Saturday, October 25, 2014

Under the Weather

It's a curious thing, this place where we get our commonly used phrases and think nothing of their origins. This last week, though, left me with a lot of time to think, especially on the particular phrase used in the title of this post: under the weather. 

A quick bit of research showed that it originally began as a nautical term used to describe one who is seasick from a water voyage and is sent below deck to alleviate the symptoms. Being below deck, and thereby under the weather creating the rough seas, one could more easily recuperate. Over the last ten days or so, though, I was under the weather of my sinuses which began their voyage with simple seasonal allergies and navigated quickly into a sinus infection that left my head swimming in nothing nearly as pleasant as ocean waters. It was not pretty.

After nearly three days on the couch, hoping that it was just the common cold from which I suffered and nothing more, I finally dragged myself to the doctor's office, a place I visit only in the most dire conditions. An hour in the waiting room was soon met with a friendly nurse who truly loved her job and made all my doctor's-office-fears subside quickly. A quick visit with a new doctor was met with "Oh, my God!" as she looked in my ears with that ear probe thingy. It's not a phrase you hope to hear from your doctor since you assume they have seen everything and are rarely moved to vocal exclamations as such. Apparently, my head was on the verge of explosion from all the infectious goodies it held. Two big shots in my tushy, a prescription for three-days of antibiotics, and I was out the door in just under 90 minutes. Within three hours, I already felt a positive difference. 

The time I spent away from my normal routine did allow more than ample time to reflect on some interesting, and yet also some unusual, points. My first realization was that the USA Network has enough Law and Order reruns to last from now until infinity, not that there's anything wrong with that. That was quickly seconded by the note that TBS Network has a similar number of episodes of The Big Bang Theory, which, again, I would not label as a negative. When sleep did finally visit itself upon me, only when reaching the most restful point of the REM cycle did violent coughing episodes arrive and remove any hope of a continuous night of rest. 

I must say that I did give thanks several times for having a job that allowed me to take time away without worrying about my paycheck. I realize my good fortunate in that benefit and know that not all people have the same peace of mind. It is something I do not take for granted. Quickly on its heels is the fact that the health insurance I enjoy is another good fortune that I do not take for granted. For many years in my past, I had no health insurance and know all too well the fear facing every day, hoping nothing happened to cause me to need medical care. It is a fear that far too many people face every day, and I believe that affordable health care should be available to every person, every where, regardless of employment, social, or financial status. Unfortunately, it is an argument that is still ongoing in my country, and one I do not see being resolved soon. How one of the most powerful countries in the world can fall short of finding resolution to a basic human need is one that befuddles me daily.

Beyond these realizations from my week on the mend, I saw so many other simple reminders of the good in life. There is nothing like hacking up a lung and praying for a speedy death to relieve you of your couch-bound misery to bring to light the blessings that befall me every day. 
  • I have access to a magical medical injection that sent armies of liquid warriors through my veins to attack the infectious invaders of my sinuses. These little warriors rock!
  • A smile from the nurse who patted my arm assuredly and said simply, "Now, let's get you fixed."  
  • A new doctor who brushed off the formality when I called her by her title, saying, "Just call me Robin."
  • A job that allows me days off to get well and an employer who knows I'll stay up with my work.
  • Sweet text messages from friends, asking how I am feeling.
  • Two incredible furry children who never left my side and kept their requests for attention to a minimum while I recuperated, resolving to accept a pat on the head as full payment for their help.
  • Beautiful autumn weather that gave me a few minutes of pleasantry when I was periodically able to emerge from my cocoon.
  • Electronic connections to the outside world that not only allowed me to keep up with my work, but also not feel so isolated.
  • The mailman, who brings mail from all over the world, to my door, six days a week. Have you ever thought how amazing that really is?
Each of these day-to-day occurrences could easily, and often are, taken for granted, but shouldn't we take a little extra time to recognize how amazing these things are? The creature comforts on which we rely each day are expected, but take away one -- or two, or three -- of them, and their absence becomes quite noticeable. Then imagine people in other parts of the world -- or even just down the street -- who may not have the same things. Talk about perspective. 

It reminds me of a story my dad used to tell me of his time growing up on the south side of Chicago. He often saw one of his neighbors following the train tracks and picking up lumps of coal that had fallen from the train. He often helped the neighbor gather the coal in her bucket. He saw it as some sort of game and began to try to find more coal each time he played this game with her. He did not realize until years later that it wasn't a game. The young girl gathered the cast off coal from the trains for her family to burn for heat in their home. It was during the Great Depression, and though my father's family was able to purchase fuel to heat their home, the little girl's family was not as fortunate. The coal they gathered was the difference between survival and freezing. 

So many of the little things we experience in our lives can be overlooked due to their size, but on the whole, they add up to more than we could ever imagine.

Notice those small positives in your life. Realize they are special and that not everyone gets them. Be thankful for them as they come and never take them for granted. Then, when you realize how much those little nuggets of coal warm your life, start giving them away, and give some warmth to someone else's world.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Perfect World

The day begins not with screaming alarm clocks and unrelenting snooze buttons, but only when the sleeper is aroused to wakefulness by the soft kiss of sunlight and the fill tilt of rejuvenation. The smell of fresh coffee wafts through the morning air and greets me in its already prepared state. My ever-patient dogs then accompany me outside where we walk along a garden path spilling with fresh blooms in all the colors of the rainbow. 

Clocks do not exist and we move by the light of the sun and the pull of the earth. Hammocks are placed at random points in the landscape, and napping is encouraged and respected. Neighbors wave a cheerful "Hello" while tending to their yards. Postal trucks only deliver good news to mailboxes, and their engines, along with all other vehicles, play soft classical music instead of the grinding of a motor. 

Conversations are meaningful, and everyone is allowed to finish their sentences without interruption by someone else's impatience. Handwritten letters replace e-mail as epistolary treasures, and the rules of capitalization and punctuation are commonplace since one never dreams of writing a 15-line run-on sentence. An old social convention of refraining from discussion topics of politics or religion outside of close relationships is revered once again. Race, creed, gender, color, and sexual orientation are seen as glorious characteristics that benefit the beauty of the human race rather than used as weapons for one group to feel superior to another. Everyone is given six weeks a year to explore other lands and connect with people outside their familiar circles.

Children never know an emotion more painful than the sting of being told by mindful parents that they must finish their school work before they can go play in the safe communities and adventurous countrysides that surround their homes. Classes of music, art, and writing are held in the same regard as science, mathematics, and history. Education is available at no cost for all who desire it because society understands the high cost of an uninformed population. Competition motivates individuals to strive for improvement rather than acts as a means to degrade another. 

Sunsets are celebrated events with daily gatherings of fellowship, appreciation, conversation, and good food. Laughter really is the best medicine, along with moderate amounts of chocolate. The word 'love' is saved for describing personal relationships and not for one's attachment to a brand of shampoo or floor cleaner. Sleep comes easily and is always restful. Moonlight always holds a little mystery and a twinge of magic. 

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Turf Wars

I have an armadillo. No, not like a pet or a novelty purchase, I have an armadillo living in my backyard. Well, at least at night he lives there, randomly digging three-inch holes in the soil and making my yard look like a miniature mining town from the 19th century. He's quite industrious.

When the small holes began to appear, I originally blamed the neighbor’s cat, who has a penchant for using my yard as a litter box and frantically digging to cover her treasures. As the holes began to multiply exponentially, I wondered what in the hell that cat could be eating to have a need to relieve herself that often. Only when looking out the patio door at 4 a.m. on a sleepless night did I see the real culprit of the mini-bunkers in my yard was the helmeted critter with a face only a mother could love. I stepped onto the patio and rattled a chair against the concrete to startle it, and it scampered off to the other neighbor’s storage building and shimmied underneath. I’ll admit it was hard to be mad at the thing after seeing what it looked like trying to run.

He’s after the grubs, the same grubs that the moles targeted in past years, leaving long lines of the rodent underground railroad just below the surface of the lawn. The moles, when they had control of my yard, burrowed through the soil and raised little mounds just high enough to hit the lawnmower blades and erupt in a cloud of dust during the weekly mows. They must be more showy creatures to ensure their presence is announced with a dirt version of fireworks. I was glad the moles did not appear this year, and my yard remained relatively level, devoid of the crisscrossing molehills.

Then the holes began to appear. They were unassuming at first – the size of a lemon here or a grape there -- with the telltale sprays of dirt around the edges indicating something dug it out. Now they have reached the size of grapefruits as the armadillo becomes much more destructive in his nightly excavation. Perhaps he’s bringing friends I have yet to see.

Yet, through all of this, I’m not complaining. I’m observing. Honestly, I am not so connected to my lawn that I must maintain it in a pristine state. I do not play croquet out there or have kids running hither and yon, I simply walk the dogs and occasionally enjoy the view from a comfortable place on the patio. It does not have to be perfect. I mow it, I trim the edges, and I weed the flower beds. I am neither a trashy yardsmith nor a meticulous one.

And I can share.

Sure, I could get rid of the food source the armadillo is so desperately searching, or I could find a permanent means to end the critter’s nightly forays for good. Or, I could just accept the fact that I live rurally, and part of that means sharing my yard with whatever critter needs to be there at the time. He's not hurting anything, really. In a perfect world I could have a pointed conversation with the varmint, convincing him that the pasture behind my house would be better suited for his midnight forages. Since that time will never come, I chose to simply live with it. I chose to share the space with this armadillo, despite my dislike of his housekeeping abilities, and know that someday, he will move to another place where grubs are plentiful and the dirt is more suited to his taste. I chose to coexist with something a bit unappealing now, knowing that someday, the scene will change.