reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


Leave a comment

one giant blue notebook. [merely-a-thought monday]

when i was twelve, my parents took a six-week vacation to europe. pre-departure, they arranged to purchase a brand-new 1971 volkswagen super-beetle in germany, picking it up and then driving all over for adventures at hostels and relatives’ homes and small inns in the countryside that served family-style pork chops. they talked about this phenomenal trip for the next forty years or so, reliving memories and favorite moments. in the end, the last time i saw my sweet momma was the day we delivered her cherished blue notebook to her at the assisted living facility and she clutched it to her chest, cooing, “this is it. this is the notebook.” she had written everything down – diary entries and details to remember – and having this spiral was like re-vacationing with my poppo who had died three years earlier. we had searched high and low for it for a couple days and found it in the very last bin we opened in the garage. a treasure. the one thing she really wanted.

there were other trips – indeed, they attempted to visit each of the united states. never extravagant. always cherished.

when i was eighteen i rode in the backseat across the country with my parents in the front seat. they purchased a cb radio before we left and i spent long hours “10-4”-ing as “goldilocks” across the great plains states and up pikes peak and next to the wasatch mountain range and through the flint hills of kansas, which was clearly on a mission for spare change as they pulled my dad over twice within a half hour, deputies standing on the side of the road waving over long lines of cars they then escorted into tiny towns so that you could place money in an envelope at the post office. (i still invoke my dad when i drive through kansas, especially since we’ve had a few breakdowns in that state.) i developed a huge crush on a cute boy in colorado springs at a motel 6 and almost signed on as the touring piano player for the band that this boy and his brothers were in, their parents befriending mine poolside. i pined for days and days after we drove off with four new tires we got at sears and a broken heart i got in the desert meadows behind the motel. i clutched the record they all signed for me and stared at the cover art. no amount of stuckey’s sticky pecan log rolls helped. but my camera and gorgeous scenery were eventually soothing and, even now, as i chalk it up to opportunity not chosen, i remember my mom’s encouragement to consider an unusual path, a road rarely traveled.

in the middle 70s my mom and dad took advantage of what they called “dunphy weekends”. i couldn’t find any details when i quickly googled that, but i remember three day weekends, in places like providence, rhode island – not too many hours from new york – that hotels offered for dirt-cheap, prompting reservations. because they were thrifty, they also would sign on to drive cars to destinations and be flown back, ever the road warriors willing to take on a highway and add to their growing list of states-they-had-been-to.

when i was much littler, i climbed into the pink lilco (long island lighting company) van that my dad and my big brother had converted to a camper and rode upstate with them. never disappointing their rube-goldberg leanings, the camper would always break down on some back road near basically nothing. my dad would take out wire cutters and, clipping wire off of fencing they found on roadside pastureland, they’d figure out ways to fix the van, while i would ponder being lost and never getting home again. their laughter and bantering on those trips was the key to a successful camping trip and we beverly-hillbillied our way across the catskills and the adirondacks.

camping some, airbnb-ing lots, hampton-inning in between, i’ve spent a lot of time on the road on trips and for work, both. when my children were small, we would drive, drive, drive, hiding easter baskets in the stow-and-go compartments of the minivan and toting all the age-related child-paraphernalia we needed. living away from family means that most of your vacation trips are to go see them. as time goes on, that’s really still the case.

in this last not-quite-a-decade, we have driven together thousands and thousands and thousands of miles and snacked and laughed and sang and were quiet across the country. we’ve slept in rest areas and in mcdonald parking lots. we’ve found hiking trails all along the way and have cooked in lots of kitchens from the boundary waters of ely to the beaches of the gulf to up-north wisconsin to high elevation of colorado to the cape. we’ve raced storms through alabama and through wyoming. we’ve had happy meals in montana and california and washington and tennessee and new hampshire and new york and florida and most of the states in-between. we’ve walked through tiny towns, toasted life on long island, combed the beaches of hilton head and had coffee in unexpected places in appalachia. the four days we spent in paris, as an add-on after work in the netherlands about seven years ago now, was exquisitely low-key. we walked everywhere, training only once or twice. we carried baguettes and cheese and wine and tiny salads into parks, onto cathedral steps, up montmartre and into our boutique hotel, choosing picnics over restaurants and never feeling like we had missed out.

the list of places i’d like to go grows. from a night or two to full-immersion for a longer stay, i look forward to all of it. i’m guessing i come by it honestly.

so i’ve never been on a luxury vacation. never taken a cruise. never stayed at an all-inclusive resort. i’m 62 and haven’t done the let’s-just-go-lay-around-and-do-nothing-or-anything-we-want-and-get-waited-on thing. i don’t know if i ever will. but it hasn’t stopped me from loving vacation. it’s all really one giant blue notebook.


Leave a comment

the mission of goodness. [merely-a-thought monday]

when a business is transparent, it is not afraid to put it out there. it’s not afraid of feedback – good or bad. it only wants to be the best it can be, its actions to be the most positive. this automotive shop was up-front, honest and did the best they could in a short period of time with circumstances for which they clearly had heart. davis automotive in hays gets our recommendation and – if you find yourself in need of car repair in the middle of kansas – we suggest you go there. they stepped up and helped when we really needed it. and the sign above their door was sincere.

it is important for a business or organization, its mission statement and its actions, treatment of customers, employees and its community to be in alignment. i’m thinking that’s why people go to the trouble of writing such declarations. to have intention and to courageously be accountable to that intention.

lately i’ve taken particular interest in reading posts, brief mantras, vision statements or supposed purposes. more than once i have found these to be askew of the organization and its reality. more than once i have found posts about listening and compassion, assertions about avoiding harsh words and falsehoods, pronouncements about lifting others up and statements about participating in generosity – lovely words but, often, empty words of hypocrisy.

so when we drove up to this small automotive shop in hays and they wanted to know, post-repair, if we were satisfied, i had great appreciation for them, for their dedication, their compassion, their service, their courage and their – yes – transparency. they are indeed participating in the mission of goodness.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this MERELY-A-THOUGHT MONDAY


Leave a comment

in avant. in après. [merely-a-thought monday]

avant: before.

there is before and there is after. it is with anticipation, maybe thrilled butterflies, maybe jitters, maybe weak knees, maybe even dread we live in before. it is sometimes with relief, sometimes with regret, sometimes with suffering, sometimes with satisfaction, sometimes with contentment we live in after. there is a journey between them – before and after.

there was nothing i could really say to prepare david for the loss of his father. and having lost both my sweet momma and poppo, i had a lot of words to describe it. but there is really nothing you can do when someone is living in before, except be there.

and now that it is after, there is still nothing i can really say to prepare david for the unexpected moments of sadness, grief raining down in a misty fog or pummeling hailstorm, or the unexpected moments of recognition, a glimpse of someone from the other side. even after these years of being-without and all the words in my heart, i can only just simply be there.

après: after.

the neon sign was hanging in the airbnb we took back along the way. we needed the space, not a hotel, to cook our own meals and simply be quiet. and i cannot think of a more timely message.

we are living in après. we are living in avant. both are true. both are real.

they are there too.

we are reminded, once again, for the millionth time – but not the last, to be present in right-now.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this MERELY-A-THOUGHT MONDAY


Leave a comment

light or apathy. [merely-a-thought monday]

normally i would shudder at this sort of sentiment. the “above ground” part is so … grim. yet, as we were walking down by the marina, on the 20th anniversary of the horror of september 11, it got my attention and i went back to photograph the back of the pickup truck.

like many of you, we immersed in shows and conversation about 9/11 this weekend. interviews and video and photographs, all visceral remembrances of a day when everything stopped.

so walking along the lake on saturday we were well aware of the anniversary, revisiting where we were at each moment of impact that day, each moment of devastation. we felt inordinately fortunate to be taking a leisurely walk on a warm and sunny afternoon, twenty years older than we had been.

cnn offered a special on saturday evening and spoke to “tuesday children” – adults who, as children, had lost family members that day twenty years ago. “shine a light” also featured two men – david paine and jay winuk who began 911day.org, a non-profit whose “ongoing mission is to transform the annual remembrance of 9/11 into a worldwide day of unity and doing good, and to encourage millions of people to remember and pay tribute each 9/11 through good deeds that help others and rekindle the extraordinary spirit of togetherness and compassion that arose in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 tragedy.”

goodness in real life. instead of that day continuing to be about evil, they set out to redefine the day into acts of doing good deeds in the entire spectrum of good-deed-doing. it has since become the largest day of service in the united states with over thirty million people participating annually.

i couldn’t sleep last night. something woke me up and then my brain does that thing it does in the middle of the night, jumping around, topic to topic, no apparent thread of connection, just one concern after another. my restlessness woke david and we sat talking in the middle of night.

we had both been moved -yet again – by the footage of this tragic day in the history of our country and we had both been moved – yet again – by being reminded of the acts of kindness and heroism that were so much a part of this day and the days after.

yet last night, as i lay there, the breeze coming in the window, we spoke about how our country – so united in those days – has regressed, no – has twisted – in more recent days. why have we not all come together in the same heroic spirit of 2001? why have we not all embraced whatever it takes to save each other’s lives? why, when 2,996 people were too many people, aren’t over 660,000 too many?

we are lucky to be above ground. yes. everyday above ground is a blessing. yes.

do we need – in our above-ground-state- to be reminded to push back against evil – global terrorism, global tyrannical leadership, a deadly raging global pandemic – to practice goodness?

“he who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. he who accepts evil without protecting against it is really cooperating with it.” (martin luther king, jr.)

“apathy and evil. the two work hand in hand. they are the same, really…. evil wills it. apathy allows it. evil hates the innocent and the defenseless most of all. apathy doesn’t care as long as it’s not personally inconvenienced.” (jake thoene)

hannah arendt’s words, “evil thrives on apathy and cannot survive without it.”

apathy (noun): lack of interest, enthusiasm, or concern.

“the opposite of love is not hate, but indifference.” (elie wiesel)

and what is beyond indifference, what are the intentional misdeeds committed by people who are living in community with each other?

how much light might be shined by simply wearing a mask or being vaccinated?

might it be possible to “rekindle the extraordinary spirit of togetherness and compassion that arose in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 tragedy”? to love one another?

what a blessing that would be.

*****

read DAVID’s thoughts this MERELY-A-THOUGHT MONDAY


Leave a comment

just love. [merely-a-thought monday]

we watched ‘the wedding planner‘ the night before we left for milwaukee to officiate a wedding. sweet and predictable, it was exactly what we needed friday night as we headed into a weekend that would spell bliss for a young couple.

this morning i read that pete and chasten are parents. there is a photo of them with two babies, newborns, a girl and a boy. the article made me cry for them. they are in their bliss.

in just this last week our dear friends welcomed a second grandchild and a daughter-in-law. their family grows, love begets love – love is just that – love – and they are blissful.

we danced last night at the outdoor patio reception and i was reminded of my weddings. both times filled with love and anticipation and the simple-profound complexity of the moment and the moments to come. no guarantees, no instruction books, no wisdom-of-the-universe or sage advice granted with the words “i do”. just love. both times bliss.

love is just love. we muddle through the highs and lows, the mistakes and grace, the celebrations and regrets. and love is still just love. pure and ridiculously complicated, our hearts swell as we love, love more and love again: partners and babies and added family members and dear friends. for seasons, for forevers, we punt our way through life and love, trying as we wake, trying harder the next day. moments rich with hearts flawed by humanness, hearts stirred by emotions too intense and too gossamer to grasp.

i think it all really boils down to this. all of it. no boundaries, no definitions, no exclusions. fragile and yet ever-powerful, ethereal and sustaining, love is really just love. it’s that easy. it’s that intricate. it’s tangly and it’s linear.

massimo actually spoke a few more words in the movie. adoringly and with respect he said, “love can’t always be perfect. love is just love.”

*****

read DAVID’s thoughts this MERELY-A-THOUGHT MONDAY


Leave a comment

in half and in half again. [merely-a-thought monday]

anna quindlen writes about it in “a short guide to a happy life“. the dividing line between before and after. we all have them. though mathematically incorrect for this lyric, as “sawed in half” only leaves the other half, many of us have more than one dividing line, more than one qualifier of our lives, more than one change agent.

i remember my first apartment. it was on long island in a basement partially paneled and partially wallpapered with red brick wallpaper. my dog missi and i moved in with my old piano, a convertible couch, beanbag chairs, a bookshelf and a bistro set. i had free bank-account-giveaway plates and cheap silverware my grandmother gave me, forks, spoons, knives still in my drawer to this day. i had a tiny kitchen in this studio and, though i cooked often, missi and i both ate plenty of cornflakes for plenty of meals. it was not fancy but it was mine.

after i was sawed in half i had to move and, ultimately, found myself in florida, seeking safety from a man whose aggressive pedophilia was predatory, for whom vengeance was foremost. everything was different. from those moments on. there was no going back, no return to innocence. the dividing line was stark and, in 1979, there was no real resource for processing it.

since then i’ve had a few more dividing lines. but, i have found in many purposeful meanderings through my lifeline in recollections and in much intentional parsing out of cause and effect relationships, that many of them relate back to the first sawing-in-half.

having children did not ‘saw’ me in half, but it indeed sawed time into before and after, for nothing would ever be the same and all my after has been waking and going to sleep thinking about them and wishing for their good health, good relationships, good work, love. there can scarcely be a parent who has not been profoundly changed by having children. before. after.

the loss of my big brother came as a mortality-blow. i had lost grandparents at that point, but their lives had been full and eight and nine decades long. my brother had merely reached his fourth decade – forty – an age twenty years ago now for me – and it was premature and devastating. he had been a stalwart rock for me in my years-post-first-sawing and to lose his wisdom and strength had me questioning how the world could go on without him feeling it. it divided time – from a more casual look at life to a more intensely emotional connection to those around me than i already had. if i am needy, emotionally, it is grasping on to beloveds. though i know i must not hold too tightly, i have likely not always succeeded at that, but i try to be at least close enough to always at least feel the wind from their wings. it’s not always possible and it’s sometimes impossible, and i yearn to have my family right close to me as many friends have, but i try – that word again – to trust life and its gifts.

the day i realized that there was no one left to ask questions of my birth, my childhood, my teenage years, the intrepid and enduring memories moms and dads have, i stared at lake michigan. i won’t forget that moment. i was wondering about my first time on the lake on a sailboat and i suddenly was aware that, without my sweet momma and poppo still here, there would be no answers that i could not remember myself. it came with intensity and orphan-hood surprised me – even then, at 56.

there are other lines in the sand, other befores and afters. relationships, jobs, places, mistakes and learnings, successes and failures. they all count, like every slice of blueberry pie making up the whole, even every rich ingredient making up the slice. the passage of time is a vast bakery of experiences, some more contingent on others, some more independent.

so when the song “life is long” came on at the end of the grace and frankie episode while i was on the treadmill and david was on the bike i was struck by the lyric “sawed in half by the passage of time”. i spoke into my phone recording the words i had just heard, words that made time pause like the button on the netflix video.

and i stared into the timeline in my mind, thinking about life sliced up like pie – a little less vigorously than a saw – but with just as much impact.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this MERELY-A-THOUGHT MONDAY


Leave a comment

love. no caveats. [merely-a-thought monday]

in a few weeks i will officiate a wedding. a gigantic honor, it is the wedding of dearest friends’ son. though i have known him over a decade, we sat in their backyard and he and his fiancee told the story of their romance, sweet and full of lovely vulnerable anecdotes. i asked a lot of questions and we all laughed a lot. there were a few tears – joy does that. they left it up to me to write the ceremony. gigantic honor. celebrating love.

in the weeks since our backyard circle together, we have wordsmithed and finessed, added ritual and music and i’ve reminded them to take their time, to not rush through this ceremony – that which is most important – to give themselves the space to be able to memorize each second of it. i want them to be able to see in their mind the look in each other’s eyes as they exchange the vows they have written, the scent of flowers on the breeze in the outdoors, the way her dress moves as she moves, the way he grins at her. slowly, deliciously, celebrating love in front of family and friends.

i have participated in so many weddings through the years. i have played pipe organ or piano or guitar and i have sang. i have run wedding rehearsals and i have offered thoughts on pieces of music that express what a couple might want expressed. celebrating love for each other, love for the unconditional support of those present witnessing their marriage.

i have also participated in many funerals through the years. again, playing or singing. again, offering thoughts on music. always celebrating love for the person no longer on the earth.

i read a disturbing account of a funeral this morning. the comments that followed were even more appalling. completely filled with -isms of all sorts, i was dismayed at pointed comments made toward the mayor of chicago, a woman of color, in a same-sex marriage, a different religion than the place of the funeral, attending to show her condolences. she was given communion and all hell has broken loose. the comments by hundreds of crowing allegedly-well-studied and righteous folks were enlightening. there was no love expressed here. only pious opinions, statements of judgment and wishes for her conversion, declarations of ‘faith’ rules, but no love.

clearly the people responding to this post about this funeral have not read anne lamott, “the movement of grace toward gratitude brings us from the package of self-obsessed madness to a spiritual awakening.” “…try(ing) not to feel and act so entitled” was apparently not in the wheelhouse of those writing. and, taking a breath before spewing, they clearly did not pray the words, “help me not be such an ass,” which, as anne writes, is “actually the fourth great prayer” after ‘help’ and ‘thanks’ and ‘wow’. i was utterly disgusted. celebrating love?

i keep learning. the lessons come each day. a little progress. i try to remember the movement of grace, try to express gratitude, try to let go, try not to be an ass. i check in at the end of the day and realize, once again, that sometime in that day i failed.

but the words of raymond carver (in his poem ‘late fragment‘) remind me of something: “and did you get what you wanted from this life, even so? i did. and what did you want? to call myself beloved, to feel myself beloved on the earth.” love.

all around us, people are celebrating belovedness – the challenges and the blisses. in new commitments, longheld relationships, new babies, children flying, new adventures together, routine days, mistakes, forgivenesses, long nights, new days.

“grace, progress, blessings continue to be given to you, because god gives. it’s god’s job.” (anne lamott)

no matter who or what deity in the universe you feel connected to, no matter what you call this supreme being, no matter your religion or not, i personally believe this. goodness pretty much is the bottom line.

when it was time to leave a visit together, my sweet momma would say, “be kind to each other.” she had no caveats. neither does love.

*****

read DAVID’s thoughts this MERELY-A-THOUGHT MONDAY


Leave a comment

open windows and ragamuffins. [merely-a-thought monday]

brad was off-zoom-camera when he asked, a little incredulously, “you mean you haven’t put in the air conditioners yet?!” i sheepishly replied, “no…not yet.” everyone on the screen laughed and then stared. i mean, it is clearly hot out. hot and humid and sticky – those dog days of august, though even dogdog is not a fan of sultry so-called-dog-days. every thing and every one is sluggish, moving slower.

i remember living in florida and working in a career where suits and business office attire were expected. you’d search for toe-cleavage-touting etienne aigner pumps on sale and score big on scarves to finish it all off. everything was air-conditioned: your home, your car, the office, the lunch deli. everything except the outside. so, after carefully attending to your ensemble and your make-up, you would get into your car in your garage and drive to the office – for me, this was downtown brooksville at the courthouse, as i worked for the state attorney’s office as the victim-witness counselor – and you’d drive around the downtown looking for a spot, hoping for something close to the square. you’d park -finally – a few blocks away, jump out of your car, grab your attache and purse and walk through 1000% humidity to the office while your make-up was sliding off your face and every wrinkle you had ironed out returned through the miracle of sultry-water-saturated air effects on clothing that does not have physical separation from your body. it is hard to look fresh and crisp when you, your clothing and your make-up are melting away. dog-days in florida are not merely a few days here or there in a month or two during summer. they last much longer than that and i always wondered how my elegant boss debbie managed to look pristine. but, i digress.

i felt compelled to answer brad’s question with a little more explanation.

last summer, in the middle of the beginning of the pandemic, in the middle of civil unrest, in the middle of dog-days in more ways than heat-inspired, we put our air conditioner units in the windows – early. the first day we were the slightest bit uncomfortable, late-spring sometime, we – well, david – lugged them upstairs from the basement and installed them in the sitting room and the dining room. we barely went anywhere. with the pandemic raging, we followed safety guidelines to limit our exposure to others, to limit our trips to the grocery stores, to refrain from eating out or gathering. we closed the windows and flipped on the air conditioners. we were isolated, insular.

the summer of 2020 seems like the summer that never was. neither of us can remember much of the summer-part of the summer. the usual backyard gatherings, trips to the mountains, music festivals and park concerts and farmer’s markets on the lake – all were absent for us. and, because the air conditioning was turned on, we basically left it on. it was easy to stay temperature-comfortable and that seemed like the only comfortable we had. as the spring turned to summer and summer turned to fall work and security fell away for so many and we were included in that. insular. temperature-comfortable but not life-comfortable. we knew having the units in was a splurge but it was our only splurge.

this year we are resisting. the windows are wide open. and some days it is hotter than roasting or sizzling or broiling or baking. but, like the environmentally-responsible outdoor company stio taglines, we “let the outside in.” my hair dries curly on its own and sometimes – gasp – i don’t even have any make-up on. our clothing is not smart and tailored and it definitely has a little drooping going on. but we can FEEL the outside. we can hear the birdcalls and sometimes the frog, the gurgle of the pond and chipmunks ranting. lawnmowers and music from the kingfish ballpark. the ice cream truck playing ‘it’s a small world’ and the street sweeper on its way down our street. we feel a part of the world, even in our continued vigilance of covid safety guidelines. we feel summer. and, to be fair, we look at the weather app for breaks in the heat, breaks in the humidity and count the days, knowing it is within our ability to get there without actually melting away. on days when it’s too too much, we sit in littlebabyscion with dogdog and have happy hour in the driveway, going nowhere.

soon fall will arrive – our favorite season. we’ll keep the windows open. we’ll smell the change of seasons and we’ll start sleeping under blankets. it will be easier to think, easier to move about, heck, easier to wear clothes. we are hoping everything will be easier. insular-island-at-home dwelling is not easy. in an opposite-reaction it seems that the more open, safe and healthy the world will become, the more likely we would be now to put in those air conditioners. maybe next summer.

and just a tiny word about linen. though it is supposedly breathable and plant-based and high quality, what’s up with all these wrinkles??? i could hear my sweet momma in my head the other day as i left the air-conditioned car, having driven a distance in a flowy linen handkerchief dress, trying to look fresh and crisp, perhaps a swipe at cooly-elegant, “you look like a ragamuffin!”

might as well have left the windows open.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this MERELY-A-THOUGHT MONDAY


Leave a comment

she-birds. [merely-a-thought monday]

“old birds have stronger wings.” (aarp magazine)

“but grace can be the experience of a second wind, when even though what you want is clarity and resolution, what you get is stamina and poignancy and the strength to hang on.” (anne lamott)

resilience. strength. sisu.

we have flown through many storms, we have weathered many droughts and much deluge. we have built nests from scratch and we have re-built them again. we have given birth through birth canals and through love choices. we have sought security and food for our young when security and food were scarce. we have attached wings to ideas and rube-goldberg solutions; we have made do. we have made piss-poor decisions and grandiose ones that have changed everything. we have broken treasures and fixed stuff; we have learned reverse threading. we have been emotional and we have necessarily let go. we have withstood fires of damaging words and we have recuperated from physical blows to our body, our sexuality, our hearts. we have tried to understand, we have been seekers of closure in times of strife. yet, even without understanding or closure, we have kept on keeping on. we are soon old birds and we have stronger wings.

because life, as life, presents gain and loss, winning and losing, achievement and failure, rich and poor, rising and falling, young and old, crepey and supple elasticity, as juxtapositions, as two sides of a pendulum ever-swinging, we have been measured in these competing narratives.

but we are aging birds with wings who have felt the sun of more than twenty-thousand mornings, the moon’s gravitational pull of decades, the grace of time and gardens through fallow and fruit. we are aging birds who have both soared and plummeted. we are aging birds who do not need the measure of others for our definition, for defining ourselves, continuing to learn, takes enough time and is complex enough.

we imagine unicorns in clouds, names in the stars of the galaxy. we catch the scent of sunshine on a wafting breeze and listen to the calls of mourning doves, wondering. we have come a long way. the path we have taken has not been straight. we have been courageous and we have been tenacious. we have flapped our way to here. we proudly wing our way forward, ever-forward. we are ever-stronger.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this MERELY-A-THOUGHT MONDAY


Leave a comment

a little bitta chalk. [merely-a-thought monday]

sidewalk chalk is pretty cheap. we have several little buckets of it, all different colors, chunky and at the ready.

one day last week some good parent brought out the sidewalk chalk and some delightful children wrote on the sidewalks on 7th avenue. walking our ‘hood, we were two of the recipients of their light-blue messaging.

“i just wanted to say you look awesome,” the sidewalk said to us. it was a hot day and i had on old multi-colored patchwork shorts and a sleeveless top seemingly older than the hills, thinning flipflops from old navy, humidity-messy-curly hair and a hot-flash-aided-shall-we-say-glistening-face. i felt anything but awesome. but this message made me smile. it reminded me of heidi’s sweet momma who said, “you will never be any more beautiful than you are right now.” wise words.

positive messages are free. it doesn’t cost any one any thing to say something positive. it doesn’t detract from any serious issue at hand; it doesn’t lessen the issuer’s importance. instead, it sets up concentric ripples of goodness, of kindness, of value to each person it touches.

“there are a hundred ways they could have said that,” david would say. indeed, a hundred ways to go about doing each moment in life. probably way more than a hundred. and yet, so often, people passing, people in relationship, people in power choose a way that is toxic, that demeans others, oppresses others, suffocates others, debilitates others. so often they choose aggression, argumentative, antagonistic words or actions.

someone in power once said to me, “i’m sick and tired of you.” it was the moment he jerked the heart-string i had to the organization, the moment i realized that all his negativity was intentional; it was toxic, demeaning, oppressive, suffocating and debilitating, not to mention shocking. i wonder what other 99 things he could have said, the other 99 ways he could have acted. i wonder what message he would have chalked on the sidewalk.

appreciation of each other, our beloveds, our friends, our colleagues, our community, this world, is contagious. its goodness is seed for growth, for collaboration, for mutually existing on this good earth in actual harmony.

simple words, spoken gently, simple acts of valuing, can make the difference in a person’s day. whether or not we intimately know that person seems irrelevant. to believe that we have made someone smile, have made someone breathe easier, have made someone’s day better, have inspired someone to pass it on, is irrefutably virtuous. to be optimistic, recognize others in their success, to stand in even-keeled integrity, to bring tender and honest concern, are traits of wisdom. to believe that we have softened a circumstance, diffused a conflict, dispersed anger is actual power.

and goodness begets goodness, in the long run.

for power does not come from negativity and control. instead, it comes from positivity and generosity, from empowering others rather than pushing them down. it comes from not thinking one is righteous, but instead recognizing one’s fallibility, one’s flaws. it comes with recognizing we all have much to learn. it comes when simplicity and kindness come together, in both random and intentional acts.

ask the little kids with the light-blue sidewalk chalk. they seem to really know that.

*****

read DAVID’S post this MERELY-A-THOUGHT MONDAY