A Hug from Grandma

I had a miracle this month. Even though my Grandma died back in 2006, she found a way to give me a hug.

Grandma's trophy

A few weeks ago, I received an e-mail from Shawn Larson from the maintenance department at St. David School in Saint David, Arizona. I was really surprised. I’ve had  this blog for years, and no one has ever used the “contact me” button. I thought it was a joke, so I ignored the message. Mr. Larson is a persistent man. He wrote me a second time. This time I paid attention. St. David School was going to remove all memorabilia  from the 1930-1940’s from their school. Mr. Larson was given the task of tossing the items. He felt strongly that this valedictorian trophy should not be thrown away. He wanted it to go to Theda Plumb’s family. He went on a quest to find the family. Here’s where the miracle happens. He found me.

I’ve always admired my grandma Theda Plumb Shelley Adams. She was a trailblazer. She’s an example to me on living life even when it is hard.  I wrote a blog post about her a few years ago. Mr. Larson found the blog post and contacted me.

It feels like a little miracle.

The last few years have been rough for me with lots of unexpected twists and turns.  I’m still in the healing part of the twisting and turning. I’ll come out on top eventually, but it has been a struggle to accept that my life is different than what I expected. During this healing time, I have on several occasions felt a special connection that is difficult to explain. I have felt that love for others continues to live on after we die. It’s more than just a wishful hope that our ancestors somehow act as guardian angles for us. It is a very personal feeling that makes me believe that not only does Grandma know the details of what is going on in my life, but she is rooting for me (and all of her children and grandchildren) to be happy.

It’s a hug from my grandmother.

 

Poetry and the Helicopter

Have you ever had a really strange dream?  I had one last night. In the dream, there was a lone sheet of paper on a brown table. This poem was written in cursive on that paper.

dear madam,

 i am sorry for the trifling distraction

caused by your pending demise

yours truly,

death

My apartment faces a park. Yesterday, a helicopter crashed in the park. I saw and heard the crash. It was very loud and scary. I might at some point write about the crash. Today is not that day though.  I want to write about my dream. I have never in my entire life dreamed a poem. I am both bothered by the theme and a little intrigued by the idea that Death leaves notes on brown tables.

My dream made me reflect on the Emily Dickinson poem about Death stopping for you.   I love Dickinson. Her poems are as delicious as rice pudding. You just want to go back for a second helping.  I felt inspired to write my own little poem with lots of dashes in honor of a master poet. This is my humble attempt.

If I like Dickinson –

Can use a dash –

Perhaps my words –

Will be immortal –

In all seriousness, I was very upset yesterday. My heart goes out to the family of the pilot and the passenger in the crash. My heart hurts for the others on the scene. I’m praying for everyone involved.

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(I took this picture several years ago while vacationing in Florida. It was right before a summer storm. This image has stayed with me as an expression on how there is both light and darkness in this journey called life.)

 

Enough for Today

SedonaI struggle with anxiety. I’ve worked hard to learn coping strategies. The stress of COVID-19 has triggered me in many ways.  It’s forcing me practice all the skills I’ve learned.

I’ve felt strongly today that I need to share an experience I had this last week. I hope it helps someone feel less alone if they too have been triggered.

The COVID-19 pandemic has stirred up some old feelings about not having enough food. There was a time in my childhood when my parents greatly struggled financially.  The months leading up to my family moving in with my grandparents were very hard.

As the oldest child, I was keenly aware of the financial stress that hung in the air. I was especially worried that there wasn’t enough food. One night before we moved in with my grandparents, I woke up early, tiptoed into the kitchen with my journal and counted the contents of the cupboard and refrigerator. I wrote down my inventory along with my childhood assessment that we probably had enough food to last a few days. I vowed to eat less so my family could live.

As an adult, I realize that we were not really going to starve. We were blessed with a support system. My parents humbly reached out for help and accepted the generosity family and friends were willing to give them. It was a hard time for the entire family and impacted my view of life.

There was a day this week that I found myself in my kitchen with my journal doing an inventory. It’s a reasonable activity in a time of uncertainty to count what you have on hand. I was fine until the memory of younger me worrying about starving came crashing into my mind. I felt young again instead of being in my 40’s. What if there wasn’t enough food? What if I end up alone and living in a tent on the streets?

I knew my mind was going down an unhealthy path. I knew I needed a verbal affirmation to calm my thought patterns. I didn’t know what affirmation would help me though so I asked God to give me the words.

These are the words that came pouring into mind with great power and tender love.

“I have enough for today.”

I said it five or six times standing there in my apartment’s little kitchen. Each time I said it,  I felt stronger. I have enough for today. I have enough for today. That’s true. I do have enough for today. I can plan responsibly for tomorrow , but obsessively worrying will not help me feel peace right now. I have to believe that I really do have enough for today.

Dear Readers (the 20 or so people who actually read my blog),

I hope you are able to find peace in your own life. Let’s all work together to find a way to make sure everyone on our beautiful planet has enough for today. That’s my wish for this world. I want us all to be happy, healthy and whole.

With Love,

Amee

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Conversations in my head

It’s been a month since I last wrote on my blog.  I’ve been trying to feel my feelings and take a day-at-a-time. Most days I can do that.  Yesterday was not one of those days. I felt very overwhelmed with how quickly the COVID-19 virus has spread around the world. The nervous side of me and the logical side started a debate in my head.

I decided to write down the conversation happening between my ears. It was pretty funny when I reread it later. Hopefully, it will make you laugh as well.

Nervous: The world is falling apart. It’s time to get yourself a really big truck and run over to Costco as fast as you can.

Logical: You don’t have a Costco membership.

Nervous: You’ll get one. And then you’ll buy all the stuff you need for the next 15 years.

Logical:  Um. That’s a lot of stuff. Do you really need a 15 year supply of toilet paper?

Nervous: Yes. Yes, you do. Go right now before they stop all production of everything for the rest of eternity.  Buy some chocolate chips while you’re there too. You might get a boyfriend one of these days. You’ll want to make him some cookies.

Logical: Cookies would be tasty.  You should make some. I’m sure this dream boyfriend will be kind and intelligent.

Nervous:  (cuts off Logical Amee) Yes, he’s all of that and a great kisser. You won’t be getting any kisses though if you’re dead. So, you better go to Costco right now before the world ends.

At this point, I just started laughing.

It was kind of funny that both my logical and nervous sides think chocolate chip cookies are a good idea.  I may be stuck at home practicing the social distancing thing, but at least I can still entertain myself.

How are you holding up?

(By the way, I looked in my pantry. I do have some chocolate chips so if the boyfriend decides to shows up on my doorstep. . . . . . I’m ready.)

Cookie picture

 

 

 

 

 

A Want With No Name

Cleaning the dishes

Suds dripping down my hands

Trying to maintain a sense of normal.

It’s hard.

I feel as empty as this old cup

Needing to be washed.

A want with no name crashes over me

As the water fills to the brim.

I’m a bit of a philosopher and at times my thoughts and their accompanying feelings overpower my very mortal body. Grief is hard work.  I’m grieving right now.  It’s exhausting.  I’m grieving the loss of marriage, my home and the dreams I expected to achieve. I’m starting to see and accept the difficult things related to my former marriage.  I’m grieving that knowledge. It was so much easier to remain in the confusing fog, and believe that things would ultimately get better if I just tried harder.  I know that’s a little cryptic, but this is a public blog. The details aren’t as important as the acknowledgement that I’m grieving.

I miss my neighbors and friends from my old life. I still have their friendships, but it’s not the same. Things feel different. It’s no one’s fault. It can happen when you move to a different part of town. You drift apart. The times you do see your old neighbors and friends are sweet. It’s just not the same as before because you don’t see them every week.  I’m old enough to know it’s not personal. It’s just how life works at times. People come and go in your life. You move on. You change. They change. Sometimes people stay in your life for a season and sometimes they remain your lifelong companion. That’s part of life. It’s just hard to accept all the changes.

It’s a want with no name.

person washing his hand
Photo by Burst on Pexels.com   (I love this image of the water overflowing the cupped hands. You could view it as abundance with more than enough or as feeling completely overwhelmed with the pain. It can be both, and that is what is so cool about this photo. Isn’t art great? I love art. It touches my soul and fills me in ways that normal life never does.  A HUGE THANK YOU to the photographer so I could have a photo for my poem. A HUGE THANK YOU to artists and creators everywhere who enrich the human experience. Go artists! Go creators! We need more of you in the world and less politicians who divide us. I will get off my soap box now.) 

 

 

 

The Worst Valentine’s Day Ever (no, it’s not this year)

It’s a strange thing to be single again after years of being part of a couple. It defiantly brings up a lot of feelings. This morning, while putting on my makeup, I had the thought that this was the worst Valentine’s Day of my entire life.

Luckily, I remembered my actual worst Valentine’s Day. It happened when I was six.

The night before my school Valentine’s Day party I discovered small, red bumps all over my stomach. They itched. They seemed to multiply every time I looked at them. I debated if I should tell my mother about the funny looking bumps.  I was afraid she would say I was sick. I was really afraid she wouldn’t let me go to school the next day.

She didn’t let me go to school the next day.  I had the Chickenpox.

No matter how hard I cried, Mom said no school. I even told her that no one would notice I had Chickenpox. My plan was to wear a hat and a mask all day.  Mom still said no school.

  I spent Valentine’s Day at home watching more of those itchy, burning bumps pop up all over my skin. I didn’t get to make the heart wreath, watch the Valentine’s Day movie, do math problems with candy hearts or participate in any of the other fun activities. It was very tragic for a six-year-old.

My brother David did not help the situation. He came home from school, and promptly told me his class party was the best day of his life. I was filled with righteous 6-year-old anger. It wasn’t fair. I thought about yelling at David, but then I had a better idea. My little plan made perfect sense at the time. Mom had told me the Chickenpox were contagious. My brother was annoying me. So, I gave him the longest, hardest hug I could. David wiggled away from my grasp and ran down the hallway. He was screaming the whole time. “Amee touched me. I’m going to get the Chickenpox.”

David got the Chickenpox.

Unfortunately, my plan backfired on me.  David had the Chickenpox over my birthday.  It impacted who could come to my party.

The Chickenpox Valentine’s Day was the worst Valentine’s Day of my entire life.  In between itching my bumps, I cried a lot that day. I somehow survived it.  I’m sure that I will somehow survive this Valentine’s Day too.

Happy Valentine’s Day, Everyone.

heart-picture

 

A Date for Christmas movie and a poem about helping others

Hand printsMy high school choir decided to create an alumni wall for former members. The first thing that popped in my mind when I heard about the alumni wall was “Hallmark movie”. It really does have all the trappings for a movie. I can just imagine the plot right now.

The Plot

Jane is a beautiful, strong, intelligent woman. She hasn’t thought about her high school choir years for a long time. She’s been busy working as a computer programmer, a volunteer at her local Boys and Girls Club and a poet who writes really long sonnets every weekend.  Jane is home visiting her parents for Christmas when she hears about the choir alumni wall.  She’s not going to do it, but a conversation with a department store Santa changes her mind. Santa tells her she will get a date for Christmas if she goes to her old high school and places her handprint on the wall.

Jane goes and places her hand in the purple paint. She has to wait 2 minutes with her hand on the wall until it dries.  There’s a kind, handsome, engineer who is also waiting for his  handprint to dry.  You only need 2 minutes in a movie to cement a relationship. Let’s call this man Peter. Peter is a scientist who is creating a devise that will make clean water a reality for everyone in the world. There are greedy corporations and corrupt politicians who are trying to stop Peter from his work.

 After several hours of deep conversation while eating organic, locally-sourced food they decide this clean water device needs to get out now. Jane builds Peter a website so he can publish the directions for how to make the clean water devise. The movie then shows people all around the world using the directions. The world is a better place.

The movie ends with Peter and Jane standing by a doorstep.  He gives her a kiss goodnight. It’s a sweet kiss as the snow starts to fall.  Jane gets her date for Christmas.  The End.

The Reality

In case you are wondering, I went down to my high school and placed my handprint on the alumni choir wall.  I did not meet a handsome engineer, save the world, get a date or a goodnight kiss out of it. There was also no snow. It was fun though to walk around campus and think about younger me.

The whole silly Hallmark movie idea did make me think about water.

According to the United Nations, nearly 1,000 children die due to preventable water and sanitation-related diarrhea diseases every single day (Source).

That’s horrible. It breaks my heart to hear that people are suffering. I try to do what I can to love my neighbor. I try to support organizations that help make the world better. I wish I could do more.

There’s so much need in this world. It’s easy for me to get discouraged when I hear about another problem that my fellow brothers and sisters here on planet Earth are experiencing.  I think I could spend the next 50 years of my life helping others and still not be able to fix all the problems of this world. (Yes, you read that right. This 40-something year-old is planning to die in her youthful 90’s.)

I wrote a little poem to make me feel better. It helps me accept that my small efforts are enough. If we all helped one, the world would be better. I hope the poem makes you think. I really hope that the poem inspires you to serve.

The Poem   (because there’s not enough poetry in the world)

I may not be able

to stop all wars

But I can bring peace

to one child’s heart.

I may not be able to

call back the storm

But I can warn the one

who live in the valley below.

I may not be able

to do it all.

But I can give my all

For One.

 

 

 

 

 

The Sky Was Empty

chalk board

The professor pointed to me. “ The man looked at the sky. It was empty. What does that mean?”

I smiled. This was my chance to shine in my English 101 class.  “There are no helicopters or clouds in the sky. It’s a great day for a picnic.”

The room erupted into laughter as my professor sighed, gave me a controlled smile and then asked for another interpretation.

“The sky is empty, because the man is having an affair,” said the student sitting next to me. “The sky represents his belief in God and how there are no consequences for his behavior.”

The other students enthusiastically shook their heads and mumbled yes in agreement.

The professor asked, “Miss Shelley, have your thoughts changed about the meaning of these sentences?”

“Nope.  That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard anyone say. Affairs are wrong. Picnics are much better.”

It’s been years since I was a college freshman, yet I’ve thought about this experience many times. How can two people read the same sentences and see completely different scenarios? It’s one of the great mysteries of life and of literature.

Since that time, I’ve learned a few things about analyzing literature the “English class way”.  I’ve also learned how to disagree with someone without resorting to calling ideas or the people who say them names. The latter has been an important skill that has served me well in life. We really can disagree civilly, engage in meaningful conversations with other people and still maintain our own beliefs and thoughts.

In case you are wondering, forty-something-year-old me still believes this sentence.

Picnics are defiantly better than affairs.

Poetry at Midnight

6:02

The me

Before

6:03

My life

will never be the same.

Last night,  I couldn’t sleep. My mind kept reliving and analyzing the moments in my life that changed my life forever. I don’t know why my brain decided that 10:00 at night was the best time to do this.  I then started thinking about a dear friend. There are moments in her life that aren’t fair and changed her life forever. Life is still good for both of us, but it’s different than what either of us expected. My little brain didn’t stop there though. Bless my 11:00 p.m. mind. It then jumped to trying to understand why the actions of a few powerful individuals can influence the lives of millions. I thought about all the suffering endured  in this world.  I ended up with a pounding headache and a bunch of tears.

I finally gave up trying to sleep. I wrote poetry until midnight trying to sort out the various thoughts that plagued my mind. The poem at the start of this blog post was one of the poems I wrote last night. I was tired today from the lack of sleep. I can understand that.

What moments have changed you forever?

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The Intelligence Test

Pizza Slice

The Intelligence Test

By Amee Lynne Shelley

The yellow flyer was posted outside my History of Western Civilization class.  Students who volunteered to take an intelligence test would get lunch and a $25 gift card.  It was the perfect incentive for a broke college student. I already knew I was a genius. This intelligence test was nothing to fear. I signed up for it.

I showed up at the designated place and time.  The Department Chair thanked us for volunteering and then introduced us to our examiners. Mine was a doctoral student named Steve. He was tall and wore a brown sweater. He had brown rimmed glasses that made him look very smart. I pushed my glasses up a bit on my nose. I was smart too. The intelligence test would prove it.  I followed Steve to a small table in the corner of  the room.  After a few hours, the test ended. I went back to the waiting area.

The pizza came while I was waiting for Steve. The other students and I quickly grabbed the hot slices and put them on our paper plates.  I chatted with a cute computer science major.

“It’s taking Steve a long time,” I thought.  “Why can’t he just hurry up?”

Finally, Steve walked into the room. I jumped up. “What did you find?  Did it prove I’m exceptional and one in a million? ”

Steve smiled.

My heart stopped. I knew that smile. It was the fake smile.  I gave that smile to the annoying neighbor kid that lived next to my parents.  He had talked for 20 minutes nonstop about his Lego blocks. I wanted him to just go away, but I couldn’t figure out how to exit the conversation. I had given Lego Kid a fake smile. Steve was now fake smiling me.

“Let’s go back to the testing room,” Steve said.

I walked behind Steve into the room. The walls were brown. We sat down at the table and Steve adjusted his rimmed glasses. I took mine off and nervously fiddled with them.

“The intelligence test was first developed in 1904 by two men named Alfred Binet and Theodore Simon. On this assessment, we look at your score and compare it to scores of other people who took this test. The mean is fixed at 100. Two-thirds of the people will get scores between 85 and 115. Your scores fell within the mean range of intelligence.”

I looked at Steve. He gave me another fake smile. I knew what it meant.  Steve thought I was average. I must have starred long enough for him to worry that I didn’t understand what he had said.

“Let me explain it a different way.” Steve got up and walked over to the whiteboard. He drew a bell curve. This is all the people who took the test. Steve put a little x in the middle of the curve. “This is you. Your score fell within the mean or average.”

I cut him off.  “I know the definition, ” I snapped.

I wanted to cry. Steve ,the future psychologist, thought I was dumb.  Those smart people who invented intelligence tests back in 1904 thought I was dumb. My little x was stuck right in the middle of average land on the Bell Curve. Was I even smart enough to be in college? What if Steve was right? What if I really was just average? Could average people grow up to be incredible? My plan for being famous and brilliant seemed to be farther away than when I first walked into the exam room.  Maybe I was fraud who had somehow tricked a college into letting her in?  I bit my lip and swallowed more tears. I may be average, but I wasn’t going to cry in front of smart Steve. His x was probably way up there at the top near the genius people like Albert Einstein.

“Was it an interesting experience,” the Department Chair asked as he handed me my gift card. “Worth a few hours of your time.”

I looked beyond him and saw the trash can spilling over with pizza boxes and greasy paper plates. I thought about Jacob and Esau from the Bible story. Esau had sold his birthright for some dinner. Had Jacob worn a brown sweater that day?

“Yeah,” I lied as I swallowed more tears. “It was educational.”

I starred at my $25 gift card on the way home. It wasn’t enough. If it had been a $10,000 gift card or a million-dollars, it still wouldn’t have been enough.  No sum was worth the discovery that I was just an average girl.