelf that fit on top, and also discovered a bar underneath the desk in the leg-room area that was and is a foot rest when sitting on a high chair.  I can stand, lean against the swivel bar-chair, sit, walk away from the desk when I need to move, and more.

While working at a rehab center as an assistant (rehab tech) to a physical therapist, I learned many simple exercises that are performed while standing. They are moves (leg lifts, marching in place, raising up on toes or rocking back on heals, etc.) that work to keep joints flexible, build muscle strength for maintaining balance, burn calories, and more. Best of all, they are all easy to do while reading, writing, dreaming, pondering, etc.  So, now I have my “healthy” work space where I can do all the “sedentary” activities that I am quite good at, while at the same time standing and doing simple exercises that add movement and health to my life.  Thanks, Dad, for this wonderful, beautiful, utilitarian monstrosity of a desk! 🙂

I am truly grateful for Dad’s old draftsman desk that was found in someone’s barn or junk pile or something like that!

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