It has been a challenging month. There has been death, a need to help loved ones make a major transition in their lives, the end of a school year (my fellow teachers will understand what that means), and car troubles. And there have been times when I wondered how in the heck I was going to get from here to there – both figuratively and literally.
But every challenge has come with a blessing:
– You may remember that several weeks ago I wrote about an adventure I had with my car – the alternator gave out on me in downtown Bellingham – and that adventure led me to meeting some really nice people and finding a paper clip at the end, too. But after the alternator adventure my car continued to make squeeks and squawks and screeches, and so last Monday I took it in to have it checked. I do not have the mechanical language to tell you exactly what they diagnosed, but it involved a ball bearing in the clutch, some leaking fluid, and something to do with the thing that’s attached to the muffler. Yup. My car has been in the car hospital all week.
My husband has been shuttling me into work in the mornings, and my sons have been shuttling me back home again in the afternoons. These daily commutes have brought unforeseen blessings to me. I’ve been used to sitting in my own thoughts to and from work – and I’ve always kind of enjoyed that quiet alone time – but I’ve found a lot of joy in being able to hold conversations with my husband and sons while they are trapped… I mean… sitting… in their cars with me. I’ve had twenty minutes with my husband that I don’t usually have during the day – we’ve gotten caught up on what’s going on with family, friends, his work and mine. We’ve talked about politics, world news, and community happenings. We’ve laughed, and we’ve been serious, and we’ve ended every commute with a kiss. My sons and I have had the opportunity to talk about past, present, and future. They’ve shared their wisdom with me, and their insights on life, and they’ve shared their humor. I’ve learned a lot from them this week.
– One afternoon I found myself stalled-out on an Algebra problem I was working on with one of my students. It was actually a pretty simple problem – using long division to solve a quadratic equation – but the math compartment in my brain just seemed to shut down all of a sudden. And then I remembered that my eldest son – the mechanical engineer – was going to be picking me up at the end of the day, so I gave him a call and asked him if he could come in a little early and help Carlos and I work through this algebra problem. The son agreed to come in and help us, and he was wonderful! He was calm, he was patient – he knew exactly what to do to get through the problem, and he knew exactly what to say to help Carlos understand how to get through the problem. A blessing.
– At the end of February my beloved calico cat, Freckle Rose, died. I have felt the loss of Freckle Rose terribly. But out of this loss has come another blessing. My parents are in the process of moving out of their home of 48 years into a home more suitable to their current needs. My parents have five cats, and knew they were going to need to find homes for at least a couple of them. Mom asked me if I’d take their cat, Gabby. So I brought the cat carrier down to my folks to pick up Gabby-cat. But as soon as Gabby saw the carrier she headed for the farthest corners of the house – she wanted nothing to do with that thing. Enter Princess. Princess is a fluffy little ball of ebony fur who adopted my parents about four years ago. Princess looked at the carrier, looked up at me, looked back at the carrier, and calmly and deliberately walked right into it! She was meant to be with us. When we brought her back to our house she was a little shy – but as soon as I sat down on the sofa and opened up my laptop – BOOM! – Princess was there – walking over the keys, rubbing up against my arms – what is it with cats and laptops? 🙂 Princess has brought feline ambiance back into our home. Our home really needed some feline ambiance.
– Our neighbor and dear friend, Mike, passed away this week. Mike and his family are some of the most wonderful people you’ll ever meet – kind, funny, quirky, genuinely caring people – all of them were a huge support when I went through a personal crisis a few years ago. Before Mike passed on, his family and friends organized a sky lantern extravaganza in celebration of Mike’s amazing life. Apparently Mike had bought, like, a gazillion sky lanterns some time ago – never realizing, his wife said, that they’d be used to celebrate HIS life. And so we all met – friends, family, neighbors – in a green field in Bow to send our lanterns of love into the sky for Mike. Mike arrived just before the lanterns alighted and was able to watch the magic from the comfort of a car. It was good to see him there. Being able to celebrate Mike WITH Mike – instead of after him – was a huge blessing – a magical, teary, amazing time. I’m so glad I could be part of that.
– The end of a school year can be a really stressful time for teachers and students as they try to wrap up the year. Sometimes it can be a little overwhelming – there are state assessments for students to pass, courses for them to complete, and graduation busy-ness. But there have also been a lot of blessings this year. This week one of my seniors presented her Culminating Project PowerPoint to the staff – and she did a most excellent job of it, too. At the end of it, the director of our school asked my student what the best part of her time at our alternative school has been for her. My student answered, “My teacher. Karen believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself.” Oh gosh. I started tearing up. That – right there – that is why I teach. Blessings.
– One of my sons let me use his car to get to the testimony meeting that I needed to conduct on Wednesday. As soon as I started the car I realized I was going to need to get some gas for my son – the tank was almost empty. Normally the getting-of-gas would not be a big deal to me. But by Wednesday I was feeling totally over-the-top mentally and emotionally stretched – I felt like those street performers who spin plates on their noses and toes whilst juggling fiery torches – adding even one more teensy thing to my juggling torches and twirling plates made me wonder if I had the mental wherewithal to keep it all from crashing around me. But I took a deep breath – asked myself how hard it could be – and decided it would be best if I stopped on the way to the meeting to get gas, rather than afterwards.
I tried to remember which side of the car the gas tank was on – and I guessed my side – and I remembered that you couldn’t just open the flap to the gas tank – there was some super-secret something I had to do – I figured when the time came I would figure it all out. My son drives an automatic and I am used to driving a stickshift – so there was that – my left foot kept searching for the clutch. It was raining – where were the windshield wipers? And whoah! How did you slow them down?! And it was getting dark – where were the lights? I got all that sorted out before I reached the gas station – I started to pull into a gas lane just as the attendant put a cone down to block it off – I tried to pull around and ended up in reverse somehow – but there was no one behind me – blessings. I finally got myself pulled next to a gas pump – and found I’d been right about which side of the car it was on. And when I opened the door to get out of the car I looked down and discovered a little lever that would open the car’s gas tank – blessings. I know this all seems like simple stuff – but it’s amazing how each little thing can seem like an almost-insurmountable mountain at times – and it’s amazing how grateful a person can be when it all works out.
– Yesterday I came home from school to find a bouquet of yellow lilies and little pink roses waiting for me on the counter. There was a card attached. I had no idea who could have sent me this beautiful bouquet – Mother’s Day was LAST weekend, right? I opened the card. These words greeted me: “From your wily Amazonian Humoristian hooligans. We love you.”
You’ll need a little background to understand what that bouquet meant to me: Eight years ago, on an Amazon religion discussion forum, I started a new religion – Humoristianity. The people who were attracted to the Humoristian “temple” represented a wide range of religious and non-religious backgrounds – there were atheists, Methodists, Jews, Catholics, a couple Mormons, and at least one Christian Scientist (moi). But what they all had in common was the ability to laugh at themselves, and to laugh with me at the nonsense of life. This little community of friends has been with me through the good times and the challenging times. I’ve been blest to meet half a dozen of them in the person – and continue to be friends with many of them on Facebook. They are like a second family to me. And apparently one of them had discerned that I needed flowers. It was totally unexpected – a complete surprise – I never could have seen it coming – but I am so grateful for the love these dear people showed to me with that lovely bouquet.
I am blest – I really am. I’m blest with the physical stuff – the roof over my head, the food on the table, the water coming out of our pipes. But more – so much more than that – I am blest with love – the love of a new cat in our lives, the love of my family, the love expressed in my community for a dear neighbor, the love from my students, and the love from my Humoristian fellowship. There is power in Love – the power to lift up a burdened heart, and to help our fellow humans see that they matter.
Dear reader, may your moments and days and years be filled to over-flowing with Love.
Video of the celebration of Mike’s life: