Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Picture Perfect

I spent the weekend in Independence with my Business Women of Missouri sisters. This year, I had the pleasure of taking the “official” photos for the group. I’ve taken the “unofficial” photos for several years. As usual, I got a little carried away and took more than five hundred photos. Well, now, that makes the selection process a little bit harder.

The most fun was taking group photos in front of the fireplace. My goal was to get the best and most flattering photos possible, so I borrowed a stepladder from the hotel. It was a little wobbly, but in true sisterly fashion, my friend Ann offered to steady the ladder. I knew the photo shoot was successful when one woman commented that I made the photo shoot “fun.” I enjoyed taking the photos and didn’t want to stress out this time because they were counting on me.

I’ve always enjoyed taking photos even when I had to send the film off to have it developed. I can remember how looking at the photos made me feel. Sometimes I was disappointed that the photo fell short of my expectations, and other times I took a little too much pride in how well I’d captured a moment.

My professional photographer friend Randy says good photography is about having an eye for the best shot, but mostly it’s about timing. Since the majority of my photos are sunsets, I’ve learned that timing is crucial. A little too soon and the sky isn’t colorful. A little too late and the sky turns to a shade of drab grey.

Yes, it is possible to take a beautiful photo of some not so beautiful moments, or maybe blurry photos of a peaceful, happy moment. Photos capture the stillness of a moment and can bring back the emotions we felt inside at that exact time. Smiles may hide a troubled heart, and others might look at the same photo and misunderstand the image.

Our memories are much like photos or short movie clips. From a distance, the past may be out of focus, and open to interpretation. How many times have you done something that mortified you, but years later that became one of the funny stories you tell? Yeah, me too!

On the flipside, we mull the could have, should haves. That would be those times we wronged another or made a mistake that had horrible consequences. To sin means to fall short of the mark, and we’ve all sinned. Even when others forgive us, we may never forgive ourselves.

The hardest thing I ever did in my life was to be a caregiver. I’d like to say that I was perfect in my role, but I wasn’t. In the still of the night, I try to convince myself that I did more things right than I did wrong, but why do the wrongs weigh so much heavier on my heart? It is easier for me to tell another caregiver to be forgiving of his or her mistakes than to heed my own advice.

We are only human. As much as we might admire the abilities of a superhero, they are fictional characters and we are not. We are the stars of our own reality show—and our own worst critic.

Nobody’s life is picture perfect, although we may look that way in photos. We each have faults, regrets, and imperfections too numerous to mention. Living doesn’t have the flat smooth surface of a photo. Living has depth, rough patches, pitfalls, and chasms. Life is messy, but it does have warmth, love, and a human touch that cannot be found in the most perfect photo.

Copyright © April 2018 by L.S. Fisher

Saturday, April 7, 2018

A Flannel Shirt Kind of Day

This morning I was getting ready to take the dog out and pondered what to wear during this cold snap. My eyes lit on an old flannel shirt. Yes, this was a flannel shirt kind of day.

As I pulled on the shirt, I thought about the history of this shirt. The frayed collar and the ripped shirttail were indications of a well-worn shirt. That’s not too odd considering the shirt had aged a quarter of a century, or more.

Jim and I both wore his flannel shirts on cool spring days when we were building our house. In fact, I believe the tear in this shirt came from catching the shirttail on a nail.   

On a day like today, Jim might have put on a flannel shirt, grabbed up his fishing pole, and headed to the lake. The fish always tasted better when the water was cold.

Fishing brought Jim a lot of enjoyment. I remember one time after he first started showing signs of dementia, he decided to go to Truman to fish. I went off to work, happy that he was going to enjoy the day.

I wrote about that day in my journal, and here is an excerpt from Indelible:

My co-worker Tammy thought I was out of the office, but when she called my cell phone, Jim answered.

She came into my office. “I think there’s something wrong with him,” she said. “He just didn’t sound right.” Jim’s plans for the day had been a trip to Truman Dam to fish.

I called his cell phone. “Where are you,” I asked him.

“Right here,” he said.

“Can you tell me where you are? What highway are you on?”               

“I’m on I-70,” he said, “and I have a friend with me.” I-70 was the opposite direction from Truman.

“What are you doing on I-70?” I asked.

“I’m taking my friend to Higginsville,” he said.

“Who is your friend?”

“I don’t know his name. He needed a ride home.”          

Jim was easily distracted and I was afraid to keep him talking while he was driving on the Interstate. I told him to call me as soon as he got home. Jim’s assurance that he knew this guy didn’t mean anything. If someone started a conversation with him, Jim thought that meant he knew the person.

Why I kept this flannel shirt out of all Jim’s shirts is a mystery. Apparently, when I sorted through his clothing to donate to Open Door, I didn’t consider this shirt worthy of charity.

I hadn’t worn the shirt in a long time and my dog was curious. She sniffed the sleeves as I fastened her leash to the harness. I thought maybe the shirt smelled funny from being in a drawer, but it smelled fine to me. It smelled of memories and younger days. If I used my imagination, it might have smelled of campfires and Colorado mornings.

So today, I am wrapped up in memories of flannel shirt days, wearing a shirt that should have been tossed in the ragbag twenty years ago. Minimalists warn us about this kind of hoarding.

I have a new ladies’ flannel shirt that isn’t threadbare or torn. So wouldn’t the logical thing be to toss this shirt? When I take it off tonight, it will be decision time. Do I throw it away or put it in the laundry? Trash or treasure? My mind says trash, but my heart says treasure. When in doubt, I follow my heart.

Copyright © April 2018 by L.S. Fisher

Monday, April 2, 2018

April? You Could Have Fooled Me

Well, Mother Nature pulled quite an April Fools’ joke on us. Here we were all celebrating spring when the weather did a complete about face.

I wanted to wear a dress to Easter services and even tried to psych myself up for a pedicure in case I decided to wear my sandals. Instead, I wore my boots and my winter coat. Sunday dawned with below freezing temperatures with wind chills thrown in for good measure.

That’s what happens when Easter Sunday falls on April Fools Day. Ma Nature thinks she’s a jokester. Just to make a point, we had that good old thunder snow, wintery mixture falling all over the place during the afternoon.

For some reason, Sunday seemed so long that I kind of thought we’d moved right into Tuesday. As I pulled myself out of a sound sleep Monday morning, I couldn’t seem to lift my body out of bed. I propped myself up on pillows, glanced at my cell phone, and then  pulled the blanket up over me and thought about the month ahead.

April has always been the month of taxes, conferences, and enjoying the signs of nature’s rejuvenation. It is also a month that catches me off guard at one time or another. Today was that day. I lay in bed thinking about the memories I can’t let go.

April 5, 1970, was the day Jim came home from Vietnam. We celebrated his “homecoming” by making it a special day for him. I know one year we forgot our wedding anniversary, but we never forgot his homecoming. It was a happy day when he came back to the “world.” Happy days make sad memories. Homecoming day never passes that I don’t think of him.

April 18, 2005, he left the world for a better place. That didn’t make it any easier for the people who loved him. Just thinking about that day, makes my heart hurt.

If I’m going to make it through April without letting it get me down, I’m going to have to accentuate the positive. I know sunshine will eventually chase away the gloomy skies and cold weather. Mother Nature will get back on her meds and show us some sunshine, blue skies, and cotton-candy clouds. Of course, we might have a few random thunderstorms and tornadoes thrown in the mix for excitement.

It is springtime—time for daffodils, tulips, irises, and lilacs to bloom. The birds will be tweet-tweedle-tweeting every morning.

In the meantime, I’d really like to take the dog out without bundling up like it’s a cold January day. Hey, Mother Nature, I’m calling you out. This is April 2 and the weather is still miserable. I remember a rhyme from school when someone played a joke a day late. “April Fools is already past, and you’re the biggest fool at last!”  It’s not nice when Mother Nature acts like a fool.

Copyright © April 2018 by L.S. Fisher