25 April 2012

This Lump of Clay

Two things are mostly responsible for this post: First, an abundance of time has given me the opportunity to read. I love reading! I was explaining to my daughter how I used to go to bed with stacks of books around me. True story. I've been boasting to my daughter- I've read 6 books in 7 days...how's your reading going? For her, its a little competition to get her to pay attention & focus on her reading. For me, its a great opportunity for my mind to uncurl from the fetal position and stretch heavenward. Hurray for thinking!

The second impetus behind this entry is a quote I heard on NPR. Its not available in print, yet, so I won't quote it exactly or give the exact source just yet (I promise to update!). But the quote went something like this, "We are all born in a place on this earth, and from that springs what we are made of. Are you made of stony clay or soft, pliable clay?"

And the wheels haven't stopped turning since. I know who I am, and where I come from- both spiritually and physically. But I the thought of what I am made of, what materials would define me and my earthly existence, has made me dig deep and give pause.

From New Jersey, and perhaps from my English & Irish ancestors, I am a vital loam. I remember the first time I read that word- loam. I had never heard of it before. It is a type of soil which contains sand, silt and clay in specific proportions. Loam is ideal for agriculture because it provides much needed nutrients and yet is able to drain away excess water. It is a care-giver to plant life. New Jersey is, after all, the Garden State. We have beautiful soil which grows, quite possibly, some of the best tomatoes and corn in the world. Grass is green and rich this time of year. The air is humid and soft. The land provides life and abundance.

There is a part of me which is an amalgam of my current life and my Basque heritage. The Basque people are greatly misunderstood (that's another conversation entirely). They come from a mountainous region between Spain and France. The land was thought to be too steep and inhospitable to the French and the Spanish, but it suited the stubborn Basque people. They loved the tough earth which could be tilled with great efforts. They loved the stony paths and the lush mountainsides where their sheep grazed under careful watch. Wars were fought, lost and won, on either side of the Basque territories- never within. The rugged and beautiful landscape was used only as a pathway between the 2 areas by invading forces. The Basque people, coupled with their land, were that formidable, that indomitable. The land was strong, resilient, yet few understood its inherent hardiness.

The clay I am made of is rich & generous, meant to nourish others. There is a congenital flinty component to my makeup which serves as a ward & protection. As I put these words to form, I feel better- as if knowing what I am formed of, I might better understand how and what I can endure, what I can offer. Now ask yourself, what clay are you made of...?

08 April 2012

A Little Goes A Long Way

This week has been a bit busy. My entire family has gathered from NJ & FL to join my daughter & I for Easter. The house is noisy, chaotic and full of people. In short- it's wonderful. Naturally, since I have company, I fell ill. Totally lame and kind of my own fault for not taking care of myself before I got seriously sick, but no big deal. I went to my trustworthy doctor, got a physical and a year's supply of various medicines for my sinuses.

I dropped my prescriptions off at our local Costco pharmacy without any fuss. The next day, between airport runs, I went back to pick up my meds. To my surprise, the cashier said my prescriptions had been flagged and said I needed to have a consult with the pharmacist before purchase. A little strange, but not a big deal. I went up to the consultation window, and a small, flustered woman in a white smock appeared on the other side of the counter. Nervously, she began to explain to me 2 of the prescriptions had an instant and fatal reaction when taken together. I listened carefully, since I was extremely stunned. I had recently taken the same 2 scripts together...and thought I was going to die. Turns out, it wasn't all in my head.

As the harried pharmacist finished explaining, she nervously gathered a pile of papers and offered me a print-out with all of the scientific facts. I thanked her heartily and asked a few questions. I bantered with her, and to my delight she began to smile. Then came the shocker. The pharmacist told me, "I'm really glad you are taking this news so well. I was very worried you would get upset and not be understanding." I laughed...until I realized she was serious. My response was quick, "Ma'am, you- literally- just saved my life. I would have taken those medications and my heart would have stopped. Then I would be dead. How in the world could I possibly yell at you? I should hug you." She smiled more broadly, "You are just SO CUTE!"

I've been called many things in my life, and "cute" is not one of them. I wasn't being cute. I was being honest and grateful. Surely this woman must be over-sensitive to people. Why would people yell at her? I thanked her again and stood in line to pay for my items. While waiting, my mom and I started people watching. We saw a number of people grumpily trudge by, shove other people's shopping carts and brow beat the staff over trivial matters.

In just a few short minutes, I realized the pharmacist was not at all over-sensitive. Summarily, people were just not kind. Over the last few days my mind has gone back to that incident over and over again. I am not always the happiest person around. I know for a fact I drift off into my own little world and start to scowl over my thoughts. Yet a little eye contact, a smile and a thank you goes a long way.

People should never feel like they are going to be berated. Especially someone who is trying to make lives better. How much effort does it really require to smile? If I honestly ask myself...the answer comes easily. I think we get to be in such a hurry (guilty!) and are so weighed down by our own issues/burdens we forget to reach out our hands to others (guilty again!). Kindness, or even simple courtesy are being lost in the din of our treadmill lives. I don't want that.

Because the pharmacist prevented my heart from imploding, I have decided to be nicer. It really shouldn't take such an incident. I am ashamed. But I'll come clean, and will try to be better. I can stop for that pain-in-the-rear-pedestrian that is not in the right of way. I can let a car in front of me in traffic. I can certainly say please and thank you to cashiers or random strangers. And I can certainly teach my daughter how to do these things as well. A little kindness truly does go a long way. As the saying goes, "No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted."

01 April 2012

3 Years, 3 Letters

My mother is visiting us from New Jersey. Its a real treat to have my mom here. She's been busy heading up the "Bucking Up" brigade and has been keeping the house spit spot. My mom is obsessed with cleaning- she actually enjoys it (seriously!), so I let her have her fun. My laundry basket is emptied every day, and ever night clean, folded clothes magically appear. We spend the days doing silly things. I introduced my mother to Downton Abby...and now she is determined to watch every last episode.

As you may or may not know, my daughter is my sister's birth daughter/my niece, but I took her in almost 3 years to the day. I've blogged about some of our tough times and some of our accomplishments. We are very open in our family, and we speak of how great it is to have more than one "mom" in our lives. I refer to her as my daughter, and people who do not know me closely are never the wiser. It's just not that big of a deal. We are a family, and that is that.

My daughter, however, calls me "Tia." Tia is the Spanish word for aunt. At my age, I kind of decided that I will never be called mother...and that's OK. I do not feel like less of a woman in any way. To get to my story, the other day, I was upstairs trying to unclog a bathtub drain and my mom was downstairs with my daughter. I called down to Chloe and asked her to bring me up something (I cannot even remember what it was). No response. If any of you have a 12 year old, this is typical.

I called down a second time, then a third. Finally, I could hear my mother say to Chloe, "Chloe- your aunt is calling you. Please answer her." The angry and swift response both shocked and tickled me, "Abuela, she is NOT my Aunt. She IS MY MOM!" I could feel the silence coming from my mother. I was completely floored and just moved. Seconds later, Chloe came bounding up the steps with whatever object I had been asking for.

On April 9th, it will be 3 years since we started our little adventure. That's how we refer to our home life- as Our Adventure. I'm pretty sure I've aged significantly in those 3 years. I joke that I will now need Botox for my wrinkles (I'm only half kidding). I have laughed every day, cried many times, and raised my voice just every so often. I've watched Chloe go from what I call "Baby Chloe" to "Young Woman Chloe." As with most adventures, not every day is smooth sailing. But the outcome, the end result is always worth the time and effort invested. The day my daughter called me "Mom," is a day I will remember. Its a short word- just 3 tiny letters, 1 syllable. Yet for me that word's meaning is so grand and so sacred.