Illness always reminds us of our Fragile Humanity

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Looking Outward (16 x 20) acrylic; frame: Old Window

Looking Outward (16 x 20) acrylic; frame: Old Window

I was bitten by a brown recluse spider one Christmas; a near fatal experience that increased my faith. I had severe bronchitis one year that ended up being the turning point for change in a long and difficult marriage.

This year it was traveling by plane to a wedding. Somewhere along the way I picked up a virus (no wonder when the plane was filled with crying, coughing children and barking dogs). I vowed I would never fly again during the holidays, but how could I miss my grandson’s wedding?

The festivities brought my three daughters and me together for the first time in years. Since all of us live great distances from each other, the wedding gave us a welcome chance to share stories and laughs.

The reunion also brought back treasured memories of my own mother who always shared her joy of life through laughter and tears. Relationships are the glue that heals all wounds. Without them, we would shrivel up inside.

During a difficult period in my life, my friend Alice gave me a prayer plant. “It will remind you of where your strength comes from,” she said. Sure enough, every evening as the sun went down, the prayer plant extended its leaves upward. I was reminded to turn to God more often, and I also remembered my friend.

When a move across country forced me to leave the plant behind, I photographed it. Sometime later, I created an oil painting of the plant sitting beside a garden glove and a trowel. The painting still hangs in my kitchen. Whenever I look at it, I remember my friend and her reminder to reach up in times of need. Her priceless gift of love was simple and inexpensive, but never forgotten.

My dear mother died of lung cancer and I will always regret not being there for her when she needed me most. I was working full time and would have lost my job and my home if I’d taken six months off to assist her. Looking back, I wish I’d have done it. I lost precious time being with her. Like my daughters, I was separated from my mother by time and distance.

Sometimes the things that matter most suffer by the things that matter least. What seems important at the time loses its value on close examination. People always matter more than things. Our possessions tarnish with time. Everything wears out with use. Love and the relationships that grow out of unconditional lasting love endure and weather the ups and downs of turbulence and trouble.

What I Learned as a Kid Playing Jump Rope

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moody-blues-carol-allen-anfinsen

“Moody Blues” 14 x 18 oil on canvas

Yes, it’s true. Many of the things I needed to know in life, I learned while playing jump rope. Let me explain.

I learned how to merge. Do you notice how many people simply don’t know how to do this with discretion? There are the bullies who drive into traffic like a bat out of you-know- where, always expecting that an opening is waiting just for them. Sometimes they make it, causing people like you and me to stomp on our brakes and swerve into dangerous congestion, or they slam on their own brakes and wait. By the time an opening appears, their car is at a standstill.

Then there are the turtles; the terrified ones who creep up onto the ramp, afraid of whizzing cars and trucks. They don’t have enough speed to merge in, and so they sit with a trail of cars behind them. These are the people who, when they were kids, either never played jump rope, or were never good at it.

They were the ones who stood and watched the rope go around and around, and when the time was right, they stood there as immobile as slugs. If they finally found courage to jump in, they were so out of sync that they tripped on the rope – game over.

It’s all about rhythm. There are signs that alert a jumper when the time is right: the tapping of the rope on pavement, the height of the rope when it’s time to jump in. It’s all about gut feel and the rhythms of life; moving when the time is right and taking turns.

I call it tact. Some people naturally have it. They must have been jump rope pros! They seem to know when to talk and when to keep their mouths shut. They sense when another person is tense or angry. They are in tune with other people’s feelings and the rhythms and patterns of human speech and emotion. Unlike their opposing counterparts who blurt out insulting remarks without thinking. Tacky!

They are the ones who swerve in and out of traffic without regard for anyone else’s safety. They are the shoppers who push past others waiting in line, crashing into them like bumper cars. They are impatient. They think having to wait is for wimps. Anger propels them. They don’t have time for games unless they can win. “What’s in it for me?” is the question that prefaces every action. They are bulldozers in human form.

Cooperation is another skill I learned while relieving a “turner.” Holding a rope in one hand and a second rope in the other, I learned to cooperate with the person on the other side. We turned each rope inward in perfect harmony; first one, and then the other. Turning the rope also gave me a chance to serve my fellow jumpers.

And when it was my turn to jump and everyone sang:
“Teddy bear, Teddy bear, turn around,
Teddy bear, Teddy bear touch the ground,
Teddy bear, Teddy bear, stick out your tongue,” etc.
My Coordination was enhanced as I exercised.

Come to think of it, I don’t remember seeing any obese kids in my classroom. The games we played at recess kept us agile and active. Kick ball, volley ball, hop scotch, jump rope, etc. provided movement, exercise, and friendships as we formed teams and worked together for a common purpose.

Patience was another virtue we at least tasted while we waited with 35 other classmates for our turn to jump. When we all sang together: “I love coffee, I love tea, I love sugar and it loves me. I love salt and pepper!” We cheered on the jumper as the rope tapped faster and faster; a surge of anxiety in our bellies as we waited for our own turn to jump. What did we learn? How about adjusting to changing tempos, new faces and rhythms? We learned about endurance. The kids who outlasted other jumpers were the winners.

As everyone sang: “Carol and Lee sitting in a tree: k-i-s-s-i-n-g. First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes Carol with a baby carriage;” I never dreamed, as I jumped and blushed, that one day I’d have six children. Our chants were always about life, and they paved the way for future expectations of romance, family and careers.

When we tripped on the rope or failed to match the turners speed, we picked ourselves up and tried again. We learned to adjust to added pressures and new environments that helped us as adults. For example: my first day, on a new job, in a new city, I had to pack up for a move to a new office across town. At the time, I wondered what I’d gotten myself in for. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

As I packed up the old files, I studied and reviewed them. When they were unpacked, I knew how I would file them and where. I knew which ones were active, and which ones could probably be archived. I learned how to cooperate with my co-workers. There’s nothing like the strain of a move to highlight personality and temperament. You find out a lot about people when they’re working under pressure.

You find out a lot about people by waiting in lines and driving down the highway. You find out who knows when to merge and who doesn’t. And you discover discourteous people who refuse to move left, even when they can, to allow someone else to enter the highway. I swear these people never jumped rope.

If I had my way, jump rope would be a part of every Drivers Ed. Class; maybe even part of college prep, or on-the-job training. Who knows, there might be fewer accidents on the road and more teamwork on the job. But that’s just my opinion. What’s yours?