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Flowering

“One way or another, we all have to find what best fosters the flowering of our humanity in this contemporary life, and dedicate ourselves to that.” – Joseph Campbell

Always think the best of others and choose the bright side. The alternative is dismal. You have no idea what others are going through, so lighten their load with a smile, a shoulder, an empathetic heart. And give yourself a break in the process.

We are all traveling this short journey together in pursuit of purpose, joy, and fulfillment. New eyes, new world.

“Don’t Make Assumptions. Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.” – Don Miguel Ruiz

Harvest

“We must give more in order to get more. It is the generous giving of ourselves that produces the generous harvest.” – Orison Swett Marden

I’ve just started to wear my “gifts of the spirit” bracelet the past few weeks to remind me to be open to receive those gifts given freely without effort or merit. This week, I was then prompted to buy a “fruits of the spirit” bracelet to remind me of how gifts and fruits are inseparable.

When we are given gifts, we are called to give them away, to plant and cultivate them in order to produce fruit.

We must go beyond our one dimensional understanding and seek a higher understanding, a deeper meaning to live this life well.

The gifts of the Holy Spirit are wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord.

When we are given gifts, they expand and multiply when we give them away, producing fruits. They move us from “me” living to “we” living.

The fruits of the Holy Spirit are charity, generosity, joy, gentleness, peace, faithfulness, patience, modesty, kindness, self-control, goodness, chastity.

Seven gifts creating twelve fruits. Pretty good odds to bet on.

Be open to gifts. Plant seeds. Harvest fruit. Gifts to fruit every time.

An Appointed Time

Our deep losses are always interwoven with blessings and gifts. Mixed in with our joy, threads of sorrow and loss. Life is a woven fabric of brilliant hues and worn strands of a single fiber.

As tears have taken their turn with laughter this week, I recall two simple words of John 11:35 when Jesus found out Lazarus died, “Jesus wept.” An invitation and permission to be real, to grieve, to be emptied and lost. At the same time, a promise of hope, grace and light. And while it will never be the same again, it will be alright.

In the dichotomy of daily living, Ecclesiastes seemed like a solid first reading for the funeral mass for my Aunt this Friday. It also turned out to be the foundation for a pretty good Byrd’s song too – Turn, Turn Turn.

“There is an appointed time for everything,
and a time for every affair under the heavens.
A time to give birth, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to uproot the plant.
A time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to tear down, and a time to build.
A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance.
A time to scatter stones, and a time to gather them;
a time to embrace,
and a time to be far from embraces.
A time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away.
A time to rend, and a time to sew;
a time to be silent, and a time to speak.
A time to love, and a time to hate;
a time of war, and a time of peace.
What profit have workers from their toil?
I have seen the business
that God has given to mortals to be busied about.
God has made everything appropriate to its time,
but has put the timeless into their hearts
so they cannot find out,
from beginning to end,
the work which God has done.
I recognized that there is nothing better
than to rejoice and to do well during life.
Moreover, that all can eat and drink
and enjoy the good of all their toil,
this is a gift of God.
I recognized that
whatever God does will endure forever;
there is no adding to it, or taking from it.
Thus has God done that he may be revered.
What now is
has already been;
what is to be,
already is:
God retrieves what has gone by.” – Ecclesiastes 3.1-15

Aunt Terry

This day is one of those days you would run from in the morning if you knew where it would lead to 12 hours later. One of those “you never know what’s going to happen” days. In a split second, it twists and turns in directions never imagined.

There are no ordinary days, so do not treat one more as if it is. I don’t want to write this but I need to mark this day. To honor my Aunt Terry who passed away at 10:41 am this morning. Our last earthly tie to Dad. We never really grieve for the dead, but for those left behind.

87 years old young. Up until last Thursday, driving, booking three appointments each day, swimming at the community center, playing cards, picking up friends for lunch, making soup or ham salad and dropping it off. Always ready to go out and grab a beer or her favorite – a brandy manhattan. One tough, outspoken, soft-hearted friend and soul. That is what is worth celebrating. Her spirit, spunk and energy up until the very end.

She fell last Thursday walking into the eye clinic to have her glasses adjusted. 9 hours later in St. Joseph’s Hospital, with a broken bone in her neck and several facial fractures, still fiery as ever. Her cane was safely tucked away in her car. Second guessing and “what ifs” always catch us up in useless pondering.

After a weekend checking in and out, meeting the outstanding compassionate nurses and doctors, today was the day she was actually going to make it out with a broken-damn neck to transitional care. After we left yesterday afternoon, she called and said she was getting out today to go home. I told her she would be making a pit stop at transitional care first. And rather than calling her nurse, I was prompted to go down in person (thank God) to talk to her nurse in person and check in on Terry.

She never swore and didn’t like it at all. But she called the pureed food, “shit on a shingle.” She told me last night that the phrase came from the soldiers in World War II. She was a soldier for sure. She sang in the choir up until a week ago, sang at hundreds of funerals, checked on friends and all of us.

I told her last night that I would swing by this morning on the way to work for 30 minutes to verify what transitional care she was getting into, make sure it was a private room and hopefully in the new part of the building.

When I arrived at 8:03 to get my badge, they said she changed rooms. As I went up on the elevator, I thought “what the hell for?” I high-stepped it down the hall, turned the corner to a blue light blinking (code blue – one step before the final lights – code red) and medical personnel rushing into the room. Praying it wasn’t her room, but I knew. They quickly escorted me down the hall to the “waiting room” – that familiar room we spend many years of our life in. Not before I asked “what the hell is going on?” Cardiac arrest. Frantic phone calls and more waiting. A total of three cardiac arrests later, it was time to let go and say good-bye until we meet again.

There actually is real comfort in imagining the family reunion and pure peace that comes with passing. The only comfort actually.

So to Aunt Theresa Valarie Pugaczewski. Thank you for your dedication, opinions, sass, vigor, generosity, unconditional love, complaining about the right cottage cheese – Land O’Lake 2% over Kemps every damn day of the week and peach Activia yogurt. I told her speech therapist and nurse who cried with us today that they could keep the unopened cottage cheese and yogurt we picked up yesterday and that they should recommend Land O’Lakes to the hospital.

As I left last night, Terry did inform me that I didn’t bring the right things in the bag I packed last Thursday and that she would make a list. Last night, I told her I would get whatever she needed tomorrow if I missed something (internally a little pissy – again, thank God). When I opened her address book today at her house to begin preparations for her funeral with the family, she had that damn list written out. Oh, how I wish I could be irritated and fulfill my orders right now.

Long detailed story for a reason. Please value each day as if it may never come again with those you love, because one day, you will be right. No regrets for me at all. God gave me the gift and others in my family to be irritated one more time this weekend and to be present in tough times. To hold her hand and walk in on a code blue and wait is something I didn’t get with Dad three years ago. Being there when it happened was a gift too.

As Laura Story so brilliantly says in her song Blessings,

“What if my greatest disappointments
Or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy
What if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are your mercies in disguise”

So, this day will be marked like a birthday, celebrating loved ones being born. Today, we honor a life of 87 years well lived, generously, honestly, abundantly, gratefully, imperfectly, faithfully, humanly and lovingly. Aunt Terry, give Dad one long hug for me and thank you for a life well lived. Well done, good and faithful servant!

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’”– Matthew 25:23

Lean

“Your inner knowing is your only true compass.” – Joy Page

“Our obligation is to give meaning to life and in doing so to overcome the passive, indifferent life.” – Elie Wiesel

Even flowers know to lean into the light. Light warms the heart, exposes color and hue, cultivates gratitude, builds resilience and pulls us from the depths of indifference. Lean to the light and let it do its work on you.

Grace and Humor

“Pay attention to the beauty surrounding you.” – Anne Lamott

“Pay attention to the beauty surrounding you.” – Anne Lamott

“Everyone is flailing through this life without an owner’s manual, with whatever modicum of grace and good humor we can manage.” – Anne Lamott

There’s a depth and complexity to life that walks in tandem with simplicity and beauty. A mix of mystery, joy, light, loss and abundance.

Remain in each moment, fully immersed. It is part of the fabric, the story and the journey that we are all on and share. No manuals, no 10 quick steps to instant success. Starts and stops. Left and right. Up and down.

Pay attention. Beauty and light. Grace and humor.

Good-bye, Again

“A lot of people resist transition and therefore never allow themselves to enjoy who they are. Embrace the change, no matter what it is; once you do, you can learn about the new world you’re in and take advantage of it.” – Nikki Giovanni

“The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.” – Maya Angelou

We did the final haul out tonight of the few remaining items in my parent’s house. 41 years of memories, now empty rooms for someone else to fill up. Bittersweet to be sure, but it’s time. Over 3 years after Dad has passed with Mom only there a few days a week, it time to say good-bye again, let go and move on.

As with all transitions, we know when it’s the right time and yet we linger and hang on one more minute, or year or more. A lot of good memories have been built through the years in this place, but the memories were with the people first, place second. Any yet we are still tied to place, even though home is within and with others.

So good-bye old friend and welcome new memories in new places with the same and new people.

Closing is Thursday. The final good-bye of many over the past 3 months of preparation. And then moving on. So often we only see the loss and miss the gain in the process. We cling to things so tightly that we miss the gifts of now and the promise of what is to come.

There are times and seasons for everything. Let go, move on and open your arms and heart to what’s new, next and calling. Life is about experiences and relationships not about stuff and structures.

And Then Comes Pink

“Pink looks good on everyone.” – Jeffree Star

“Pink looks good on everyone.” – Jeffree Star

“Dream, struggle, create, prevail. Be daring. Be brave. Be loving. Be compassionate. Be strong. Be brilliant. Be beautiful.” – Caterina Fake

When we awaken to partake in the joy of a late, unexpected bloom, entering abundance and enough, God surprises us yet again with pink hue sprinkles. Humble show off.

The original Creator calls us to notice, pay attention, be in awe, wake up and rest in His creation. And then He calls us to the action of creating with the colors He has generously given.

When we stop hitting the snooze button and finally wake up, being surprised again and again by beauty abound, it is our duty to show pink to others.

Look for the pink all around today and never let delight and awe waiver. Joy ticks off the devil and praises God and His creation. Never let your joy be stolen and satisfy the darkness. Throw in some hope, grace, faith and love and you have a full house. Tough to beat that hand.

Look for and cast light.

Camouflage

“The key to nature's therapy is feeling like a tiny part of it, not a master over it. There's amazing pride in seeing a bee land on a flower you planted - but that's not your act of creation, it's your act of joining in.” – Victoria Coren Mitchell

“The key to nature’s therapy is feeling like a tiny part of it, not a master over it. There’s amazing pride in seeing a bee land on a flower you planted – but that’s not your act of creation, it’s your act of joining in.” – Victoria Coren Mitchell

Each day, hide in plain sight, under the radar;
Tune out the noise;
Reflect, rejoice and renew;
Take a deep breath and tap into the sweet nectar of ordinary days;
Listen for and to your own song;
Re-enter the world anew;
Join in and find your place.

Slow and Steady

“God is offering an invitation. A call to waiting. A call to the mysteries of the cocoon.” – Sue Monk Kidd

“God is offering an invitation. A call to waiting. A call to the mysteries of the cocoon.” – Sue Monk Kidd

“The fullness of one’s soul evolves slowly.” – Sue Monk Kidd, When the Heart Waits

As summer winds down and “back to school” awaits just around the corner, another season enters and the pace quickens. Summer invites us to slow down and take in sun, flowers and long weekends.

I’ve yet to experience a slow summer or a fast winter. But all seasons have their purpose. When we gratefully open the gifts each has to offer, we can be fully present in our life right now as it unfolds, often in waiting. Patience, like abs, is a tough muscle to build. It also requires us to keep moving without seeing and knowing. Trust is patience’s best friend.

Slowly and steady, cocoon to butterfly.

“And somehow the transformation you knew would never come, that impossible lumping of fresh life and revelation, does come. It manifests itself in unseen slowness.” – Sue Monk Kidd

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