On being gentle and kind

“Life is fragile…handle with prayer.” – Harold B. Lee

I believe I was about 13 years-old when my mother made an embroidery sampler using the above quote. It hung in a frame and I must’ve looked at that piece a million times throughout the course of my life.

Without dating myself (yes, it’s been a few decades since Mom made that!), I really understood the meaning of that quote yesterday morning.

Yesterday, I made the discovery that I am indeed “fragile.”

After dropping the kids off at school, I had a driver pull out in front of me, only to stop and block traffic to turn left. If she had waited just a few seconds, she would’ve had a clear path. Luckily, I was in no rush, but the rudeness just brought me to tears. Honestly, I thought I was crazy being so emotional over this driving incident – which, unfortunately, happens all the time these days.

But my feelings were very real. And it has taken me an entire day to figure out why this bothered me so much. Seriously, I spent a lot of time praying I wasn’t crazy and for the Lord to give me patience with others.

Why? Because I felt like this driver didn’t care about me.

Obviously, she didn’t care about anyone other than herself and her own time-table. But somehow, I felt like she did this on purpose to me. Didn’t she know what I was going through in life? Didn’t she know that my dad died less than a year ago and that I was having a hard time dealing with his death this week? Didn’t she know that we buried a dear friend last week? Didn’t show know that if I hadn’t paid attention to her lack of patience, that we’d have been in an accident?

I felt singled out by this driver, simply because of this: rudeness is running rampant.

The “I don’t give a rip about the next guy attitude” has really gotten on my nerves lately. How can people be so callous and rude? It’s not ocassional anymore – it’s everwhere! It is on the roads, where people are completely inconsiderate of others. It’s in parking lots, where people  leave shopping carts to roll into other people’s cars.  It’s on our front lawns, where folks walking dogs leave their pet’s mess for someone else to clean. It’s in short, snarky comments and the rolling of eyes. Rudeness has become an absolute epidemic.

Of course I don’t expect a total stranger to know me or my emotions on any given day.  But I do expect that people would behave and treat others with some level of respect.

Is it because I watched my dad struggle the last few years of his life that I put myself in other’s shoes?  If I walk through a fog of emotion, are others doing the same? There is no way to know if the people I encounter today have received a big dose of bad news – a death, a diagnosis that is terminal, a foreclosure notice, a job loss. Maybe a smile or a courteous word is all they need to keep moving in that moment.

If I am fragile, than I will just assume someone else is, too.

It is the least that I can do.

Have you been a victim of rude people? Tell me below in the comments section.

© 2012 – Lynne Cobb

A quick apology…

I’m pretty frustrated at the moment. After writing a post, and then hitting publish, the only thing that appeared were the bullet points I had used. I mean, just the actual bullet symbols! My word count was “zero,” the photos were gone, and basically a blank page was sent into cyber space with a link to nowhere! UGH! WOOF! I apologize to anyone who questioned their sanity when clicking onto nothing! I am just loving the fact that all that work is just gone, gone, gone.

So, my motivation to re-write it has been zapped. And honestly, it is such a pretty day, that I am not planning to waste another minute worrying about that post. I’ll save that for a rainy day.

Has anyone else experienced that same problem? Where you typed, used spellcheck, added photos, hit “publish” and nothing posted, other than the title? And a series of empty bullet points? Let me know if you have. It’s probably too late for me to fix, because, well, I was so mad I hit “move to trash.” So the blank page was gone, along with the time I’ll never get back.

If this is my only challenge of the day, I’ll count myself very lucky indeed!

Lessons learned from a wet paper

“The highest compliment that you can pay me is to say that I work hard every day.” – Wayne Gretzky

Every morning, I talk to my dad and tell him how much I miss him. On Sundays, Thursdays and Fridays, I miss him even more. Those are the “new” home delivery days for our sort-of daily paper. Yes, the paper is published daily, but budget cuts and cost-saving plans now make for a three-day home delivery service. Out of tradition, we still get home delivery of the Detroit Free Press, “our” paper, and just seeing the masthead makes me think of Dad even more.

After a night of downpours and thunderstorms, I woke up to coffee brewing (I so love programmable coffee makers!) and, while on my way to the front door, I wished Dad a good morning.

Hey Dad, I bet you’re going to be ticked this morning,” I chuckled to myself as I opened the door.

I was right. He’d be livid. Heads would be rolling downtown.

My paper was soaking wet, even though it was in a plastic bag.

Dad was a circulation guy, just like his dad. A late paper was unacceptable, unless it was due to a late press run. A wet paper was completely unacceptable. Period. End of story. Trust me when I tell you that you wouldn’t win an argument with him over a wet paper. If you were one of his carriers, you would be told to “think ahead.” If there was even the slightest chance of that paper getting wet, you were going to go above and beyond the call of duty to make sure that paper was dry – even if you had to triple bag the blasted thing.

I know this because my brothers, sister and I all had paper routes. So did our friends, our cousins and, eventually, some of our spouses. We learned from him how the newspaper “food chain” works. Here’s how (imagine him throwing in an expletive or two for emphasis):

“The carrier can make or break the paper he or she works for. Don’t you know that papers aren’t made for free? Someone has to pay all the people who get that paper on the doorstep every morning. So, the advertising rates are based on the circulation numbers. Circulation numbers are based on sales, particularly home delivery subscriptions. Sometimes content comes into play, but nine times out of ten, people quit the paper because of lousy service.

“So, if people quit over service, how do you justify ad rates? Or if the advertiser gets mad and takes his business to the competition, what do you think will happen? How do you pay people when revenues are down? You don’t. You lose numbers. You lay people off.”

Whoa – that’s one serious business lesson to learn.

Customer service skills were drilled into our heads at a young age, along with the world’s strongest work ethic.

Needless to say, the areas of circulation that were run by my dad were like a well-oiled machine. He knew the people to put into the right places to, in his words (and with his famous nod), “get the job done.”

At the time, I didn’t appreciate having to spend an extra minute on my route, bagging papers “just in case.” But as time has moved forward, and I am out and about in this world, I realize just how important those customer service skills are, and see the value in his lesson.

Sitting here, having a refill of coffee and waiting to get a dry paper, I lift up my mug and say, “thanks, Dad.”

And I will try really, really, really hard not to use an expletive as I patiently wait…

© 2012 – Lynne Cobb

A quick note to say thanks…

 

Gratitude is the music of the heart, when its chords are swept by the breeze of kindness.  ~Author Unknown

Just taking a quick moment to thank you all so very much for your support. As many of you know, I am relatively new to blogging. The fact that people are reading and responding to my posts is not only humbling but truly rewarding. The past few days I have received so many wonderful comments. Your “likes,” comments, personal notes and constructive suggestions are keeping me motivated.

There have been many changes in my life in the past few years, some good and some not-so-good. Transitioning from print media to other career ventures is just one of the changes and challenges! Personal changes, such as my dad’s struggle (and then his death) from Alzheimer’s; friends dealing with health challenges – both their own and that of their parents’ or children – and then losing friends way too soon have made for the more challenging times.

But the good has totally outweighed the bad. Had not these challenges been laid before me, my faith in God wouldn’t be where it is today. I wouldn’t be doing what I am doing now – writing. I wouldn’t have met new friends. I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to reunite with old friends, create stronger bonds within my own family or leaned on my dear friends for strength.

I would not have gained an attitude of gratitude.

Again, I say from my heart – thank you.

© 2012 – Lynne Cobb

Playing in the sandbox

“I think when I was two years old in the sandbox. I think I formulated my basic philosophy there, and I haven’t really had to alter it very much ever since.” – Boyd Rice

My oldest son has been out of the house for almost five years, leaving home for basic training. Not too long after that, he got married, bought a house, and eventually faced a deployment. He also got to experience other “grown-up” realities, like budgeting, running a household, mourning the death of his wife’s grandmother – whom he just adored, and then mourning the loss of his own grandfather.

A boy when he left, he has grown into a fine young man. Of course, my heart bursts with pride for him, and for where life has taken him.

I love that he calls home to bounce ideas off of us; to ask questions and lay his concerns about life before us. Just recently I remembered something he said to me about a year ago at a particularly rough time.

“I wish I could just come home and go play in the sandbox.”

The sandbox his dad made was his and his siblings’ favorite spot to play. There were Hot Wheel cities, bridges made of sand and sticks, hand-carved paths for flowing rivers – which were then filled with several buckets of water. The kids and their friends would play outside in the sandbox for hours on end.

We have a shared memory, as I fondly remember the sandbox my dad had made for my siblings and me. The stuff we built and the fun we had. We, too, played for hours at a time.

A sandbox is a refuge for kids. Close your eyes and imagine the soothing feel of the sand as it is running through your fingers; or the sensation of squeezing the sand between your toes; or the therapeutic process that takes your mind off your troubles while you are busy building a sand castle.

“I wish I could just go play in the sandbox” has become our saying when life gets tough. I’ve repeated this wish to him during many conversations we’ve had regarding life, stress and when his grandfather was suffering with Alzheimer’s.

Just the other day, we were notified of a friend’s death. It was the same day that we heard that a dear neighbor is struggling with an aggressive form of cancer. And it was just a day after hearing of the very public struggles of a well-respected family in our area. There was other bad news that day, but those three illustrations surely make my point.

“I wish I could just go play in my sandbox,” I said to myself. And so I did. Closing my eyes for just a few minutes, I was in the backyard of my childhood home, playing in the sandbox. My dad was working in the yard, the sun was shining, and the warm sand felt wonderful on my bare feet.

And, for a just moment, all was right in the world.

© 2012 – Lynne Cobb

Note: this post was featured on Midlife Boulevard on Jan. 24, 2014.

 

Wrapped in a prayer

“Pray, and let God worry.”  — Martin Luther

I absolutely love to knit, and though I’m still a beginner, it is something I really enjoy.

I honestly don’t remember where I initially learned. Memory says my great-aunt taught me, but my mom says it was her. All I can tell you is that as a youngster with a set of knitting needles in hand, I was really uncoordinated and rather confused with the process. So I crocheted instead.

As the years progressed, I became quite proficient at crocheting, but I always yearned to knit. Then I was busy raising four kids so the crafts, needles, yarn and such were stuffed in boxes and forgotten about.

It was so enthralling to watch someone just knitting away – witnessing something beautiful being made in brilliant color and a soft, comforting texture. So, about five years ago, I bought a how-to book and re-taught myself.

A simple kitchen dishcloth was my first successful project, and I have a drawer full of them to prove it! From knitting dishcloths I learned to make a baby blanket – which was simple because it was basically the same pattern with more stitches. And from that blanket I started making Prayer Shawls.

When I’d accompany my mom to my dad’s doctor appointments, I usually brought my knitting. It helped soothe me, because anyone dealing with an Alzheimer’s patient knows that with each doctor appointment or test, the family will most likely hear that the is patient getting worse, not better. And so one of the first prayer shawls I made, I gave to my mom.

The beauty of a prayer shawl is that you can choose to make it for someone in particular (which I have) or make one and donate it to total stranger (which I have done, too). I made a soft-pink shawl for a neighbor with breast cancer, a few shawls for relatives, and a few for several for people that I never met.

Beginning each shawl, I’d thank God for the ability to use my hands for His work, and then to ask Him bless the person who would receive the shawl. I’d pray for the recipient to feel God’s comfort, seek His grace, and that when they needed a big hug from God, they’d put the shawl around them and feel His touch.

Last July, my mom and I were getting my dad admitted to a nursing home. I can’t even begin to articulate the sense of loss we felt. I tried so hard to keep my composure, but once I got home, I completely broke down.

I went to visit Dad the next day, and there was a brown throw on the chair at the foot of his bed. I picked it up and handed it to a nurse’s aide, explaining it didn’t belong to my dad.

With a gentle smile, she said it was in fact his.

“Someone makes and donates prayer shawls to our new residents,” she explained.

With tears in my eyes, I covered my dad with this shawl that was made with the love and prayers of a total stranger. Maybe the knitter went through placing a loved one in a nursing home and knew extra prayers were in order. It was in that moment I realized just how comforting a prayer shawl is to the recipient.

I just wish I could personally thank the person who was so generous with their time and talents. I’m guessing the best way to say thanks is to pay it forward.

Have you made or received a Prayer Shawl? Feel free to share your story.

© 2012 – Lynne Cobb

Embracing my inner “geek”

Last summer, I remember there was a really, super-hot day towards the end of June. At the time, my dad was in the hospital. I couldn’t focus on much, so I hopped on Facebook and posted something silly like, “It’s hot enough to fry an egg on the sidewalk”.

And the conversations began.

“I always wanted to try that,” replied someone. “Does it work?” asked another.

Admittedly, I have always liked science experiments. Baking soda and vinegar volcanoes, Mentos in diet soda, watching celery sticks and Queen Anne Lace drink up food coloring, microwaving almost-stale Peeps…the list goes on and on. So when my cousin almost double-dog-dared me to fry an egg on the sidewalk, what was I to do?

Out the door I went, egg in hand. And a camera, too. Then, like a giddy school girl, I’d run back in the house to update my followers on my experiment. And for the record, the egg started cooking. Kind of a soft-scramble due to the way the egg hit the ground. I was laughing and taking pictures. I’m glad the kids weren’t home, because they’d have been mortified to know that people walking their dogs were staring at me. But I digress.

Of course, I shrugged off the incident as therapy for a rough time period in my life. But the other day, while I was cleaning, that summer-time experiment memory came back and hit me like a ton of bricks.

Then it struck me – I might be a geek.

Serious – I think I am! Maybe because I did some techincal writing recently and learned about things like cloud-based applications and gigs of data and cool stuff like that, but I think there really is a geek hiding within!

Here’s why. We live in what designers like to call “mid-century modern” house. Basically, it’s a small ranch a little older than me, that has a old bathtub that refuses to come clean. Each week I’m scrubbing the blasted thing to no avail. Stinky cleaning products in hand, I run in to the bathroom, hold my breath, spray and scrub until I need to breathe, run out of the bathroom, gasp for air, plug my nose and repeat.

Until I decided enough was enough. This week would be different. And, like a semi-mad scientist, I started to experiment with less-stinky, homemade cleaning products.

A sinister smirk appeared when I started to sprinkle baking soda everywhere. Then, with my trusty spray bottle in hand, I doused the baking soda with the vinegar. Bubbles erupted and fizzing hisses greeted me! This was both entertaining and educational – and it worked! Boy, did I have a blast! Who knew cleaning could be so much fun! Plus, I could breathe while scrubbing, which made my job so much easier!

Why hadn’t I thought of this earlier? It’s not like I haven’t played (safely) as a scientist before. I’ve made my own laundry detergent, mixed my own Easter egg dye and made window cleaner. I’ve helped my kids with science fair projects. Where was my head?

Gosh, I wish I hadn’t ignored my inner geek, because when I did embrace it, cleaning the bathroom was, well, it was kind of fun.

© 2012 – Lynne Cobb

Can we call a truce?

Here we go – again. All will be quiet on the front, and then boom – the proverbial bomb drops and the war begins. Is anyone else growing weary of this tired topic?

By now, most people have heard a zillion times about the resurfaced “Mommy Wars” after yesterday’s television and Twitter reports. Working mom vs. stay-at-home mom. Apparently, this conflict will never cease.

Why must this fight continue? Why must all comments on either side of the subject continue to be taken as an insult? Why is stay-at-home mom vs. working mom even a debate?

To say that a woman who stays home to raise her children has “never worked a day in her life” is ignorant. Mothering is a tough and thankless job, in the immediate sense. There is rarely a moment to breathe between changing dirty diapers all day, dealing with overly-curious preschoolers and supervising teenagers. Being a stay-at-home mom isn’t easy – the work is hard – but the rewards are plenty. I know that because I’ve been a stay-at-home mom.

That being said, my heart is compassionate for women who balance work and raising a family. It isn’t easy to be up all night long with a sick preschooler, then try to find someone to watch the child because you have used up all of your sick and vacation time due to the baby being sick. Your mind wanders during a meeting because you are missing yet another skit at school – you couldn’t get the time off. Being a working mom isn’t easy – the work is hard – but the steady check helps to raise the family and secure their future. I know that, because I was also a full-time working mom.

Each one of our choices comes with a price. We know that, and don’t need to be reminded of that. My heart breaks for the women who don’t have a choice. The women forced into work because life threw them a curveball. Or the women forced into resigning the work they love due to a change in economics or family-life.

We mothers are our own worse enemy. Instead of respecting and appreciating the choices we have been blessed with, we are so busy beating each other up over who is correct in their choice. There is no right or wrong, ladies! It is a choice!

Instead of looking at a stay-at-home mom as an unitelligent lazy dolt, look at her with thanks. This is the woman who watches your child walk home from school, making sure no harm comes to him. This woman may be chaperoning your daughter’s trip to the zoo.

And stay-at-home moms, stop looking at working moms as women who are greedy and put the needs of their family behind a paycheck. Look at these women with thanks. These are the women who are on-call when your child gets sick in the middle of the night. These are the women who teach your child how to read.

We should be banding together to keep each other propped up, not tearing each other down.

Enough is enough!

© 2012 – Lynne Cobb

Joy

Geez – where does the time go? I honestly feel like we just celebrated Christmas, and we are now ending Holy Week, looking forward to the joy of Easter morning, but also another holiday to celebrate without my dad.

He loved holidays because it gave him the chance to be with his kids and grandkids. Some holidays had the added bonus of other members of our large extended family being able to join in the celebration, which just absolutely made his day. Last Easter brought the pain of watching his quick decline in battling Alzheimer’s. This Easter, though we won’t see him, we will hear him in the hymns. We will hear him say very loudly, “He is risen indeed!” We’ll toast Dad as we gather for dinner, and chat about how weird this “year of firsts without him” really is…

This Easter Sunday also marks what would have been our parents’ 51st wedding anniversary, and I still thank my husband for insisting we do something to celebrate their 50th last year. Oh, to go back and look at photos of the dinner is difficult as you could visually see the decline from the disease. And to see my aunt and uncle (Dad’s siblings) wipe tears as they watched their oldest brother struggle was also hard to witness.

But the depression we felt was diminished by the joy of having the family together. Despite it all, we ate, hugged, laughed and enjoyed life. Kind of like Good Friday….it is so depressing, but then we have the joy of the Resurrection – life is worth celebrating!

April 8th of 2011, I sent a floral delivery to my mom. The card read “Happy Anniversary. All my love, Larry.” That’s how he signed the card every year. He couldn’t order the flowers, so I did it for him. Bless his heart, he liked the flowers I sent, even though he didn’t connect “anniversary.” (And somehow my mom knew I was behind the delivery!)

This April 8th, the flowers I ordered for him this year say “In memory of.” Kind of depressing, I know, but, life is worth celebrating, and he wouldn’t want it any other way.

Blessings to you and yours.

© 2012 – Lynne Cobb

 

Forward Motion

A year ago at this time, we watched my Dad steadily decline, succumbing to the ravages of Alzheimer’s disease. The good days were becoming good moments, and those moments were few and far between.

Watching him go downhill was so difficult. Physically, he was strong and healthy. Mentally, the simplest of instructions were a challenge. Simple things we take for granted daily – like brushing your teeth or tying your shoes  – were tasks that he not only couldn’t do, but he couldn’t even understand what he was being asked to do. I remember assisting him by putting his shoes and socks on one morning. There was a brief moment of frustration in his eyes, almost like he was communicating that I shouldn’t be helping him, as he’s the dad. Maybe he briefly remembered tying my shoes when I was little? I don’t know. All I do know is that as our eyes met, mine welled up with tears while helping him, knowing that if he did have any idea what had been going on in his life with this disease, he’d be completely and totally humiliated.

For instance, Dad was 75 years-old. He worshipped nearly every single Sunday of his life. Seventy-five years of Sundays! But, on Easter Sunday last year, he didn’t even get the concept of being in church. Standing and sitting for readings and hymns completely confused him. He didn’t understand Communion – in fact, he made a scene so loud in the sanctuary during Communion that my poor mother hurried him out of the building, my sister trailing not far behind.

I think a good portion of the congregation was in tears witnessing this event. Many had known my dad for years, and they watched the steady downward spiral. It was no secret – his ability to live at home – with my mom caring for him – was coming to an end. A nursing facility was on the horizon for him – or so we thought.

As we move forward in our “first year without him,’ we now come upon Easter. It will be hard attend church and not think of the heartbreak we witnessed last year. But it will be even harder to see his name in the bulletin, as it will be amongst the long list of flowers ordered by those of us missing loved ones. His name will be listed under “In Memory of …”

There are just some things you are not prepared for when you are moving forward.

© 2012 – Lynne Cobb