602: Stubborn

I understand that things can get difficult. Even when they are first world problems (which means they are issues of privilege), they are still problems. True, mine are generally insignificant ones, compared to life and death problems that many people the world over are struggling with each and every day, that is quite true. But they are still problems, even if they are insignificant ones (when viewed through that realistic lens).  Let’s be real, nobody is holding a gun to my head, literally (even if I sometimes feel like that figuratively). I still have choices (even when it feels like I don’t).

Understanding that most of my problems are small ones (nothing life or death, here!) SHOULD make it somewhat easier to suck it up, buttercup – and MOVE ON. *sigh*

Time to find my inner stubborn, and kick that ass into gear.

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505: Saving Grace

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Some people are like gnats. Incredibly annoying, always up in your face. You wave them away, and two seconds later, they are back. They give new meaning to the word persistence.

Some people are like praying mantises. They spend all their time in the attitude of penitence, professing their gentle, reverent natures – until someone gets too close. Then they strike, and devour, and their true name becomes apparent: preying, not praying, mantis.

Some people are like cockroaches. They come out at night, and get into your stuff, spoiling everything they possibly can. When the light is shined on them, they scuttle off, ashamed of their actions, back into the dark that they prefer.

Some people are like flies. They congregate around death and decay, they revel in it, they worship it, they roll in it, and immerse their children in it. They care nothing about life – and are wholly consumed with seeking death.

Some people are like spiders. They weave great, complicated webs of lies and deception, setting traps for the unwary. And they delight in swooping down on those who get caught up in their deceit, gloating in their victory at another victim.

Some people are like ants. They keep to their own kind, and they keep their noses to their own grindstones, concerned only with whatever is important to them. They know nothing but work, until something disturbs their cozy, tidy, little nest. When they feel threatened, they and all their like-minded friends come out of the woodwork to attack whoever was unlucky enough to rouse their ire, and they all band together in a single-minded fury to destroy.

Some people are like honeybees. They work constantly, too, like ants, and they do very good work. But, they are talented and gifted enough to amass great riches for themselves, which they guard jealously, and do not share with anyone – to the point of sacrificing their own lives in defense of their sweetness, rather than sharing it with anyone else.

Some people are like butterflies. They are visually extremely beautiful, wearing the brightest and most intricate colors, but they can never forget that they were once ugly worms. That focus on the ugliness inside them means that their outward beauty is brittle and fleeting, and most have very short lives.

And some people, a very few people, are like dragonflies. Dragonflies are beautiful, too, but not in a showy way. The sun has to strike their wings just right for the shine to be seen. They are hard workers, too – and they spend their lives consuming the blood-sucking mosquitoes that plague mankind. They don’t make a lot of noise advertising that they are ridding the world of the disease, pain, and temptation to scratch that mosquitoes bring, they just quietly go about their life-saving business, flashing sunlight reflected from their fast-moving wings. Dragonflies have another secret name: they are the mosquito hawks.

And those people, I love.

 

414: Life Uncertain

No one is promised a long and fulfilling life

Even though that is the expectation and the goal.

A twenty-nine year old teacher at my school

Died this weekend unexpectedly, throwing me

for a complete and total loop of uncertainty:

knowing that I am not promised tomorrow,

and knowing that I was expecting tomorrow anyway.

That is not a given, it is a gift

that one day, won’t be given

and I won’t know when that day will be.

I can prepare, and pray, and search my heart and do the best that I can do

and still….

one day, I won’t get my daily gift.

Love while you can and be prepared

for the day the gift does not come for you.

413: Barbados

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I adore Barbados. It is the Caribbean island that is located furthest east – or the closest one to Africa and Europe, even though it is closer to South America than either one of those. Being so far east, most hurricanes give it a pass.

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As a result of location (and its geography and climate, which made it ideal for growing sugar cane and making RUM), it spent quite some time as a British colony before peacefully earning its sovereignty as a nation. It’s a pretty small nation.  You can drive from one side of the island to the other in about a half hour, even with traffic. It is a longer island than it is wide, though – going end-to-end, long wise, would take, oh, maybe an hour and a half, with traffic.

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The interesting part of the history of Barbados, to me as an American, is that our first president, George Washington, took his only international trip there. While he was there, he got ill with smallpox, an often deadly disease during his day. He survived, of course, and therefore had immunity from smallpox during the American Revolution, especially during the winter encampment at Valley Forge. This meant the American military leadership suffered no disruptions when smallpox broke out – GW was immune.

The fun part of Barbados is that, being British, they all drive on the other side of the road. Note that I did not say the WRONG side of the road, BUT – I did nearly meet my maker there when I looked in the incorrect direction to check for traffic before stepping off the curb, and a BUS whiffled by a few millimeters from my nose. I needed to change my pants, and I had campmeeting right there on the sidewalk. I might have even spoken in tongues.

Near-death experiences aside (!!!), our trip was offered on http://www.travelzoo.com, a fantastic Website that scours thousands of tour companies looking for what they think are the best 20 deals for the week , and they send a Wednesday e-mail to subscribers (it is free) listing the great deals on trips world-wide. Our Barbados deal came with round-trip airfare from the USA, six nights at a beach-front resort that included a full breakfast every morning (YUMMY, too!), with pool, AC, and a kitchenette in the room, PLUS a 100 dollar gift card good nearly everywhere on the island (bought lots of gifts for friends and family) and a fifty-dollar voucher for a seafood meal at the weekly weekend grill-seafood-party place where everybody meets to have fun and pig out. All of this was less than 600 USD a person, and they STILL run deals like that on travelzoo years later. I adore travelzoo, too!

I had grilled fish at the weekend party place, and it was then (and even now) the best fish I have ever eaten. Bar none. And Barbados has something else to gush over…Mount Gay rum. WOW. WOW. WOW. They have been making rum on Barbados for several centuries, and it SHOWS.

I had a fabulous time there – even the fact that they bury their dead standing up (!!!!) did not freak me out too badly. There is an interesting Barbados burial site story in this group of top ten: http://listverse.com/2012/10/04/top-10-creepiest-graves/

I plan to return, if God lets me live long enough!!

For more background on GW in Barbados: http://www.coedu.usf.edu/culture/Story/Story_Barbados_Washington.htm

352: Murderer

I am a murderer, responsible for the death (an agonizing one, not clean and quick) of a creature I loved very, very much. The prickle of tears is starting again as I confess this unpardonable sin, and it is only right that I should flagellate myself this way….my babies depend on me to care for them, and I let Fluff-man down in the most awful way.

I had to leave Panama to renew my tourist visa, because document thieves stole my FBI Criminal Background Check document in Miami, and this document is required to begin the months-long process of getting my work visa. Without it I cannot apply, and replacing it has been a nightmare of delays and waiting.  So, I booked Costa Rica to renew my visa over our school’s Christmas break. Because I have been robbed here in Panama twice already (once in my home and once in the street) I was not willing to give a key to my house to the next door neighbor who agreed to care for the cats while I was gone. Instead, I fixed a place in the screened metal security door where the cats could come and go, and I placed a large metal crate over this opening, so they could exit the house (into the crate) to access their potty, and the neighbor could tend it without actually entering the house. Belongings safe, right? No dogs have access to the cats, either, right?

Then, I took all six kitchen table chairs and placed one heavy chair in front of each and every door inside my house, so that the wind (which occasionally is pretty strong) could not possibly blow any inside door shut, which might trap a cat. Then, I filled each and every pan and bowl I owned with kibble or water, and placed them all around: kitchen, living room, both bathrooms. I even put one bowl in the bathroom sink and left the tap dripping into it, and filled both sides of the kitchen sink for good measure.  Secure in the knowledge that there was super-abundant water and food available, and access for the kitty potty, I headed off on my visit to Costa Rica to renew my six-month tourist visa.

Well. The best laid plans of mice, men and kitty mommies aft gang agly. The chair I placed in front of one bedroom door did blow shut. The wind just pushed the heavy chair aside, and when the door shut, Fluff-man was inside. The food and water bowls, so many of them, were all in other rooms. The neighbor heard Fluff meowing after some days, and they took out the window glass to get him out of the room. However, because he’d had no water, he was dehydrated…and when you are seriously dehydrated, you lose the desire to drink. They did not know to force-feed him water, and they did not know to take him to the veterinarian, and Fluff died the next day.

I loved that cat, and would not have harmed him for the world – and I harmed him to death. I’d rather they had robbed everything left in my house than to have hurt that kitty boy, but hurt him I did. I am so awfully sorry that he paid for my mistake with his life, and it has been a horribly hard lesson for me, too, even if I am still living.

80: Rights and Responsibilities

We have a fight going on all of our lives: the fight between our rights and our responsibilities.

When we are born, we have few responsibilities. Mom and dad, our loving caretakers, handle all that stuff on our behalf. They provide housing (a huge expense), our clothing (ditto), our medical care (twice times ditto), our food (you get the picture). They even clean us. They also provide our entertainment and toys,all of our wants and needs. Well, our needs, anyway – even if not ALL of our wants.

Then, as we get older, we are expected to begin handling our own care. We are taught to brush our hair, brush and clean our teeth, eat nutritious meals (with VEGETABLES  :-(), pick up and put away our toys, be nice to other children when we play, and share. We are taught the word NO, and what that means. We are taught  not to hit others, even if we get mad and angry. We are taught to use the toilet, instead of our diaper. We are taught to wash our hands (I hope), and to take a bath to clean ourselves. We are supposed to clean our room. This process takes time, and we don’t learn all this right away. We need reminders, often! Our parents and older siblings help teach us to do these things for ourselves. These responsibilities usually result in new rights and privileges for us, and we show that we can be responsible persons.

Then, we get a little older, and there are more responsibilities. We start school. Suddenly, there are LOTS of new responsibilities: behavior and work in class and at home. There are rules to be obeyed, and we make friends, who have their own expectations of us. We learn more about what is right behavior, and what is wrong. We are expected to think, be honest and do our work to the best of our ability. We also gain new privileges: we can stay up later: visit friends outside the home, have sleepovers, and do more things than we used to be allowed to do. Soon, as the end of our schooling gets near, we gain the right to drive a car. That right comes with a host of new responsibilities: care of the vehicle, obedience to traffic signs, laws and officers. We must use our judgment and critical thinking skills to make the right, and best, decisions.  But what new freedoms we have! We can date, and attend parties, and do other things which have the potential to cause us great harm, if we are not sensible and careful, paying attention to our responsibilities.

Then we depart for college, and mom and dad’s influence is lessened a LOT, and we have the ability to decide many new things for ourselves: what time to get up and go to bed, what to eat, how to care for yourself and your laundry and your room and your vehicle.  If you ignore your responsibilities, you won’t do well. You can ruin your life, and actually cause your own death, as some do when they forget that life is precious, valuable, and must be cared for and protected.

Then you choose a mate and marry, and start a job and a family of your own. You just THOUGHT you had responsibilities BEFORE!! Now your whole life is ruled by them, even though you also have more freedoms than you ever did before, at the same time. You choose where to live, you choose how to deal with disagreements at work and at home. You craft your life in between your rights and your responsibilities.

When your children grow and leave home to begin their own lives, you can relax from the responsibilities a little, and begin to truly enjoy your rights and freedoms. You have earned them! As you continue to age, however, you discover that your freedoms begin to curtail as life begins to slow down for you, at least physically. As you age to the point that you cannot competently care for yourself, you find that your rights begin to diminish as you surrender to the care of others. At the end of your days, unless God claims you earlier, you will find yourself back at the beginning – cared for by others as you move towards death, your final surrender.

This is the cycle of life – a struggle between rights and responsibilities from beginning to end. How you handle that balance determines how satisfied you will be with what you lived and accomplished. Good luck – and be wise!