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Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Mornings Are Hard......

There was I time in my life when I imagined that I was an observant person. This afternoon I got on the elevator with a co-worker; after a quiet moment he turned to me and said "Is there some reason that you're wearing two different shoes?" Yes. It's true; I cannot do anything in the morning unless I have had enough coffee. 

Let's not speak about my observation skills................

Dandelion Wine

Ever since we bought our house I have been engaged in that proverbial battle with nature for the perfect lawn. Well, OK – I never really tried for “perfect” that’s an exaggeration; my goal is somewhere north of a mud-pit and south of a madman yelling “Don’t walk on my lawn!!!!” Honestly, I’m happy if I have more green than brown. Truth be told if you walked past my house right now, the lawn is probably not even mowed. Well, that’s a whole ‘nother story. To complicate things I have always had an objection to using pesticides and other chemicals; having young kids I always wanted them to be able to run around. Hence, the real battle; weeds.

From the very beginning there have been three weeds that I have been on a campaign to banish from my square patch of suburban splendor. There’s the dandelions of course, then there’s that big broad leafed weed that spreads and chokes out everything around it. And finally there’s that one with the long round stems and the teardrop shaped tiny little leaves. That weed particularly loves to grow on my brick patio and walkway. My goal has always been total eradication. This I do not exaggerate; I have spent entire weekends filling garbage pails hand pulling these suckers out one by one. And still they proliferate. I can imagine them mocking me. Sunday afternoon, not a single weed in sight, a sore back, and a garbage pail on the curb filled with weeds; Wednesday evening there’s a bunch of happy little Dandelion flowers on my front lawn. 

I decided I must get to know the enemy; thank you Google. The dandelion is the dandelion; I know that one, no need to look it up. The broad leafed one is the Plantago major (broadleaf plantain, white man’s foot, or greater plantain) it is a species of flowering plant in the plantain family Plantaginaceae. Hmmm; Turns out it’s edible and can be used for medicinal purposes. The other one is the Portulaca oleracea (common purslane, also known as verdolaga, pigweed, little hogweed, red root, pursley, and moss rose) Also edible. Also has medicinal uses. Interesting. I am reminded that My grandfather used to make Dandelion wine. Back to Google: Taraxacum is a large genus of flowering plants in the family Asteraceae and consists of species commonly known as the ubiquitous dandelion. Edible and useful medicinally. Another Google search reveals a ton of recipes that include Dandelions. Turns out, the “enemy” is good for me! 

Throughout my life I have been reminded in little ways that things are not always what they seem. Occasionally, I am lead by one means or another to re-evaluate a prejudice and view my world through a different perspective. I am reminded of scriptural references telling us that God’s ways are not our ways. I realize that He created that thing or person or whatever it is that I dislike so much; and I am reminded that He loves them, too. Sure, the battle continues, but for a brief moment, I am at peace with my lawn. Perhaps I'll even try to make Dandelion Wine. Is there anything in your life that could be re-evaluated?

Thursday, October 25, 2018

A Flower That Bloomed In Adversity

I saw this on my walk to work one day last summer and I stopped to take the picture. This picture inspires me; It says “There’s always hope!” and “No matter what surrounds you, be yourself.” It says “You can overcome adverse situations and blossom!” If a picture paints a thousand words, we have at least 983 more on this one. What does it say to you?

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

No Filter

As per my usual routine, I am standing in the vestibule of a LIRR car this morning. It’s the same spot in the same car where I can always be found on a weekday morning. I chose to stand in this spot for several reasons:

  1. The train gets crowded quickly, and I’m probably going to give up my seat anyway.
  2. Out of 5 stops, the doors that I stand next to open only once
  3. I sit all day and (oddball that I am) actually prefer to stand.

We get to Jamaica (the stop where these doors open) and there’s a crowd of people on the platform lining up, trying to squeeze as close as possible to the doors yet leave a minimum amount of space for people to get off first. 

Directly in front of me now, a situation is playing out. A tall guy gives a dirty look to a short lady, who has her own mean look about her as she nudges forward slightly. The last of the passengers leaving the train steps off and this guy pushes past the lady abruptly, cutting her off and causing her to stop with a shocked expression on her face. 

“Oh, THAT was nice….” ← OOOPs, did I say that out loud? (Crap, I know better than that.) 

Did I mention that he’s a big guy? In the few moments that I have left on this good earth I rationalize my faux pas with a well-known equation:   

 early morning x no coffee = no filter.

Put that on my tombstone. 

                By the way, my interior voice didn’t say “crap” but since that moment I have had some coffee and in the telling of this experience I am happy to report not only that all my filters are properly in place but that I am in fact still alive. He steps past me and waits on the other side of the vestibule for the crowd to pass……
“She came from behind, stepped in front of me and pushed back into me -like I wasn’t even there.”
OK. He must feel bad; he’s trying to justify himself. I smile.
“I know, I see it every day - It happens to me. We have no control over that stuff.” He’s listening, so I continue: “The question is: how do you respond to it?” (Did I just say that? Well, I guess I’m committed now, so why not?)
He comes clean
“I’m just in a really BAD mood.” He steps directly across from me as the crowd begins to settle into their individual spots.
“I hear you, man. I hope whatever is bothering you works out for you.” (That probably sounds dumb and somewhat patronizing, but what does one say in this situation?)
“I had a really late night last night because of a mistake that someone ELSE made. That’s six hours of my life I’ll never get back.”
He begins to unload, I’m all ears. It turns out he works in IT, and I understand the situation that precipitated the mood.  He tells me that he’s heading into work now to read the riot act to an employee and that he’s probably going to use what his family calls his “military voice.” He smiles.
I share one of my IT battle stories and we begin to commiserate. It was a good conversation that lasted a solid 20 minutes. When we got to Penn, he thanked me for the catharsis. We shake hands and wish each other a good day.

I made the rest of my way into work with a smile on my face; as I settled in at my desk  - coffee in hand - I felt as though I’ve already done my “job” for the day.

"I Forgot My Sunglasses!"

I took a path today that passed through Union Square; a little different than my usual course that leads me through Washington Square Park. Union Square frequently has a Farmer's market and it's nice to make my way through the crowd observing the mix of city and country folk doing business together. I also like to see (and sample) the vendor's wares. Not today though, there was no farmer's market today. That's OK. I'm trying to catch my train anyway, so I maintain my steady pace through to the other side. I get to the north end of the park expecting to continue straight but the light changed so I make a quick left near the corner and cross the street there. 

As I step into the intersection, I notice an elderly man carefully making his way to the curb on the other side of the street. He's looking directly at me; and for some unknown reason he reminds me of my Uncle Ern. He didn't particularly look like him, but I guess his mannerism was similar. Most of you didn't have the pleasure of knowing Uncle Ern; I could go on at length about him, but I won't for lack of time to do it properly. I'll say this though; in his later years his physical form was only a shadow of the strong, stoic man that he was in his younger days. Uncle Ern had a very dry sense of humor that always took you by surprise when you realized that he was being funny, which was not often. Even in his old age, he had a special light in his eye and a certain wry look that betrayed the sharp intelligence within.

As I crossed the intersection I had a choice: to look away or to maintain eye contact with the old man. I guess you know which I chose. He made it to the corner and took hold of the lamp post for support just as I reached that side. He looked like he wanted to say something to me and I assumed that he was going to ask for assistance. I went over to his side of the lamp post and not the other side, which is where I was originally heading. As I approached him I noticed that same wry smile on his face; it seemed out of place for the situation. He took my elbow in a familiar way, as he might have if he was going to ask for help. He said something which I didn't hear, so I put my hand on his shoulder and leaned in to hear him better.

 "Your head is so bright..... I forgot my sunglasses."
I look back at him and his smile is now full. He continues: "It hurt my eyes."

I couldn't help but laugh. Just like Uncle Ern would, he had caught me completely off guard! His smile was so bright and disarming it demanded that it be returned in full. After I stopped laughing, I told him that I was sorry, but this was all I had to work with.

I suppose another man might have been insulted by the joke, but how could I be? I am who I am and I'm OK with that. I shared a full laugh with a kindly old man in the middle of Manhattan. For a moment it was as if he was perhaps some incarnation of Uncle Ern; a kindred soul of his sent to remind me of things that really matter. Joy can be found anywhere. Love is eternal.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

The Good Stuff

The continuing saga of Ken's commute; Homeward bound back on the LIRR, found my spot and once again begin to try to find what peace I can in the journey. It becomes clear soon enough that it's going to be a crowded train. No Problem. A young "kid" - by the looks of it a construction worker, sits diagonal to me. OK. Soon after some guy that obviously had a couple of drinks for lunch, sits next to me, beer in hand. No problem. Then a tall guy eyes the seat across from me. We make room and he takes his seat. Fine. We settle in and in short order the train moves out of Penn station. Before long I begin to nod off. 

I am barely conscious of the sound of something falling, but don't respond to it because, well, I'm nodding off. Eventually, in what seems a delayed reaction, the guy across from me says "I dropped my drink on you." He has a very thick Eastern European accent. Very thick. Turns out, he obviously had a jump on happy hour too; Slurring that accent like he was. He bends over carefully and very slowly picks the cup off of my shoes. Now I have a choice, but seeing as though the damage was already done and he didn't appear to have another drink to spill on me, I shrugged it off saying "It happens, don't worry about it." and then as an afterthought I said "What was that, beer?"

"No, it was the GOOD stuff."

I pause.

"You spilled SCOTCH on my shoes?!?"

A very broad smile slowly develops across his face.

"I said it was GOOD stuff. Vodka. Polish Vodka. Wyborowa Vodka." With emphasis on the very Polish sounding proper noun.

"That sounds like a tragedy, my friend."

He let out a heavy sigh, and mournfully agreed; "It was."

What a great conversation we had that followed. The two drunk guys and myself. The kid was soaking it all in. In the end the kid said that they were great stories, and that he wished he had something to contribute. We all agreed that he was too young to have any, but I told him, "Twenty years or so from now, when some guy spills very good vodka on your feet, just shrug it off. It's no big deal."

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