Category Archives: Gratitude

Carbon Friendprint


_DSC8278“Your pineapple plant has survived too!” I said to my dear friend, “Mine has even sprouted a second one.”

She leaned down, faffed with the fronds and said, “Looks like I have another one too.”

I leaned down to see her baby, just far enough to accidentally tip my open water bottle out onto her porch. “Oh gosh, I’m sorry, can I clean that up before I go?”

My friend waved me off, assuring me that it was no big deal. This is her nature. Always. Without exception. Nothing is ever a problem. She puts others first.

Driving home I thought about the mess I’d made on her porch, and even though it had been nothing more than water, I was struck by the blessing of her grace; how the most precious people in my life extend this gift effortlessly. I thought about the ease of some friendships and the difficulty of others.

Then I thought about the scent we waft, the residue that remains, the mark we leave upon friends we’ve spent time with, the way our presence either raises or lowers their blood pressure: our carbon friendprint.

Not too long ago, likely inspired by being plucked out of a few lives, I went through a mental weeding of my own (not an angry one, mind you), a process of evaluation: a selfish bout in which I questioned the value of nearly every relationship I claimed to hold dear.

Eventually I gave myself permission to let some grow and to let others fall back into fallow ground—no hard feelings for the closeness we failed to nurture, no regret over the empty bounty. A realization dawned: letting them go meant they would find others skilled at giving them what they needed, others who could plant, water and fertilize a beautiful friendship. What I or they or both of us had let die could be reborn, experience having taught us what matters most.

Our friendships are much like Earth’s precious resources, their preservation requiring us to eat locally grown food, or even better, to plant our own…to limit our negative impact on our planet.

Reminded today by an accidental splash of water to celebrate the beauty of my amazing galaxy of friends, all of whom leave the smallest friendprint imaginable, I am inspired to also tread with lighter, gentler, more graceful steps.





Signs of life: watering miracles


Somehow my birthday flowers don’t get watered, only “vased” — in the mad scramble to pull off the surprise party, adding water to the vase falls low on the priority list. Days later I discover them, their parched petals mottled into a spotty disarray not unlike a child crumpled on the floor at the end of an exhausted tantrum; a tangled mess that doesn’t look anything like its original form. Still, I can’t part with them so I hang these Helianthus annuus from the shelf that holds the wine; they’ll be happy here I think. Weeks later I discover them again, note their dried perfection and start thinking about all the strange and wonderful ‘signs of life’ that have been turning up where I have been expecting atrophy instead.


This orchid has been nearly dead more than once over the past eighteen months.  After my friend Sandra (my husband’s previous wife) passes away we eventually move this plant from it’s safety on their old kitchen ledge to the home we are merging together. En route it is dropped down a flight of stairs then pieced back together, barely. The second time, looking nearly dead already, it crashes to the floor of our garage before finally making it to the kitchen, where it sits safely for nearly a year. Miraculously, having at least been watered, it grows without us noticing and then blooms on Sandra’s birthday weekend. Now it’s having babies — note the “roots” in two places that will eventually be potted separately to form new orchid “mothers.”


I’ve written about this African violet before. It’s my mother’s plant, one I hesitantly adopt in 2010 when she moves into a senior living facility.  It falls off the care radar and nearly perishes in 2013. In fact one day when Mom is on hospice care, taking the last of her 529,804,800 breaths, I am plucking the tired little clump that remains — have my fingers in its earth — when I see a bit of green. Shoving the sorry roots back into the dirt, I give it a quick water, relieved I won’t need to say goodbye to it as well, at least not just yet. You’d think that near misses would inspire me, yet all I can manage is keeping the pot filled with water (it’s the bottom-absorbing kind). Bloom food? Nope. Never. And then, a few months later, when I am forced to weed through the details of her estate, losing relationships with my brothers in the process, I see a purple flower, then another and another and another, until I realize the whole thing is covered in them; so many leaves filling the small pot that their corresponding flowers have to duke it out just to be seen. I stand in front of this striving thriving miracle, silent, reverent; tears form in the corners of my unbelieving eyes. Hi Mom, I say, grateful beyond words that she has orchestrated this brilliant mass of violet reassurance. It’s been blooming ever since, sans bloom food, and begins to bloom again today as I write this piece.


Late last March I am in the side yard, my gloves covered in the kind of muck that happens when I leave things out in the rain; things rodents love to hide under but eventually get cleaned up, when I see some green peeking out of an abandoned blue pot of what used to be the incredible lilies my mother was proud of. The last time they bloomed it was because they lived in my daughter’s yard and were cared for. When I eventually bring them home, I promptly forget about them —oh, for about two years, until this very moment when I cannot believe my eyes. Rain water is the only moisture this dirt has seen, and we’ve been having a drought for the past couple of years. I am incredulous and then urgent. It can’t stay in the midst of this dirty chaos. Getting closer, I am stunned to see about fifteen thriving leaves and three lilies nearly ready to open. The pot is heavy, so I drag it around to the front, and up two stairs to place it where it remains today. Chinese lilies, I find out, are typically given to young women on their wedding day or birthday. I am not young, but I find it meaningful that these have chosen to bloom just days away from my fiftieth birthday.

IMG_20140611_095523My son, now eleven, planted this plumeria when he was four; the take-home from a planting class at our local community center he took with his little sister. Neglected (by me) and nearly ready for the trash a few years ago, my older daughter rescues it; researching, in her typical fashion, the best way to care for these gems. It isn’t long before leaves began to sprout and she gives it back to me for continued care, which I don’t do. Nope. I neglect it, again. Though it doesn’t die, our relationship does and the poor plant is left on its own — again; a sad reminder of the state of things. The circumstances of the end of this relationship are nebulous still, at least to me, but I accept the fact that I haven’t always given my children what they’ve needed and that sometimes things fall apart; things that are my fault. Still, I place the poor plumeria on the front porch and try to remember to water it now and again. I remind myself that this poignant stalk of “holy fuck I miss her” is an organism whose cells are protected by a thick rigid wall, much like my feelings. One afternoon I discover buds. I add water and try not to hope, but a couple of weeks later I see leaves, leaves that don’t die but keep growing. They’re growing still.


I’ve successfully grown things before, but the past few years have been so busy with painful endings and intoxicating beginnings that to plant things requiring maintenance has been unthinkable. I’m ready now with a newfound confidence that surprises me; I’m not just waiting for miracles, I’m expecting them.








“Keep going, just like a…” he hollered, and I began to respond, even before he was finished speaking, having heard those words ‘ad nauseum’ my entire life, and as such, bellowed back on top of his words, “I can’t, it’s not working, I’m not a butterfly, and I told you already, I’m not good at this.”

“Doesn’t matter, just keep going, keep flapping your wings!” he said silently, though I heard him loud and clear, out of long habit.

I found this kind of encouragement from my father so frustrating when he was alive, believing him to be an optimistic fool, the kind of man who wouldn’t know a brick wall if he ran smack into it, someone who actually believed in impossible dreams, achieved them, against all odds, then transferred such dumb luck into an unrealistic faith in me, his only daughter–a girl so ordinary that even bees didn’t land on me, even if I wore bright yellow.

It was thirty years later, at the summit, as I took in the surreal view of pastel clouds and razor-sharp mountains, drinking in the thin, pure life-giving air, when I knew that he had been right all along, and that whether or not I beat the cancer viciously fighting against me, I would be victorious if I would only “keep going.”

A sudden flash then, an epiphany even, as the saying on his office door, the one everyone read as they came inside to seek his advice in near droves–everyone except me, that is, for I had ignored it and his advice completely until now–pierced my vision, as if it were written across the surreal scene before me: Success is perseverance in disguise.

Lillie McFerrin

This Five Sentence Fiction post is a response to Lillie McFerrin’s weekly one-word writing challenge. This week’s word: perseverance. Click on the badge above to visit her site, access the link to other entries, and even add your own creativity to the mix.

It is my great honor to dedicate this post to my sister, Ellie, who fought valiantly against cancer for 16 years, and who never stopped trying to encourage me daily to seek my wildest dreams and embrace my writing passion fully. I love you sis.

photo copyright Britton Minor and The Jaded Lens Photography. All rights reserved.

Infinite inklings

William Blake’s Auguries of Innocence was the first thought I had when I saw this picture in my haphazard portfolio of photo memories. To be clear, it was this small bit (the part most of us know) that came to mind:

To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the Palm of your Hand,
And Eternity in an hour.

William Blake (1757-1827) has seen fit to send me a personal augury (a sign or omen) today: this part of his poem, in a book of the same name; a gift from my mother, was one I read over and over again as a child. When Mom gave me a mustard seed pin, I would think of these lines yet again. Thus began my education about the power and beauty of tiny things. To this day I am fascinated by the minute: the artists who make miniature replicas of life from clay, teensy dew drops that only my macro lens can capture, microscopic particles, insects hidden under rocks and between blades of grass, and minuscule inklings about strangers.

My son’s find (pictured above), important enough to him that he stopped playing to bring it to me, made me smile then, but amazes me now. He is nine–and he loves nothing more than time outside running around with friends. That a small wheatish grain could stop him in his tracks moves me beyond words and into reverence. To see a world in a grain of sand…

Lately I have been seeing a lot of the microscopic; the importance of small moments within relationships, brought home by death, Alzheimer’s, illness and the steady march of time that grows my children up while I am blinking–unwilling to take in what I am seeing, yet embracing it all the same. There is no solace in ignoring what is before me. The greatest struggle, however, is not in the seeing, it is in my inability to refocus, or perhaps de-focus, to zoom back out and enjoy life without feeling everything at a cellular level.

I seem to be craving the opposite of Zen moments; it is oblivion and pure abandon that I crave (yet can’t imagine), but only because despite the blazing beauty of my current hyper-aware state, I am getting burned. I am living in constant awareness, attempting to make the most of everything even as life’s constant thrum stokes the fire that blazes within me. Is it okay to be this vulnerable, this open?

Fire swallowers, in order not to get burned, master the art of cutting off oxygen; sword swallowers, in order not to die, must not swallow. Surely there is a trick to living with eyes, pores, and heart wide open. I know so many who seem to clothe themselves with daily awareness as elegantly as Princess Grace; I just wonder how they do it.

Perhaps the answer lies in the kind of sloughing off one would do in a plane that is too heavy. Out would go the unnecessary items; in this case: guilt, regret, unnecessary and self-imposed expectations, insecurities, perfectionism, procrastination, fear, doubt, and that ever-present Everyman persona. Without these companions, I am already breathing so much easier that even my son holding infinity the palm of his hand won’t shake me.

Eternity in an hour, however, may be an entirely separate matter…


I am usually on a jam-packed freeway when I have the same thought I have when I am on a jam-packed airplane thirty-plus thousand feet in the air: I am tiny; therefore my problems are minuscule. These are great moments when suddenly the entire world, including the one that lives inside my head, shifts into perfect focus. Despite the drug-like high of this aha-moment, something disturbing niggles at me; taunts me like a fourth grade con-man trading a kindergartner a nickel for a dime–having convinced the youngster that bigger is better. I figure it out fairly quickly as I am taking the exit home: enlightenment is not a panacea; nor is it a miracle-drug, even when it feels like one–despite its miraculous size and feel.

Understanding how life works, that there is no resisting it, does not make it any easier to cope with the “part and parcel” atrocities. Just because I know that death is a natural part of life does not mean that I will not bawl uncontrollably, curse uncharacteristically, mask, hide, deny, fall apart…mourn forever. I will never be ready to lose someone I love. Period. There are no zen moments to cover the kind of grieving that arrives with those horrific curveballs thrown at light speed miles per hour–the ones that threaten to pin us to the ground forever. And this is what, right after the enlightened high has worn off and the right indicator light is still clicking, I am left with: the other shoe. When will it drop? Will I be ready? How can I prepare?

This is when I pray; not because I am religious, but because I know of no other way–other than driving into a ravine–to assuage any current or future grief. Praying feels good. It helps me. I like to think that my prayers have an energy that is attracted to other energy, that is attracted to…and so on and so forth, and that good things happen as the result of them. This might be enough to get me through, except for this awful enlightenment thing that feels a bit like intuition–or in darker moments, premonition. Tough times happen to everyone, and though humankind has come up with a plethora of mind-numbing substances to ease the pain, no one has transcended them.

I do not believe that those who have unshakable faith in an omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent and omnibenevolent god get to escape my freeway epiphany either. Having supernatural faith may bring a certain kind of peace; the kind that comes from knowing that there is a greater power around to help when life gets incomprehensibly difficult, the kind that brings the blessed assurance that the God in Heaven above will explain everything; but even the most upstanding Christians I know are still suffering, despite the fact that Jesus was sacrificed–despite having Biblical answers to difficult questions.

I am nearly home when the dam breaks; warm tears of gratitude creating black rivers down my cheeks. Pulling over might be a good idea, but I don’t. Pulling myself together instead, I renew my commitment to live and let live; to do the best I can with the time I have been given, to enjoy the amazing people God or science has put into my life, to give more than I take, to develop the gifts I can manage to unwrap, to smile and laugh more, to eradicate guilt, and to keep worry in a teensy tiny box; reserving it only for those times when it spurs me into positive action.

The prayer I say before reaching my driveway winds up being something like this: Please forgive me for not understanding you, for praying as if I am a believer, when sometimes I am not. All I ask is that you will give me the grace, the love, and the strength I need to navigate whatever comes my way. Amen.

It’s what I’ve taken to praying for those who are experiencing tough times: Grace, love and strength for the journey. And then I pray that there is a Great Someone Somewhere to give it to them.

If you click here, you can hear me singing a very rough version of one of my favorite songs (1953) about faith, dedicated to my friend, Sandra: 20120616 165447

This is the mp3 version, for those who cannot open the link above: 6_16_12 4_54 PM

Thank you


Tooth-brushing, food-cutting, hand-holding, tear-wiping, typing, piano-playing, caressing, cat-petting, camera-holding, box-carrying, gardening, scratching, supporting, full-body-hugging, push-ups…

Yesterday, while walking at the beach, I observed an elderly couple enjoying their older grandchildren. They had the look of a comfortable pair who have been together for many years. Eventually I passed them by, and when I reached my turn-around and started back, I saw them again…she with her right arm wrapped around his waist–no space between them and their love.

The absence of his left arm only bothered me a little bit-but not for the reason you may suspect. It bothered me because it has been a long time since I have given thanks for how well my left arm works, and for all the things it helps me do.


Peace in the Fullerton Arboretum

Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me…

“Let There Be Peace on Earth” is a song by Jill Jackson Miller and Sy Miller written in 1955.[1] The song is usually associated with the Christmas season and appears on the album of the same name by country singer Vince Gill. Jackson, who had been suicidal after the failure of a marriage, later said that she wrote the song after “discovering what she called the life-saving joy of ‘God’s peace and unconditional love.'”[2]  (Wikipedia)

The intent of this photograph was to capture the beautiful artwork the children did at the Fullerton Arboretum a few months ago.  When I saw it today, I was immediately enveloped in the absolute beauty and peace of the setting.  May this photo remind you to seek a peaceful path today…