Crumbs on the Counter

I think the crumbs that keep appearing on my countertops are trying to teach me something…

One of my wife’s last big projects was to redo the kitchen and bathroom. This entailed black granite countertops. I think she got taken to the cleaners on these but that’s a different post. She got an updated look and that’s what she wanted. I’ve now got countertops that can’t be cleaned. Who invented this kind of product? Someone text me his number!

Keep Your Kitchen Countertops Sparkling with These Tips | Foodal

These days, a major part of my life is spent wiping up the crumbs that have collected on these jet black surfaces. My son has had tremendous success on one of those carnivore diets. I seem to have accidentally fallen into a Bulgarian grain only diet – most of it ending up on my counter tops. I was never told that when you start living by yourself – there’s no one else who’s going to pick that up. Secretly, I believe that someone else is sneaking in here behind my back leaving all this clutter scattered about. My haunted ice maker sure makes enough noise to convince me that I’m not really alone.

“Have you ever heard the wonderful silence just before the dawn? Or the quiet and calm just as a storm ends? Or perhaps you know the silence when you haven’t the answer to a question you’ve been asked, or the hush of a country road at night, or the expectant pause of a room full of people when someone is just about to speak, or, most beautiful of all, the moment after the door closes and you’re alone in the whole house? Each one is different, you know, and all very beautiful if you listen carefully.” ― Norton Juster

Sometimes the crumbs are what I need to sweep up, get done with and banish. Other times, I notice, there is a permanent residue about me. Things leftover that don’t go back in the refrigerator. For some reason, my wife and I filled our house with all sorts of clutter. This practice of ours never actually dawned on me until I began paying more attention to the homes of others, that I thought were more similar to Zen monasteries. But all this stuff does have it’s meaning. There are extended family memories and our own 35 years of marriage scattered all around.

I’m looking at all these wonderful photos of my grandson as he gets older and his personality develops. What a character, and I’m not biased at all. I look over almost simultaneously and see a photo of his grandmother holding him and I wish so much, so hard that it hurts.

“He was still too young to know that the heart’s memory eliminates the bad and magnifies the good, and that thanks to this artifice we manage to endure the burden of the past.” ― Gabriel García Márquez

Most of my days I spend surrounded by people who are too young to know…I remember how long I spent being too young to know much.

Bread-toast-crumbs-kitchen-counter-countertop - Finding True Magic

What do the crumbs on your counter look like during this pandemic, this political civil war, this economic white water raft trip heading who knows where? People I know are still getting sick, getting engaged, having babies, fighting cancer, working even harder to get along, dying, trying to make another day count. The turmoil of life goes on even in the eye of a storm.

How many hurricanes til Christmas?

Lately I think about my grandmother who never had a dirty dish in her sink, ever. I would stay with her and before an article of clothing would hit the floor (lazy teenager) it would be in the washing machine. She never allowed any crumbs in her life or anyone else’s who was visiting. I’m still being inspired by her work ethic.

These days I notice I’m having some trouble getting busy with the crumbs that must be swept up around here. That work ethic needs a recharge! I’ll get the energy and then do a big wipe down all at once. A deadline at work will loom and come near like a big ship in the dark sea. Then I jump up and get it done. I think being accountable helps with keeping the counters in life swept up. Deadlines and the rare visitor can also get fires lit when necessary.

Sometimes there are just seasons of life when the rhythm section has taken a break.

For years now, someone comes to the house every other week to keep it clean. That always helps with knowing what the standard ought to be. It keeps the downfall of civilization at bay. Not having anyone else here to contribute to the crumbs, like animals or small children helps as well. But that comes with another cost. Messy counters can be lived with when there’s a little boy and his dog in the next room.

If you keep the lights off, it helps to perpetuate the feeling that there’s not really much of a mess at all. Living in a dim world has it’s benefits. My mother-in-law always liked to disturb the ambiance and turn on all the lights. Good for her. It’s easier to keep the crumbs picked up that way. It’s easier to keep from tripping over something in a strange house. It’s easier to see everyone. It’s easier to see that the cleaning lady has left that figure on the shelf turned around the wrong way. Who needs ambiance? I’m starting to leave some of the lights on around here. Those crumbs are still waiting.

There are still many lessons to be learned at this age and stage. One is that the crumbs are going to stay on the counter until I wipe them up. There’s still a lot of debris in my life. When I pay attention (turn on the light), I notice people, projects and adjustments that need some care. Maybe having black granite countertops isn’t such a bad thing after all?

“I don’t want to be a genius-I have enough problems just trying to be a man.” ― Albert Camus

Can I Ask You a Few Questions?

 

What do your past experiences tell you about your life today?

I received a mysterious call the other day. People that know me would be baffled that I even answered it. I probably talk on the phone less than two times a week. I don’t know what possessed me to say hello. This was a survey measuring the health of Texas citizens. Well, a sociologist can’t hardly say no to a survey. It was about health, so of course that was a hot topic right now. She didn’t tell me how long it would take, but it was an extensive experience.

I answered the usual demographic questions to determine which categories I fit into – age, sex, income, and family composition. Whoever put this together (those paying for it) seemed to have been a wide range of groups. There were questions about:

  • prostate health
  • childhood corporal punishment
  • alcohol consumption
  • hours of sleep
  • doctor visits
  • relations with neighbors
  • trips to the grocery story
  • anxiety and depression

The questions took me back over my adult life thus far. Afterwards I thought about chapters that had been brought up in my mind during the interview. There’s just not much else on Netflix anymore is there?

“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”― Søren Kierkegaard

 

I had my carpet and floor cleaned the other day. The young guy doing the work was asking me what I did, professor is a good answer. If I say “sociologist” I typically get a smile and a nod, but know that there’s confusion. I explained to him that what interested me was the context that helped explain why people do what they do. I told him at a party I’d probably ask him questions about his family, neighborhood, school to try and figure him out a little better. I could tell by his follow up questions that I didn’t do a good sales job. He was still thoroughly encumbered with the psychological mindset, as most Americans are.

“Reality is not a function of the event as event, but of the relationship of that event to past, and future, events.” ― Robert Penn Warren

That health survey reminded me of so many life experiences; where was I living when I was in the hospital for that surgery, childhood misbehavior, becoming a parent, taking care of each other once we got married. The experience with that lady over the phone got me thinking while I was talking and for days after.

There are friends of mine right now who are in the middle of terrible health crises. I can only imagine how they are getting through each day. I think about how they will live their lives in the coming years, never the same, always shaped by this terrible turn. What will they remember about these days and how will matter to them?

What do you think has shaped your life the most, so far? Can you find a theme, a theme song? I got desperate the other day and watched that Judy Garland movie. Did you ever see the film Cold Mountain? That Renee Zellweger is an incredible actress. Anyway, to get back to poor Judy Garland. What a mess! I hope your life has better chapters and a better song.

As I thought about my own chapters I realized again some important truths:

  • Stop letting the “Ghosts of Christmas Past” haunt the life you’re building today – it’s over with, there’s nothing you can do about it, laugh off that tragedy and move on! Leave these behind you and keep your eyes on the road ahead.

“He was still too young to know that the heart’s memory eliminates the bad and magnifies the good, and that thanks to this artifice we manage to endure the burden of the past.” ― Gabriel García Márquez

  • Remember all those essential memories – the ones that really helped make a difference in your life (the people too) and find ways to pass them on to someone else in your life. Tell the next generation some of the important stories before it’s too late.
  • Talk to people from your past, catch up, do some hunting. Renew those connections in your life and tell people why they mattered – having friends is nothing to take for granted – have you been out there lately?

“You can’t stay in your corner of the Forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.” ― A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

Maybe the health of Texas (or wherever you are) depends on your reflection?

 

Hold Fast to Your Dreams

How did I get here so quick?

Have you ever gotten to a point in life when you asked yourself this question?

It began to dawn on me that I had reached some turning point in my life when little old men at church started calling me “sir.”

As I look back on the past decade or so…

  • Instead locating all of the emergency exits in the building, I”m beginning to have a working knowledge of where all the bathrooms are
  • I realize that I know too much information about my pharmacist
  • For a while there, I was using handicap parking spots. It became a whole new way of managing parking strategy

I joke that every night as I lay my head on the pillow, it seems like I was just there a few minutes ago – time is rushing by so fast. I always thought getting old would take longer!

“They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.” ― Andy Warhol

There are so many life experiences happening now that I sort of expected, like being a grandparent, taking care of aging parents, and new stages at work. There are also many life twists and turns that came out of nowhere like fighting cancer with my wife.

“It is not true that people stop pursuing dreams because they grow old, they grow old because they stop pursuing dreams.” ― Gabriel García Márquez

There are days on autopilot with too much disengagement. Other days when there is just one big crisis to manage. Dreaming too often gets pushed to a very far corner. I have too many old bags of dreams from long ago that smell like mildewed laundry. I know this not the right way to live.

“A being who, as I grew older, lost imagination, emotion, a type of intelligence, a way of feeling things – all that which, while it made me sorry, did not horrify me. But what am I experiencing when I read myself as if I were someone else? On which bank am I standing if I see myself in the depths?”Fernando Pessoa

The dreams of yesterday, of my youth, don’t work now.

That’s not how dreams are supposed to work. They are real, they are work, they breathe life into each new day. But dreams need to be alive, growing and evolving with life as it is lived and changing. Today will never work if you won’t turn loose of those dreams of your yesterday and don’t let them become newly built dreams of today.

“At the age of six I wanted to be a cook. At seven I wanted to be Napoleon. And my ambition has been growing steadily ever since.” ― Salvador Dali

Whatever comes at you from around the next corner, as your life changes, as you hit the next stage/age of your life – keep your dreams alive by letting them breathe. Your choice isn’t to let your dreams of youth die because they don’t fit today. Your choice is to let your dreams out of the prison of your past. Let them emerge and take up residence in your life today. Let your dreams come to life again right now. It’s not so much the substance of the dream, but the act of dreaming that keeps us going on into the night. 

“Hold fast to dreams,
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird,
That cannot fly.”
― Langston Hughes