On Getting Ready for Irma to Hit Florida

I am gazing out my front window at the moment, watching the sun stream over the bushes in my yard. I could go for a walk, tend the landscaping (which I never do), or sit outside in the shade and talk to my son. I would … except for Hurricane Irma is busy coming right at my home state. It’s not due yet, but it’s on its way. The sunshine I see on the bushes right now carries with it a sense of foreboding. Going to Target to meander aimlessly is a waste of gas. It’s always a happy waste of money, but for today wasting the gas seems wrong. If I could cue the music from Psycho, I would, because the air is a wee bit oppressive right now.

Schools have closed so that our neighbors evacuating from Miami can use them as shelters, and so people can prepare for the storm themselves. I am glad to be home to help board up windows and assemble my hurricane preparedness kit, but I am also very much not glad to be home. I worry about my students, their families, my friends and their families. I can’t worry about everyone, can I? Yes, yes I can.

Hurricane Harvey scared the bejeezus out of us. I am heartbroken over the families who are suffering and the friends who lost their homes. I am struck by the reality that we tend not to worry about other people’s weather problems until they impact us directly. If we don’t have family or friends involved, we make our donations and then move on with our day in benign ignorance of the actual devastation. Now, before the flooding has even receded, our friends and families in the Caribbean and then Florida are going to suffer. For myself, it is not a question of whether I am going to ride out a storm; it is a question of what type of storm I’m going to be watching happen right over my head.

I have every reason to think that the house will still be here when the storm passes, that the Category 5 ass-whooping Mother Nature is doling out right now will settle down to a Category 2-3 spanking, but that is still too much weather happening all at once. Realistically, unless Irma decides to spontaneously disappear, damage is going to happen somewhere in Florida. This does not sit well with me. Of course, Mother Nature is not known for asking my opinion.

There’s preparedness, and there’s mental preparedness, and I’m working on the second one. I have decided to shelter in place for a variety of reasons, so I have all the items and whatnots and doohickeys ready that one needs to go all maverick and stay safe. I am also practicing the art of ready and waiting. There is a certain type of energy in preparedness, in which doing anything can be misunderstood as being productive. My house is clean, my junk has been shifted so that we can hide in the closets if need be, but I am not sure how useful that is going to turn out to have been.

Watching news updates full of information about that mass of cranky energy is impressive. Understanding that underneath those pretty pictures is … not much, is terrifying. Things can change, her course could alter or it could disappear (that gets my double vote), but we still have to make it through.

I plan to hunker down, spend time with my family appreciating this extended vacation we don’t want, and use all my best storytelling devices to keep us all entertained and calm.

For now, the sun is shining and it’s a lovely day outside. The air is humid and oppressive, sure, but I think I’ll go for a walk. I’m definitely not going to tend the landscaping because that’s just weird. It’s not like Irma is going to care whether I have weeds in the front yard.

 

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The Art of Waiting

Part of being a human person is waiting. We wait for our turn in line, for our appointments, for the flight to get called, for the announcements to be made. For people who are not good at waiting, this becomes something of a problem. “Hurry up,” we mutter at the child who is still saying goodbye to the 10 best friends they just met, “We have errands to run!” Then we become surprised at their general lack of joy in running errands with us. Enter the tension, the bickering, and the flat out arguments that result from our mismatched perceptions of time. I am sure there’s some longitudinal study about this, but it certainly feels like waiting comprises much of our conscious time. If we spend so much of our time waiting, it stands to reason that we should get better about doing it.

Judging by the number of horns beeping in traffic and humphs while standing in line, this is not a skill people care to master. We could – and often do – spend this time fussing and whining. I would like to think that when my life is over, I will have laughed more often than I fussed, but there are days where this is probably an optimistic goal.

If you hate waiting, imagine how the people around you feel. We’ve got all this festering energy percolating around and we’re not popcorn, so any degree of explosion we’ll have is going to be named something else: road rage, being the angry customer, or more aptly, being a jerk. It’s no one’s particular fault that we have to wait, we just have to. Hopefully, we remember our kindergarten manners and behave as such on the outside, but inside we remember the laundry, our other appointments, and our more preferred activities. It begins to show. Tempers get short, kids start to fuss, we start to fuss, and then everyone joins in on the fuss-tival (I had to).

Instead, I have been practicing how to wait. I am a fan of daydreaming, reading, and chatting, as long as the people I’m chatting with haven’t passed their optimal level of waiting patience. I’ve swapped recipes, brainstormed how to fix sewing mishaps, even played games with kids while in line. When there’s someone to talk to, I have fun waiting, probably because I’m not waiting but socializing.

If I don’t have anyone to chat with, I have reading and daydreaming at the ready. The only unfortunate thing about this is that all too often, my name gets called right when I’m in the middle of mentally rehearsing my acceptance speech for whatever award I think I’m getting, or when the plot of a story takes a great twist. I did, once and only once, ask the doctor to wait a moment while I finished a sentence on a student’s paper. My health care professional did not appreciate being told to hang on a second when he was already running late. The imp in me grinned, but externally I thanked him for his patience.

I have learned that waiting is an art form. If we reframe the waiting and make it something else, then we’re not really waiting. We’re having free time imposed on us, and we can use that wisely (plan your dinner party, write your thank you speech, sketch the rough draft of your opening arguments) or not (fussing). I am currently on hold, waiting for my turn in the phone line. This afternoon, I have another appointment. Clearly, I will have ample and continued opportunity to practice this craft.

Dedicated to Finding Joy

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This is not a New Year/New You blogging post, though it certainly looks like it: more colors, a different vision statement, and as I get better about linking objects and media, pictures. Yes, Philosophically Purple is going to get all visual in your faces. Well, not really, but more so than in the past.

I began writing this blog because I was just on the other side of middle age (50 when I first posted) and thought it would be fun to ruminate and giggle while typing. I achieved that goal, but then I began to see that what appeared to me to be an interconnected path of blogging looked to the outside world like I lacked focus. After all, I have written about anything from cupcake dispensers to Carrie Fisher (rest in peace, you superawesome woman of greatness). Where was the continuity? The branding? The concise thought?

The quick answer: not here. And after careful reflection, I submit that I don’t want it to be. Any human person with a grain of life in their noggins doesn’t think about just one thing, or even just 50 things. We are all of us capable of profound depth in our thinking and our ability to connect with each other contrasted with the desire to eat brownies with an ice cream chaser as a meal, to hell with what we’re “supposed” to have for dinner. That is me. That is my vision. Well, not to eat the brownies and ice cream as dinner, at least not all the time, but to be able to wonder about wisdom, kindness, life, love, and finding joy.

I will continue that mission haphazardly and unapologetically optimistically. I believe that the energy we bring with us into situations can either help or hurt others, and I am committed to being a force of positive energy. I am also still a pretty big fan of quotespirations, so I included mine in my subhead: Here’s to reminding ourselves that kindness matters and that joy is contagious.

Happy New Year.

Endurance

If you are a breathing, sentient adult-type person, life will occasionally whoop your ass. I don’t swear in print often, but when I do, please know it’s not for extravagant effect; it’s because no other word will suffice. We all get our asses kicked, by situations within or outside of our control, by events, by illness, by the death of loved ones, by financial stress, by whatever Life with a capital L decides to throw at us. I don’t care if the Good Luck Charm o’ Life has been hanging around you like a happy monkey of joy feels, there will come a time when that charm gets ripped off your neck. Not my usual lighthearted introduction, I know, but take heart: there’s a reason for this.

One of the most harmful phrases in the human language is “I should.” I should be doing this thing, feeling that thing, living that life, having these types of people around me, and so on. The only “I should” that we should be should-ing is “I should be giving myself permission to be a human person.” My heart breaks and then heals again on a pretty regular basis, but never moreso than when someone I love is hanging around in the land of “I Should” or the flipside, “I should not.” It’s not that I don’t think we need to hold ourselves accountable for our actions, it’s that we deserve to treat ourselves with at least the same attempt to understand that we treat others. For example, after a fantastic conversation with one of my favorite people today, I was struck with how my perception of him is so vastly different from his perception of himself. I see him as powerful, awe-inspiring, brilliant, loving, passionate – he sees none of these qualities in himself.

I hate it that I’m reminded of an internet quotespiration at this moment, but here it is anyway: I wish we could see ourselves the way others see us. Self-concept gets distorted over time, particularly in times of stress, when we’re most likely to isolate ourselves at a time when we would least benefit from doing so. Stress, my good friends, is no stranger to any of us. In fact, with each passing year of my life, I am increasingly convinced that the Bogeyman living under the bed and hiding in the closet, lurking around the finish line of every goal we achieve, every obstacle we overcome, is Stress. My stress looks different from your stress, but it’s still an ugly beast. Do we tame it? Do we fight it? Do we ignore it? I don’t know about the last one; ignoring stress is rather like pretending that everything’s okay when it isn’t. Sometimes it works, sometimes it backfires. Just saying.

Back to my lovely conversation and “I should.” My favorite person felt like he should be climbing his mountain of stressors more victoriously, a Rocky Balboa of life endurance. With all due respect, no. Absolutely not. When life has broken out a can of whoop ass so severe that there are no lemons to make lemonade with because the lemons have rotted, what do you do then? Some people pray, some meditate, some gather their loved ones around, and that’s all great, but in the quest to climb that particular mountain, sometimes the mountain itself is too high. What then?

Step. Breathe. Step. Breathe. Having faith that everything will all work out with cookies and back slaps for all is too high an aspiration for the types of life-altering stress that I’m referring to. Instead, step, breathe, step, breathe. There’s a rhythm in that, a cadence. In a quote usually attributed to Martin Luther King, the phrasing goes, “If you can’t run, walk. If you can’t walk, crawl. But keep going.” My friend was ruminating on how to overcome all these stressors, and was looking for faith in the fact that the answer would be found. It would be vapid for me to suggest that of course he’ll find the answer, even when the question itself is elusive.

I suggest most humbly, most excruciatingly, lovingly humbly, that this wasn’t the question he was trying to answer. The question, as I see it, is “Is all this trouble worth it? Am I worth it?” I happen to have the answer to that. You are emphatically worth it. You are essential, necessary. I have faith that there is a time where you will see yourself the way I see you. Until then, breathe and step; breathe and step.

Where Frogs Should Not Be

As a mini me growing up in the Midwest, the gentle croaking of frogs was one of my favorite sounds of summer. They were the perfect lullaby to the lazy days of a childhood spent outside getting muddy and rinsing off in the lake. I still love the sound of frogs croaking and can even name a few froggie calls from the comfort of my deck chair on the lanai. To my brain, the froggies live outside, and I live inside. Evidently, I have been somewhat misguided in that notion.

There have generally been herpetological critters hanging about my house on purpose: Florida anoles, frogs, and leopard geckos have all been included the care and maintenance of pets, sometimes at the same time. Spiffy, and what does that have to do with the blog, you might wonder. Well, this:

There’s a frog living in the pipes under our house, which comes to visit every once in a while via the toilet in the master bathroom. I am absolutely comfortable with the love bugs, palmetto bugs, fire ants, and alligator sightings of Florida, but I am extraordinarily not okay with something that peeps its head up out of my toilet to say hello.

The first time the froggy came to visit, I was in the kitchen when a bewildered husband came to me and invited me to check in the bathroom. I have not been a fan of potty show-and-tell since the children were toddlers, so I was a little less than pleased to accompany him to the bathroom. Once there, he quietly gestured for me to look at the toilet. No need for me to step in for a closer look, a big frog was peering over the edge of the commode. It was green, it was froggy, it croaked.

I very maturely squealed and hastened to my amphibian-loving daughter to get the thing out of the toilet. I wish I could say I stepped right on up, scooped it out and carried it to the retention pond by the house, but it wasn’t me. Nope, not it. I was holding onto my daughter’s t-shirt like she was the guardian protector of Amphia-land and I was a trespasser who wanted to go home. But wait: I was home. She and my husband made plans to invite the frog to leave on its own. The plan failed. It stared at us, and I swear it was defying us to do something about its presence in the house.

We were at something of a standstill until the frog did what frogs do: it hopped. It hopped out of the toilet and I hopped onto the bathroom counter, and my husband and daughter hopped to action. Lots of hopping, most of it not from the frog. I waited on the counter until husband and daughter caught the frog, escorted it outside and placed it near the retention pond so it could go hop and tell its friends about the idiots at our house.

Husband and daughter returned, laughed at me for still being on the counter, and then began to discuss how it could have ended up in the toilet in the first place. Whatever the reason, I began checking before using the bathroom. Good thing too, because it came back to visit today. Did it miss us? Does it get lost some kind of way? Is it a prince in disguise and all I have to do is kiss it? Absolutely not to the last; I know where it’s been.

It’s still there because while I am wearing my big girl pants today, I’m not wearing my frog-catching pith helmet. I did as any mature nature-loving person would do: I closed the door to the bathroom and it will stay that way until someone comes to remove the frog from my house.

Don’t Do This When You’re Tired

Evidently I have reached the nodding off age: that time of life when sitting equals sleeping. I knew I nodded off during movies, but I also doze if the house is quiet or if I’m reading. You could point out this probably means I’m sleep deprived; I would agree. I have become rather like the video tapes of toddlers who are so tired they fall asleep in their food. Now we’re awake–and now we have face planted into the macaroni and cheese. It’s funny, probably because it’s so endearing.

During faculty meetings I now stand because 3:30 is the time of day when I most need to recharge with a little protein-packed goodness. I understand that the early mid afternoon is my body’s siesta time whether or not I actually rest. It’s always been this way, which is why I know to snack wisely in the afternoon.

Wisdom is elusive in the evening, though. I was whitening my teeth the old-fashioned way: oil pulling. Coconut oil, to be specific. It works best for me if I sit and read while I let the coconut oil do what it does. Of course, I nodded off. I woke up with a start because I felt the sensation of the oil hitting my shirt. The stain didn’t wash out. I will now add this to the list of things I won’t do when I’m tired. I really liked that shirt, too. Fortunately, my teeth are sparkly white.

In 30 Minutes

I love time, particularly when I get to spend it doing nothing in particular. Fifteen minutes can get explained away with some version of “I got caught up” (going to the store, vacuuming under the beds, having a quick nap). Thirty beautiful minutes, on the other hand, is Time. Thirty minutes is long enough to do Something without it being long enough to do a whole lot of something. Visualize this:

In 30 minutes I have taken a shower, dried my hair, done the makeup, gotten dressed, and eaten my breakfast. Many friends have almost finished doing their hair in that amount of time. With all due respect, my brethren and sistren in the hair decoration club have blown out, styled, curled/straightened, braided, or even performed hair enhancement clippage. I find that impressive and a little scary.

In 30 minutes, I read about 30 pages of a book, fewer if I had to think while I read. In that same amount of time, my son has chosen one book off the shelves at the library and decided whether or not he’s going to read it. Give him another 30 and he’ll decide for certain. Again, this is not judgment. I’m impressed with his thoughtful attention to decisions.

In 30 minutes, I cook dinner, set the table, and called the family together to eat. In that same amount of time, my chef friend has created a wonderfully plated salad that makes me weep from the beauty and harmonious arrangements of textures and colors.

In 30 minutes, I have wogged (walked/jogged) two miles uphill on the treadmill. Or yoga-posed myself into flexibility. Or relaxed and had a couple cookies with coffee.

For today, though, in the last 30 minutes, I have stared at the computer screen wondering where the 30 minutes have gone. I hope this won’t continue through the next 30, because then real time will have passed and I’ll have to start explaining myself.

Time. She catches up to all of us.

 

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