noticing joy on the surface of simple things … the evidence of holiness happening in the daily grind.

No Ants, No Pants May 15, 2016

I tried on a pair of jeans that cost $187.  They were free to try on.  The adorable redhead who rocked those jeans chattered on to me about their qualities and benefits the whole time I struggled to pour my fifty-one year old body into them.  I ask you:  “Should one have to pour, pull, push, jump, suck, hold breath in, yank, and sweat to get into a pair of the correct size jeans that cost one hundred and eighty seven dollars?”  The fabric felt weighted and silky, drapey and stretchy.  Supposedly, they would not leave baggy spots where you bend (if you could bend), after hours of wear.  That’s the benefit of such a perfect denim made sustainably, produced scientifically, ensuring rich quality.  When I looked in the mirror, I thought the jeans looked painted on.  Can a woman over fifty wear painted on style jeans without embarrassing her daughters or herself?  If the painted style pour-yourself-in jeans had been marked down from $187.00 to $18.70 would it be a good idea to wear those in public?  I asked myself this in the dressing room.  My answer and the knowledgable twenty-something answer were completely opposite.  She said the jeans looked fantastic on me.   Ha…of course she would say that.  Shes PAID to say that.  I did not agree.

Two weeks later I took my pants off.  Not the expensive jeans – I did actually get those off in the store and left them there, I mean I took off my long-legged pants that do fit.  The temperature outside was 70’s warm after long months of 20’s cold.  Suddenly everyone had on completely different clothing.  Including me.  I exchanged the pants for capris – or ‘caprants’ as re-named by my friend Heidi, whose daughter thinks capris are silly.  Well Miss Mackenna, they are NOT silly, they are necessary for the greater good of humanity when one has leg skin that needs constant ironing.  It it much more appropriate to wear ‘caprants’ than short skirts at this stage of life in order to maintain personal modesty and public decorum.  You’re welcome.

Two days later, I put pants back on.

My new state of Michigan has a lot of surprises up its sleeve.  I’m not certain I will become fond of the morning surprise of sunshine.  I would prefer that to be reliable, a regular occurence not a rarity.  This is the first spring I’ve been a resident and I am gathering you go outside and do outside things when the sun is outside for tomorrow it may not be.  Today I tried three times to go outside when I saw the sun.  We started a neighborhood walk to peruse the garage sales, but it ended at block two with sudden rain and dare I say hail; possibly MI spring snow nuggets?  I’ll ask around to confirm.  By the third time I went out in a car, the garage sale hosts had given up and gone inside.  I did score a crooked floor lamp for $15.  Looks great in the spare room standing mostly straight in the corner.  Beside garage sale shopping, I wanted to get in the dirt.  My goal all week was to go outside and reduce the amount of mint that is growing and tame the fern in my gardens.    One week I had no fern.  Next week, fern farm.  I have no previous experience with mint or fern.  What I can confidently say after one partial spring, is they are both fast and hearty growers.  Clearly, they don’t need the sun like us humans do.   I’m not sure I will meet the plant reduction goal today.   Unless…I go out in the clouds with long pants, coat and mittens.

Ants.  Michigan, I need to ask you, do ants thrive here too?  I keep a relatively clean house.  Not “dutch clean” like my mom, but pretty clean.  One time in Florida we had a rat.  In My Kitchen Cupboards.  I discovered the rat before I discovered its feces in every single solitary drawer in my large kitchen.  I came undone, unravelled, repulsed, devastated that such filth touched the things I cook with.  And I kept a clean kitchen.  We also lived on the water and the rats apparently lived in the roof of the building with occasional drop downs into human dwellings. I threw our cat in the cupboard where the rat was and shut the door.  Crickets.  Fifteen minutes later (that’s long enough to take care of a rat right?), she sauntered out as if she was done using the bathroom.  She did not choose to pursue the rat.  Worthless cat…  The rat clean up project required the man of the townhouse; and later, flowers in all the drawers for therapeutic reasons. No more rat ever.  But now I have MI ants.  I’ve tried several removal tactics including letting them go outside.   When I opened my sugar bowl to scoop the raw sugar into my first cup of morning coffee and there is an ant flailing around I put my foot down, picked up the phone and called my mom.   She poo-pooed all previous ant removal systems and said get Tero.  24 hours after Tero tactic, no ants.  I hope ants are like the rat and not one of Michigan’s ongoing surprises.

Wooden shoe dancers, tulip lined streets in Holland, Fricano’s pizza, the Cone Shops soft lemon twist cones; the pure sound of Calvin Alumni Choir,  Stella’s burgers and chronic fries, Grand Rapids Opera, Marie Catribs, Fulton Heights neighborhood, the people of Art Of The Table,  solid-friendly, healthy-growing Encounter Church, Women and Wine, Grand Rapids Main Library, the acoustics of Cathedral of St. Andrews, generous beauty of all that is colorful and blooming are some of the Michigan surprises working to convince me to stay, belong, engage.  The increasing list of good surprises far surpasses the unpleasant.  The sense of settling down is happening.  I may weigh more than I want, battle fatigue more than I like, and am more conversant in grief than I’d prefer.  Those things accompanied me here.   But this new state is kindly meeting me with a sweet place to heal and renew.  Ants, clouds and tight pants, you might live here, but despite you I believe some really great new is happening.

Better than being surprised, I am so very thankful.


Day 21: Sal, The Boys, And A Rainy Day October 22, 2013

Final Button 3Grocery Shopping is my staple happy space.  It was distressing when I didn’t find happy in the space people do grocery shopping nearby.  It’s not possible to pinpoint all the reasons why, but the grocery stores here are different enough in price, people, & etiquette that I would describe my early shopping as uncomfortable and unpleasant.

That is until I stepped inside The Boys.

Boys-Farmers-Market-Delray-Beach-FL-009If you notice the middle part of the sign – it says “Fresh Squeezed OJ Daily”.  One day I couldn’t resist driving by without getting some.  I pulled in the parking lot excited about Florida fresh squeezed citrus.  They have OJ a plenty and better yet – grapefruit!  But the juice was only the beginning of fresh squeezed happiness I found there.

Every visitor we’ve had gets to go on a field trip to The Boys.  Not everyone appreciates it like I do but I guarantee a unique experience.  I’ll give you, my reader, a virtual field trip.

The Boys  is a permanent indoor farmers market that  opened in 1988 by a family from NYC.  The first part of the experience  is getting into the lot and finding a place to park, without starting a scuffle or getting hit by a car.  As you enter from the road, there is a curb on your right with signs every 5 feet stating “NO PARKING ANY TIME” .  The whole curb is lined with cars.  All the time.   When you turn left into the lot, you have to use mad driving skills.  This lot is filled with impatient people, shouldn’t-have-a-license drivers, and mini carts scattered haphazardly.  I’ve learned the wisdom of heading for the North lot where its safer.

When you get near the door there is a table of $1.00 bags of fruits/veggies.  What is available changes daily so I always make a quick stop.  I’m certain most people have heard of “shopping the perimeter” to make the healthiest choices as most boxed, bagged, canned, and processed foods occupy the isles.  The Boy’s is counter-cultural as the center of the store – every isle – is stacked with fresh fruits and vegetables.  Last week I believe there were twenty plus varieties of apples; there are six or seven types of eggplant; mounds of tomatoes of every size and shape; piles of melons and a lady who cuts fresh slices off one for you to try.  There is fruit that looks like sea urchins, vegetables that appear alien, all of it delights every fiber of my being.

When you enter the store and turn right you walk through the bakery.  The cheese lady stands above her case of  specialty cheese and will slice  you up a sample.  When you turn left there are mountains of berries and cut up fruit station.  Next comes the coffee bean bar with the NJ coffee lady who begins with her brusque “what can I get you” and ends up sharing personal stories with me along with her coffee recommendation.  The back wall of the store has the $4.99 wine section next to the fresh OJ and grapefruit case and the beautiful meat counter.  There are 2 long hot bars with “prepared food” which must be a NY thing.  I see people stock up on containers of all types of main dish goodies from there.  Turn the corner again and the wall of seafood goes 1/2 way to the front of the store.  The other 1/2 is everything green and leafy.  The last side of the store has side by side check out isles and behind those, against the wall, are shelves of seasonings, sauces,  & specialty soda.

We arrived in So. FL during the unofficial beginning of Season.  (Season is when the snowbirds from way up North come way down South).  When Season is in full swing (January through Easter), the population doubles.   By the time I hit The Boys for the first time, it was November and plenty busy.  Taking a cart, though they are very small, proved to be impossible.  Waiting for my turn to move down the aisle – ridiculous.  I learned to take one basket on my arm that I could lift over my head as I twisted through the pushy cart pushers.  I smile and enjoy choosing each item that goes into my basket.  I am polite, but there is no room for long conversation.   Shoppers at The Boys are not conversation kind of people.

Several months into my trips to The Boys I came on a rainy day.  There was space in the parking lot, space in the aisles.   I returned my basket and grabbed a cart.  I said hi to Sal, one of the friendly store managers.  We shared a laugh as I told him about watching the man who got caught stealing a cart of groceries, quite the caper.   Sal shared it’s not uncommon for people to come in with their own plastic bags, fill them up (with the basics like shrimp, smoked fish, expensive cheese), and head out the door as if they paid.  After being in South Florida for nearly a year, that type of event surprises but doesn’t shock me anymore.  I mentioned to him that I was able to use a cart, a rare treat between November and May.  Sal explained the mystery and let me in on a helpful secret:  “It’s a rainy day.  You will always be able to use a cart on a rainy day, and before 8:00 am or after 5 pm.”

Thanks Sal, I love your fresh squeezed OJ and grapefruit juice, your produce, fresh local extra-large eggs,  the cheese lady and .99 cent cavatapi.  I’ve found my happy space again, during busy season, during the summer and even on a rainy day.


Julia August 1, 2013

Filed under: Authenticity,Grief,Humor,Laughter,Loss,mental health,Sisters,Suffering — lauradegroot @ 4:12 am

“Happy Birthday to you…Happy Birthday dear Juuuulia.  #40 is a Big One.  Mom thinks you would have chosen Brats or Mexican food for your birthday supper.  I think I would have given you a great new purse.  Jeffy and Sara are visiting with the little ones – we know you would have been so glad they were theer on your special day.  I wonder if Jim would have sent you black roses like he did on my 40th birthday?  I don’t know what type of cake you liked best.   Just thinking about picking out a card for you makes me giggle…                     Love Laura”

(excerpt from a birthday letter, July 30, 2013)

I think its important to celebrate the day people were born.  No life is random.  I’d like to celebrate my sister Julia’s 40th birthday by sharing a little of her best with others.

She could laugh till she snorted.  Which made other people laugh too.  She was one who knew great sadness but also able to laugh with gusto.  It was contagious when she was with my girls.  I am not certain what she did, but she consistently produced snot, toot, and tear producing laughter when Lauren and Lyndsay were in her presence.

Following a women’s retreat she attended, she called me to share what I must do every day to improve loving myself, just the way I was made.  Her instructions were, “Stand in front of the mirror naked, look at yourself, raise your hands in the air and announce loudly, ‘I AM A MASTERPIECE’!”

I tried it.  I still do on occasion. I’m not sure my self-image improves, but it always makes me laugh.  Go ahead and give it a shot – you’ll know just what I mean!

Julia suffered so much for so long.  Yet in some of her toughest  days spent in offices, clinics, units, hospitals,  she engaged with the suffering.  She went where the sad and lonely, bruised and confused were because those parts of herself were not hidden behind masks.  And though she was frightened by parts of life, she was courageous in this place – a place where I, maybe you avoid because we are frightened by it.   She shared  kind words.  She shared the Good News.  She shared herself not out of pity for others, but from a simple authenticity of one who isn’t afraid of others who hurt.  The world needs more authentic people and less wearing masks.

Maybe the best of her best is a legacy she leaves.  It is being gleaned and repeated by our wise mother who loved Julia

the  longest

the best

the most.

Julia did the best she could.

Honestly, how can I, how can anyone do any more or better than that?

Then why do we all try so hard to?

“Julia, I’m sorry for my part in trying to ‘help’ you or push  you to be someone you were not; to do something more or less than what you could do.  It was selfish; I wanted you to get better.  I believe now,  you did do your best.  You were the very best Julia you could be.  I so admire that about you, though wish I had realized it sooner.   I will try to head in that direction too.  It may take a few more trips to the mirror naked,  and taking off a mask or two, but I hope I can do it as well as you did.  Way To Go SISTER!

Happy Birthday Jules.

Love Laura”

Julia left earth, circled by family song, story, prayer, and love and moved into her Mansion –  a perfect place prepared just for her on October 15, 2011.



wa·ter·shed (noun) 1. an area or ridge of land that separates waters flowing to different rivers, basins, or seas. 2. an event or period marking a turning point, a change of course.

Life with Emily and Matt

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noticing joy on the surface of simple things … the evidence of holiness happening in the daily grind.

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noticing joy on the surface of simple things … the evidence of holiness happening in the daily grind.

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