Holier Than Thou

I knew I’d be giving up sweets for Lent, but this year, I randomly added, “don’t touch my face” to my 40-day Lenten sacrifice.

And now, my seemingly simple sacrifice has turned into a worldwide pandemic rule.

I have no choice, but to

play by the rules,

Stay home and don’t touch my face until well beyond Easter.

Sometimes it takes a big wake-up call to realize our choices and actions impact not only ourselves but also others.

And let me tell you from first-hand (don’t touch) experience,

Playing by the rules is the only way to play. When we go off the path, we, more often than not, get lost,

And I really want to play again someday, so let’s play by the rules, stay on the path and stop this pandemic.

Hopefully,  this virus will soon be a thing of our past,

but right here, right now, it’s not a time to act

309A0535“Holier Than Thou”

Copycatting Cactus

  • stay sharp, not spineless
  • low maintenance
  • patient under pressure
  • content in solitude
  • adapt to extreme conditions and any environment
  • drink water when thirsty; reserving some for a drought
  • protect against dangers
  • inclusive to neighbors – just don’t get too close!
  • keep a thick skin
  • ignore what others think; do what’s necessary for the Kingdom

and guess what else?!

Grow  and

flower

in good times or in bad.

ACS_0365
“Copycatting Cactus”

Esperanza

I’ve just been told about @imadilife passing this am –

I met Madi via IG, right as she posted her stage 4 colon cancer diagnosis. Each day forward, I waited for Madi’s stories and posts – her strength soothed the grief I’m still processing since the loss of my beloved friend to stage 4 lung cancer almost 2 years ago. I dm’d Madi that.  She responded with love and “followed back.”

Often heartwrenching to see her IG stories,  I celebrated Madi’s rawness and transparency; giving her followers an insider’s view into treatment and survival and, sadly, Madi’s story and suffering are so relatable to so many in our world.

As the months went by, Madi’s treatment became much more difficult, and Madi began to lose her grip on cancer’s progression. She still mustered up the positivity and strength to post her treatment updates as she negotiated through surgeries, labs, hospital transfers, and cancer complications. I could see beyond the images and videos and know too well the realities of treatment – weakening: trying to comeback, sliding downhill and crawling uphill, day in and day out.

And then, last week, online silence.

Madi stopped posting.

As the coronavirus spread and the world’s shutdown began, I intermittently checked on Madi via her IG feed.

Quiet.

I began to worry about her.

I hoped, maybe she’s healing from surgery?

I knew she’s vulnerable, so I hoped everyone’s sheltering-in-place for people like Madi.

I didn’t know who to ask how Madi’s holding up, but I believed her silence said enough.

Now, as I hear the news of Madi’s passing, I sit in stillness and silence, stunned by what she’s endured and grateful for what Goodness she leaves in her wake and in my life.

I hope that Madi’s finally free from her physical pain, and I’m in awe of her loving husband, mother, and family who protected her from evil and are now humbly lifting her up to God.

I’m overwhelmed with “Esperanza” —  of living life to the fullest, right here, right now,

And celebrating the intention when we allow a stranger to become a friend.

Touched by imadilife, I believe an angel sent to me via IG and via jwls2707 from above, for life.

 

5DB979D9-4F1C-4650-A7E0-17106DEBC6C7.JPG
“Esperanza”

 

 

Listen to Your Art

“Listen to Your Art”

In April I said goodbye to my friend of 25+ years – she left earth exhausted and without words.

The last 7 months I’ve heard and seen the realities of grief – of my own, of those who also love my friend, and of those who have lost a love I didn’t know but have shared their grief with me – Grief and reconciliation and the need for healing are rampant in our world.

Less than a month ago, my daughter asked if I’d travel to Amsterdam with her since no one else had the same work time-off. I texted my German penpal, asking if she’d meet us there, too.

An ocean away yet my penpal responded within minutes, “I’m in.”

Today I went all over Amsterdam with my daughter and lifelong penpal – we went to the Banksy exhibit @mocomuseum , and later in the day, I biked Amsterdam’s streets with my daughter who I taught how to ride a bike; chasing her down a golf course fairway holding onto her bicycle seat, yelling, pedal! go! and with my penpal who as children, we were introduced by our parents – a gazillion letters ago –

Life is fleeting yet friendship is like the light that decided to show up on this #Banksy work of art right while I was taking a closer look –

Present yet sometimes flickering and sometimes seemingly out of reach – True friendship is a two-party contract that stands up to the tests of time; showing up when least expected and in ways, more moving than I, pre-grief, could’ve imagined “I’m in and here to stay. I’m tucked safely within you; securely fastened within your heart right exactly where the real magic lives.”

And listen here – pinkie swear –

We’re taking care of each other’s hearts and art forevermore.

IMG_0468II

I know deep within my heart that she would’ve liked this if she were alive to “like” my art.

I was listening then, and I’m listening now.

That has not changed.

Be Our Guest

Last Tuesday, my brother, who owns a pool maintenance company, stopped at a house north of town in the desert to work on a customer’s pool. It was post-lunch, and he’d been working since 5 AM.  He’d gone home midday for food and a 100º+ temperature break, and when he returned to his schedule, he wore his flipflops not his close-toed shoes. At his first stop,

without warning

and with no rattle,

Fangs embedded into the top of my brother’s foot –

My brother was bitten by a rattlesnake!

He looked down and saw the 5-foot rattler @ his feet. My brother immediately drove himself 20-minutes to the closest ER; leaving his work truck parked and idling in the ER’s entrance drive as he admitted himself into the hospital.

After an examination, the doctor determined the snake had bitten my brother on the top of his foot –

Twice!

His foot swelled beyond recognition and turned a greenish-blue. The pain in his foot and leg was excruciating.  The venom, the poison, pushed its way through his veins; radiating pain from the puncture wounds and causing him to scream out in pain.

Admitted to the ICU for three days, he received six vials of antivenom (at $2400/vial.)  His bill at discharge, $200K. gasp! He still can’t put weight on his foot, so he uses crutches, and he’s unable to work for at least two weeks.

A costly lesson to remind us that we’re guests in the desert where we’re awestruck by the desert’s beauty – its play with the sunlight and its rare and impressive terrain, but at times, oblivious to its torturous conditions and its acclimated inhabitants.

The desert demands respect for its uniqueness, and unfortunately, sometimes, we discover firsthand an appreciation of its dangers. Warnings may or may not happen.  The sun doesn’t tell us that it’s taking our water, the cactus doesn’t ask us to keep our hands off and a snake may or may not rattle before it strikes.

Through witnessing my brother’s recovery, I’ve been bitten by the harsh reality:

We can’t let down our guard when infringing on this rugged territory.

Respect the earth. Respect others. Respect the desert.  And unlike most good guests, never take your shoes off when entering.

IMG_0026“Be Our Guest”

Befriending the Unfriended

45 days ago I was unfriended.  Not by choice, but by death, by lung cancer. After Julie’s death, I pretty much quit facebook; taking it off my phone and only replying to notifications. If Julie’s gone, who else cares to see my story and images – why post and why engage when my most encouraging yet objective critic isn’t online? She’s the only one outside of my immediate family who’d never actually unfriend me. Doesn’t everyone else use this platform to stalk and to scrutinize each other, why provide the material? Boy did I needed a kick toward positivity: do it for hope – do it for all those you love who remain – do it for your faith!

Last night when letting my dog out, I looked up to see two doves on a telephone wire with an incredible cloud show in the background. Two “old” birds just hanging out, enjoying each other’s company for no real reason. Not worrying about what everyone else is up to or posting selfies at the latest and greatest location, but truly together, taking in nature and feeling content. Julie called this goal, “a relaxed joyfulness.”  The wave of grief, my annoying sidekick these days, knocked me for a loop. It hits so randomly, ugh.

IMG_9392boost

 

Yet, today, less than 24 hours later, an envelope arrived on my doorstep from my dear high school-befriended-again-via-Facebook friend, Jon, and his wife who live across the country in AL. What on earth could this be!? Inside, a handwritten letter (side-note: Jon, the fit I find with my camera, you most definitely find with your pen!)  explained why I’d been given a hand-crafted work of art by Jon’s friend, Nizhoni Thompson.

Through your kindness, Jon and Wanda, I’m inspired to resume –

“wandering the world, seeking the sublime, capturing creation, glorifying God”

befriending the unfriended; restoring power when the Lights have seemingly gone out for good.

Snapseed-1.jpg

 

We only get one shot – let’s make it beautiful

for us and for others.

 

 

0° of Separation

I’m building you a garden.

“I’ll be visiting a lot.” – Jules, a month before she died.

Do you believe in life after death?

Faith is believing in what we cannot see.

I listened to her last dying words – the messages she told me from behind her full-face oxygen mask as she laid in a hospital bed with a broken hip in her final days of battling lung cancer.  Her hands trembled as she attempted to reach at the oxygen mask, trying to pull it from her face so she could speak. She looked at me with her traumatized eyes and talked through the air blasting into her nose and mouth:

what kind of dressing?

You need to put it in an envelope.

I’ve been kind of busy lately.
Where are we going?
How are we going to get there?
So I have to walk?
Thank you for being available to me, it means a lot to me.
This is the way I wanted to go.
After her death, I happened to stop at a random Costco Wholesale to buy only one item. Headed to the cashier with my can of mixed nuts, I took a  detour when I saw a display of rose bushes.  I could tell they had been housed in the indoor light and without a recent watering (nothing a little love couldn’t cure) yet decided it was fate since I’d never seen rose bushes for sale in a Costco. I inspected the bushes and chose one based on the color of its buds.  It’s common name, Fire & Ice. Seemed like a fitting name for a plant to begin my Jules’ garden.
And now, two weeks later and a month after her passing, the Fire & Ice rose bush is going nuts!

IMG_9311

IMG_9312

Jules always kept her word with me, and now I see, in death, she continues to speak; no longer muffled from entering oxygen or from the interruption of a lack of breath.

It’s our active choice to believe we sometimes won’t be able to explain why, when, where, how or the extraordinary but to trust we may see who.

And to me, this is faith –

An assurance that there’s life after death and there’s 0° separation if we listen to the messengers who’ve gone, returned and report we’re NOT going nuts when we see and hear the unexpected. Instead, we’re being led to the truth –

It really is phenomenal

where we’ve never been but where our late loved ones live!