“Knee Bone Connected to the …”

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My left knee gets sore from time to time. Thirty years ago, when it first was aggravated, I saw a sports medicine doctor who prescribed very effective exercises. Of course, when it was better I stopped doing them. Periodically I would remember that there had been something that helped and I would find the old exercises.

Once I moved to Connecticut, I had elbow pain and went to see an orthopedic doctor. He unhelpfully suggested surgery to “see what is going on.” Instinctively, I knew this was not a route for me. I found an osteopathic sports medicine doctor who diagnosed poor sitting posture  causing the elbow pain. Sure enough, with new exercises my elbow recovered.

But osteopathy? What the heck? We had a neighbor who was an osteopath and my mother always said he was a quack, not a REAL doctor. But she was very misinformed as it turns out. Osteopaths go through full medical school training, internship and residency and are fully licensed to do all things medical. The main difference is that they look at the whole structure of the body instead of just one part.

While that first osteopath left to go teach at the medical school, I met another excellent one last month to examine my once again aching knee. This time he told me that my problem was really coming from my hip and prescribed a series of new exercises. They have allowed me to return to almost my full routine at the gym.

Of course I can’t stop humming that old song about Ezekiel and the bones.

“Pick a Tree–Any Tree”

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This afternoon my husband, two grandchildren and their babysitter drove into central Connecticut to cut down our Christmas tree. The little house above holds a wood stove, hot chocolate and friendly people to warm up with after trekking around outside in frigid weather looking for the perfect tree.

Now clearly with five people exploring acres of trees the task of settling on just one takes a while. Any pick had to be unanimously approved(whose idea was that? oh yeah-mine). Many were too tall or too wide to fit in the corner of our living rooms. Others were lopsided(according to a veto vote) or scraggly(in the eye of another veto vote) or crooked(my veto). The babysitter added the helpful tip that presents needed to fit under the tree, eliminating ones with boughs to the ground. Finally the cold won out and we all agreed that one tree was just fine. I headed for the warming hut while the others took turns with the saw(helpfully provided by the farm.) The place had a device to squish the tree into netting so it could go in or on the car. This year’s went on the car since the back of the van had passengers.

Many people we know have fake trees. They don’t call them fake of course since that is derogatory. But we lived in Oregon for many years and they were called fake, looked down on, and generally scorned and mocked. After all, we were The Evergreen State and needed to stay faithful. Fortunately our town picks up discarded real trees curbside after Epiphany Sunday and chips them into yard bark, available for residents to pick up for landscaping. So a farmer makes some money in the winter, we have the smell of a real tree, and the tree gets usefully recycled.

We will be back at “Charlie Brown’s Christmas Tree Farm”(its real name) next December to repeat the search.

“Listen Up”

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As I mentioned when writing about Harry Potter, I often listen to books, especially fiction. This habit started when my daughter lived several hours away. I would listen to books on cassette tapes from the library on my long drive. But I still preferred to read books on paper. My next car didn’t have a cassette drive, so I took to listening to satellite radio instead. My book listening days were over I thought.

Years later I bought an IPod and learned to download music. The local library also offered a way to download books for free. Intrigued by the possibility, I tried it. I had always believed I read too quickly to be patient as a book was read to me, but I liked it more than I thought I would.

But the best feature of audio books turned out to be bedtime harmony. My husband goes to bed a couple of hours before me since he rises very early. I could read downstairs and miss his company, or I could spend two hours awake in the dark next to him. Neither was very appealing. But audio books saved my marriage(not really, but I like the sound of that as an advertisement.) Now we get into bed together, turn out the lights and he sleeps while I listen to my book. Now about his snoring!!

“Harry Potter Without Me”

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I was born long after the Harry Potter series, and my children were past the Harry Potter stage when the books came out. My older grandchild has read all seven books, totally a gizillion pages it seems. I was happily staying Harry Potter ignorant until we decided on a family vacation this February to Orlando, Florida where my daughter has a training. The kids are dying to go to Universal Studios Orlando, home of—you guessed it-The World of Harry Potter.

I could spend hours touring the Wizarding World, but I would have no idea of what the excitement meant. So I decided to break down and actually read the books for myself. Since I listen to many fiction texts instead of reading them in print, I downloaded the first volume last night and am a third of the way through it. While I doubt I will have the stamina to listen to probably 60 hours to get through the series, I thought I could at least start.

Reader, I married him. Not really, but I always wanted to use that line from “Jane Eyre.” What is true is that the book delights me, taking me back to the time I easily entered into the world of wizards, magic, flying and good and evil in combat. And I hope to be able to scream with joy when we visit Harry’s wizarding world.

“Make New Friends”

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Here the neighbor boy and I think about interacting over a pan. I am not sure if I have just removed it from him or if he is about to grab it from me. At any rate, it shows that all our lives making friends requires both give and take. An old camp song goes,”Make new friends, But keep the old, One is silver, But the other gold.” I have been reflecting on this lately.

We moved 3000 miles away from my circle of friends 17 years ago. But my closest friends are still those I made then. Fortunately we can talk for free now that long distance rates have plummeted. We can even see each others’ faces when we talk, though no one wants to look at the other early in the morning, so we don’t. Fortunately also, each friend has come out several times for long visits or trips together.

But while I remain committed to making new friends, in those 17 years I have managed to really connect with only two women. It turns out that making friends in one’s 60’s and now 70’s is a lot more complicated than just saying, “Let’s be friends.” I was encouraged yesterday by a long lunch with a new friend-to-be. It would be lovely to have a new friend. But it took at least ten years to really establish deep friendships in the past. So I hope that it is still possible. It’s worth the effort for sure.

“Public Shaming”

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The Puritans of New England found a way to publicly shame transgressors of their standards. They put people in the public square in this device seen above. Passersby could scold, berate or shame the offenders. I remember learning of this in school and being very grateful that this practice was extinct.

The other day at the gym I noticed a headline on a television about “fat shaming.” Because the mute was on, I have no idea what the story was about. However, it made me realize that in our internet obsessed, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram bathed culture we have managed to reinstitute public shaming. From the woman who took a picture of another woman in a locker room and posted it saying the woman was “disgustingly fat,” to the refusal of a waitress to serve a member of the White House press office, we have managed to use public shaming to wound others once more.

Shaming others seems to be a great way to feel superior. “At least I would never(fill in the blank) like that person. We have found ways to shame others for their looks, their opinions, their religious beliefs and their language. We can act as informants without even leaving home, by just snapping a picture and posting it. We can look at magazines at the checkout stands of the grocery store which take delight in shaming celebrities.

We can maintain that we are far removed from our Puritan forebears, but we delude ourselves. Shaming is cowardly, whether done in person or on line. Let’s call it out when we hear it. But let’s not shame the person who’s doing the shaming. How about simply “that isn’t very kind?”

“Gracious or Polite?”

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Years ago I took a “spiritual gifts” quiz that was to evaluate where my skills would be of most use at church. I scored very low on something called “hospitality,” mostly I think because it confused working on luncheons with genuine graciousness, a better word for the virtue of welcoming. I have often been confused myself about graciousness, believing it had something to do with the dinner parties of my parents.

I believe, however, that graciousness comes from the heart and is not the same as entertaining. It is a welcoming approach to others, an invitation to draw close and share their presence. Being polite is certainly a good trait drilled into us from our childhood. Of course we should not call names, shun others, slam doors in their faces or demean their beliefs. But graciousness towards others partners with humility. It recognizes that we are all “strangers in a strange land” and all could use a welcome smile.

Graciousness seems to  me to be the best response to the homeless I meet on the streets. I try to make eye contact and acknowledge the person’s humanity. I will probably not invite them for dinner, but that doesn’t diminish my gracious gesture. And when I encounter people in my life I really struggle with, I hope to move from polite acknowledgement to a genuine welcome. I will need a little more forbearance to get there!