I started this blog to share some of the thoughts I have along the journey of life. I love to travel and spend time with my family and friends. A good meal, breaking bread with those I love, gives my life meaning. So does travel. I adore dreaming of sites to visit, not just to check them off on a list. Rather, I consider myself a student of life, traveling as an explorer, to open my mind to all the possibilities the world holds in store for me and for others. I love to travel to discover how different the world is in terms of climate, cultures, politics, terrain, economy, etc. but also to discover how SIMILAR the people are. Despite language barriers, much can be communicated with a smile or gestures. Language is simply a means to communicate, yet there are so very many other ways to communicate. Once when I was in French-speaking Canada, I realized that my 7th grade French class didn’t teach me the word for “straw”. However, when I thought about it, I was able to communicate to the very French-speaking waiter in a very French-speaking restaurant about my need for a “cylinder through which to drink” in my limited French vocabulary. Travel challenges the mind and soul, stretching us to problem solve and form conclusions about all that we experience. THAT is the type of travel I enjoy best. “All’s well that ends well”, as they say………….”Life is Good” as well.
Today, I wanted to share something that I read which inspired me, especially during this difficult time for our country and world during the pandemic.
“Rather than focusing on the obstacle in your path, focus on the bridge over the obstacle.” -Mary Lou Retton, Olympic Gymnastic Gold medalist, who also won two silver medals and two bronze medals in 1984
Life is good; find that bridge somehow somewhere today. Carpe Diem, friends.
While the world is in turmoil due to the pandemic, such wonderful things continue to happen in Saqqara, Egypt, which is located about nineteen miles south of Cairo and is a UNESCO site. Saqqara is a fascinating place and is known as the place of the famous “step” pyramid called the Step Pyramid of Djoser, one of the earliest pyramids in Egypt that inspired the construction of the Great Pyramid in Giza during the next dynasty. It is also here in Saqqara that archaeologist found multitudes of mummified cats, including mummified lions, too. Later archaeological digs in 2019 revealed the tomb of a man named Wahtye and his family, who may have been the first case of death by malaria ever documented.
Most recently, Saqqara was in the news again in January 2021 because of a new discovery of a funerary tomb of Queen Naert, over fifty wooden coffins, and passages from “The Book Of The Dead” by Dr. Zahi Hawass and his crew.
Artifacts from these digs will end up in the New Egyptian Museum, slated to open in June 2021.
Dr. Hawass is the previous Minister of Antiquities in Egypt and is a passionate archaeologist that reminds me of Indiana Jones in some way. He appears in many documentaries, and his enthusiasm is inspiring.
Life is good; travel to exotic places like Saqqara if you can after the pandemic lifts. Carpe diem, friends……
I met Diane about thirty years ago when she was middle aged and I was a young adult. She and I worked together, and she was one of the most inspirational people I had ever met at the time. My first impression of her was a well-kept, slim attractive woman who had a certain “joie de vivre” right off the bat. She wore professional clothing, and her suits were well-tailored. Her skirts were always hemmed well above the knee, as she had legs to show off and somehow knew it. She was always smiling and always looked on the bright side of things, despite her background and the events which occurred along the way. She was divorced and a single mother of an only child at the time of her divorce several years before I met her. She was married to a prominent member of the community but decided her happiness was more important than staying in a stale and loveless marriage. While I wasn’t sure of the details and circumstances of her divorce and had always believed that marriage was a forever commitment, I admired her courage and honesty to herself and others. She left the marriage and the financial stability that came along with it, living by herself at the time I met her in a house she had purchased with her salary. I got the impression that she didn’t work outside the house until her marriage ended. I admired her ability to make something out of nothing. You see, she clipped coupons and searched high and low for shopping deals each week. She told me she treated herself to a vacation each and every year out of the country since her son grew up and moved out of the house. She knew she didn’t have extra money in the budget to pay for these vacations, and that’s why she started clipping coupons. Her goal was to clip enough coupons to finance this vacation each year. I remember her lively laughter when she announced to me that the local market was actually paying for her to try a new product with the double store coupon and manufacturer’s coupon that she used in tandem to bring the price down. She actually did save enough money through sales and coupons to finance her vacation each and every year.
Diane tended to her yard and garden all by herself, as she was strong and very independent. She had a “strong faith” and knew that life was to be lived fully and completely. When she returned from her most recent vacation at the time, I asked her if she had any pictures to share. She handed me a roll of “prints”, which were from the old days of film, to sift through. I admired her photographic technique and how she captured the joyful faces of her traveling companions, too. Almost every single picture she showed me made me smile. One time I bumped into a picture of Diane that had inadvertently ended up in the pile of photos she was showing me. It was a picture of Diane with a sly, coy smile wearing nothing at all while standing behind an over-sized sombrero hat. I looked surprised by the photo, and she laughed saying she forgot to take that picture out of the set of prints that she handed me. She didn’t apologize, however, knowing there was nothing wrong with her photo that captured the moment beautifully.
I lost track of Diane through the years but think of her often. I recently looked her up on social media, and she looks great with the same effortless curly-locked hairdo she always sported. Evidently she is over eighty and now has a seasonal home in Florida with her male companion, who owns a Tesla. They drive to Florida each year in the Autumn, and she still takes care of her own yard there as well. I smile when I think of one of her social media posts that says:
“I have a watch that I bought about 20+ years ago for $1.75..yes…on sale at CVS 90% off!!!…and it tells the same time as a friend’s Rolex that cost many $$$ more…once again……….TRUE HAPPINESS IS NOT FOUND IN MATERIAL THINGS!”
She enjoys the finer things in life but doesn’t need them. She knows how to find true joy and happiness in feeding the ducks, having a good meal with a companion, and spending time with those she loves. She is at peace with herself and her world.
At last account, Diane wasn’t able to take a cruise with her companion in May during the pandemic when the rest of the United States waited indoors with caution. Instead she posted pictures in May of her previous cruise, finding pleasure in re-living the moment, as she knows how to savor her memories. Diane’s introduction on her social media pages says that she “works at living each day to the fullest” under her occupation, as she has since retired. There is a picture of herself and her companion dining with a wine glass toast that I love that captures her essence so well. Along with the photo there is a caption that says they are “brave souls”, as they were the only diners present at the restaurant that evening in Florida in May during the pandemic.
Diane routinely posts pictures of the ducks and lizards that visit her yard, as she notices and finds enjoyment in so many little things. One post on her social media says that “Every day is a new beginning. Take a deep breath, smile, and begin again.”
One thing that struck my interest in Diane’s social media page is her feelings about the pandemic:
“I read most of this, and it is quite scary to think of all those DROPLETS Etc. Etc……..at this point in order to not be exposed to anything and go on trying to live a somewhat normal life….I THINK EACH OF US HAS BECOME a HERMIT of sorts…JUST GO OFF SOMEWHERE AND LIVE ALONE IN THE WOODS???? I REALLY DON’T TAKE TOO MANY PRECAUTIONS EXCEPT WEARING THE MASK WHEN I GO TO THE MARKET…AND WASH AND SANTIZE MY HANDS AFTERWARDS but …I SAY ….LIVE AND LET LIVE…IF IT HAPPENS IT HAPPENS….WE ALL HAVE TO DIE OF SOMETHING…AND YES, I KNOW IT DOESN’T SOUND NICE…BUT I THINK WE SHOULD TRY TO BE LIVE A BIT BETTER THAN WE ARE NOW…”
Diane is a class act. A person that takes precautions but keeps on living a full life with intention, despite the world around her. She has learned to live like she is LIVING, not DYING.
Life is good; find your own “joie de vivre”. Carpe diem friends…….
Note: the name in this blog was changed to protect the identity of the subject, and the picture simply reminds me of Diane with her dark curly hair. The picture here is NOT Diane.
Today began like any other. I had errands to do and stopped by a local pack and ship store to drop off an Amazon return. I simply had to drop off the box, a task that normally takes two minutes. Instead, I found myself in line at an appropriate social distance from an elderly woman for a time a little longer than those two minutes I expected. She looked uncomfortable and started making subtle noises to confirm my suspicion. I walked a little closer toward her and asked if she was okay. She waved her hand, a gesture indicating that she likely wanted me to stay away because of covid, and said she was okay. She told me she had some difficulty standing, so I pointed to a few counters against which she could stand and assured her I would hold her place next in line. I watched her shrink into the counter, as though it was holding her up right before she was called as next in line by the clerk.
I overheard her tell the clerk that she wasn’t well and asked softly for some help. Evidently she was mailing a medical CD to a surgeon in Tampa via overnight mail. She looked like she was shrinking into the counter again when I heard her say that she had cancer, and the cancer was pressing against her nerves. She had tears in her eyes when she said to the clerk it was difficult to have cancer during the pandemic, as her family could not come to see her right now accordingly. I looked at another woman standing in line next to me, and she looked so sad while the story unfolded. She motioned to me that she wondered if the woman was able to drive. I said “Excuse me” to the sick woman and asked if she needed me to call her an UBER to get home or if she needed me to get her some water next door at Walgreens. She said she could easily drive after she sat down, and it was just standing that was difficult before she thanked me. At that moment, the woman at the very end of the line, which was growing by the minute, offered to pay for the sick woman’s postage. The sick woman graciously declined, thanked her and said “God is in this room right now; you have all been so kind.” I looked at each of the people in line who likely were in a rush but found deep within themselves a sense of compassion and empathy that I had not seen in the world in a while. Most folks go about their day, doing the best they can during the pandemic, trying to manage. Yet this woman was facing the greatest fight of her life most likely and facing it alone.
Now I am not sure what you believe, whether you believe in a higher power or not, but the woman next to me offered to pray for the sick woman and so did the people next to her and so on. Some may debate whether or not God was in that room at that moment, but there WAS something very powerful and humbling unfolding before my very eyes this afternoon. There was a sense of community and connectedness that I experienced all within ten minutes or so unfolding before my very eyes. Most of us struggle to find our keys from time to time or to find time in which to accomplish the tasks we set out to do on any given day, and this woman’s plight pales many of our inconveniences or troubles by comparison.
“Our human compassion binds us the one to the other – not in pity or patronizingly, but as human beings who have learnt how to turn our common suffering into hope for the future.” – Nelson Mandela
Yes, there WAS something in that room, regardless of your religious beliefs, and that was HOPE and compassion.
Life is good; find the hope in your lives today. Carpe diem, friends…..
“Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.” – Desmond Tutu
My late father-in-law, like his father before him, always had the cleanest windows out of anyone I had ever met, other than my husband’s Uncle and Aunt (whom I consider MY Uncle and Aunt as well). They have always had a real knack for sparkling clean windows. I, on the other hand, have ALWAYS had streaks in my windows. They area and were always mostly clean, not sparkling, but they always had and will always have streaks. I read extensively about the subject to see what goes wrong, and my late father-in-law even tried to show me how it’s done as well. Streaks remain.
Today I am washing my windows, which is one of my least favorite chores, as the weather here in Florida has turned ever so slightly cooler. I have decided to break the daunting task into smaller chunks, washing only the windows on one side of the house, the south side, today. Tomorrow I will do another side of the house, which will leave me plenty of time to enjoy the day with the beauty that unfolds with it. Armed with a spot of Dawn detergent with my cleaning solution, which is the trick of the professionals I am told, I set out to clean. As I worked, I was reminded of a passage in a book I read recently that described how we “visit” the deceased by doing the things that remind us of them.
“We will meet the ones we can no longer touch when we put ourselves in situations where their souls once flourished. Our loved ones live where they have always lived, and it is there that we will find them…………Simply put, we find our deceased loved ones by entering into life in the way… that was most distinctive to them….If your mother had a gift for hospitality, you will meet her when you are hospitable; if your friend had a passion for justice, you will meet him when you give yourself over to the quest for justice; if your aunt had a great zest for life, for meals with her family, and for laughter in the house, you will meet her when you have a zest for life, eat with your family, and have laughter in your house.”
-from “The Holy Longing” by Ronald Rolheiser
Certainly my father-in-law is alive in my heart, and I feel like I am “meeting” him while I work. I see his smile, the Irish glimmer in his eye, his endless energy, and his larger-than-life gestures. I am also reminded of my own dear deceased father, who told me to “quit (MY) bellyachin” and that I would be finished already if I spent half the energy on the task than I did “bellyachin’ ” whenever I set out to do a chore I didn’t care to do. I saw his wry smile and sparkle in his eyes when he told me this, and certainly I “meet” him today in my heart as well. I meet my father again today when I laugh to myself, reminiscent of the laughter he and I always shared when he pointed out the “holidays” (or spots I missed when painting), while I see the “holidays” on my “clean” windows today. I honor both my father and father-in-law by participating in a day of honest work through my own hands, something both families value.
My windows may not be free of streaks, nor will they ever be, but the task was a little easier today surrounded by the love in my heart of those that had gone before me. Maybe Snow White’s friends, the Seven Dwarves, had it right. They understood the importance of” whistling while you work.”
“Just whistle while you work And cheerfully together we can tidy up the place So hum a merry tune It won’t take long when there’s a song to help you set the pace And as you sweep the room Imagine that the broom Is someone that you love and soon you’ll find you’re dancing to the tune When hearts are high the time will fly so whistle while you work….”
-from the song “Whistle While You Work” by Frank Churchill and Larry Morey
So clean those windows or do that chore you’ve been putting off, armed with a song in your heart, and “quit your bellyachin'”. Streaks are okay. I am of the opinion that leaving the windows, like the world, better than I found it is quite okay.
“What you see and what you hear depends a great deal on where you are standing. It also depends on what sort of person you are.”
― C.S. Lewis, “The Magician’s Nephew”
Life is good; recognize today that you see things differently than others and embrace your perspective today along with the perspective of those around you. Sometimes it seems as though we live in a “house of mirrors” where life can look so very different from different angles .