theorangeinkblot

Looking at life through orange colored glasses…

Pandemic Pendulum

I woke up this morning at 2:30 a.m. with this poem already inside me- or maybe it was a prayer. Either way, I got out of bed and wrote it down.

Pandemic Pendulum

by Meryl Paskow

I didn’t know it was possible to feel so many things in such a short amount of time.

So filled with gratitude one minute; so intensely sad the next. 

To be scared of what comes next but not stopping at my fear. 

To have so much clarity and sense of purpose only to be stopped dead in my tracks by self doubt.

I didn’t know that parts of me could be so calm while other parts felt so restless- simultaneously a gentle breeze and a tornado. Still as a pond while churning like class 4 whitewater rapids. 

I took a walk yesterday.  My neighbor was in her front yard and I stopped to chat from ten feet away. I was so happy to be talking in person to a human being that I don’t live with. And then she made a comment about being Indonesian and Dutch and having an accent that was hard to distinguish and that sometimes people think she is Chinese and she doesn’t like that and she pulled back the outside edges of her eyes and she laughed. And I said, yes, isn’t it a shame that people just love to label each other and put each other into little boxes without ever getting to know them. And I wasn’t so happy anymore to be talking to a human being that I don’t live with. 

It is hard to live in this in between place.

It is a place of both knowing and not knowing. 

Of trusting and not trusting. 

There is such a fine line between laughter and tears- I am reminded of this everyday as I move from one to the other and then back again. 

Gather. Offer. Awake. Fall apart. Turn away. Come back. 

Being present right now is hard but ultimately it feels better than sticking my head in the sand. 

Let It Go…

(Warning: this blog post contains a moderate dose of Disney cheesiness.)

My family just returned from seeing the newly released sequel to Disney’s ‘Frozen.’ In preparation, last night we watched the original film. It was the first time I had actually watched the whole movie from beginning to end with no interruptions. Even if you haven’t seen the film, you have probably heard it’s signature song, ‘Let It Go.’  I had heard the song countless times before last night, but a recent situation in my life has helped me to connect to the lyrics in a new way.

I recently made the difficult decision to separate myself from an organization that I have been deeply entrenched in as a volunteer for the past three years. My reasons for leaving are unimportant in the context of why I am writing this.  What is important is what I learned about leadership from the realization that it was time to leave and from the act of leaving, itself.

  • Lesson One: Sometimes you have to let things fall apart in order for them to have a chance at coming back together. I knew months ago that it was time for me to leave, but without an obvious leader to hand things off to, I was hesitant. Because I care so much about the work I was stepping out of, I didn’t want to leave my team in a bad position. But in hanging on and trying to fix everything I think I was actually holding them back. They may not know yet who will step in to that leadership role, but the space has now been created and the team can rebuild in a way that make sense moving forward.
  • Lesson Two: Even if you have created the initial energy that sparks a project, it is not necessarily your energy that is needed to bring that project to the next level.  I can recognize that I had the right skill set to bring the right group of people together and help them to build an initial foundation and vision of where they wanted to go together. It was a humbling moment to gain the clarity that they had outgrown my leadership and that it was somebody else’s energy that was going to be required to help this group reach their next milestone.  This was an important lesson in humility for me- recognizing what I had been able to accomplish while also acknowledging that I was no longer the right leader for the group.
  • Lesson Three: It was really important for me to step away from this experience while I could still look back and see all of it as a blessing. I could feel myself starting to focus on the things that weren’t working and the times my feelings had gotten hurt instead of focusing on the good I had done and how I was better because of it.  I thought that I was persevering. It turned out I was really just holding on too tightly to something I needed to be letting go of.  Now that I have let go, my overwhelming feeling is of gratitude for what I have learned and how I have grown. I can honestly say that I want only good things for this organization and the leaders who are still invested in the work they were doing. If I hadn’t stepped away when I did, I think I would have risked carrying those negative thoughts with me and letting them blind me to the many gifts I have received over the past three years.
  • Lesson Four:  Letting go of one thing creates space for the next thing.  Within two days of announcing my decision to close one chapter of my life, I was offered a completely different opportunity. I am now about to embark on a new adventure/challenge that is more in line with my current priorities, an opportunity that lends itself to my goals for my personal and spiritual growth while helping to protect and strengthen an institution that has become very important to me.

The decision itself to let go was wrought with emotion and stepping away was exceedingly difficult. Now that I have done so, I feel so much lighter and more energized, and like I am more available to the world. And I feel like I am in a place again where I can be giving of myself freely, without all of the conditions I was putting on my active leadership in an organization that was no longer a good fit for me.

The signature song in ‘Frozen 2’ is called, “Into the Unknown,” which feels like an appropriate transition to the next step in my own development as a leader in my community. But I go there willingly and openly with just the right balance, I think, of excitement and nervousness. And with deep gratitude and acknowledgement that the experience I have just left has helped to prepare me for what’s to come.  As one of the characters said in Frozen 2, just when you think you are on the right path, life plucks you up and puts you back down on a different one. And then, the only thing you can do, is the next right thing.

 

Speaking my truth (an addendum)

I know I just posted something three days ago. But I finally figured out what I wanted to say following the mass shootings this past weekend.

The Monday following the shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue I found myself in an elementary school cafeteria in a neighboring town from where I live, sitting across from a grandmother, who happens to be an immigrant from Mexico. She has custody of her grandson who is a child at the school. Her daughter, the child’s mother, remains in Mexico. 

When I introduced myself as representing my Jewish faith institution which partners with this school, the grandmother immediately told me that she had heard about the shooting at the synagogue in Pittsburgh and expressed her condolences to the Jewish community at large.  She also shared her own stories, describing ways that hate has directly impacted her and her family and how hard it is to be Mexican right now in this country. We sat together that morning in shared grief over what had already happened and what we feared was still to come. 

When I heard about the shooting in El Paso, my thoughts immediately went to this grandmother and the very human connection we made that day. Our backgrounds could not be more different but when it comes to violence fueled by hate the story is always the same- rooted in fear and ignorance, and resulting in the tragic loss of innocent lives. Unchanging, as well, is the need for us to stand with each other and to recognize our own stories and our collective humanity when we see acts of hate perpetrated against those who some might classify as “other.”  

I know I wrote in my previous post that I was tired of talking about how much we need each other, our need for connection- it feels like I’m yelling into a void.  Yet in a world of fake news and conspiracy theories it is the one thing that in my heart I know to be truth.  So I will speak this truth, regardless of who may or may not be listening.

There has to be joy

Anyone else feeling depressed about the state of the world? Scared? Angry? Sad? Helpless? Stuck? After emerging from my Shabbat bubble on Saturday night and reading about the shooting in El Paso and then waking up Sunday morning to news of the shooting in Dayton, I wanted to talk about it. I wanted to write about it. But I found I had no words- at least none that felt especially helpful.  I’m tired of talking about a government that refuses to take action, tired of talking about voting, tired of writing about how much we need each other, our need for connection, tired of crying, of grieving. 

It’s a lousy way to live, ping ponging from one tragedy to the next, no time to even process one horrible news event before the next one pops up in your news feed.  It’s exhausting, really. Sucks all the energy out of me. And it’s hard to stay in it, it is hard to be the best version of ourselves- fighting the good fight on the issues we care about- when we are completely burnt out. 

I have struggled with this. Figuring out how to restore the energy that just living in the world as it is is draining from me. So I guess what I have been thinking about recently is self nourishment. I have been trying to remember all of the tools I have in my tool box to help get me out of those dark places my mind has been going.  Because there has to be joy. We can’t walk around sad and angry all the time. We just can’t.

And strangely, this weekend, before I had even heard about what had happened in El Paso, I found myself writing a set of instructions for getting out of my head and back to the business of being my best self. Things that make me feel energized. Things that bring me joy. It is part poem, part stream of consciousness, part checklist. And I’m copying it below as I wrote it, although some of it might not make sense to you all. I’m hoping that by writing it down, that in the future I can use it as a reference – to come back faster when the world just feels like too much. Because it’s easy to forget when we feel stuck that we have things we can do to get unstuck.

This business of being human is hard work. But we are here, I think, to do the hard things.

Instructions for getting out of my head and back to the business of being my best self:

Sit.

Be still.

Breathe in. Breathe out.

Meditate. Meditate happy, meditate sad, meditate angry, meditate distracted. Just meditate. Remember there is no warrior path without meditation.

Go outside. Notice. Notice how the treetops sway in the breeze. Notice how the green leaves contrast against the blue sky. Notice how many different shades of green I can see from where I am sitting.

Close my eyes. Listen. To the hum of cicadas, to the tap of the woodpecker, a lawnmower somewhere down the street, the hoot of an owl.

Practice piano. Play until muscle memory kicks in and I suddenly realize I’m not reading the music anymore. Play something harder so I have no choice but to completely focus on reading the music, learning the chords, coordinating left hand and right hand. Fully present.

Play until my pinkies are cramped but everything else is relaxed and all strong emotions have been carried away by the resonance of the music notes.

Remember gratitude. Gratitude for this moment. For in this moment I am safe. In this moment there is peace in my little corner of the world. In this moment there is clean air to breathe and clean water to drink. In this moment there is abundance. Family. Freedom. Security. Home.

I have people. Sometimes I forget this. Call them. Invite them for coffee. Have face to face conversations. Make eye contact. Feel connected. Laugh. Remember I am loved.

Pray. For patience. For healing. For clarity. For peace. 

Sit again. Be still. Breathe in. Breathe out.

Start to feel better. Calmer. Centered. Grounded. Remember I am really strong. Smart. Capable. Enough.

Write it all down so the next time I get stuck in my head I can remember how to find my way back faster.

Forgive myself when I forget, anyway. 

Remember, this is what it is to be human.

 

Heart Rot

In March, dead, heavy limbs started dropping from the beautiful Oak tree situated in my front yard. Concerned that someone might get hurt, we called an arborist who diagnosed the tree with “Heart Rot.”  Heart Rot, I have learned, is caused by a fungus which enters the tree through vulnerable cracks and scratches in the bark. It attacks the “heartwood” at the center of the tree.  The sapwood, surrounding the heartwood is unaffected and continues to grow- but because the center of the tree is slowly rotting, the integrity of the tree is threatened and the tree becomes a likely candidate to lose limbs and eventually collapse in on itself and topple over.  Caught early enough, a tree can be treated for Heart Rot. The treatment can extend the life of the tree but ultimately there is no cure. The disease in our tree was too far progressed for treatment. Because of it’s proximatey to our house, we made the decision to have the tree taken down.

Yesterday, I watched as the tree was dismantled limb by limb, section by section. I couldn’t help but feel sad, even though I knew that the tree was ultimately dying and was presenting a hazardous situation to anyone who might walk under it at the wrong moment.

I also felt a sense of relief that I finally have language that explains where I think we are as a country. My friends, I am not a doctor, but I am diagnosing America with a serious case of Heart Rot. Various “fungi” have infiltrated our culture, by capitalizing on the vulnerabilities in our political and electoral systems, and the vulnerabilities that we feel as private citizens- whether perceived or real. There are many ways that people might choose to label these fungi: Algorithms that trap us in our political bubbles and push us constantly towards one extreme or another; an extremely partisan two party political system that effectively serves fewer and fewer people; certain media outlets; All the old standbys- Racism, Classism, Antisemitism, Islamophobia, Homophobia, Xenophobia, white nationalism- this list is endless; I could go on and on.  All potentially treatable, but with no actual cures on the horizon. And all of them threatening the integrity of our Democracy, not to mention a threat to peace.

We distract ourselves with our cell phones, social media accounts, Netflix, & superhero movies and wait around for the next election which will surely fix everything.  We lament what the world is becoming while leading the same lives that we have always led, only faster and more furiously, terrified to slow down or stop for even a moment because how does one even begin to process the world as it is.

Our young people are starting to get it, I think. In the work I do with youth I hear children as young as ten comment that what they are learning in school is not really preparing them for the world in which they are coming of age. There is no magic number of AP classes, or a high enough standardized test score that will help them to learn how to participate in productive political discourse, to be civically engaged in a meaningful way that leads to real change, to begin to close the divide that they are already feeling between them and their peers.  They are asking for better mental health education in schools; they are asking for meaningful, productive dialog in their classrooms; they are speaking up in the face of hate and injustice and being shut down by adults who do not know how to facilitate these conversations. They are asking adults to knock it off, already. They know it is their future that we are messing with.

Heart Rot finds a weakness or a vulnerability to prey on and then takes hold. As far as I can tell, the only way we can stave off our own societal Heart Rot is to work to keep our own local communities strong and safe so that we do not turn on each other or exploit each other’s vulnerabilities. This means we have to really commit to listening to and taking care of one another. We must dig deep to those places within us that are still generous and compassionate. We must remember that there is no such thing as somebody else’s children.

And we need to be brave enough to slow down, unbusy ourselves, look around, and see where each of us can take some small action to keep our communities safe and strong. It’s going to take all of us.

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There’s no place like home.

I am procrastinating. I should really be packing.  The movers come on Sunday to officially move us into our new home and there is still a lot of work to do.  We have also had the keys to the new house for a couple of weeks now, so we have started moving stuff over on our own -one carload at a time.

It is a strange place to be with half of our stuff in one house and half of our stuff in another, and most of our things in boxes, neither house really feels like home at this point. This feeling was accentuated earlier this week when we received mail at our current home addressed to the soon to be new owners.

This process has been stressful. The decluttering, cleaning, packing, storing, staging, fixing, moving; it’s taken a lot out of me. And it feels unsettling to be in this in between space.  I wasn’t prepared for that. The longer it’s gone on, the more I feel like I am losing my center, my sense of ground.

So I’ve been thinking about the importance of ‘home,’ and the feeling of security that it brings to really have a sense of home.  It goes beyond the physical comforts of having a place to live. There is a mental stability in knowing that there is a place that is yours; a place where you are physically and emotionally safe; somewhere you can let down your guard and just be comfortable in your own skin.  To lose that, even temporarily, is jarring and has stirred stronger emotions than I expected when entering this process.

In my Warrior for the Human Spirit training we learned a Buddhist practice called, ‘Tonglen.’ Tonglen is a practice in which when you are feeling a very strong emotion, you close your eyes and identify what that emotion or feeling is. Then, you take into your collective consciousness all of the people in the world that you can imagine are also feeling that emotion.  Then, offer a prayer of recognition and peace to all of those people.  The idea is to remember that you are never alone in those strong feelings, to acknowledge the interconnectedness of all sentient beings, and to go from a place of “I am suffering” to a place of “There is suffering,” which takes the ego out of it a little bit.

Yesterday, I was feeling especially emotional and exhausted by this whole moving process to the point that it was keeping me from being productive. So this morning, during my meditation time, I decided to include Tonglen in my practice.  I decided to call into my consciousness all of the people in the world that I could imagine were missing home or searching for home and all of the people for whom home is not a safe space.  I thought about the refugees around the world, many who are in a permanent state of impermanence; I thought about the children separated from their parents at our Southern border; I thought about the members of our military stationed overseas and their families feeling incomplete at home.  I called into conciousness all who are homeless or in transitional housing or who are at risk for losing their homes; and those whose homes are not physically or emotionally safe spaces.  I tried to hold all of these people to the light and offer them a prayer of recognition and peace. I prayed that each of them, in some way, are able to someday find their way home. Finally, I said a prayer of gratitude that my situation is temporary and that our move to our new home is ultimately going to bring my family to a place of greater serenity and togetherness.

There really is no place like home.

 

There is abundance- Part 2

In case you  missed it, part one can be found at There is abundance – Part 1.

The packing and decluttering continue.  It is getting easier to say goodbye to items that I haven’t looked at or used in years.  Even the kids are realizing that we cannot, in all practicality, move everything to the new house and yesterday, they said goodbye to our trampoline, helping to literally walk it around the corner to it’s new home with a neighbor who has young children.

Going through every closet, cabinet, and drawer is tedious and time consuming but I am trying to see it as an opportunity to be present and mindful and take advantage of whatever learning experiences exist in this process.  Here’s what I’ve been learning (or reminded of):

 It’s okay to let the past stay in the past.

While going through my closet I found a bridesmaid’s dress that I wore to a dear friend’s wedding in 1999.  In 2009, before “ghosting” was a thing, this friend abruptly disappeared from my life, with no explanation. After years of trying to reconnect, I finally accepted that I had no choice but to let this person go. And yet, the dress, which no longer fits, from a wedding almost 20 years ago, for a friend who chose to walk away, continued to hang in my closet until last week when I finally stuck it in a bag and dropped it off at Goodwill.  I have come across this dress in my closet a number of times over the years; I have thought about giving it away. Somehow, it always felt like a betrayal – that giving away the dress would mean closing a door that I somehow felt I had an obligation to leave open- just in case this person ever decided to come back.

Just. In. Case. I’ve decided those three words are more trouble than they are worth.  I realize now by leaving this and other doors from the past open, just in case, that all I have done is lug around a lot of unnecessary baggage that has only served to weigh me down. I was keeping this dress as a placeholder for this person, to whom I now know, I owe nothing.

A picture may be worth a thousands words, but a thousand random photographs just take up space.

Over the past two weeks, I have sifted through close to a thousand photographs.  My important photos are already in albums or have been uploaded to a digital photo site so these are all “extra” photos.  Some are blurry, some are the doubles to the pictures that are already in albums and there are pictures from those same trips or experiences that didn’t make the cut to get into the album. Why have I felt the need to hang on to these pictures? It’s not as if discarding the photo creates a glitch in the time-space continuum that cancels out that moment altogether. And, these photos have been sitting in boxes and envelopes for over a decade and have barely seen the light of day.  Goodbye old photos.

There is something to be said about the space we create by letting go of our stuff.  If the physical space we live in is too cluttered, we can feel physically restricted and can’t really see the space in which we are living. If our emotional space is too cluttered, it is largely similar- restricting our personal growth and preventing us from seeing a clear picture of our lives.  Creating space also allows us to be open to new ideas and experiences and to see the same things we have been looking at for ages in a different way.

People and relationships are far more important than things. 

My volunteer work takes me out into the community, talking to and collaborating with people of every age, faith, ethnicity, race, and socio-economic bracket. It is such a privilege to get to hear people’s stories and to connect with them on a human level. I have been fortunate, in my work, to develop genuine relationships through which I have really grown as a person.

I have had to pull back a bit from my volunteer work while I get us ready to move and I have been surprised by how much I miss being out in my community forming and strengthening those relationships and the institutions that support them. I would much rather being having a conversation with a stranger about the things that are keeping them up at night or which motivate them to get out of bed in the morning than to be sitting at home with my personal belongings.

That’s not to say that I don’t value my comfortable bed, or my coffee maker, or the painting of ‘Larry the Llama’ (our family mascot) which hangs on our dining room wall. But I do think that moving forward, I would like to be more discerning about what I choose to bring into our new house- is it useful or will it bring us joy? Or is something that we will, not so far from now, look at as only taking up space.  And can those resources, instead, be put towards creating and strengthening relationships and building community?

I can give without conditions. 

Finally, I am reminded that I am very blessed to have more than what I need. Having been reminded that I can give up some of what I physically have and still have enough inspires me to be more generous in my giving- of time, financial resources, leadership, or of anything else I have to offer. Letting go of the emotional baggage and stepping outside of my ego means that I can give without placing conditions on that gift. I do not need the organizations or institutions that I support to be perfect in order to feel gratitude for what they have given me and to understand what they provide to others. Having created more space, I can see more clearly what it is I am protecting and strengthening when I offer my support.

Happy New Year! I am looking forward to share more reflections and insights with you  in 2019!

There is abundance – Part 1

This spring, if all goes as scheduled, we will be moving to a new house a couple of towns away. In order to make this happen, we must sell our current home and my main priority right now is to make our house “market ready.”  This means clearing out and organizing closets and cabinets, determining what stays and what goes. What do we not need at all? What do we want to keep but can live without for the next few months? How badly do we need something that we can easily place in storage for the foreseeable future?

These questions, which I am now asking myself throughout each day, have raised another question for me. How did we accumulate so much stuff- and why is it so hard to part with?

Yesterday, I began to tackle the hall closet where we store our cleaning supplies, extra toiletries, medications and first aid products, and various household items such as light bulbs. I will not bore you with the full inventory of everything that was in that closet- but as an example, let me share with you that I found eight- yes eight- half-filled boxes of  band-aids. I offer photographic proof below.

bandaids.jpg

Can someone explain to me why any family needs eight boxes of band-aids? So I started thinking- we do not need to move to a new house with eight boxes of band-aids.  I should give or throw some of these away- which ones? Well those Ninja band-aids are totally adorable and they were a gift- we have to keep those.  I remember when I used to put those cute cupcake band-aids on my kids’ boo-boos when they were little. They have sentimental value. And those little free band-aid packets that we picked up at a booth at a County Fair five years ago- I was going to put one in my purse and keep one in the car– you know, just in case– but clearly that never happened because there they were sitting in my hall closet. So what did I do? I combined the band-aids from the 8 boxes into 4 and kept every single one of them. Because I might need them someday.

Why is it so hard to let go of our stuff? I go back to the thought of- what if I need this someday? What if down the road, I need something that I once had and because I gave it away I no longer have what I need.  What if I let go of something now and then someday, I don’t have enough? Am I even still talking about the band-aids?

Planning for the future is generally speaking a good thing. But since I physically live in the present I feel like I need to change the messaging, not only for the preparations for this move, but for life in general.  Instead of worrying about what may or may not happen in the future I can choose to see that now, in the present, there is abundance. I do not have to let go of all of it, but I can let go of some of it, dare I say most of it?- and I will still have enough.

There is a relationship, too, between this concept of I have enough and I am enough – and the personal baggage that we cling to so tightly. But I will save that for Part 2.  Until then, if you need a band-aid you know who to call…

 

Rational Lies

I have been thinking about this story from when I was in fifth grade.  Each year, my elementary school held a concert that featured performances from our school’s five musical ensembles: Chorus, Orchestra, Band, Jazz Band, and Hand Bell Choir (yes, my elementary school had a hand bell choir).

At some point in my elementary school career, I set a goal to perform with all five groups in the concert of my fifth grade year- my final year in elementary school. I can’t remember my reason for wanting to do this but apparently my roots as an overachiever run deep.  And, I succeeded. In my final year of elementary school I sang in the chorus, played the violin in the orchestra, played the clarinet in the band, played the bass clarinet in the jazz band, and rang the B-flat 6 bell in the hand bell choir.  My 10-year-old self was very proud of this accomplishment.

Of course, to make this work took some logistical finagling.  After the band performed and we were exiting stage left, I had to hand off my clarinet to a band friend who had agreed to put it away for me and run around to the other side of the stage where an orchestra friend was waiting for me, with my violin, as the orchestra was preparing to enter stage right.   When my mother tells this story, she says that they should have just put me in roller skates and pushed me back and forth across the stage.

As an adult, when I am presented with an interesting or exciting opportunity, I find that it is my 10-year-old self who wants to answer first “Oooohhh, yes, let’s do that! Can we, please?” And I start to think, who can I hand off my clarinet to in order to make this work?  Who can hold my violin? But life at almost 44 is far more complicated than it was at 10 and my grown up mind knows that it has to be more discerning.

It is said that when it rains it pours and I currently find myself presented with three potential interesting and exciting opportunities. My 10-year-old self is jumping up and down and yelling, “Challenge Accepted! We can totally do everything!!”  I picture myself putting my grown up hand on my ten-year old head and gently saying, “Slow down young self. Let’s think about this.”

About four years ago I attended a talk given by a Jewish educator called, “Gossip, Lies, and Lessons.” Among the lies she implored us to avoid were the lies we tell ourselves.  “When we rationalize,” she said, “we tell ourselves rational lies.”  To make good decisions, we need to be honest with ourselves and to do this, we need to be able to see a situation clearly.  Even if I could find someone to hand off my clarinet to I suspect I am looking for ways to rationalize being able to pursue any of these opportunities when perhaps I should be saying no to all three.

My 10-year-old self may throw a tantrum but the truth of the matter is I am already way over-committed.  I need to be dialing back, not putting more on my plate.  And more importantly, my attention is needed at home. That is the honest reality of my life and it requires radical acceptance not rationalizations.

I think of this quote by Buddhist teacher,  Chögyam Trungpa:

“I cannot change the way the world is but by opening to the world as it is I may discover that gentleness, decency and bravery are available not only to me but to all human beings.”

There are things about my world that I cannot change; they are beyond my control. So I instead present this to my ten-year old self as an interesting and exciting opportunity that we can say yes to:  What if I open myself up and be fully present to my world as it is, with all of the gentleness, decency, and bravery I already possess – what then?

A new perspective for a new year.

Love thy neighbor… and his brother…and his dog.

I have lived in the same neighborhood for fourteen years.  I have come to love it here- in all of it’s quirkiness.  My neighborhood defies labels.  You would be hard pressed to find a race, a religion, a political affiliation, or a socio-economic bracket that is not represented somewhere in the 500+ homes that make up my neck of the woods.  Over the years, I have seen many people come and go.  And then, there are the constants- those people who have been here since before I got here, the ones I see every day, who always wave or stop to chat, or to comment on how quickly my kids are growing up and where does the time go, anyway?

I have grown quite attached to my neighborhood and my neighbors so understandably, any time an ambulance go whizzing past my house, sirens wailing, I get a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach and I send up a little prayer that wherever the ambulance stops, everyone will be okay.  Yesterday, the ambulance stopped across the street at the home of one of my constants- a gentleman, I’ll call him Max, now near retirement age, who brings us oranges every year around Christmas and has even been a guest in our home for Thanksgiving dinner. We have had many conversations over the years, Max and I, from opposite sides of his fence as I have walked by his house with my girls who loved to stop and talk to his dogs when they were younger.  Max loves this neighborhood too, with all of it’s rich diversity.  And he loves his one remaining dog, Buddy, with a fierceness that only another dog owner can really understand.

So yesterday, when the ambulance pulled up in front of Max’s house, my heart sank. Luckily, Max’s brother, Jerry, was there at the time and after the ambulance pulled away my husband and I crossed the street to ask if we could help by caring for Buddy until more information was known about Max’s prognosis.  Jerry gratefully accepted our offer. When we touched based with him earlier today he thanked us again telling us how helpful it was to have one less thing to worry about as Max is currently in the ICU and his attention is naturally focused there.

Buddy has been thrilled to see us each time we cross the street to let him out in the yard, feed him, and refill his water bowl.  I’m sure he’s mostly happy to have his needs attended to- but Buddy has a story too.  Buddy used to belong to another neighbor- a single woman who lived just around the corner before she passed away suddenly and quite unexpectedly about four years ago.  Max adopted Buddy and they have been fast friends ever since.

Love thy neighbor. My thoughts are, of course, with Max and his doctors and nurses in the ICU who will do everything in their power to bring Max back to full health.

Love also his brother. My thoughts are also with Jerry as he navigates all of the emotions, decisions, and bureaucracy that come with coordinating medical care for a loved one who cannot currently care for himself.

Love his dog. Buddy lost his first beloved owner to sudden illness. And each time we let Buddy out, as happy as he is to see us, he looks around for Max. And if you don’t believe me- you have clearly never owned a dog.

I love my neighborhood.  But really, I love living in a neighborhood that feels like a community. I love that even the dogs have stories and we know those stories because neighbors actually take the time to talk to each other.  Once you know somebody’s story it is hard to not care about them.

And if you have a moment to spare, please think of my neighbor and his brother and his dog.  Thanks for reading.

 

 

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