Be A Pebble

In this world ofripple instant information, being an empath can be a challenge. People like myself sometimes physically feel, or close to it, the emotional impact of what happens to others.

Acts of violence and atrocity that I read about can make me want to weep. It makes one like me feel frustrated helplessness. Every time I hear how people fear, hate, every time I hear, or read about people who have such little disregard for humanity of others I want to somehow wade in and fix it, But I can’t.

If I could, I’d take every refugee, every victim, every sick, lost and abandoned soul home with me. But I can’t.

If I could, I’d turn every fist, every gun, every bomb into bread, butterflies and flower gardens.

If I could, I’d take every hate filled, greed and power hungry cleric, pundit and politician and make them hold hands until they learned to be nice to each other and to us. But I can’t.

So what can I do? I’m just one ordinary woman, a single person in a vast ocean of humanity. I can’t stop terrorism, or convince politicians and pundits to listen to the people and really work to make our world better. I can’t tell people and businesses to stop turning our planet into something that even planet destroying aliens would pass by as a project not worth bothering with. I cant reach out across an ocean and dry the tears of a person who’s life has been torn apart by war, or help bury their children, or even ensure they have safe place to lay their head tonight. I can’t even fix the many heartbreaking problems that are all over my own community.

What frustrates me even further is those who see our helplessness, and our tiny attempts to let others know we care, and scoff at our attempts as inept and ineffective. While technically they are correct, they are also quite incorrect. While changing a profile photo to the flag of a nation who’s just suffered a tragedy or a symbol to commemorate support for a disease, or other symbolic imagery, is small, it has a way of letting others know that we do care and are at least trying to understand.  Our scoffers are just as frustrated as we are, but they prefer mocking our tiny attempts, demanding instead that we do the impossible, fix the big ones.

I want to be a pebble. My tiny drop in the ocean of humanity rippling out, meeting other the ripples of other pebbles, who meet other’s ripples. I want us to all be pebbles.  I want our tiny ripples to be the mundane, but still monumental actions of making someone smile or laugh, or helping a beleaguered mom with two kids and her elderly father, load groceries into the car at Walmart, or by buying a coworker lunch even though they brought their own,  by giving blood, giving clothes I don’t wear away, buying a package of socks and giving it to the local soup kitchen.

Yes they are tiny acts, those little waves of caring, but when one act prompts another, and then another, and then even another, the potential…oh, the potential is limitless.

It truly bothers me when people complain about something like changing a profile photo as a sign of solidarity with those who are suffering. It saddens me when they want to deny those who are in need. By saying no, by being willing to turn people away, or blame them for their plight, and then turning around and trying to ridicule us for caring.

They don’t want to be pebbles, thinking such a thing beneath them. They are denying the impact of the pebble, seeing it as insignificant ripples while standing on the shore. They fail to see how far one ripple can carry, or that it always returns to us, acting as a gentle kiss of reminder of why we threw ourselves in.

For those of you who don’t want to do the insignificant.  I understand. It may be just that, insignificant. But I also know one ripple, or one attempt to reach out to help another can carry further than any of us could ever imagine. So I’ll continue to toss myself in that ocean, while hoping someone’s ripples, maybe even mine, will soon reach your toes.


But they won’t want me.
I’m poor now, and homeless
I’ve nothing to offer.
But they don’t like me.
My clothes, my faith
My ways are so different.
But they fear me.
I don’t understand
Why they see me as frightening.

Are you sure that you want me?

Do you want to feel safe?
Oh yes, it’s been so long.
Do you want to feel hope?
Please, for my children’s future.
Do you want to live in peace?
Is that possible?
Come, and let us both find the way.

Curse you Bathroom Scale

scaleOk, here is a disclaimer.

I have hypothyroidism, and several joints that don’t work near as well as they used to. Allergies, and mild asthma round out the list of fun things that keep me off the exercise bandwagon more. Add being over 50, possibly menopausal, and the task is just that much harder Losing weight has only been accomplished in the past ten years by losing a body part… a uterus and its resident squatters. Of course that was only temporary. This time around, I know its going to take a long time, and an acre of celery, but I’m determined to try to get a little healthier.

Since I started the project of “Make Less of Sylvie” I’ve noticed a weight reduction once in the past 7 week. That’s right one time. Granted it was a big drop a few weeks ago. Nine pounds over night. I never have figured out how that happened. Of course I didn’t complain, but instead felt I was on the right track, so I’ve done well on keeping under my calorie goals…most of the time.

Well this morning, I got on the scale, and those nine little fuckers had returned. I weighed myself three times too. I just know that little square of metalics and springs has been snickering all day long.




A Bouncing Food Baby


food babyOnce upon a time I was skinny. Once upon a time I could eat a dozen pancakes with peanut butter layers, the whole thing drowning in butter and syrup, and remain skinny. then I had kids.

I was still pretty skinny, but then I started having chronic back issues. The weight started to creep slowly higher. I was no longer skinny, but more average for a woman with three kids, who had a flower gardening addiction.

Then I had a hysterectomy. Even removing the Bubbette and Earline, the fibroid squatters that had taken up residence did nothing to what I was becoming aware of. The weight was still creeping upwards, and nothing I did seemed to reverse the trend.

Then I two things happened. I remarried, and received a hypothyroidism diagnosis. My new husband has terrible eating habits, Sorry darling, but you do, despite some health issues of his own, and I was just in “oh, crap-it-all, I give up.” mode when it came to what appeared to be a belly holding six months worth of baby. In reality it was a belly made of reese cups, bacon, pulled pork, biscuits and gravy, mashed potatoes and chex mix. I was either going to be needing to give birth, or needing to be berthed at a wharf somewhere.

Then my son insisted I have a sleep study. Hello C-pap machine. I sleep with a full on aviators mask that could almost double as the face sucking monster from the movie Alien. My aging and expanding body had given me severe sleep apnea

Then my knee gave out, and I had surgery. Hello bigger food baby, as the lack of mobility prior to surgery and during recovery meant that anything I ate was going straight to “baby” and my butt. The weight was on an upward trend and accelerating. My designated fat pants were too small, and I had started to look for extra large sizes to wear

My kids gently suggested that I do something to get healthy…like shed a pound or thirty. My son set me up on this app, called Myfitnesspal and I’ve been sticking to it, even recording my cheating. Yes, cheating.  I’m sorry but potato chips, chex mix and a big old serving of biscuits and gravy sometimes just throw themselves in my hand and beg me to eat them.

Since the beginning of August I’ve lost a few pounds, each one sulking away almost without notice. Only my scale can tell, and my fingers, as my rings aren’t quite so tight any more. I firmly expect the next thing to start shrinking are the “toddlers” which is what I have named my boobs. The food baby, so far, refuses to shrink. As I try to do something exercise wise more often, I’m noticing more energy. I still deal with some chronic pain, thanks to joints I’ve been really mean to over the years, but that is slowly improving. I keep warning people not to get old. It’s not for wimps.

I am going to try to do regular updates on how I’m doing, help keep me on track on my progress, and hopefully help you exercise a chuckle muscle. I started at 234, I’m down to 225. Its the  most amount of weight I’ve lost in 25 years, unless you count my ex husband. I’m in this for the long haul. Will I ever see the weight of my skinny days? I doubt it, but could I achieve pre food baby status? Eventually, hopefully.

Stained Glass

Hanging on a wall in my bedroom is a square of glass. Its a stained glass scene of a sun peeking through the mountain tops as it rises for the day. My grandfather made that stained glass scene, using pieces of colored glass that was left over from the squares that are part of the windowed feature wall at my grandparents’ summer home. The jewel colored glass themselves are from France, ordered by my mother who had once worked at the glass factory they were made. Both my grandfather and my mother have passed, him when my son was small, my mother when I was.

My grandmother, who just celebrated her 101st birthday, advised me to take a few pieces from the home she’d spent summers in my entire life. When she suggested that I do so, I thanked her, then left the room. I had to compose myself.

It was then that I realized what that house has meant to me, and that my visits to that beautiful mountaintop location would soon be coming to an end. All that would be left were memories, photographs and a few momentoes. No longer would I enjoy the long tree shaded driveway, or the view off the back deck. No longer would I sit at the piano, where my grandmother corrected my fingering. No longer would I drink water from the tap in her kitchen, water that tasted different than any water elsewhere.

I will have to cherish the memories of climbing the spiral staircase on summer mornings as my grandmother sang “good morning to you” in a loud cheerful voice. Then the kids in residence would sit at the counter and eat bowls of corn flakes, with fresh cut peaches. We’d listen to the little coffee pot percolating nearby as we’d plan out our grand adventures for the day.

My grandparents often took us to a small farm they owned for a while, and watch my grandfather call the cows to the barn. This would be after we’d arranged the rocks at the creek for the hundredth time was we hiked the familiar trail to the Toe River. The ride back in a Jeep, would always have us sharing space with a basket of fresh corn and green beans for that night’s supper.

We were taken to a local arts school where we were able to watch potters, weavers and glass blowers plying their craft. Many of the artistic pieces that have graced the mountain top home have been acquired from the talented local artist that live in that part of Western North Carolina. Trips to local parks, hiking trails, waterfalls, and of course the small lake built for the community to enjoy were always a part of our summers growing up. Even after I was grown, with children of my own, that tradition of visits to the scenes, sights and arts of the area were on the agenda, for a new generation of grandchildren.

Every evening we’d gather back, and share dinner, always started by a short verse of grace by my grandmother. Then we’d eat, laugh and share stories, while remembering to keep our elbows off the table, a hard and fast rule at Mamaw’s table. After dinner were games of cards, or charades, or skits we made up on the spot. Sometimes a craft project was brought out and we’d spend time together finishing it. My grandmother was a master seamstress and a world class knitter. She still knits almost daily, even though her eyesight is failing. Her inability to teach a clumsy fingered left handed girl how to crochet or knit has been one of her few failures in life.

The house represents a few sad memories as well. Downstairs in the cool basement bedroom with two chenille covered twin beds, is where my dad told my brothers and I that our mother had passed away after a brief illness. I remember crying, while one brother sat next to me, and the baby brother sat in my dad’s arms. I have never been able to walk into that room without remembering that moment, so long ago. The living room is where my family learned of my decision to leave my abusive husband. It was a hard thing to do, as I told them of my decision and why through the tears that wouldn’t stop falling. The outpouring of love by everyone in the room, helped me grant courage to face the following year.

The front yard, is where my grandmother, stared daggers into my soon to be current husband, as she told him to be good to me. He fell instantly in adoration of her at that moment. The same yard is were we always gather to hug everyone good bye.

Two years ago, Mamaw had a pacemaker installed. Her heart has started its long slow dissent to its last beat. After the pacemaker was installed, Gary and I took a weekend to spend with her. I took along a camera and began recording memories of the house, each photograph intended to preserve what I knew would be gone from my life when she was. On our last visit, she told me to take a few things back home with me. She knew, as I did, that each visit could be my last. She has intended to let us have the pieces that mean much to us to be with us as reminders of such a beautiful place. The stained glass art piece made so beautifully by my retired surgeon grandfather is such a piece, along with a cast metal cat they picked up in Egypt during one of their excursions abroad, a pottery cup from a local artist, and a sapphire blue bowl, that may also be an art deco style ashtray. It once sat on a window ledge that looked out to the mountain view.

In the not too distant future, the mountaintop chalet will go to new owners. The thought of never again getting to drive up the tree shaded drive anticipating the house coming into view saddens me, but not as much as knowing that its anticipated occupant will not be there as well. I am grateful for that house, and the love that poured out of every window and onto every single person that stepped foot on the property. A small stained glass scene, hanging in our bedroom, will remind me of that love for the rest of my life, and remind me to do all I can to ensure that Gary and I’s home exudes love as well.

Of Cobwebs and Pop-off Valves

It started out as a small drip under the back deck. The water was coming from a small spigot that released water from somewhere under the house. I wasn’t sure, but I suspected it was the air conditioner as it has been quite hot and humid. We were of course wrong. Over the next week the drip started to get more pronounced, finally the beginnings of a marsh was forming. We decided to investigate the source of the fast dripping water.

That’s the problem with being a homeowner. Despite doing what we can to be good caretakers of our property, sometimes, things go awry, and repairs or replacements are in order. In this case, investigation of our marsh/wasp watering hole was finding the source. We deduced the cause was one of two things, the A/C or the hot water heater. That required one of us trying to determine which. That also meant one of us had to venture into spider central, the crawl space under the house.

I hate spiders only slightly more than their webs. The crawl space is spider web nirvana. Armed with a brook I opened the door, took a broom, and whisked away as many webs as I could reach, then held the door open with a paint can. Only then did I dare poke my head inside. The water heater was close enough to the water outlet to deduce it as the cause.

So trip #1 to the things you buy to fix your house store, we went. There we priced new water heaters, along with estimates for someone to come and investigate the actual cause of our leak, and replacement of the heater. The price was ridiculous, but we arranged for a plumber to come over.

The next morning, after church and some online research we decided to take a closer look. Gary and I make a decent working pair on projects, but we both have back issues and bad knees. In fact I’d had knee surgery a couple of months prior. We knew it was going to be uncomfortable for the both of us, but under the house we went, looking for the simple problem we were hoping for, flashlight, tools and my tablet in hand. The tablet was our troubleshooter, how to guide, as neither of us had a clue as to what we were doing.

I warn people all the time not to get older. Its not for wimps. Doing something like helping your husband, (my helping is my holding the flashlight and handing tools) in a crawl space that has no more than 4 feet of headroom, will certainly remind you of the fact that youth has left you behind. Its also laughing at your older self.

It took two more trips to the home improvement store to fix the water heater, and cure the leak. Those trips meant crawling in and out of the crawl space each time, with more dirt and cobwebs clinging to us. Each trip back under was met with increasing dread, as our bodies kept trying to remind us of our ages and physiques. Thankfully, we were successful in our repair, accomplishing the task while saving us hundreds of dollars in repairs. It took us three days to recover.

Identity Crises

Am I supposed to be surprised?

Am I supposed to be surprised?

This morning I had to call the airlines to make a correction on my ticket confirmation. My first name was misspelled. The matter took about five minutes to correct and I could print new confirmations with the correct spelling of my name. I needed to do this to ensure that there were no delays for my very early morning flight in regards to the difference between my ticket information and my ID. It was likely a precaution, but I didn’t want to take any chances.

I wish this was an isolated occurrence.

You’d think that a simple two syllable proper name that sounds phonetically like it is spelled, Sylvie, (Sill-vee) wouldn’t be such a problem for people that encounter that word. You’d be wrong. When I was a child, every single teacher I ever had, would take one look at my name on the roll, and ask how to pronounce it. It got so I knew what to expect and as soon as the teacher would pause to my expected spot in the roll, I’d just go ahead and call it out.

Then there are the mangled spellings. One of my old banks had all my personal information exactly correct on bank related documents, except in one location, my bank statements. Every single one from that bank, spelled my name wrong. They flipped the l and the y, turning my name into Slyvie, pronounced, Sli-vee. I sent multiple requests for correction, that were never resolved. For the record, my brothers ensured I would know exactly how Slyvie was to be pronounced, along with their other  mangled versions of my name, Sliver, Silverware and Sylvester. Aren’t brothers fun?

Of course the more common incorrect spelling and pronunciation of my name is Sylvia, which is close, but still wrong. It it the version that appeared on my flight confirmations. I’ve learned to answer to that, as it’s just become  too much trouble any more to keep correcting every third person I encounter. What I find amusing is that friends attempt to do the pronunciation correction for me, as I’ve just given up on it. People are usually mildly horrified at this etiquette breach and try to remember to say my name correctly from that point on. It has a fair success rate.

You’d think my identity crises would end with just simple letter misplacements or pronunciations of my name. Again you’d be wrong. My name is apparently so incomprehensible to the average person, that they substitute the nearest facsimile they can think of instead. Some of those substitutions have included:

Sheila, Stella, Shirley, Sharon, Sybille, Wanda and Jennifer. I have no idea how the person got Wanda from Sylvie. It remains a complete mystery. Jennifer, however isn’t. I do purchasing at my job, and a staff member needed for me to pay for something offsite. He had the vendor call my office for payment. The vendor already knew who I was, but asked for Jennifer anyway. I told him that there was no Jennifer in my office. It was about then  that I heard my co-worker over the phone.

“Is that Brad (name changed to protect the guilty)?” I asked the vendor. A brief exchange could be heard over the phone.

“Yes.” The vendor said, “It’s Brad.”

“Ok, I’ll pay for the item then.” I then completed the transaction.

When Brad returned to my office, receipt in hand, I asked him what my name was, which he answered correctly. I then asked him why he called me Jennifer at the store. his excuse was he’d forgotten what it was, and in a panic, Jennifer popped in his head. He still calls me that on occasion.

This same vendor, called me Sylvania several months ago. He had just put light bulbs on a shelf and when I called, the brand name transferred to my identity. Another co-worker overheard my exclamation of “Sylvania!?!” It didn’t take him long to realize what had happened. Thanks to that one monetary crises of identity, I earned another nickname. Arent co-workers fun?