You Reap What You Sow

It is said you reap what you sow. I thought I had been doing a reasonably good job of IMG_2329sowing seeds of kindness and generosity so why was I reaping the week from hell? I couldn’t help but wonder what was wrong with my seeds. Perhaps I planted a package of genetically modified (GMO) seeds—mutated with expectation. When will I learn to just plant the damn seeds and let them grow at their own pace?

The week started out okay. I sowed a few cranky seeds as my son and I got a late start IMG_1097to the Seahawks tailgate, but once we got there, we shared our food with friends and a few homeless visitors and we were rewarded with a fantastic Seahawks win. Golf the next day with my boy was also a joyous reaping, but that’s where it ended.

Hell week started with work. My last project of the year morphed from a simple online enrollment of fifty people to an antiquated paper project taking much more time and effort for both me and my clients. We were all unhappy as we reaped the obvious result of a bad seed—what had we done to deserve this?

By midweek, that news seemed tame when I found out I had two more tumors in my bladder. They’re small and don’t pose a significant threat, but surgery is required—and two weeks of feeling under the weather is more than I wanted to waste. I’ve never been good at resting.

If that wasn’t enough, I dropped my wallet on Capitol Hill as I rushed to meet a client at Starbucks. I assumed it was in my car, so I paid for my tea with loose cash and chatted with a woman who bought her first policy from me to cover the birth of her son. He’s now twenty-one, so after all these years, this client feels more like a friend. On the bright side, I reaped the good vibrations of our conversation, but on the not-so-bright side, my wallet was lying on the sidewalk waiting to be picked up by someone who would likely find my credit cards very handy at this time of year.

As I begrudged my unfortunate circumstances, my father’s words came to mind. This, too, shall pass. That’s true, but maybe that wasn’t the answer. Maybe I needed to look at these things and find out why they were placed in front of me. And, as I pondered each situation, I got my answer. Continue reading

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Apple Cup 2015

For the past few years I have ignored my Husky roots, mostly because I held no passion for the football team. I arrived at the University of Washington the same year Sonny Sixkiller took the field. Those were the days! Then, a few years after my tenure, we had Warren Moon under the skillful leadership of Don James. I was a Husky through and through and I’m embarrassed to say my loyalty wavered through poor coaches and players about whom I just didn’t give a damn.243

The fact that my son defected to Washington State and became a Cougar also tainted my thinking. A couple of Mom’s Weekends in Pullman gave me an understanding of the tight community and sense of belonging WSU brings to its students.

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My Cougar son

There is not much that would be mistaken for culture and only a handful (if that) of non-WSU activities worth enjoying in Pullman, so the students bond in a way that a Husky couldn’t possibly understand. I get it. And, for those years that I traveled over the mountains, always in awe of the beautiful rolling hills of the Palouse, I wondered if I had missed something by choosing to be a Husky forty plus years ago.

Today I realized that I had not missed a thing. I needed to be a Husky. I grew up in a small tight knit neighborhood (much like the WSU community) and I needed to expand my horizons. The University of Washington was exactly what I needed to grow up, to learn about life, people, society and maybe even get an ‘education’ along the way. I developed my social conscience at UW as I protested the Vietnam war, gained insight into the hearts and minds of humankind through my psychology studies and learned to love football.054

Could I have learned that at WSU? Maybe, but I wouldn’t trade my Husky days for anything. I love my Cougar friends and, of course I love my Cougar son, but I am a Husky and I no longer feel the need to apologize. We have a great coach and a young, eager team on the rise—much like the Cougars. So, the rivalry can officially resume with two teams heading in the same direction.

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Today we fight the big fight—The Apple Cup. And, today I am a proud Husky.

GO DAWGS!!

Table for One

I loved my vacation in Whistler—ten days in one of the most beautiful places on Earth. I didn’t mind travelling alone, in fact, the drive started filling my weary soul as I watched

Driving to Whistler

Driving to Whistler

the sunlight dance on Howe Sound. As the water moved and churned to my left, the sturdy granite mountain began rising to my right, the road having been chiseled from the mighty rock that once kept all visitors out.

Although I’d traveled that road for twenty years, it felt different without the IMG_0868conversation of a partner, kid or said kid’s many friends. Those days were gone. Now, it was my time and driving alone painted an entirely different picture than the one I’d merely glanced upon in years past.

Once I arrived, I enjoyed almost every minute of my time with one, almost daily, exception. When it was time for dinner, I had my choice of many fun and/or fancy restaurants, but it took courage every night to walk up to the hostess and ask for a “Table for one.”IMG_4354

The world seems to be built for couples—a child or two may be added—but, subtracting down to a “Table for one” brings judgement. Is it a crime to be single? I couldn’t always tell if the hostess felt sorry for me or sorry that she had to provide a big table for one
person. One restaurant, a casual establishment, told me I had to sit at the counter or go into the bar and take my chances in there. She wouldn’t offer me an outside table that could be better filled with a couple. I don’t think I’ll go to that restaurant again.

On the other hand, one of the nicer restaurants in the village, Earls, IMG_4278was always happy to give me the next available table, even as couples and families waited. My server, Becky, took good care of me and didn’t rush me, even asking me about my writing (I
always carry a notebook when dining alone) and offering her email so she could be included in my blog shout outs. But, I still felt the eyes of the couples and families on me. Maybe it was my own paranoia, but it felt real.

One other restaurant always found a table for me, but my experience at Earls brought me back one more time. The wait for an outdoor table on that beautiful evening was fairly long and when I was led to my table, I saw that it could IMG_4353have easily seated four. I immediately felt guilty for cheating four people out of this great table. My server this time (I wish I had gotten her name) told me I should just enjoy. She confessed that she loved going out alone and basically told me to screw all the haters (not in those words) and just enjoy.

And, that night I did. I sat at that huge table and ignored the looks. Were they staring because they felt sorry for an old lady eating alone, or were they envious that they didn’t have the guts to go out without a partner? I realized that evening that it didn’t matter what they were thinking. I needed to own the experience and over the ten days, I slowly became more comfortable eating alone.

That being said, I think humans were meant to form couples. We need someone to share our good times—and our bad. It’s nice to know we are capable of living and even thriving alone, but I know I want more.  As I looked around, I saw many couples in those restaurants and it was clear than some had ‘settled’ for less than they really wanted. Were they so afraid of eating alone that they couldn’t wait for the right person? Then I saw some who had obviously held out for their soulmate, holding hands, laughing and enjoying their meal (they didn’t notice me). Until I meet that perfect guy—perfect for me, anyway—I will continue to enjoy my “Table for one”. But, one of these days I look forward to walking up to my friends at Earls and asking for a “Table for two”.

All The Places To Love

When my son, Brett, was in the 5th grade, his teacher asked the class to write about a place they loved. He chose Whistler,  a place he had visited five of his ten summers–half of his life.  At age ten, he still loved our week in Whistler.  And now, twenty-two years after our first visit, I’m here enjoying my week(s)–this time alone, but I’ve got to say, I still love my time in Whistler.  Brett is almost twenty-seven now and working (and dogsitting for me) while I take that week that once meant so much to him.  Way back in the fifth grade, he made a poster with two snapshots (developed from a roll of film, no less) of Whistler Mountain and the following description:IMG_4268

All The Places to Love: Whistler – by Brett Miller

Whistler is the best place on Earth!!!!!!! We go to the village, have lunch/dinner.  We go to our condo, swim, and go to bed. In the morning we watch the sun rise over the mountain. Then we swim, see beautiful scenery from the golf course, in peace and quiet. Later we go to the village, buying things here and there. I enjoy the sight at night of satellites and shooting stars. Where else is quite so peaceful?

I couldn’t agree more!  I framed his words and pictures and have looked at them every day for almost seventeen years.

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The creek between Whistler & Blackcomb

Why do I love this place so? The mountains are awesome and the wildlife is incredible–although I haven’t seen a bear yet this year.  When I listen to the creek rushing through the valley it feels like lifeblood rushing through my veins.  Looking down at the creek or up to see the top of the mountain, my heart is full, my spirit lifted.

Visiting Deann & Reese camping

Visiting Deann & Reese camping

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The mountain from my patio

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Dancing!

I’ve been here nine days as I write this and have seen the beauty that nature provides surrounding my everyday activities.  I have golfed, explored the trails to Lost Lake, shopped at the Farmer’s Market, indulged in a hot fudge sundae or two at Cows and, this year I experienced a fantastic outdoor concert with Michael Franti–Wow!

And now my time is in Whistler is coming to an end.  One more golf game with my IMG_4370 (2)friends, one more night to watch for shooting stars and one more day to infuse this beauty into my soul.  I miss my son, my family, my friends and my dog, so I’m ready to come home.  But, I will be bringing back a sense of peace and joy from my time in Whistler.

As Brett said so many years ago, of all the places to love, Whistler tops the list.

 

My Lucky Day

IMG_4189A couple of weeks ago I took Hanni for a walk and she just happened to stop to inhale the scent of recent doggie activity right by a patch of clover.  As she sniffed, I perused the patch and found a four leaf clover. The edges were brown and ragged, but the four lucky leaves were big, bold and shouting to me that this was my lucky day.

I’m not sure that I believe in these signs, but I’m not sure that I don’t. We are all responsible for our own actions and subsequent “luck”, but maybe this piece of clover was a way of reminding me that there is good in the world and I deserved a bit of that luck in my life.

I had been feeling lucky anyway.  My bladder tumor turned out to be benign and was removed with minimal side effects. Yet, was it really lucky? Lucky that I found that tumor before it became cancerous, but not so lucky that I had a tumor in the first place. That clover says it all. My luck is tinged with brown, ragged edges. The good prevails, but there is always some dark, rough patch to go through before the good arrives.

A good golf day!

A good golf day!

I’m guessing I am not alone.  Who out there is lucky every day?  And if you are, do you even feel lucky?  Does it become boring to have life flow perfectly each day?  I have bad golf days, rejections of my manuscript and that pesky surgery to compare to the good golf days, great critiques with offers to resubmit and resolution to my health concerns. The “luck” seems much luckier when we have those difficult days for contrast–to make the happier moments shine in comparison.

A day at the lake

A day at the lake

The truth is that without sorrow, there is no joy. We have to have those difficult times to truly appreciate the “lucky days”, those days when we hit a jackpot at a casino, have a glorious day at the lake with friends, or make a new friend. I have had those moments recently—those lucky days stemming from the green leafy parts of the clover.

So, the four leaf clover brought me luck. It reminded me that there is far more good in my life than bad.  I have been lucky ever since I found it, but then maybe I always was…

 

The Best of Times, The Worst of Times

I’ve got to be honest, I haven’t read the complete works of Dickens, but I’ll always remember the opening line from A Tale of Two Cities.  Those words defined my life this week—‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”

Stop and smell the roses

Stop and smell the roses

Monday morning at 8:27 a.m. I received an email from a respected agent asking to read my full manuscript. Life couldn’t be much better—well, having her love it and make me an offer could be a little better, but still, I was flying high. My query to this respected literary agent piqued her interest! My dream was coming true.

At noon I went in for an ultrasound to see if I might have a hernia—no big deal. As the technician asked me more and more questions, I began to suspect she was seeing something abnormal. At 3:00 p.m. the phone rang and since I didn’t recognize the number, I let it go to voicemail. As I listened to the message, the first words I heard were something about not wanting to alarm me.  My doctor was happy to report that I did not have a hernia, but he needed me to see a specialist to check out a mass on my bladder. Mass? Tumor, cyst, cancer?  What the hell? Definitely the worst of times!

The specialist would see me on Thursday—exactly 72 hours after ‘the call’. This doctor normally wouldn’t have had an opening until July, so I was beginning to feel the gravity of the situation. Seventy-two hours doesn’t seem like much, does it? Just enough time to re-evaluate my entire life. Continue reading

Who am I?

I admit it!  I was about the dorkiest kid on the block–maybe even the dorkiest within a five block radius.  I couldn’t see the nose in front of my face, which was a surprise as that nose would one day be my most prominent feature.  But, as a toddler, with glasses as thick as coke bottle bottoms, my world was a blur, or make that two blurs.  I was cross eyed–trying to merge the views from each eye into one big picture.   IMG_0413

But, with my best eye, I managed to start reading and planning my escape from my fuzzy world.  It would be years later and many changes in glasses before I would look up and say, “What is that bright light in the sky?”  My parents howled.  My older sister just rolled her eyes.

It was my Mom who finally spoke, “Why, that’s the moon, Jacquie.” she said, trying to contain her laughter.

The look on their faces told me they were in shock.  They couldn’t believe I had never seen the moon.  They’d pointed that direction many times and I thought I saw something, but suddenly I knew I had only seen a street lamp or a distant porch light.  This was incredible.  Or should I say, they were incredible (that damn double vision, again).  In any event, my world was suddenly brighter with the illumination of Earth’s glorious moon(s).  My life could begin to shine.  I, Jacquie Rene May, was ready to make my mark on the world. Continue reading

Dog Daze — Hanni’s Story

Adopting another dog was the last thing on my mind when Hanni, an adorable Dachshund/Chihuahua mix (a Chiweenie), was dropped into my lap.  She’d seen at least two homes before mine.  I can only guess how her life began, so I’m going to stop here and let her tell her story in her own words:527

Hanni’s story as told to me (she barked and I typed):

Sometimes you get up before I’m ready to come out from under the covers (I sneak under the comforter as soon as you fall asleep, but of course you know that and just let me keep doing it—thanks, Mom). But most days I need to lick your face to remind you it’s time to get up. How many times do you need to press snooze, anyway? I can’t get too mad, though; you may not be quick to rise, but you’re awake and your hand finds that special place behind my ears that makes me sigh. As I roll over, you get the hint and rub my itchy belly (I’m allergic to grass so even with my allergy meds, a little extra rub to soothe the itch is welcome). A dog’s life is not so bad—at least not now.

Life wasn’t always so comfortable. Memories of my puppy days with my first family are sketchy—all I know is one day I saw a squirrel and everything changed. I found a hole in the fence and chased that rodent till my legs were tired and, to add insult to injury, the little varmint ditched me. There I was, miles from home—no squirrel and no family. I hadn’t counted on getting lost, but I was deep in the woods without my people, my house or my doggie blanket. Continue reading

A Short Story – Bernie’s Choice

Daddy's Girl

Daddy’s Girl

A couple years before my dad died, he gave me a gift. He told me he had a story idea about an old man’s date with destiny. He described the scenario vividly and I could picture every moment of this man’s journey as my father transferred the story from his mind directly into my brain. When Dad died, I searched his computer, wondering if he had written this wonderful story. I wanted so badly to find his words so I could print them out and share them with the world. But, the words were not there.

So, it was my turn to give him a gift.  I took the words he etched on my brain and wrote his story honoring almost every detail. I say almost because I did make one change and I think he knows why.

Here’s to you, Dad!

 

Bernie’s Choice

 Bernie opened his eyes as he did every morning sharply at 8:00 am. He was alive for one more day, and the butterflies in his belly sent a message to his brain that something good was on the horizon – perhaps the sun. After an extended absence, the sun had indeed emerged from behind the clouds and found an opening in the drapes, targeting Bernie right between his watery brown eyes. The hot ray of sunshine on his face demanded his attention as it warmed his chilled body from the top of his hair-challenged head to the tip of his arthritic toes and as it sent its heat through his body, it seemed to illuminate each object in the room with an ethereal glow. The floral print on the curtains went from dingy pale pink and yellow to a deep fuchsia and saffron with leaves and stems as green as the grass of St. Andrews. And the petals of each flower might have been moving; he wasn’t sure. Were his old tired eyes playing tricks on him? And, why did his body respond so profoundly to a silly ray of sunshine? Of course, he did live in Seattle where a sun sighting was rare, but still, this reaction was over the top for that one sunny day in December.

Bernie had been feeling crappy for weeks – forty-seven weeks to be exact – and if that warm beam of light could to bring him out of his funk, he would embrace it. He sat up slowly, preparing himself for his morning trip to the bathroom. It had become a struggle to move his heavy, aching legs into the waiting slippers and shuffle to the room he knew so well; the room in which he struggled to relieve his swollen prostate; the room that held the putrid remains of each small meal his body refused to digest after chemo; the room he had come to hate. God knows why I’m optimistic, Bernie thought. The prognosis was not promising, but Bernie always looked for the good and still found humor and joy in his life in spite of his circumstances. He wasn’t supposed to survive this cancer, but he knew if anyone could beat the odds, he would be the one. And, when he got that final miracle declaring him cancer free, he would buy himself a Mustang convertible. It would be red to match his favorite golf sweater and cuffley cap. That was Bernie – always hopeful, always dapper and always full of life. He was not going to give up!

On this exceptionally bright winter morning, he felt more hope than ever. He reached for his pain pills 413SCxjl0tL[1]then suddenly realized he felt no pain, in fact, he felt better than he’d felt in fifty years. Crazy what a little sunshine/vitamin D can do for an old body, he thought. He had barely left his bedroom in the last month and now he was ready to go to the dealership and buy that Mustang. Had he turned the corner? Was the chemo finally working? He felt like dancing! How could this be? From handfuls of oxycontin to feeling like a young man again, it didn’t make sense.

Oh, God, it really didn’t make sense! Something was wrong – very wrong. Oh, God, NO! This couldn’t be happening to him. “Damn it, God, I’m not ready for this!” Bernie shouted. He ran to the window. It was not sunny outside. It was dark as hell. But, inside his room that bright light glowed like a lighthouse beacon. There was no ray of sunshine, no ray of hope. It was the end. He was heading into the proverbial light everyone told him he would see when he died. He didn’t even believe in that crap and now he was living it – or more accurately dying it. God Damn it! There was so much he had missed in life and now it was over.

 

“God doesn’t appreciate you using his name in vain, Bernie. ‘Damn it’ is not God’s last name.”

“Who said that? Saint Peter? Am I at the Pearly Gates?” Bernie blinked and his room was no longer visible. He was floating on a cloud, talking to God’s right hand man. “Sorry about the ‘Damn it, St. Peter.” Continue reading

National Sibling Day?

If I had known last Friday, April 10th, was National Sibling Day I would’ve prepared this post last week. Thank you, Facebook, for making me aware of yet another ‘holiday’ I had no idea existed. I’ve been wanting to write about my sister and this would have been an opportunity to honor her on our special day, but alas, the IRS felt it was more important for me to sift through my receipts to determine just how much money to pay them on National Tax Day (April 15th, of course).

So, I missed National Sibling Day and was feeling pretty blue. Then, my son informed me that April 12th was National Only Child Day. Okay, I guess those without siblings should have a day, too. I barely had a chance to enjoy my sibling when all the only children demanded my attention. Imagine my surprise when I turned on the TV and found out the 12th was also National Grilled Cheese Day. Somehow the importance of National Sibling Day lost its pop, diluted by all the other damn National (you-fill-in-the-blank) days. Did you know that there is something for every day of the year?

IMG_3960But, the truth is I do want to write about my sister. I love my sister. I really couldn’t ask for a better sister—now—but it wasn’t always so rosie. After all, we’re siblings and we were not expected to get along in our childhood years. You can’t tell from this picture, but honestly, my sister was probably thinking, “Why did they bring this little brat into my perfect life?”  She had enjoyed being an only child for four years and then they brought me home. At that point she packed a suitcase and headed out the front door telling Mom she was moving to Seattle (100 miles away from our small town of Sumas, WA) to live with Aunt Jean and Uncle Bob. Of course she expected Mom to stop her and promise to get rid of the offending bundle of baby poop and spit up, but when Mom said, “Okay, but why don’t you come have lunch first”, she realized she wasn’t going to get her way.  And, after all, she was hungry, so she ate her peanut butter and jelly sandwich and never spoke of leaving again.

As I said, I love my sister, Sue. She taught me so many valuable life lessons. The first thing I learned from my sister was that dog biscuits are edible. My friend and I idolized Sue and her friend, Suzanne, and can you believe they took advantage of us? They told us if we wanted to play house with them we would eat what they put in front of us. It turned out the meal they prepared was Friskies dog biscuits. Luckily I survived that—Haha, or should I say ‘woof’.

A few years ago...As the years passed, I kept trying to catch up to her, but of course, that never happened. I matured at a much slower pace, so there was a great distance between us in our youth, but by the time she moved out at eighteen, we were actually starting to like one another and only a few years later we became roommates and found out that the space between age 19 and 23 is much less than the cavernous gap between 9 and 13.

And now, as we face a few life challenges, including the loss of our dad and the illness of our mom, we’ve grown closer than ever. She’s been there for me through my divorce while others removed me from their social calendar because I was no longer part of a couple. She and my brother-in-law, Lucky, include me whenever they do anything and I am truly grateful. I didn’t know until five years ago that being single had such a stigma, but my sister never makes me feel left out.

So, thank you, Sue; I couldn’t have made it through these last five years without you! In fact, I couldn’t have made it through life without a great sister like you!

I wish I could say Happy National Sibling Day, but I missed that boat. I also wish I’d have posted this yesterday on National High Five Day—that would have been a close second. But, it looks like I will have to settle for National Bat Appreciation Day, and although I think this was meant for the creepy winged bats hanging upside down in someone’s attic, in honor of my sister and her love of baseball, let’s just pretend it’s the Mariners’ bats. Go M’s!!