Tiny notes of happiness bring smiles

Three years ago, I wrote things that made me happy on tiny slips of paper and put them into a jar. The object was to do it every day and then read them when the year was over. I’m a little late. That was 2015, and now it’s 2018. But these multicolored pieces of paper still make me happy. Three years ago, I was getting over a badly sprained ankle that I injured between Christmas and New Year’s. (read the blog posts about that here and here). My father had survived his heart surgery and had not yet broken his hip. Like now, I was playing and singing at Sacred Heart and plugging away at my writing career. Annie and I walked these coastal woods most days. Her muzzle wasn’t all white then. The tree had not fallen on my fence and house. And gosh, Medicare was way in the future.

I’m thinking I’ll write little happy notes for this year, too. I can start with this morning’s beautiful pink sunrise. Or maybe last night’s full moon. Or the moment after yesterday’s walk when Annie and I visited with our neighbor Pat and the dogs Harley and Cooper. Three big dogs to pet at once and a friend to talk to: Heaven. Even in the midst of horrible times, we can still find little things to be grateful for.

Here are some of the things that made me smile in 2015.

The ankle:

* First sun in winter. First soak in the hot tub since my injury.

* Buying my own groceries despite limping in with a crutch

* Walking to the end of the block

* New ankle brace arrived. Put shoe on, was able to walk almost like a normal person.

* A real dog walk on my sprained ankle, and it didn’t feel too bad.

* Walking on two good feet.


* Ham and eggs

* Tuna melt at Fishtails

* Turkey sandwich with cranberry sauce and iced tea

* Big salad with slices of linguica on top, Portuguese sweet bread on the side

* Marionberry pie with vanilla ice cream at The Chalet

 * Fresh-baked peanut butter cookies


* Kind words from an editor who called my novel a feel-good book and my writing masterful

* Reading my poems to the kids and parents in Siletz, feeling like a rock star

* I won a writing contest!

* Reading poems I wrote 34 years ago and finding them good

* Sitting in the sun writing a poem


* Creating a choir of strangers for the World Day of Prayer and making beautiful music from a few pages of words and notes

* Singing full out with mandolin, fiddles, and guitar all in perfect harmony at the South Beach jam

* Feeling the power of my fingers on the keys of a perfectly tuned piano


* Laughing with Dad on his 93rd birthday

* Stunning quiet of the coastal forest in soft spring sun. Moss-wrapped fir trees

* The first perfect pink camellia blooms appear on my neighbor’s bush

* Shiny new library books

* Nice repairman makes dryer hum

* Admiring the lawn I just mowed

* Reading and dozing in the loveseat by the fire with Annie sound asleep in my lap

* Spinning out on ice and surviving

* A great night’s sleep

* Doc says I’m healthy

Instead of a jar, this year I’m using a tall, sturdy box with sayings about dogs printed on it. A gift from a friend came in that box, which makes it all the more special.

Join me in saving those little moments. When life gets tough, we can reach in and remember that there are good things to celebrate every day. You’re welcome to share your “moments” here.

Happy New Year to everyone.


It’s hard to be invisible on crutches

It’s hard to hide crutches. I make my slow way across the church to the piano and feel the whole congregation staring. Afterward, parishioners surround me, full of questions and pity. “What did you do?Crutches” “Oh, poor you.” They can’t believe I came to church in my gimpy state.

“I didn’t hurt my fingers or my voice,” I protest.

I struggle into the grocery store, where I will become one of those old ladies leaning on her cart, and the checker calls out, “What did you do?” Near the bagels, a man from church hurries up, puts an arm around me and asks the same question: “What did you do?” In the bread aisle, another friend from church sees me. “Oh no!” she exclaims. She has done it, too; she doesn’t have to ask.

For those who missed last week’s post, I sprained my ankle three days after Christmas. I missed a step at a local restaurant and spent the next three hours in the emergency room. All dressed up in velvet and Christmas sparkles, I learned that you can do x-rays through black pantyhose and that rolling in a wheelchair feels great when you only have one leg to stand on. But everybody will be watching you.

At the doctor’s office for my follow-up visit on Friday, I got a different reaction when I unveiled my foot and ankle. “Wow! Look at all those colors!” the doc said. It was pretty impressive, a mosaic of black, red, purple, green and yellow. But at least it was shaped like a foot and I could now put some weight on it. We talked braces, splints and shoes, and the doc filled out a form so I could get my very own disabled parking permit. When I came out, the waiting room was full. Everybody watched me as I progressed slowly toward the door.

Next stop DMV. I crutched up to the desk when my number was called. “Guess what I need,” I said, feeling everybody watching.

I spent the first three days riding two crutches, unable to put my right foot down. My whole body hurt, it was impossible to carry anything bigger than a pencil, and I couldn’t imagine leaving the house. On New Year’s Day, I was able to put my foot on the floor. I played the morning Mass at church, then retired to my couch to watch U of O’s Ducks slaughter the Florida State Seminoles 59-20. I don’t normally watch much football, but it was something to do, and for four blessed hours, nobody was watching me or telling me yet again that sprains are worse than broken bones.

My crutches are big and ugly. I’m down to one and sometimes none at home. I’m getting better at squeezing my crutches into the car and restaurant booths without hitting anything or anybody. There’s just enough room on my pew behind the piano at church for my crutches and my butt. But I’ll be glad to put my crutches back in the closet and forget about them. I have a sporty new splint on order which I will be wearing indefinitely. It’s black, and I’m hoping people will stop noticing and yelling, “What did you do?”

I’m a private person. I don’t like this kind of attention, but I’m learning so many lessons. Yeah, watch where you’re going, you might say. That, too. But I’m learning again, after several years without a visible injury, what it’s like to be disabled. I am so grateful that this is temporary. By next month, I should have only a slight limp, the crutches history. But so many other people are stuck with their disabilities for much longer or forever, and it’s bloody hard. It’s also inconvenient. I never noticed before how few parking spaces are allowed for the handicapped, how bumpy our parking lots are, and how heavy so many doors are.

I wonder how many people are sitting at home needing groceries to be bought or chores to be done but can’t do it themselves and don’t have anyone they feel comfortable asking. My New Year’s resolution is to jump out of my comfort zone and call people who are ailing or hurt, especially those who live alone, and not just encourage them to ask for help but offer specific assistance, such as, “I’m going to the grocery store. What do you need?” Or, “How about if I do a load of laundry for you?”

Want to join me?

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