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  • Do It Anyway

    February 28, 2007

    The Paradoxical Commandments written by Dr. Kent M. Keith in 1968 state: “Give the world your best and you’ll get kicked in the teeth. Give the world the best you have anyway.” If ever there were a list of how to live counter to the culture, counter to human instinct, this is it.

    There is a group of mothers that I come into contact with on a regular basis. I smile at these women and try to make eye contact but mostly what I get in return are eyes that look down and then away. I am invisible. On these days that I pass them, searching for a smile, searching for acknowledgement that I exist, I think of Dr. Keith’s paradoxical commandments. They are so hard. I don’t want to smile anyway. I want to lash out. But I don’t. I just smile, even though a little piece of me just died.

    Recently Sean and I were in Wal-Mart looking at cards. He is sitting in the front of the cart. A man comes down the aisle behind me. I see his eyes light up as the man approaches. Sean gives him a smile that would melt an iceberg. As the man passes, I watch his face fall. Tears well up in his eyes. “That man didn’t smile at me!” he says. He is crushed. I am crushed for him. He doesn’t understand. I certainly don’t understand. I think of Dr. Kent and his commandments and how hard they are. They are so hard.

    “I don’t know why he didn’t smile at you,” I say to comfort him. “But that’s okay. Just smile at him anyway.”

    “Just smile anyway,” I repeat, not for emphasis, but so that I might just convince myself.

    The Paradoxical Commandments
    by Dr. Kent M. Keith

    People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
    Love them anyway.

    If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
    Do good anyway.

    If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies.
    Succeed anyway.

    The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
    Do good anyway.

    Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
    Be honest and frank anyway.

    The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.
    Think big anyway.

    People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.
    Fight for a few underdogs anyway.

    What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
    Build anyway.

    People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.
    Help people anyway.

    Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth.
    Give the world the best you have anyway.

    Now That Would Be Awkward

    February 27, 2007

    Today I had my two-week post surgical follow-up appointment. I told Sean that I was going to see the very same doctor that delivered him safely into this world, the first human to ever lay hands on him.

    “Are you going to get a shot?” he asked in a worried voice. In his mind, a shot is the worst thing that can happen.

    “No, I don’t think so,” I said hoping to ease any anxiety he might be having. “I think he’s just going to look at my tummy.”

    After a long pause, he asked, “Is he going to kiss it and make it better?”

    Oh lordy, let’s hope not.

    More Fungicide

    February 26, 2007

    My weekend involved a dust storm, sewage, a vanishing monkey and a trip to the ER. And that calls for a for a trip to the archives, if not the liquor store.

    * * *

    Fungicide – Not Just For Plants Anymore!
    September 11, 2006

    Sunday afternoon, the temperature dipped below 100, so Sean and I ventured out into the backyard to putter around and enjoy some fresh air. Having been indoors since the 4th of July, we both immediately began hacking and coughing. Apparently our lungs were no longer familiar with this fresh air stuff and were trying to reject it as a foreign substance.

    After we acclimated, I got busy pulling weeds and stomping down mole holes and trying to spruce up our sorry yard. Sean got busy dragging every toy he owns out into our sorry yard. I noticed that what few leaves remain on my fern, have little black dots on the back, so I foraged around in the garage until I found some sort of fungicide. I gave the fern last rights, made the sign of the cross and then anointed it with the fungicide. I don’t think it will do much to deter its demise, but I will know that I did all I could and that it’s going to a better place. And it makes me feel like I’m doing something in the same way that stomping down mole holes makes me feel like I’m doing something. The black dots and the moles laugh at me. This I know. I hear them chuckling outside my bedroom window after dark as I’m trying to go to sleep.

    After administering extreme unction to the fern, I noticed my neighbors strolling up the jogging trail with their 6-week-old infant. I was at their Christmas party when they announced they were twenty minutes pregnant, so I have been waiting to see this little fella for quite some time. I set down the fungicide and ran through the gate wiping my hands on my pants as I hurried around to greet them and get a look at their new little guy.

    They both sported that glazed-over walking-dead expression that all new parents wear. They proudly told me they were getting four straight hours of sleep now and how that has made them feel so much better. I told them I remembered what those first months were like — the lack of sleep and the non-stop crying. And the baby cried a lot too.

    I tried to offer her encouragement, telling her that I’d been there and that I know how crazy it can be. “If you ever need a break, I’d be happy to come over and help you out,” I offered. She raised her eyebrows and her eyes grew wide, so I continued talking, thinking she must be thrilled to have an offer of help from someone like me who knows what they’re doing. “If you’re having a tough day, just give me a call and I’ll pop over and watch the baby while you take a nap or get out of the house for a little while or whatever.”

    I noticed she was looking past me as I enlightened her with all of my fascinating mothering know-how, but I assumed that with so little sleep she was probably having a hard time focusing. She finally interrupted my blathering and asked, “What’s that bottle of stuff Sean is holding?” I turned just in time to see Sean spray fungicide into his ear.

    “What? Oh that? That’s nothing. Just a little…um… fungicide.”

    I ran through the gate and tried to wrench the bottle away from Sean. We wrestled it back and forth for a while like two actors in a bad movie trying to gain control of a gun. After a brief scuffle, I finally snatched it away from him, but not before I sprayed myself in the eye in the process. When I victoriously turned back to my neighbors, I could see out of my of my one good eye that they were hurrying on down the jogging path.

    After that display of skillful parenting, I’m sure she’ll be calling me real soon to help her with her baby.

    All Of My Life

    February 24, 2007

    Photo Temporarily Unavailable

    I waited for just this moment.

    And it was worth it.

    Departure Day

    February 22, 2007

    Nothing has been more healing to me this past week than to see Sean interact with my parents. He simply adores them. And the feeling, of course, is mutual. Whereas I shaved about 20 years off their lives back in the 70s, he has added that many years and more back, just in the past week. He makes them laugh, and to hear the three of them giggling together, all caught up in some private joke, is a joyful noise.

    I did not grow up with grandparents. Regrettably. And I guess we all want for our children that which we did not have ourselves. To see his eyes light up when my dad walks into the room or to watch him maneuver to sit next to my mother or hold her hand has blessed me and filled me beyond what I could describe here.

    Yesterday morning at breakfast, my mother mentioned something about when they would be leaving, and no kidding, in mid-bite Sean dropped his fork to his plate. He could not believe his ears. He was incredulous. “You can’t leave!” he gasped in disbelief. “You can’t go!” He searched all the faces at the table for someone who would tell him it wasn’t so. It had not occurred to him that they would ever leave.

    Last night after Antique Daddy had bathed and dressed him for bed, he scampered up the stairs to jump into bed between them to tell them goodnight. Papa Ed tells it that Wivian suggested to him that she might just take him home in her suitcase. “Okay!” he exclaimed. And then he sprang out of bed, dumped all of Papa Ed’s clothes out of his suitcase and onto the floor, tucked himself inside and pulled the lid shut. Then he popped open the lid like a jack-in-the-box and announced victoriously, “See!? I fit!” As if that sealed the deal.

    Then, in the middle of the night, I awoke to the sound of teeny tiny jingle bells – the familiar sound of Mr. Monkey accompanied by Sean, both stealing up the stairs to the room where my parents sleep.

    “Sean!” I whispered in my stern mommy voice from the bottom of the stairs, “Get down here! What are you doing? It’s 4am.” He whispered back in a little boy way that is not really a whisper, “Oh, I was just going upstairs to look at Wivian.”

    The image of him kneeling beside the bed, gazing upon the form of my sleeping mother made my heart stop. And in that split second of frozen eternity I allowed myself to wonder what he will remember of her. Maybe nothing more than looking upon the shadow and line of her face in the transparent moonlight as she slept. Maybe only that she adored him. And that would be enough.

    Departure day is upon us and it is going to be a sad, sad day all around.

    And let me tell you, there’s going to be an airport-style baggage check too.

    What You Get For 52 Years

    February 20, 2007

    Photo Temporarily Unavailable

    It is earlier in the week. We are sitting around the breakfast table. I am not actually sitting, I’m kind of slouched over in my chair with my head on the table because I’m still feeling like last night’s piñata from my adventures in organ removal. But I’m pretending. I’m trying real hard. My parents are reading the newspaper. Sean is being Sean.

    My dad looks up from the newspaper and over his eggs and toast, he says, “Hmmph!” as though he’s just discovered something. And he has. He just noticed the day’s date and that today is their 52nd wedding anniversary. In the chaos and the crazy of the past week, everyone had forgotten.

    Dad scans the heartwarming Norman Rockwell scene around the table: his doped up middle-aged daughter with her face in her plate, his grandson spooning yogurt down his pajamas and his bride of 52 years obliviously working a Sudoku puzzle.

    From the look on my dad’s face, I was guessing that maybe he was imagining himself as a young man standing at the altar of St. Al’s 52-years ago, full of youth and hope, kissing my pretty mom with his hands around her tiny waist. Or maybe he was thinking he just didn’t see this coming.


    Happy Anniversary Mom and Dad. We’ll celebrate next year, except without the morphine.

    Photo: Wivian and Papa Ed, 1955

    The Rights of Passage

    February 19, 2007

    Here’s the short list of things you need to know about staying in the hospital.

    First, never try to buy sensible yet stylish pajamas to wear in the hospital — the day before Valentines Day. Unless you think a black and red lace see-through number is appropriate for the hospital. If you do, it will no doubt, not make you popular with the nurses.

    The second thing is this: When going to the hospital, leave all of your valuables and your dignity at home. You won’t be in need of either.

    The day after surgery of any kind, the kindly nurses will come to your room with pointed bayonets and poke you until you get out of your bed. And then they will make you walk up and down the hall. This will seem like a really silly thing to do because you won’t even be able to remember exactly where your feet are located. They will tell you that they are making you walk not just because they can and they want to humiliate you, but to encourage the passage of gassage (a new word I just now made up).

    At this point you will want to hit the kindly nurses with something, but you have neither the strength nor anything handy that isn’t already plugged into you somewhere. So instead you mutter “damage” under your breath and you go. You go so that they might not poke a hole in your brand new sensible, yet not at all stylish Target Grandma Gown with their bayonets.

    To be fair, the nurses promise you that as soon as you can “do this thing which they describe all too technically for my appetite” they will give you some real food, food that you cannot see through! And after several days with no food, this seems a good idea. This food reward system kind of makes you feel a bit like a dog. But like a dog, you are more than willing if it means you’ll get a Snausage or a biscuit or something and that they might then go away and let you nap on a sunshiny spot on the floor without bothering you.

    So then.

    There you will be, wearing your new Target Grandma Gown, bereft of your valuables and dignity, shuffling up and down the hall, taking itty bitty Tim Conway baby steps, hoping and praying to get a food reward for doing something which is considered impolite.

    And it is then that you are acutely aware that everyone else is out there doing the same thing. Everyone has the same lofty goal. Passage of gassage.

    And that makes it very hard to make eye contact with the other patients you “pass” in the hallway.

    Post Surgical Pain

    February 18, 2007

    By Thursday afternoon, I was 24 hours post op and doing okay. I was sitting up and eating yummy hospital broth and speaking in complete sentences in English, although some people dispute that last part. As the nurse prepared to remove the morphine pump, I picked up my cell phone to call home. I couldn’t wait to call my little boy and reassure him that I was fine and that I loved him more than anything in the entire world and that I missed him and couldn’t wait to get home to see him. Even without the aid of heavy duty narcotics, I somehow imagined him sitting by the phone, waiting for news of my well being, barely able to hold back the tears.

    When my dad answered the phone, I asked him to call Sean to the phone.

    “Sean, come here, your mother is on the phone,” I heard my dad call into the den.

    “I can’t right now. I’m too busy playing with Wivian.”

    When I put the phone down, I turned to the nurse and told her that I’d just had my heart scraped out of my chest cavity with a rusty fork and maybe she could let me have that mophine pump a little while longer. Like seven or eight more years.

    Part-Time Pet

    February 15, 2007

    My neighbor thinks I am trying to take over his cat. And it’s partly true. I’m not trying to take it over completely. It’s not like I want the responsibility of vet bills, flea collars and a litter box. I just want to have a fling with his cat. I just want some “no strings attached” pet affection. I just want an opportunity for my son to learn that cats do not normally kill little boys. That’s all. And if lovin’ this cat is wrong, then I don’t wanna be right.

    Photo Temporarily Unavailable

    The neighbor claims that the cat is named “Smokey Joe” but I gave him the unusual name of “Cat”. He responds equally well to either name as long as you are holding an open can of tuna.

    The first time we saw Cat was early in the spring when we were out for a stroll in the neighborhood, a few months after we lost our dog of 13 years. In the interim, Sean had inexplicably developed an irrational fear of cats and dogs. If it were not for the thought of potty training a boy and a puppy at the same time, we would have another dog by now.

    Anyway, Sean spotted the cat about a block away and started screaming like he’d seen a lion. With all that screaming, the cat figured surely a baby bird or mouse was being served up for appetizers, so he sprinted our way to check it out. And one thing I think we all know about cats is that they are most attracted to those who like them the least. Which reminds me of an episode from my teen years, but that’s another topic.

    In Sean, the cat correctly figured he’d found someone who couldn’t stand the sight of him. So he followed us home to find out where he could terrorize him on a regular basis. Which he does. And even though I am a dog-person, I think I’ve fallen for Cat.

    After he followed us home, Cat started coming around to the back door every afternoon for drinks (milk for him, martinis for me). Then he started staying around for dinner. And then one day I found myself in the grocery store stocking up on Fancy Feast and I realized that maybe it was getting out of control. So in a moment of clarity I emailed my neighbor to confess that I had a thing for his cat. I admitted that over the summer we had engaged in some heavy petting and that at this point, I couldn’t promise that with the temperatures dropping, that I wouldn’t ask him in to spend the night. I am not a home wrecker, just a woman caught up with a very charming and handsome cat, and I just thought he should know while there was still time to call Dr. Phil.

    Photo: Although it appears that the fear is mutual, Cat is purposely terrorizing Sean by exisiting.

    This post was originally published in November of 2005. Smokey Joe and I continue to this day with our illicit affair.

    …. love one another

    February 14, 2007

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    deeply, from the heart.

    1 Peter 1:22

    And so you have.

    Thank you all for the tremendous outpouring of love and encouragement and prayer support. I am honored. I am humbled. And I gratefully thank you. Happy Valentines Day everyone. ~ Antique Mommy