Ordinary World

April the Giraffe with her yet-to-be named Calf / Photo courtesy of unknown (04-2017)

Have you heard?

It’s a boy for Oliver and April!

The May-December romance begat a 129 pound, five feet nine inches tall healthy baby on April 15, 2017 at the Animal Adventure Park in Harpursville, NY.

Ordinarily, a Giraffidae gestation period lasts 13-15 months (Wikipedia.org). But this pregnancy stretched-and stretched-and…to nearly 16. So, the due date of April 1, found everyone fooled.

Although usa.today.com reported that over 1.2 million people watched the birth live on YouTube and over 750,000 watched from the zoo’s Facebook page, I would have remained oblivious.

Except.

A few months ago, during a routine haircut, my lovely friend and stylist, Shawna, excitedly shared with me about the giraffe cam she (and a great thousand’s of others!) had discovered.

As we spent more time together, the topic naturally came up in conversation, and so what normally only happens in the far-away and exotic African countries of Niger, Zimababwe, Tanzania, and Kenya became of interest to me, because of my relationship with her.

Standard online research revealed the Giraffa Calfa’s name is up for a vote.

Pix11.com top ten names:

  1. Unity
  2. Patches
  3. Apollo
  4. Patch
  5. Peter
  6. Harpur
  7. Geoffrey
  8. Noah
  9. Ollie
  10. Alyssa’s choice

Being late to the party, per usual, my choice won’t even be considered:  Kungoja, the everyday Swahili word for wait. Kungi or even Goj for short could work, right?

But I can’t wait to tell my nzuri rafiki (Swahili for beautiful friend)!

What fun to pass on to her all I’ve learned: Each individual giraffe has a unique coat pattern. Like a zebra’s stripes or a Dalmatians’ spots.

In the day-to-day drudge of sick-sad-news and typical tasks, I think it would be fair to say that most of us dream of Love. Freedom. Something to awaken our spirits and lift us above the mundane while linking us together.

An average giraffe doing what all Mama mammals do, bringing everyday people together.

Not so ordinary, after all.

I love how Ann Voskamp’s New York Times Best Selling book, one thousand gifts, “dared readers to live fully right where you are.”

“Like most, she hungers to live her one life well. Forget the bucket lists about once-in-a-lifetime experiences.

‘How,’ Voskamp wondered, ‘do we find joy in the midst of deadlines, debt, drama and daily duties? What does a life of gratitude look like when your days are gritty, long, and sometimes dark? What is God providing here and now?'”

Not long ago, my youngest son answered in a similar way, when I asked what he would tell his friends to encourage them:

First, he told me to find Ben Howard’s video on YouTube, spurring others to, “Keep your head up. Keep your heart strong. Keep your mind set.”

What fun and check!

Then he said to name three things/blessings you’re thankful for.

  • God
  • Family
  • Friends

Check.

Lastly, pick one goal you will accomplish today.

“The real voyage of discovery lies not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”

Yup.

I’ll be watching. Looking. Waiting.

Because the ordinary really can be extraordinary.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Life From Thorns

I once knew a girl from Wisconsin who blinked naked.

She confessed to pulling out her eyelashes because she couldn’t help it.

Although it seemed strange to me, a popular phrase at the time, spilled like dangerous rapids into my mind and a death-trap out of my mouth:

“Whatever floats your boat.”

Who knew barren eyelids were only a symptom of a wasteland life?

Standing on opposite sides of a barbed-wire fence, the lush green pasture beneath me lay in stark contrast to the fallow ground under my country neighbor.

“Aren’t they pretty? I want to decorate one for Christmas!” She pointed to a patch of Cyran tumbleweeds beside her.

She was so earnest I didn’t have the heart to tell her by winter they’d be nothing but spine corpses. Or that was one of the weirdest things I’d ever heard.

So, I did what any damaged and empty, person would do. I rejected her. For good.

By December 25, her brother died by suicide. She and the rest of her detached family-like the prickly bushes she loved-rolled away.

The next spring, I heard an old, old story about a hill far away and a Savior who came from glory.

That baby born in a manger I’d celebrated the season before, turned out to be God’s Son all grown up. Sent from heaven to earth as the message of God’s love.

As proof, He went about doing good; healing the sick, opening blind eyes and deaf ears, and even raising the dead back to life.

So, why did people hate Him?

And if He was all-powerful, what good could possibly come from His horrific beatings, torture, and death on a splintered tree?

Jesus spiked to a cross. A thorn-crowned King.

Dying to save the world.

Dying to save me.

How bizarre!

That is one of the weirdest things I’d ever heard.

Life from thorns?

So, I did what any damaged, empty person CAN do. I accepted Him. For good.

Winter’s lingered in my corner of the world. Record-breaking snowfall left our region freezer-burned and lifeless. And though it’s officially Spring, the days have been colored in dismal gray. Like a tombstone.

Yesterday, a stinging spat and hurt feelings between my husband me brought the same.

“Come here, there’s something I want to show you!” My husband called from the open garage door.

Shaking off my resentment and hurt, I reluctantly followed. He stopped near the utility boxes on the side of our house.

Photo courtesy of Glenda Zylinski

Was that a tumbleweed nest?

How weird!

“Is that what killed our phone and internet connections?” I sighed.

My husband shook his head.

“Look closer.”

My breath caught.

Photo courtesy of Glenda Zylinski

Life from thorns.

Photo courtesy of Glenda Zylinski

 

Tracking Tomorrow

Photo courtesy of Pexels

How are you chasing someday?

Perhaps you know and use one of the seven tools Michael Hyatt recommends on his blog where he writes about moving beyond “good intentions to taking action and systematically measuring progress.”

7 Apps to Help You Achieve Your Goals and Build New Habits

  • Nozbe
  • Goals on Track
  • Life Tick
  • Strides
  • Coach.Me
  • Habit List
  • irunurun

Or maybe you’re like me and calendarize your life on hardcopy squares with bright stickers and color coded appointments, deadlines, and other important dates.

I’m praying about and working hard to meet goals large and small (Finish a book in seven months, lose 2 pounds a week this month, attend a live online webinar, find an Easter outfit, answer a snail mail letter from my mother-in-law, and that task I’ve put off far too long-clean the fridge!).

It’s possible, that like me, you also keep ongoing commitments to your church, volunteer work; school or non-profit organization or other public services opportunities.

But how often do we add fun?

“When was the last time you tried something for the first time?”

Just yesterday, one of my favorite music groups, the band Switchfoot, gave me that pop quiz via a CD in my car (as I completed errands scratched hastily in forest green on my 2017 Bless Israel kitchen calendar).

At breakfast this morning, I asked my hubby and his eyes glazed over trying to remember.

I ticked off a list of some ultra-memorable firsts:

  • Snuba diving in crystalline waters off the shore of a tropical island
  • Horseback riding on the beach
  • Kayaking on a mountain lake

Some notable firsts:

  • Attending a Switchfoot concert
  • Hiking a mountain logging road to the tippy-top (and being rewarded with wave upon wave of pine forest as far as the eye could see…)
  • Riding the Matterhorn (scariest at the time) in a popular CA theme park

Some fun firsts:

  • Trying alligator and conch appetizers
  • Strawberry cherries
  • Making baba ganoush (an eggplant dip) and hummus from scratch

And some hobby firsts:

  • Making a pinwheel baby quilt stitched by hand
  • Teaching myself crochet (I’m working on my fifth blanket in two years)
  • Learning watercolor painting techniques through a community class

So, while we’re grinding grueling to make ends meet, carry out commitments to worthy causes, or leave our mark on the sands of time, I propose penciling, plugging, or stylusing in recreational breaks and hobbies. Maybe something new?

www.postivelypresent.com reveals:

7 Benefits of Having Hobbies

  1. Hobbies encourage taking a break
  2. Hobbies promote eustress (that positive kind of stress)
  3. Hobbies offer a new challenge
  4. Hobbies unite you with others
  5. Hobbie provide an outlet for stress
  6. Hobbies promote staying in the present
  7. Hobbies have physical health benefits

Relaxing or learning something new doesn’t have to be expensive. Googling things to do on a budget yields some great ideas!

Exploring a new bicycle trail to catch memories with my hubby will fill tomorrow’s calendar square nicely.

Today.

Photo courtesy of pixaby.com/Gkenius

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

12 & 11/12

She was only four months old when she picked my husband and stole his heart.

Sealing the deal, she left two parting gifts on the church’s gym floor.

“It’s what puppies do,” I said to her embarrassed tween caregiver.

All her littermates claimed a high price to go home with their new families. She was the runt with an umbilical hernia requiring surgery, and if she couldn’t be given away, her next stop; the local dog shelter.

Although adopting Belle-whom I called Bella Chocolat for long (from the french for Beautiful Chocolate)-wasn’t in our family’s five-year plan or budget when a furry friend does the choosing, Providence often makes a way.

Our family, like our nation, was still reeling and healing from the unthinkable attacks and horror from the year before.

Belle proved to be a welcome distraction from the residual social and emotional effects of the traumatic events of 9/11/2001.

In a dogvacay.com blog post, I learned:

10 Surprising Reasons Your Dog is Good for Your Health

  1. Boost Your Mood
  2. Better Than Medicine
  3. Help You Stay Active
  4. Help You Be More Social
  5. Help Relieve Stress
  6. Can Help Kids Grow Stronger
  7. Help Us Understand Cancer
  8. Can Help Treat Rheumatoid Arthritis
  9. Are Therapeutic For Kids With ADHD
  10. Can Make You A Better Person

From the day we brought her home, Belle would hysterically compete with me for the Alpha Female spot in our family with three males. If I was hugging my husband or two sons, she was right there, squeezing between us.

Even so, she earned my respect just two weeks from the time she became a Zylinski. On a family camping trip, when a stray wolfdog three times her size trotted near our site, she lunged at him, straining against her collar and leash to bark him away.

Like any dog, she brought equal parts of cheer and chagrin. She delighted us with her love for swimming and was soon dubbed, Belle of the River. She was known to swim with geese, play tag with beavers, and fetch a tennis ball for hours.

But a confining bathtub? Let the battle begin!

And like most Labrador Retrievers she stayed a puppy well into her fifth year. Digging holes in the lawn, chewing on chair legs and stairs and cedar siding of our house. Or inhaling a whole tub of Brummel and Brown/margarine snatched from a corner of the dining table.

One year, several neighbors gathered with me to make festive fall cookie wreaths. I had laid mine on a card table in our home to dry before hanging it on our front door.

The next morning all that was left was wire and pieces of cardboard on the floor! Belle wasn’t the only one with digestive problems…

My husband and I laughed often as she played eye tag with either of us to get our attention, or growled at her reflection in our large picture window scaring herself so as to launch herself on the closest lap; or whipped up a strong wind with her helicopter tail.

For some reason, I’ve measured life in increments. Holding on too long, or letting go too soon.

Belle taught me about living in the moment. And being content.

For years she played the escape artist rushing headlong out a door left ajar, if only for a second, by an unsuspecting bystander. Or lifting the latch on the fence gate to run away. Often in our searches for her, we didn’t know if we’d see her again.

It took much time and patience to train her to stay close to home and to the ones who loved her most.

Like it took God much time and patience to help me do the same. Although the next adventure and something “out there” seemed just the thing to fulfill a deeper longing, it never did.

At nearly thirteen hip dysplasia and a loss of appetite meant we had to say a hard goodbye.

Our vet sent us a pet sympathy card. A first for me. I’d never been taught that grieving the loss of an animal was okay.

Our Bella Chocolat has been gone 1 & 11/12 years now.

The only thing I have left of her I’m getting rid of today. Her sweet nose print on my writing room window.

It’s way past time.

A goodbye for good.

Bonhoeffer said it well, “There is nothing that can replace the absence of someone dear to us, and one should not even attempt to do so; one must simply endure it.”

But her memory will ever linger; her robust bark or standing on her hind legs hugs. The joy and delight she added to our family.

All 12 & 7/12 years.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Can a Legend Make History?

What better day than St. Patrick’s Day to talk about folklore versus facts?

A receipt checker at Costco noticed the box of Godiva assorted Belgian chocolates in my cart and asked me what I knew about the fabled female adorning the cover.

“All I know about Lady Godiva is that she was infamous for riding through the streets on a dapple-grey steed in nothing but her long hair.”

She smiled.

“That’s all I’d heard, too. Google her. You’ll be surprised.”

I did. And I was.

Funny how I’d never taken the time to search out the matter further, relying only on hearsay and bits and pieces of conversations about her over the years.

History describes the study of past events.

Legend means a traditional story sometimes popularly regarded as historical but unauthenticated.

Lady G. falls neatly into neither category.

According to Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, she was:

“…a Countess of Mercia. An English noblewoman, the wife of Leofric, Earl of Mercia.

If she is the same Godiva who appears in the history of Ely Abbey, the Liber Eliensis, written at the end of the 12th century, then she was a widow when Leofric married her. Both Leofric and Godiva were generous benefactors to religious houses.

The legend of the nude ride is first recorded in the 13th century, in the Flores Historiarum and the adaptations of it by Roger Wendover: despite its considerable age, it is not regarded as plausible by modern historians.

The typical version of the story:

Lady Godiva took pity on the people of Coventry, who were suffering grievously under her husband’s oppressive taxation. Lady Godiva appealed again and again to her husband, who obstinately refused to remit the tolls. At last, weary of her entreaties, he said he would grant her request if she would strip naked and ride on a horse through the streets of the town. Lady Godiva took him at his word, and after issuing a proclamation that all persons should stay indoors and shut their windows, she rode through the town, clothed only in her long hair. Just one person in the town, a tailor ever afterward known as Peeping Tom, disobeyed her proclamation in one of the most famous instances of voyeurism.”

Celebrate or censure?

Maybe you’ve heard of Laurel Thatcher Ulrich? In 1976 she wrote a scholarly article about little-studied Puritan funeral services. Perhaps you’ve heard the quote that went viral not long after, or seen it on mugs, t-shirts or decals:

“Well-behaved women seldom made history.”

She went on to write a book using the title which examines ways in which women shaped history using examples from the lives of Rosa Parks and Harriet Tubman, to name a few.

Whenever I hear or see that famous line, I think of a broad spectrum of women. From world leaders like Golda Meir to another woman with long hair.

You can read all about the latter in the gospel of Luke, chapter 7 verses 36-50.

This story is historical fact and is found in the pages of God’s word, the Bible.

In this account, “When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, and as she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.”

What kind of love would motivate a woman of ill repute to audaciously scorn being scorned by the powerful leaders of her day to offer her most precious gifts–her tears, her expensive ointment, her hair, her time– to the object of that love?

Celebrate or censure?

 

 

 

 

“He’s Especially Fond of You.”

Multnomah Falls, Oregon

The Shack by WM. Paul Young released in 2007.

For ten long years, I danced around the book. Intrigued but fearful of what I might find inside those pages.

About a month ago, my husband plucked a copy from a shelf of our local, family-owned Christian bookstore. It’s been nestled among a stack of bestsellers, on a night table in our bedroom, silently beckoning me ever since.

We just returned from the movie, of the same title. It features an all-star lineup of actors like Sam Worthington, Octavia Spencer, Tim McGraw and Graham Greene, to name a few.

This is a story about Mackenzie Allen Philips. A man who loves his wife and three children. The pain and secrets he carries are only compounded when the unthinkable happens:

“Mack’s youngest daughter, Missy, has been abducted during a family vacation, and evidence that she may have been brutally murdered is found in an abandoned shack deep in the Oregon wilderness. Four years later, in the midst of his Great Sadness, Mack receives a suspicious note, apparently from God, inviting him back to that shack for a weekend.

Against his better judgment, he arrives at the shack on a wintry afternoon and walks back into his darkest nightmare. What he finds there will change Mack’s world forever.”

This is a beautiful film about asking God the tough questions in life. About being real and letting God be real back. It’s about forgiving and being forgiven.

While the actors are top-rate and the cinematography stunning, what moved me most and left me drenching a fistful of napkins with my tears, was the raw emotions within relationships. The struggles and strain. The awkward moments and angry outbursts. The silent sufferings. The hope and grace available to anyone who longs to be restored and revived.

“If you ever get a chance to hang out with Mack, you will soon learn that he’s hoping for a new revolution, one of love and kindness–a revolution that revolves around Jesus. It will be a revolution involving the daily powers of dying and serving and loving and laughing, of simple tenderness and unseen kindness, because if anything matters, then everything matters.

I’m at a juncture in my journey, where I’m through with letting fear dictate and define my path. Where I’m letting God’s love cast it out, and like Mack, moving beyond the past and charging forward to tell others about the freedom we all can claim.

Will you open your heart, too?

After all, “God’s especially fond of you.”

 

 

Hope and Grace – Gifts from God

I met Karen Saari in an online writing group. She candidly shared her scars and audaciously proclaimed the faithful love of God in her life. Truly a kindred spirit and my new friend. Just pure joy to journey with her today!

So, I’m 57 years old and I’ve been married 3 times. That was never in my plan for life. I wanted nothing more than to get married, have a family, stay at home to raise my children and be a homemaker. I yearned for it. It was my dream.

First requirement: finding a man who wants the same thing.

First failure: marrying a man who didn’t agree with my beliefs.

And what followed was 26 years of grief, tears, abuse, and unthinkable things that can’t be written down. I got a divorce after being told many times by my church – “God hates divorce”. Yes, He does, but doesn’t He also hate the abuse that was piled on our children and myself? I never wanted to get married again.

God had other plans. He brought Mike into my life and we married. I was filled with hope – hope that comes from Him. Hope that we would build a life together. We had a wonderful marriage and I actually knew what marriage was supposed to be like. When we’d been married for 8 years he was diagnosed with advanced liver cancer and given 2 – 3 months to live. I was devastated. He went home to be with our Lord less than 30 days later.

Well, now I knew I’d never get married again. I’d had my turn. I was glad for the wonderful marriage He had given me and content with that. Again, God had plans.

He brought Robert into my life and we married. And are married still! This is the grace of God turning all the tears to joy. Here I am, once again living in the mountains I love, with a bundle of grandchildren (15 in all!) and a job I love and all I can say is, “God is good.”

Karen Saari is a writer, editor and writing coach. She is the author and Indie publisher of Morningshine and Morning Glory, the first two books in a 3-book series titled The Spring Street Quilters. She is also the author of Log Cabin Quilts: A Brand New Story. All available on Amazon.

She blogs at diyserendipity.com and KarenSaari.com

Wherever You Are

We can’t see them. But they’re watching. The giant evergreen rustles, limbs shaking. They play tag around the thick trunk, circling faster and faster as they descend. Claws scratching coarse bark.

My husband and I laugh loud at their antics.

“I guess they’re not hibernating after all, ” I say.

He tears open the yellow cellophane, dropping peanuts in his haste.

I smile. “It was sweet of you to think of them.”

“They gotta eat too,” He shrugs.

Photo courtesy of Glenda Zylinski

Curious but wary, soon that primal force propels them nearer. Seagulls wheel about us, crying their grating call for the rest of the flock to join them. Hunger drives their large number closer, too.

I shoo them away. My husband throws a handful of the snack far to his right.

“A diversion,” He says.

After some time and a lot of patience, we delight in the rewards trust brings.

Photo courtesy of Glenda Zylinski
Photo courtesy Glenda Zylinski

The gunshot from across the river causes the small creatures to scurry back to the safety of their tree. And the flap of a myriad white and gray wings keeps them there.

Photo courtesy Glenda Zylinski

“Come out, come out!” My husband sing-songs.

Much later, I shiver and my husband crumples the empty bag.

Photo courtesy Glenda Zylinski
Photo courtesy Glenda Zylinski

We continue along the footpaths a familiar and soothing trek.

“Did you see that squirrel with the hacked off tail?” my husband says.

I nod, wending his wide fingers through mine.

“I saw one with scars on its shoulder.”

Photo courtesy Glenda Zylinski

We’ve been talking a lot about scars lately. How they can even be seen on a soul.

The image carved bold into that sycamore reminds me that God’s faithful love can heal. And the nails driven deep through Jesus’ hands and feet left an ageless trail of evidence.

My husband pulls me close and the tears fall unbidden.

“Remember last spring when we were here? That rush of wings–a Cooper’s hawk on the hunt–and the death screech of… A dove? A squirrel?”

“Yeah,” he murmurs onto my black knit-cap.

“Unforgettable. Haunting.”

I stop. Pull the cover off my camera. I’ve never seen more than two maybe three at a time tops. I count at least twelve today.

It’s too late.

“They’re gone,” I sigh.

“Not that one.”

And it’s enough.

Photo courtesy Glenda Zylinski

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Empty Places

Our eyes lock. I look away. Our carts pass in the aisle, scents of cinnamon clashing with garlic. I can’t count the times this scene plays out. Same story. Different characters. The pastor’s wife likely knows the script. Don’t engage. Just keep walking. As if we’ve never met. As if I’ve never been graciously welcomed into her home or worshiped God in the same church.

As if.

Another shopping day. Same-store. Different church. Another woman. We spot each other reaching for vitamins. She holds my gaze and welcomes my embrace.

“How may I pray for you?” I say.

“I need to sell the business.”

We part ways. I numbly fill my cart. I’d attended the wedding. Scrapbooked in her home. At Bible study groups she’d been an oasis with her smiles and kind comments. Those times after my attempt to take my life and others had gossiped and turned their backs, she and her husband invited our family on outings. I’d politely declined, thanking her and making excuses not to meet.

My face burns. The dairy room empty. I stop to let the cool air flow over me. Here she’d been again, offering me grace just weeks after burying her husband. He’d lost the war with his internal infernos.

How had fear wrapped its tentacles around my heart? Why had it first felt like a cozy hug? When had the eyes of my soul gone dark? And why do I blindly stumble, groping and grasping at thin air directionless alone?

 

…27…28…

The ambulance lights flashed red and blue. I shut my eyes to their dizzying effects and the surreal dream-quality of all that had happened and was happening. Two medics whisked me on a gurney toward the opened doors of the emergency vehicle.

“I’ll follow you to the hospital later,” my husband told the men. “Our two kids and their cousin are due back any minute from the 7-11 down the street. I need to find someone to watch them.” I recognized the familiar signs of anger, disgust, and heartbreak on his handsome face. He held the glass storm door of our yellow house before him like a shield. Was he guarding those hot emotions not just his well-built physique?

“Did you jump off a building to get into these pants?” The medic good-naturedly asked as he helped me pull them off. I smiled and nodded but the question and the removal of my jeans ticked me off.

The antiseptic odor of the emergency room like smelling salts burned me awake to the consequences of my foolish actions. The pale walls, white ceiling tiles, and bleached bedding drove the point deeper. I didn’t deserve to cry. Frustration escalated, I felt it rising in my veins. My breathing erratic like the thumping of my heart. The beat of my life.

I pat-patted the blankets, mind racing, emotions like a pinball pounding the edges of my thoughts.

Did I really want to die?

From behind the curtain, I heard voices talking about picket lines, derogatory name-calling, and how the medical center scraped, searching for temporary staff to fill shifts. Strangely, knowing this brought me comfort.

One on-call nurse entered in her scrubs, her honey-gold hair and lithe form somehow intimidating.

“I’m sorry you have to do this.” I softly said.

Although she acknowledged my words, I saw and felt no compassion in her icy-blue stare or briskness as she took my vitals.

“We’re going to give you charcoal to absorb the pills from your overdose and to aid in forced vomiting.” She handed me a bedpan.

The large clock ticked a circular marking of time. The black hour and minute hands and numbers and red looping hand reminding me of school days nearly a decade past. I counted holes in those drop-down squares and waited. And waited. And…

Another nurse, similar in coloring but older, no-nonsense, and stockier slid the curtain aside, the metal ball chain attached to the ceiling rails raking an irritating protest.

She looked down at the shallow vessel. The silver cold and heavy in my hands. Shaking her head, she took it from me.

“We have to pump your stomach.”

“Why?” I said.

“The charcoal’s not working. We have to rid you of the contents. Unless…”

“I make myself throw up?” I knew something…too much…about that.

She nodded. I nodded back.

All through the night, she brought me two-litre-sized bottles of a thick, clear liquid. At first, eager to want to help and not wanting to waste her time, I gulped down the offerings. After the third round, I shook my head. She looked sternly at me and spoke an even harder truth.

“You have at least five more of these to drink. If you don’t, your kidneys may be permanently damaged.”

Still, I hesitated.

“You have a family, right?”

I nodded.

“Maybe it’s time to think about them.”