Love, Demonstrated

One thing that was a turning point in being a grown up, married person was when I learned how to see the love in what my husband was doing--instead of expecting him to show me love the way I thought it should look. This week, he is doing something for me that could be easy to overlook as an expression of his love.

I'm half-heartedly looking for an SUV. I say "half-heartedly" because I will probably have to give up the car I have now, which I love-love-love. As in L.O.V.E. love. He really couldn't care less about things that I like, such as heated leather seats, satellite radio and navigation. But he is carefully looking for what I want, and not necessarily what he thinks I should want. I know he would probably rather I would pick a truck like his, and he prefers cloth seats to leather.

Instead, he is looking for MY preferences. That is a very sweet expression of love: he isn't trying to find "good enough", or something to make do with. He isn't rationalizing that I put very few miles on a vehicle and therefore don't really need any bells and whistles. He isn't pushing his preference and he isn't contesting any of my reasons for what I want from a vehicle. He just wants me drive something that makes me happy. And he is loving enough to be content with the knowledge that what makes my skirt fly up about a vehicle is different than what he wants in his daily driver, and that is OK.

Oh, how I love that man.

Dilemmas and Decisions

What to do? Until I can figure out how to squeeze more hours out of the clock, I'm just not finding the time!

So what do I choose?

  • Clean?
  • Cook?
  • Practice guitar?
  • Practice Spanish?
  • Visit Mom?
  • Work on the basket I started?
  • Work on the novel I started?
  • Work on this blog?
  • Read the book I started?
  • Make the clothes I bought the fabric for?
  • Read the other book I started?
Aaaack!

Rediscover

I had been thinking about it for some time: picking up guitar again. Seeing if I could still play after 25 years or so away. I didn't think about it very seriously, but I thought about it.

Later, when I sat there with my Mom at her doctor's visit, it rocketed up my priority list. The doctor suggested that my siblings and I do a few things to help preserve and protect our brains: include plenty of turmeric and cinnamon in our diets (or take a supplement), read upside-down sometimes, keep learning...and play an instrument or learn a new language. 

So I went home and ordered a big bottle of turmeric capsules and cinnamon capsules. (Still trying to get in the habit of taking them regularly. I stink at forming a pill-taking habit and it is a wonder I don't have 15 children from my years of being so irregular with my oral contraceptive!)

I try to read at least one document upside down every day. 

And I bought a guitar.

Yes I did. It's an Ibanez IJV50--a nice little student-quality guitar to see if I could even still play. As it turns out, I can't. But it's coming back to me! I cut off my nails. I dragged out my old sheet music, and struggle to translate the dot on the line to a note on the guitar...but it's coming back to me. Flats, sharps, 4-4 time. 

That's when it happened. I found something in myself that I had loved once, and which I foolishly ignored. I had forgotten how much I enjoyed playing. Not for anyone else, but just for me. To sit quietly by myself and make a sound that pleases me. (Well, OK, so far the sounds I'm making aren't all that pleasing, but I will get there.)

I was never any great shakes at the guitar, but I wasn't too bad. And I would settle for not-too-bad again. 

My fingers hurt, but my heart is chirping. 

Parable

Do you remember the story, "The Little Red Hen"? There is another version of it in a Disney storybook, called "Mrs. Cackle's Corn". Let me retell it for you, briefly, here.

Mrs. Cackle needed to get her corn planted. She asked her friend, Mrs. Duck to help, but Mrs. Duck was too busy to help. So she asked her neighbor, Mr. Pig, but he, too, had an ironclad excuse for why he could not help.

Her little chicks were anxious to help, and they convinced Mrs. Cackle that all of them together could be as much help as one Mrs. Duck or Mr. Pig. Mrs. Cackle agreed and she and her little chicks plowed and planted and hoed and worked, until it was harvest time.

Again, Mrs. Cackle asked her friends if they could help her harvest her corn, and again they begged off. Mrs. Cackle and her little chicks harvest all that corn, all by themselves.

And when Mrs. Cackle's corn was neatly stored, and when she had a harvest table full of good cornbread, and roasted ears and other yummy corn treats, who did she invite to share the bounty?

Her little chicks, naturally. Mrs. Duck and Mr. Pig would have to find their own harvest feast, for as you sow, so shall you reap.

Wine to Try - Fetzer Gewurtztraminer


It's another very-affordable and charming white! Oh, please, reader....run right out, buy six beautifully ripe peaches, a bit of really good dark chocolate, some nice Edam cheese and a bottle of Fetzer Gewurtztraminer!



Gewurtztraminer is a sweet white wine and a very difficult word to type. There is a distinct advantage in serving it, though, because you sound exactly the same when you pronounce the name, whether you haven't opened the bottle yet or if you've already polished off one and are starting a second. (Purely speculation, of course...)

I'd consider this a full Guzzle. Sweet without making me feel like diabetes is tapping me on the shoulder with every sip, I think it's a wonderful wine for anytime and ideal for autumn. Maybe if I start drinking it now, I can hurry the autumn and be done with the hot summer?

My disclaimer:
Bear in mind that no one connected with any of the wineries I might mention here knows who I am. Of course, if they appreciate what I have to say and want to forward along cases of wine, I won't mind. I won't hold my breath, waiting for that day, either. :-)

My rating system:
Sip: a nice wine, goes deliciously with (or IN) food. I enjoyed it.
Guzzle: my idea of a nice sociable wine. The kind of thing I am happy to drink out of cheap plastic cups, sitting around the campfire, or out of a cool stemless glass while enjoying the company of someone I care about.
White Elephant: it isn't like drinking kerosene, exactly, but does not suit my taste. I'll pass it along to someone who might like it. This rating will mean more to you if you agree with my Sip and Guzzle ratings!
Drain-O: this stuff could hurt someone, so I'll send it to the wastewater treatment plant, via the kitchen drain. Maybe it will disinfect the p-trap, while it's in there
.


My 24-Hour Plate

Like you, I sometimes complain that my plate is too full.

But like you, my plate is 24 hours. No more, no less.

When I really think about it, I am content with the way I'm filling my plate.

A walk in the morning before the sun comes up. Some time to enjoy a cup of coffee with my Sweet Hubs before he leaves for work. And then some time to myself to get ready for my work day. A job I like, most days. :-) A team I am immensely grateful for, and a job that allows me to make a small difference, at least in their lives.

A quick drive home, and a dog that is so happy to see me when I get there. Time at day's end with my dearest. I have time to read and time to write. I goof around on DuoLingo, playing at Spanish. I might putter in the garden or throw together a casual dinner for the two of us. Or I might just sit in the driveway and drink beer like a redneck.

It's a simple plate, the one I keep fairly full. Just a little, countrified, rustic plate of living.


Give and Take


My parents had always told me that it was more blessed to give than to receive, and I believed them. But I didn't FEEL it. Even though I always enjoyed giving someone a gift, I didn't really get what they were saying.

Maybe it finally hit me when my oldest child came into the world. I don't know when it was, really, but at some point, I finally realized that I am happiest when I am giving something.

Caring for someone.

Creating something.

Making something better.

Solving a problem.

Lifting someone.

Encouraging someone.

Calming someone.

Feeding someone.

The things I do for myself are important, and they charge me for doing all the other things that must happen every day. But the things I do for other people or the world around me are the things that make me smile.

Even if all I am doing is feeding the incredible swarm of hummingbirds that hangs around my back porch, it pleases me to give.








Wine to Try



Oh. My. Holy. Lorna Doones!

I bought this wine at the Yolks supermarket in Sandpoint, Idaho (one of my favorite all-time grocers)...completely by accident! I was greedily scooping up all the Latah Creek Huckleberry D'Latah I could lay my grubby mitts on and also picked up all of the Maywine they had on the shelf.

At first, I was disappointed that I'd picked up some of the wrong thing. (Almost makes you want to reach for a tissue, doesn't it?). After all, I love their huckleberry wine: it's a little bit of Montana in a bottle to me and I try to haul as much of it home as I can. But then I opened a bottle of this accidental Maywine and my life was changed forever.

Well, OK. Maybe Latah Creek Maywine isn't exactly life-changing, but it is completely wonderful. It is sweet without being cloying, complex and still simple. This one ranks right up there with my favorite guzzles of all time. This is the wine you need to have in your glass if you're sitting on your summer porch in shorts and a tank top, watching the hummingbirds bicker over the feeder. It would also be the perfect wine for one of those sexy garden parties where everyone plays croquet and nibbles on cucumber sandwiches.

You can buy it from Amazon (full disclosure, I am an Amazon Associate), or you can call the winery in Spokane. Either way, please please PLEASE try some Maywine!




While you're buying, order some Huckleberry D'Latah, too!

 

Both of these lovely wines rate a total GUZZLE.



My disclaimer:
Bear in mind that no one connected with any of the wineries I might mention here knows who I am. Of course, if they appreciate what I have to say and want to forward along cases of wine, I won't mind. I won't hold my breath, waiting for that day, either. :-)

My rating system:
Sip: a nice wine, goes deliciously with (or IN) food. I enjoyed it.
Guzzle: my idea of a nice sociable wine. The kind of thing I am happy to drink out of cheap plastic cups, sitting around the campfire, or out of a cool stemless glass while enjoying the company of someone I care about.
White Elephant: it isn't like drinking kerosene, exactly, but does not suit my taste. I'll pass it along to someone who might like it. This rating will mean more to you if you agree with my Sip and Guzzle ratings!
Drain-O: this stuff could hurt someone, so I'll send it to the wastewater treatment plant, via the kitchen drain. Maybe it will disinfect the p-trap, while it's in there
.


Balance

There are no even measures in this life.

Does it really matter? The birth order, marital status, social status, employment status... who won the lottery, who waits tables? What does it matter? We're all trying to keep our balance in a shifting world.

I try to balance my desire to be successful and competent with my urge to live simple and be reclusive. I try to balance my urge to write and my urge to read. :-) How do I reconcile my desire to go, with the sure knowledge of how good I have it here? What disparate desires are you trying balance? I think we all have these inner battles.

I sit with my Mom in her care home, and I see the uneven measure of her present life. She is at once more herself than ever, unencumbered by social mores and polite filters, and yet she is slipping away from herself because those niceties and filters were always such an important part of her being. The proper woman she once was would be mortified by her present indignities, but dementia kindly lets her forget what would once have shamed her forever. There is no even measure to these trade-offs.

We don't always get what we deserve, and we don't always deserve what we get. If we are lucky and if we are wise, we can keep our balance on those shifting sands and learn to see the joy in what we have.

Thinking in Words

My sister tends to think in numbers. My husband is a visual person, and can instantly conjure a complex mental picture of almost anything (mixed blessing, to be sure!).
Me, I think in words. I can't remember not being able to read. Word search puzzles? Those are a no-brainer, because the words buried in the jumble of letters practically scream out to me. Often, when I glance at a paper, a misspelled word will pop out before I've even started reading. I love words. 
I love how some words sound like the sound they represent: Crack. Whisper. Meow. Huff. 
I love the silliness of some words. Wiggle. Smooch. Fluff.
I love profanity, when it's well-placed. I love words of simplicity and beauty. Rose. Love. Joy. Pray. I love the words for food, too. Enchilada. Sauerbraten. Pickle. Smorgasbord. Nectarine. Succotash. (Hate succotash, love the word.)
Since I am a person who is endlessly entertained by words, I also love names. I'm always curious about them, where they come from, how common or uncommon are they, and so on. In my part of the world, we are fairly close to the Navajo Reservation and some of my customers have great surnames thanks to their unique heritage: Manymules, Bigthumb, Tsinnijinni. I love the mellifluous pairing of a beautiful first name to a melodious surname. And I love the way a name reflects the hopes and dreams of the parent who bestowed the name. Girls named Rachel and Hannah and Sarah probably have parents who wanted them to be lovely, gentle, charming women. Name your son after your grandfather, and you are sending a cosmic wish into the universe: let some of Grandpa's best qualities come back into the family through this new life. 
I also love the silly, simple joy that I feel when I learn a new word, especially if it is a word I can really use. We visited my father-in-law recently. He's a DIY guy to the extreme and will use whatever bit of anything to do any project, before he'll go to the Home Depot and buy the right thing. From where I sat on the patio, I could see eight different kinds of fencing. 
When I returned from that trip, the word-of-the-day email waiting in my inbox was "bricolage"
I love words. They make me smile.

Wine to Try - Chenin Blanc

I haven't visited this topic in a while. I've been in more of a Guinness mood of late. But last night I had the last glass from a bottle of very-affordable, ever so pleasant Beringer Chenin Blanc.
Yes, Beringer is in the "cheap wine" section at our local grocer, and that is one of my favorite places to start. I am fully in favor of cheap wines and if I ever run for president, it will be on that platform. I am a big fan of affordable, happy, shiny wines like this. Beringer also makes a wonderfully nice White Merlot that makes my skirt fly up. 

Beringer Chenin Blanc is a basic standby for me, especially now that the weather is warming up to tan lines and cool tubs. It is light, fruity, easy on the palate, and it doesn't pack such a punch that I end up embarrassing myself. (Like I really need wine to help me with that....)

If you feel like slipping into a sassy white bikini and a giant, floppy sunhat (maybe in a lovely shade of coral), and munching on a chilled fruit salad, this would be the perfect wine to sip in the sun. Or even guzzle, which is what I'm rating it.... A GUZZLE! 



My disclaimer:
Bear in mind that no one connected with any of the wineries I might mention here knows who I am. Of course, if they appreciate what I have to say and want to forward along cases of wine, I won't mind. I won't hold my breath, waiting for that day, either. :-)

My rating system:
Sip: a nice wine, goes deliciously with (or IN) food. I enjoyed it.
Guzzle: my idea of a nice sociable wine. The kind of thing I am happy to drink out of cheap plastic cups, sitting around the campfire, or out of a cool stemless glass while enjoying the company of someone I care about.
White Elephant: it isn't like drinking kerosene, exactly, but does not suit my taste. I'll pass it along to someone who might like it. This rating will mean more to you if you agree with my Sip and Guzzle ratings!
Drain-O: this stuff could hurt someone, so I'll send it to the wastewater treatment plant, via the kitchen drain. Maybe it will disinfect the p-trap, while it's in there
.



The Forever Now

It is NOW.
It is always now, and there is nothing else but now.

It's always now for all of us, of course, but the forever now-ness of Mom's world is something I had never contemplated before.

Dementia means that the flowers I brought her an hour ago are now forgotten. She sees the flowers again, but they remind her of nothing.
The bad news of her sister's passing is also forgotten.

She can no longer remember how to bathe or toilet alone.
The indignity of needing help for her hygiene is quickly forgotten.

She has always been a picky eater. I mean SOOOO picky.
That doesn't matter anymore. If she enjoyed the food, she relishes it for the moment and forgets it. If she didn't like it, she forgets that quickly and eats it anyway.

She has lost her independence,
but she lives in the moment and so there is nothing to adjust to.

She has lost the power of her own stubborn will,
but she feels like a houseguest in the home and so is generally compliant and yielding.

Her world narrows down to a few things. They are important, basic, primal things: food, warmth, kindness, a warm smile.

She isn't fully present in any moment, but neither is she distracted or troubled. Sometimes she is petulant, or playful, or passive. She can be ornery. She can be sweet. No matter her mood, she simply IS.

For the time being, she simply is.

Can't See it Anyway


You can't see it, even if you look.

It isn't like an illness that shows easily from the outside. You can tell at a glance that some people are struggling with their health: you can see their walker, the effects of chemo, their oxygen tank or even just the pallor of a person who isn't well.

What if you can't see it? When you first meet a person in the early- to mid-stages of Alzheimer's disease, you might not believe what their family says. I am sure it is true for people who suffer from depression, chronic pain or other illnesses that what they feel like inside is not reflected on the outside. At all. Does that person go through the motions of everyday life, knowing that no one can see? I imagine it must feel like being somewhat invisible. And even though most of us wouldn't want everyone to be able to see all our troubles just by glancing at us, it still must be something that makes a person feel somehow distanced from other people.

I wonder every day, what does she know? Does Mom know what is slipping? Does she realize how diminished her capacity has become? Is she, I hope, in a cognitive fog that dulls the glaring absence of who she was and what she knew and how she thought? Is she sick enough to not know how sick she is?

There are no answers.


Hello? Are You There?

In some ways, it is the cruelest of diseases.

Mom looks much like she has always looked. She has the same personality in most ways, too. Mom was always stubborn; now she can be downright petulant (especially with matters of health care). She still seems to recognize her loved ones, although if we aren't standing in front of her, she doesn't know how old we are. It's a conundrum: in her mind's eye, her sister is still as she was back in the 1950s, and yet she knows I am a grown woman and I was born in the 60s. Time is no longer a linear thing for Mom. I suspect it is also true that Mom doesn't always know us as well as she pretends, but she's a hella-good faker.

She can't attend to her personal needs anymore. She can't cook, or remember her hygiene or to take her medicine. She doesn't remember anything for more than a few minutes and even those long-ago memories are becoming jumbled: one story melds with another, making new stories. One of the most stubborn and independent people  have ever known , now Mom needs to be told to rinse the shampoo from her hair, or to flush. She repeats herself about every 15 minutes, all day, every day. All day, every day. All day, every day.

But then she will say or do something for a brief shining moment, She's MOM again. For that moment, all the decisions we've made of late are called into question. "Is she really so bad off? Does she really need to be moved to a facility? Maybe she's OK..." The moment never lasts, though. The little window closes, and we are shut out again.

We stand by, her children and her family, and watch her slowly slipping behind a great wall of confusion and watching her dignity dwindle. We're watching Alzheimer's disease take our Mom from us.

FYI

I've been in customer service a long, long time. Let me just tell you, folks, very little will shut down a CSR's desire to help you faster than using the phrase "YOU people" on us.

You may get a CSR who is enough of a professional to continue to help you, but you won't get any warm fuzzies.

"What is wrong with you people?"
"Why can't I get you people to.....(fill in the  blank)?"
"You people need to do something about this."

There is no definition of the "you people" that feels nice on the receiving end. If you are calling to complain about something, you want the CSR to be on your side: to feel empathy for what you are unhappy about, and to do their best to resolve your problem. Set yourself up in immediate opposition with a pejorative term like "you people", and you can forget empathy. Now you've put the CSR on the defensive and told them very clearly that we people are not like you people.

Not that the "you people" kind of people read my blog..... :-)


Another Legacy

I read an essay on Slate: a touching tribute to the author's influential teacher. It reminded me of some of the teachers who made a positive difference in my life.

Mr. Marr, who taught high school English and Psychology, was an important teacher in my life.
Mr. and Mrs Black, a married couple who taught in neighboring junior high classrooms, were also influential.
Mrs. Vest, my first-grade teacher was wonderful, too.

But of all the fine teachers I had during my school years, I most remember Mrs. Waas. She taught high school English in Woodland Park, Colorado and I had her classes for my freshman and sophomore years. She took a socially-awkward, skinny and decidedly unblossomed girl and said the magic words that would change a life: "This is really good."

Even though teachers all through the years had given me high marks in my language classes, even though I was a strong speller and did well with reading comprehension, etc., it was Mrs. Waas and her constant approval and encouragement that tipped the scale.

I knew I could spell. Grammar was easy. Mrs. Waas read my compositions and was the first one in my life to tell me that I really had something to say. From my short stories and poems to my book reports, she engaged a wordy girl and her thoughts. She made insightful comments, argued a point with me, helped me write with more clarity and treated my words with respect. I can not stress that last point enough: she treated my words with respect!

We may never know the impact we have on other people's lives. Some teachers may hear from a student from time to time, but they never really know. It was about 37 years ago that I sat in her class for the first time, and was changed forever. There is great power in our words, and her words of approbation, words written in red pen and often punctuated with exclamation points (Interesting! Good point! Well said!) made an awkward, unsure girl become aware of her own ability and passion.

What can you say to someone today, to uplift them in that way?

What can I? I think I will look around for something to say. For words are power.

Look Again

A couple of things have come up lately that have made me stop and take a hard look at myself.

Yesterday, my friend mentioned something about being intimidated by some people.

I pooh-poohed her at the time, thinking, "Oh, how could you feel intimidated by anyone? You're so awesome!". But then I thought about it some more. A lot, really.

Here is this beautiful, funny, talented, intelligent and accomplished women and SHE feels intimidated by other people. What she said struck a familiar note, and reminded me of a saying that Grandma had about a mirror and a magnifying glass.

Another friend has been struggling with self-doubt, too. She has looked full in the face of her own complexity and found herself reeling. All of the things that I think make her amazing, make her feel uncomfortable with herself and different. 

Huh. I often feel intimidated and oh-so-very different. Here I am, 50 years old, and incredibly contented in my life. My husband is my hero and my heartthrob every day, even 30 years into the deal. I'm healthy, happy and fairly successful. I don't have a college degree, and I took a ten-year hiatus from the working world to raise my sons. Even with the late start and the (then) skimpy resume, I managed to rise to a level I am comfortable with and respected for.

Our sons have grown to become honorable and healthy young men. My dog is well-behaved and my garden grows just fine. WHY would I ever feel intimidated by others? Inspired? Yes! Intrigued? Absolutely. Interested? Sure! But why should I go through my life feeling like I'm actually a bit of a fraud?

The mirror doesn't have an answer to that question, but I think it's a sign of personal growth to ask the question at all.

A Legacy

I was a lucky child in many ways, not least of which was that my Holland Grandma lived with us for much of the time. She was wise and patient, witty and insightful and a wonderful grandma in every way.

She loved the fragrance of onions sauteing in butter and would usually come into the kitchen, just to smell, if Mom was cooking them. If Grandma was feeling a little "off her feed", the smell of those onions would kick start her appetite almost every time.

Grandma got her own apartment 40 years ago, and has been gone for almost 20 years, now. But every time I have onions cooking in a skillet, I think of her and smile. (I love the way they smell, too).

You just never know what people are going to remember about you when you're gone. I doubt she thought of a love for onions as some kind of legacy. What she really handed down to me was to remember to appreciate those little moments in every day.

When my husband leaves for work in the morning, I bury my face in his chest and enjoy just breathing him in for a moment, before we part for the day. If a song I really like comes on the radio, I pay attention. I appreciate the way my dog jumps up to see me. She kind of stands on her hind legs and gently places her front paws on my ribs. I've never seen a gentle-jumping dog before her. I take a moment to notice the pink and orange of the western horizon at day's end.

And when I am cooking onions in butter, it's a pleasant moment worthy of notice. I thank my Grandma for teaching me that lesson.

Wine to Try - Frusion Juicy Orange

It had to happen sooner or later. 

I'm sorry to tell you that this one is, in my opinion, a White Elephant wine. But let me tell you about it, because maybe it's a wine you would like.

It is Frusion Juicy Orange. Sounds delicious, don't you think? Yeah, that's what I thought, too. Maybe if I liked orange marmalade, I might like Frusion, too. Unfortunately, this one had too much of an orange peel flavor, with that bitter edge to it that makes marmalade unpalatable to me.

If you like grapefruit and marmalade and those slightly bitter citrus flavors, you might really enjoy this. It might be nice to make a wine-based Orange Dream drink: vanilla ice cream in an icy cold glass of this might be very summery and good.

Or maybe I'm just trying to justify the fact that I really didn't care for this one at all. But don't worry, I'm not going to re-gift it, because quite a few of us tasted it. I don't believe anyone particularly liked it. 

Sorry, Frusion. Do you make this in a strawberry version, because your Juicy Orange is a total White Elephant.





My disclaimer:
Bear in mind that no one connected with any of the wineries I might mention here knows who I am. Of course, if they appreciate what I have to say and want to forward along cases of wine, I won't mind. I won't hold my breath, waiting for that day, either. :-)

My rating system:
Sip: a nice wine, goes deliciously with (or IN) food. I enjoyed it.
Guzzle: my idea of a nice sociable wine. The kind of thing I am happy to drink out of cheap plastic cups, sitting around the campfire, or out of a cool stemless glass while enjoying the company of someone I care about.
White Elephant: it isn't like drinking kerosene, exactly, but does not suit my taste. I'll pass it along to someone who might like it. This rating will mean more to you if you agree with my Sip and Guzzle ratings!
Drain-O: this stuff could hurt someone, so I'll send it to the wastewater treatment plant, via the kitchen drain. Maybe it will disinfect the p-trap, while it's in there
.

The Little Things

It's surprising, really, how much little things can matter. A good example is one teachers use to stress the importance of punctuation--the difference between these two sentences:
Let's eat Grandma!
and
Let's eat, Grandma!

The comma is just a tiny little spot of ink (or pixels!) but it changes the sentence dramatically.

Many years ago, some of the relatives were together for Thanksgiving and we were playing Pictionary. My teammate was drawing a man in striped clothing, and I was guessing words like "convict, prisoner, criminal, inmate".

The right word was "umpire". The direction of the stripes made all the difference.

And then one day I answered the phone at the insurance agency where I worked. The man on the other line had a fairly strong accent, and he asked if he could "Make an appointment to have a look at Debbie."

"Pardon me, sir? Have a look at Debbie?"

"Yes. I need to look at Debbie."

In the background someone said something and he returned to the phone, "I need to see Debbie."

OH! Well. That sounded much less creepy, even though having a look and seeing are practically the same idea.

How easy it is to miscommunicate what we really intend, all because of a stripe, a comma, or simple semantics.

Words Won't Do

Just before Christmas, my most precious, favorite Auntie passed away. She had a long life that was punctuated with struggles but underscored with great love. She was a shining example of a life lived with hands to work and heart to God.

Her memorial service was held last weekend, and as is customary, the officiant opened a time for anyone there who wished to share a memory or make a statement. And, as is usual, I could not find words. Not that I would have been able to speak them if they had come to me in that moment. When I'm emotional, I squeak instead of speak. So much for my career as a great orator. :-)

No, for me the words come when I place my hands on the home row. (That's the keyboard, for those of you who never had "touch typing" in school.) The feelings are there, of course, whether I write them out or not. But to give voice to those feelings requires the physical act of writing. So I would like to say a few words about a kind woman who meant so very much to me.

She was a master of The Brave Face. People who didn't know her well might never know that she struggled with terrible pain. She never complained about it, but if you asked her how she was and all you got was an "I'm good", you knew it was a bad, bad day. She was fiercely protective of her own privacy and that was part of it, but mostly she never complained because she felt her problems were her own and not something to trouble others with. Yes, Facebook would not have comprehended her.

She was a true Christian, with the heart of a giver. I can honestly say that she would gladly give her last dollar or her last worldly possession to someone who she felt needed it more than she did. She demonstrated that spirit every day of her life until she could no longer lift herself from her bed.

She was the family communicator. She was the one who remembered birthdays, who wrote cards and letters to family far and wide. She never spelled my name right, but her way of spelling it became her own pet name for me, and I treasured it.

She believed in the power of prayer. Anyone facing a struggle could count on Auntie's prayers.

She was all of those wonderful things, but she was even more to me.

She was the one who always, always expressed confidence in me. She always made me feel like she believed in my decisions, that my priorities were well-placed and that I was on the right track in my life.

She was the one who listened to the endless yammering of a talkative girl child, and somehow appeared to actually listen, which we know she wasn't, really.

She was the one who told me I should write. She was the one who told me that my stories had voice and that others would want to read them.

She was the one who saw my sweet hubs, all those years ago, and instantly saw what a gentle soul he his. She loved him immediately and always said we were a wonderful couple.

Many years ago, when Auntie was visiting us, she paid me the highest of compliments about my New York cheesecake. She took a bite, and closed her eyes in blissful repose and said, "Het is alsof een engel geplast op je tong" (thank you online translation site). Which in Dutch means "It's like an angel peed on your tongue". High praise, that.

She was patient, tolerant of other people's foibles and flaws.

She has gone, now, to join her own sweet husband, our beloved Uncle Henk. At last she sits at the table again with her husband, parents, her older brother, my father (whom she cherished as if her were her true brother) and all those many treasured loved ones who went before her, and feasts on the final fruits of her many labors. And I pray that the cheesecake tastes like an angel peed on her tongue.