Tougher than Nails

We just got back from our annual trip to St Augustine, Florida visiting our old neighbor from St Paul, Jean West. She is squarely an octogenarian and invites us down each year (yes, with the kids and the dog) and she proceeds to cook for us, recommend outings and play games and provide awesome conversation during any downtime. In short, she is amazing. She has lived an incredible life of travel, advocacy and constant fun and laughter. Her partner died a few years ago and she continues to host a non-stop array of friends, who are all pretty amazing in their own rights (present company excluded). We talked politics, history, musicals and old-times. She never lets us in the kitchen insisting on doing all the dishes and cooking.

Hanging out with her I am reminded of all the uncertainty in life particularly as we age. She is a constant reminder to seize the day and do it with a smile and a laugh. Nothing is beyond reach for any of us. We allow ourselves to be limited by the one thing that will certainly get in the way: the person in the mirror.

She reminds me not to complain. She reminds me to do what needs to be done each day. She is the reason I went for my run in the driving rain at 5am this morning. In short, she is a good reason to live and do what is needed to stay in touch with old friends and to continue to make new ones.

I returned to a stack of emails this morning a mile long. It was the final straw. I am going to defeat email. I am going to find a way to communicate that does not chain me to a desk every waking hour to respond to tiny lights in a computer screen. The key to freeing yourself is to do just it. Get up and walk out of the jail. So few of us are really willing to do that. We would rather stay locked up where it is safer. We would rather spend our time in the ways that others tell us are meaningful instead of finding our own meaning and living out our lives based on that. Being constantly thankful and ever unsatisfied is the trick behind the trick. It isn’t easy and requires practice. Each day demands work of us. St Paul in February where there are truly on two types of people: the quick and the dead.

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Visiting from another world

This past weekend our old neighbors from St Paul took a long layover in Atlanta and spent the night at our house. The kids were stoked to see each other and had a sleepover down in our play room. As I listened to our old neighbor weave long tales on changes in the schools and with people in our old neighborhood, I started having a Miracle on 34th Street flashback. I started wondering if it could be any different if we hadn’t moved. Would the Nativity play at church been better? Would Bob have slipped on the sidewalk ice and cracked his skull? Would Bart and Michele have split up? I started feeling as though it all hinged on me. In an overwhehlming sigh I drifted off to sleep that night. I dreamt I was walking through the backyard of a house that I lived at, but I did not recognize. I noticed something moving in the grass. It was a small alligator. Then I started noticing more and more and more alligators peppering the lawn. The lawn was crawling with them! They even blocked my way back to the house. Then I noticed larger gators too. I woke up at peace and led my neighbors around Atlanta all day Saturday. The normal parade route: The MLK site and the Cyclorama: I call it the Civil rights and Civil War tale of Two Cities. I dropped off my neighbor at the airport late in the afternoon. Riding home with my daughter, I asked her if it was a good visit. She admitted it was, but she wasn’t so sad to see them go. She explained that she did not see the distance between St Paul, MN and Atlanta to be so far anymore. She reasoned that if we had not moved, she would be busy with new friends anyway. Our life wasn’t about to stand still: time keeps on rolling. By leaving St Paul, we pulled the plug on a lot of things at once, but so much of it would just fade away anyway. I like clean breaks. The pain comes all at once instead of growing by degrees.