Saturday, July 15, 2017

If church had black flies....

Last summer while on vacation, we introduced ourselves to the world of fly fishing.  We were in the Rangeley region of Maine, which has an incredibly rich fly fishing history, so we certainly chose the right place to learn.

We visited the Rangeley Region Sport Shop to get outfitted and schedule time with our guide (and shop owner), Brett.  Bright and early on our last day of vacation we headed deep into the woods and learned to fly fish.  What a fantastic experience it was.  From Brett's firm yet gentle tutoring to the peace and beauty of the deep woods - it was awesome.  And, for anyone who thought I'd never do something like this.... here you go.

This year, we went to the shop as soon as we arrived in the area - before we even checked into our cabin - to set our time with Brett.  We both had shiny new fly rods to use and we were looking forward to getting out.  Again, we chose the last day of vacation - what better way to end our time in this wonderful place?

Jill came with us and we had another awesome day.  Weather - location - company ... could not have been better.  And...we all caught (& released) fish!  Just a note - when you head out to enjoy nature, make sure you're with someone who has a deep love and respect for it, because it will make all the difference.  Brett clearly loves nature and the woods and what he's doing.  Each of us caught fish and he carefully showed us how to remove the hooks and release the fish without harming them.  I'm not sure if he's aware of this, but each time he released a fish, he gave it a couple of gentle is a kind and beautiful and respectful gesture.

While we were fishing, I found myself almost in a trance (disturbed only by the black flies and mosquitos).  I wasn't thinking about anything or speaking to anyone or focused on anything other than my task and was completely present in the miracle of the moment - something that doesn't happen often enough.  The other time it does often happen is when I'm at church.  I'm just there...enjoying the miracle of the moment.

When we finished up, I commented to Brett that it was so peaceful, it felt like church.  His response, "yeah - if church had black flies".  It was the perfect response because, for me, it was a combination of elements - fly fishing, peace, my family, the miracles all around me, black flies and salmon and brook trout - that made it perfect.

The woods and getting close to nature and fly fishing aren't for everyone, but they work for me.  If you think that you can't find peace - I say to you - sure you can, you just have to be willing to look for it.


Saturday, June 24, 2017

Let Them Know

A dear friend of our family, someone I've called "cousin" for 50 years, passed away on June 5th.  The decision to go was his, and the aftermath of sadness, hurt, and pain has been very difficult to deal with.  To help myself come to terms with it, I've been trying to find some kind of positive in an otherwise heartbreaking situation.

On the day of Joe's funeral, I was chatting with Sandy, a long-time close family friend.  She was looking around the room and commented on how many people had come from all areas & phases of his life to pay their respects.  Joe had an impact on everyone he met.  Sandy wondered if he knew what he meant to all of these people and she commented that she would want to know what she meant to people now and not have people wait until she had died to talk about it.  I was 100% in agreement with her.

We go about our days, doing our thing, but do we ever pay attention to what kind of impact we have?  Did we make anyone's day better (or worse)?  Did we try to make anyone's day better (or worse)?  Did we let the people who had an impact on our day know that?  People don't always realize what kind of difference they're making - especially if no one tells them.

It's hard to be human sometimes.  We operate in a relatively civilized society and we can't always say or do everything we wish.  What we can say and do are good things.  Tell people when they've had an impact on you.  Something really small to you might be huge to them.  Let people know you care about them.  You know how sometimes you'll think of someone out of the blue?  Reach out to them if you can.  All those "friends" on Facebook -- say hello -- right on their page.  Send private notes if you've been out of contact for a while and you miss them.  The key is to be sincere.  If you aren't feeling it, don't do it.  People really can tell, so keep focused on keeping it real.  And be open to letting people tell you what you mean to them.  It's sometimes hard to take a compliment, but learn to do it gracefully.

You have the power to change someone's day and, possibly, their life.  Don't think so?  Try it and you'll see.  In giving, you will receive.  Not only will you feel good knowing that you've helped someone to know how important they are, but you'll be opening the door to have that come back to you.

My cousin and I did keep in touch.  We said hello and shared funny cat things, and loved mocking people who don't use their blinkers ("blinkahs").  I try to comfort myself into thinking he knew how loved he was.

If you don't believe your words could have an impact on anyone - I say to you - let them know anyhow.  Because you really can't imagine how big a difference you can make.


Rest well were very loved and I will never forget you ♥

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Can I Hear You Now?

Most everyone who knows me in person knows that I've had some hearing loss all of my life.  It was in the mild-to-moderate range most of the time.  I learned to adapt, and became quite the lip reader without even realizing it.

Over time, as with most body parts, my ears got worse and finally, after Brad asked for the 1,000th time, I made an appointment with audiology.  He was sad last summer while we were on vacation and I couldn't hear the loons from our cabin.  And that made me sad.

I'm not sure why I waited.  I certainly knew I was missing out.  There were things I didn't do (or did not enjoy doing) and places I did not go because I knew I'd have trouble hearing.

I kept my appointment and met with an awesome audio-tech named Marlene.  Marlene became the bridge between my old life and my new life.  She performed all kinds of testing, sent me to the audiologist, then brought me back and walked through everything with me.  The kind of loss I have isn't a straight line, profound loss.  It's a crazy graph.  I can hear some things just fine, and other things not at all.  I can't hear much directly behind me.  This kind of loss would limit the types of hearing aid available to me, but could make me eligible for cochlear implants at some point in the next few years.

So we tried out the first aids and it was crazy.  Suddenly, I could hear freaking everything.  EVERYTHING.  We walked out into the lobby of the medical center so she could gauge how I was doing with them.  Who knew people shuffle their feet so much?  Does every door slam so loudly?  Must people laugh at the top of their lungs?  Funny story >>> we were near the front desk and she had me with my back to that area to determine if I could clearly hear the people speaking.  I could then I told her we should leave before we had a HIPAA violation.  She started laughing and asked "Who says that?  You work in insurance?" <<< compliance people can be funny :)

We tested another type, went on another lobby field trip (with no HIPAA violations) and that was it.  I found the ones I liked best.  She measured my ears, had me choose a color, and I ordered them (they are not inexpensive, but there are different price ranges and plans and whatever people might need to get there).

When I picked them up, she advised me to wear them all the time right away and that while it would be overwhelming, I needed to get used to them.  So I followed her instructions and wore them in the car on the 15 minute drive back to work.  My head nearly exploded from the noise, but I kept them in.  Who knew how loud the road was???

The first days were literally exhausting and overwhelming.  I was learning to hear all over again and everything sounded so loud and almost artificial.  Marlene and I met two weeks later to touch base and for her to make a few adjustments so things would sound more "normal".

While it might not have seemed like a big deal to anyone else, it's been huge for me.  I realized how stressed I was at work in some meetings and when I interacted with some people.  Now, I don't even think about it and I'm no longer stressed about whether I'll get everything.  I wear them outside and am amazed at how many varieties of birds we have here.  I wear them in church and can hear everyone who speaks from any spot in the sanctuary.  They really gave me my life back.

I've been pondering what held me back.  Not really vanity - I don't care who can see them.  Cost to some extent, but we managed and I am forever grateful to my husband for helping me.  I don't know.  I do wish I had done this sooner, though.  I missed so much.

If you're contemplating making a life-altering change - I say to you - do it.  It just might make all the difference.


Sunday, January 15, 2017

Feed my Soul

So...I went to a new church today.  And I can't tell you how good it felt (and still feels).

I was raised in one faith and quit a long time ago.  There was not - and still is not - a place at their table for everyone, and that did not work for me.

After a long break without any real religion and my soul desperately wanting to be fed, I joined the Protestant church (UCC) in 2002 and found what I needed.  I was a member until 2013, when it stopped being the right place for me.  I left behind many wonderful and gifted people, but it no longer felt like the place I had originally loved.

I found that, while I missed attending worship, I loved not having to be anywhere on Sunday mornings and that suited me just fine.  I could go outside and feed my soul during a walk in the woods or just sitting with my husband having coffee.  I was good.

In October 2016 we attended a benefit for the North Reading Food Pantry, hosted by Aldersgate United Methodist Church (Taste of North Reading).  We were looking forward to sampling food from local eateries and supporting the food pantry.  The event did not disappoint.  Yummy food, super cool raffle baskets (we won 3!) and some incredibly nice people.  The Aldersgate Pastor, Rachel Fisher, and her husband Sam kept us company during dinner.  They might have sat at any table - I think they knew everyone in the room.  Instead, they ate with two strangers.  I felt like I had known them forever by the time dinner was over.

That night, for the first time in a long time, I missed being part of a church family.  My husband suggested I visit Aldersgate, seeing as how I now knew the Pastor and it's very close to where we live.  I hesitated a little, because I wasn't clear on where the Methodist church stood on inclusion - that is very important to me.  As soon as I visited the church's website, I knew - they have a statement of inclusion posted right on the home page.  I was so happy to see that & it sealed the deal.

In November, I brought my little card business to the Aldersgate holiday fair.  Not only did I sell some cards, I met many nice people.  I was ready to go back to church and was going to this church -- as soon as the holiday season was behind me.

I had resolved to attend on New Year's Day - figuring it would be a great way to kick off the new year.  As fate would have it, Pastor Rachel chose New Year's Eve morning to reach out to see how I was and to see if I was planning a visit.  Good thing she did.  When I told her my plans, she let me know that worship had been moved back to Saturday morning, so that everyone could sleep in on New Year's day.  I laugh thinking of myself sitting in an empty parking lot on New Year's Day had she not written.

This morning I was so looking forward to going.  I was greeted warmly by everyone I passed.  Worship was joyous.  Words to hymns were projected on the wall so we all looked up and sang - no heads buried in hymnals.  A confession here: I almost never sing out loud when other people can hear me.  I cannot carry a tune in a bucket.  I'm usually like Milli Vanilli, - just moving my lips.  That is, until today.  I actually sang out loud.  It didn't seem to matter who might hear - everyone was singing and it was impossible not to join in. 

After worship I met more people and Pastor Rachel presented me with a Welcome gift.  Beneath the bright issue inside the gift bag was an AUMC pencil, a small candle, and a book by Max Lucado (He Did This Just for You).  My gift bag is the right combination for reflective reading and prayer and learning.  Such a thoughtful gesture of welcome. 

I am looking forward to more Sundays and to becoming involved.  More than anything, I'm looking forward to being part of a church family again.

If you ever feel there is something missing from your life - I say to you - go exploring to find never know when your soul will finally feel at home.


Thursday, February 4, 2016

Little Yellow Pouch

Inspired by Mama Kat's writing prompts (Mama's Losin' It)

Write about your proposal. Were you surprised?

While I had pretty much decided on our first date I was going to marry Brad, it took a while to get there.  When we had been dating about 3 months he gave me a Claddagh ring in a little yellow satiny pouch.  I loved the ring, but made him take back the pouch.  It is refillable I told him.

Seven months later we bought a house and settled into a new life.  Before we bought the house we did talk about getting married.  I wasn't going to push him, but I needed to know he was thinking to same way.  He assured me he was and that was that.  I amazed myself with my patience - I didn't bother him about it at all.

On a rainy morning in August, nearly a year after we moved into our house, I sent him out for a special, locally-produced maple syrupHe returned, presented me with a different syrup and the yellow satin pouch.  

When I finally turned my attention from the wrong syrup to the pouch, I was completely surprised.  Inside was a beautiful engagement ring - just what I wanted.  I'd never been engaged before, and it was awesome...exciting and surreal and crazy and wonderful.

What made the day even more special was that it was my grandparents' wedding anniversary.  They have both been gone for some time and Brad had no idea.

And that was the story of our engagement and the beginning of the next incredible leg of our journey.

If  you think life doesn't hold any happy surprises for you - I say to you - oh yes it does.  Be sure to keep yourself open to receiving them.


Monday, January 18, 2016

The last time my heart melted was because...

Inspired by Mama's Losing It writing prompts

#1) The last time my heart melted was because

I met my husband 7 years ago and he's probably caused my heart to melt 8 zillion times.  He is a kind and good man.  There is one time though, that really stands out.  I still can't tell the story without tearing up.

During the summer of 2014 we were vacationing in the Rangeley region of Maine.  If you have never been and you love the peace and beauty of the Maine woods, I highly recommend it.  If you have been, you know that the Appalachian Trail runs right through Rangeley.  It is not uncommon to see hikers around town, eating or walking or resting - they are easily recognizable.  Personally, I know that kind of hiking is beyond anything I could do and I greatly admire these folks for taking on this kind of challenge.

One night, we were finishing dinner at a local pub (Sarge's, if you ever visit and need an incredible burger).  It was late and the place was quiet.  A young man walked in, a hiker.  He asked if it would be alright for him to charge his phone and would there be any cost.  The bartender told him it was fine to charge, and there was certainly no cost.  The hiker asked for a glass of water and hung out while his phone charged.

There was something about this hiker.  He was young.  He looked like he needed a warm shower and a hot meal.  He was also pretty peaceful looking.  As if not having a shower or dinner or anything was fine - he was on this incredible hike in a beautiful place - and that was enough.

My husband called our server over and told her to have him order something to eat and add it to our bill.  I choked up right there and our server got all misty herself.  She relayed the offer and the hiker ordered an appetizer, then thanked us.

It was an appetizer.  To some people, not a big deal.  To this hiker, an unexpected act of kindness and some hot food.  To me, a reminder that giving doesn't have to come with balloons and front page coverage - it has to come from the heart.  And my heart melts every time I think about that night.

If you think the little things don't matter - I say to you - think again, because you never know how much they do.


Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Good-bye 2015

I am one of those people who might make resolutions at the start of a new calendar year, or might make them at the start of my new year on my birthday, or might not make any and be fine with that.  When I have made them, they aren't any kind of organized list, but more like some general things I need to change or work on.

These last couple days I've been feeling somewhat reflective.  Maybe it's the post-Christmas quiet.  Maybe it was all the time I had in the car yesterday when we experienced our first snow/ice storm and people lost their minds on the roads, which resulted in absurd traffic problems.  Not sure what's up, but I am thinking that maybe making a couple changes might help.  Conversely,  there are also things I'm not going to change (like using too many words when I write and talking about cats all the time).

Most of what has brought me to this place is sleep deprivation.  For a long time, one of my cats has been having a tough time getting through the night without waking me up 2, 3, 4+ times.  It reached a point where I nearly couldn't function each day from being so sleep deprived.  And I am not exaggerating - I wasn't sleeping more than 2 hours at a time all night then working all day.  I was dragging myself through every day just waiting to get into bed, yet dreading it because I knew she'd start with the waking me up crap.  Finally, I tried some behavior modification then met with her vet.  She is improving and we're down to (generally) 1 or 2 wake-ups each night.  I'm still not getting enough uninterrupted sleep, but there is progress.

Because I am always so tired, I've cut back on exercising, which is something I very much enjoy.  When I can drag myself out of bed, I'll go down to our basement at 5 a.m. and row.  I really love it - and my day is always better when I start that way.  I am going to make more of an effort to get myself up, no matter how tired I am, and start each day in a way that ultimately makes me happy.

I've also been just wading through my days without taking enjoyment from things the way I want to.  I have so many blessings, yet I'm not fully embracing what I have -- again -- because  I am exhausted.  I promise to step back and appreciate what's right in front of me.

The other thing I'm going to do is find some photo challenges (and I'm going to invited my photo-taking friends to join in).  Looking for specific things to photograph a couple times a week or on weekends will be fun and it will get me outside during the icky winter months.  It will be even better if I'm doing the challenge with others.

And that's it.  I am ready for 2016. 

If you think you don't need to take a look at how things are every now and again, I say to you, give yourself a mental checkup once in a while - it will be good for your soul.

Happy New Year friends xo