Look for the helpers. (They are in the yellow shirts!)

Palm tree, meet Baptist.  Baptist, meet fallen palm tree.

(The Baptists wouldn’t let me take a photo of them. “We aren’t here for the photos! We are just here to help!” they told me.)

Who are the Baptists? A bunch of gray-haired sixty-something men in bright yellow shirts from a Pennsylvania Baptist church who came to Florida to chop up my tree with their chainsaw. (To be fair, they came to chop up lots of trees that happened to include mine.)

They just showed up yesterday and chainsawed the palm tree that was on our tree service guy’s very, very long wait list. Boom, done. For free. Because BAPTISTS.

He and my neighbor swapped heart attack stories (as sixty-something men do) and the Baptist (not John as far as I am aware) said his doctor found a 95% blockage two years ago. Saved his life. Told him he was one lucky fella.

“I told him, not luck. FAITH! I prayed for my heart and for my doctor to fix it and he did.” And two years later here he is volunteering all the way from Pennsylvania.

Look for the helpers my friends.

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How to survive a hurricane 

I want to keep my hands busy and create something, anything. I want them to work like a spider creates a web and cast a net of protection across everyone I love. 

I’m safe and yet I can’t help but think of my neighbors, my friends, and even the strangers who sought water along with me at the Winn Dixie. I think of the habitats: my own–yes–but also the egrets’ and the spoonbills’. I think of the cardinals that visit my feeders. The turtles who laid eggs on the nearest beach.

I sit in my car 773 miles from home and I watch a Georgia peach sunset. So warm and giving and yet the same air that breathes a hurricane. 

All I can do is knit: Prayers, wishes, surrender. 

Stitching it back together with love

I am sitting here in my favorite oversized sweater that smells a little bit like beagles, but maybe that makes me love it more. I wore this sweater while studying for exams in law school. I wore this sweater in the drafty farm house in Iowa as my belly grew larger and larger when pregnant with my daughter.

I don’t get to wear this sweater as often anymore in Florida, but I woke up chilly and even the dogs are snuggled together in a puppy pile. It is a brisk 58 degrees (seriously I am not trying to rub this in–I know that everyone else in the US is dealing with arctic temps) and my first thought was, at long last I can put on my favorite sweater. And more importantly, at long last I can write.

I don’t even know where to begin with what has unraveled these last few weeks. Unraveled has a negative connotation but I mean it as a neutral term. Merriam Webster defines unravel as to disengage or separate the threads of :  disentangle b :  to cause to come apart by or as if by separating the threads of; to resolve the intricacy, complexity, or obscurity of :  clear up <unravel a mystery>.

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That has been my last few weeks. Resolving the intricacy and complexity of challenges and clearing up mysteries. It involved a coming apart in the sense that it is no longer longer knotted up.  It has been untangled and laid bare so I can see it for what it is and begin to slowly and lovingly stitch it back together. It turns out that my healing and my daughter’s growing pains seem as intertwined as the DNA that we share.

The way I write makes it sound so dramatic. It isn’t. Nothing large or scary happened. It all felt large in the way that things often do when we are triggered or afraid. And the stitching back together felt large, but it too was not. It involved daily acts of love (which makes it sound easy but it was anything but easy), done in minutes and hours and days.

Those small things done with love are the hardest parts of parenting. It is a slow slog that surrenders to trust in the process. Trust that many small steps will add up and make a difference. They do and it is beautiful.

I will write more about the untangling and the stitching back together. But for now I will wear my oversized sweater and drink hot coffee on the lanai. I will prepare to go Christmas shopping with my husband, and then later I will listen to my daughter sing Christmas songs at preschool. My heart is full.

Frog-Swimming 

I have written a few times about how it feels like things are moving at glacial speed in my life. That the universe is testing my ability to be patient. To trust. And also, I think, to simply experience joy in the meantime.

It seems I am frog-swimming through life.

That is what I realized yesterday as I dipped into the swimming pool and effortlessly started moving with frog kicks. I was doing the breast-stroke I suppose, but slower. And did I mention effortlessly! I did this nearly the entire half-hour until the last five minutes of my workout when I suddenly decided I wanted to be on my back. So I flipped over and began doing the backstroke.

As I flipped from facing down to being outstretched on my back, gazing into clouds, it reminded me of yoga. Where you have poses that curl you up, surrendering…and then standing with shoulders back….heart open to receive.

Surrender. Receive. Repeat. 

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Image copyright of Lori Portka.

Earlier this summer I started swimming regularly. I remember telling my therapist about this new routine, and I was a little embarrassed. I explained to her how rough I have it– you know, having to walk past a total of four houses to get to a large community pool. And to arrive only to discover that I have the pool all to myself. I know–I told her–I am a bit spoiled.

Her response: Isn’t it wonderful to be spoiled?  

Her words took me aback. Actually it IS nice to be spoiled. How often can I claim to have felt spoiled by anything? Especially in these last few challenging years.

I’ve held tight to her words as I have floated on my back in the cool water watching clouds move above me. As I’ve seen my leg kicks move from weak and disjointed to strong and in sync. As I have danced giddily under water like a mermaid. 

Frog-swimming through life right now. Surrendering and receiving.

Surrender. Receive. Repeat. 

 


Are you frog-swimming too? Share your experiences!

 

And Then…Growth.

A few months ago my friend gave me a plumeria cutting. Even if you have never heard of Plumeria I guarantee you have seen their blossoms: they produce the beautiful flowers that are used in making Hawaiian leis.

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Source wikipedia.

When my friend offered me a Plumeria tree cutting I jumped at the chance to grow one. Until I saw what I had to work with:

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image source

That photo isn’t of my actual stick but I can promise you it looked just like that photo. I didn’t think to take a picture of it, likely because I did not think it would grow. I mean it is a stick. A stick that is supposed to grow into an exotic tropical flower plant.  I have never grown a plant from cutting, let alone a fancy pants tropical tree.

Well, I love a good challenge. I decided what the heck, I would try to grow it. I bought root hormone (who knew such a thing existed), followed some youtube videos on the topic, placed it in a semi-sunny and not too wet region of my lanai, and I left it alone. This is very important according to the horticulturist from Hawaii who is on YouTube. He grows hundreds of these sticks cuttings.  Leave it alone! he told me. Do not pull or tug or mess with it! (How did he know that is exactly what I would have done??) The fragile roots need lots of time to grow and grow and grow.

I left it alone. It was so hard but I did not poke or tug or anything.

About a month or two later a leaf appeared. I went bananas bonkers. Oh my goodness it was growing!!

Again, I didn’t take any photos because I think I was still in disbelief, but it looked basically just like this:

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Photo source.. Not my stick with a tiny leaf but it looked just like this.

Now, several months after that first sign of growth, I am very excited to share a photo of what it looks like today:

Wow right? Look at all those huge tropically leaves! It is amazing. 

Keep the faith. So often when we feed a garden, whether inner or outer, it can feel like nothing is happening. And then, boom, growth

I hope that the next post I show are of blossoms.  (Inner and outer both.)

(And just as beautiful: my husband can no longer joke about my black thumb. Yeah that’s right hubs, you are looking at a wife who grew a plant from a literal stick placed into soil*. Bow down sir. Bow down.)

*I just accidentally typed “placed into soul” instead of “soul” – revealing no?