Friendly Skies

Middle Seat

It turns out that your neighbor on the plane/bus/train (or the person sitting at the next table at the coffee shop) is a very, very chatty tourist. Do you try to switch seats, go for a non-committal brief small talk, or make this person your new best friend?

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Hoping for the best, Millie made her way down the aisle toward her row.  She knew she had a middle seat.  She didn’t mind, really, as long as the people on either side weren’t enormous, or didn’t smell bad. She could even tolerate a chatty person. There were ways to deal with that, when you didn’t want to talk any more.

Okay, here we go.  Row 28, seat D in the center section.  It was apparently going to be a full flight. Most of the seats were already filled, and people were still filing onto the plane.

Oh dear.  Both her neighbors were already in their seats. She was going to have to climb over the little old lady sitting to her right. She looked too frail to move much. Millie stowed her carry-on in the space overhead, and smiled down at her seatmate.

“Ma’am, I’m sorry I’m going to have to climb over you.  I’ll try to be careful.”

She got no response, not any indication that the lady heard her. Millie thought that was odd.  Maybe the lady was deaf.  Gently, she touched the  frail shoulder that was covered by a soft pink sweater. Startled, the lady looked up at her through coke-bottle lenses, seeming to be a bit frightened, even.  Millie smiled.

“Hi, I’m Millie.  I’m in the seat beside you, and I’m sorry, but I’m going to have to climb over you.  I’ll be careful.”

No response.

“Well,” thought Millie, “I tried!”  She bent across the lady and stowed her purse under the seat in front of hers, then carefully stepped past the lady and sat down. She got her seatbelt buckled, grabbed her book out of her bag, and prepared to enjoy a good read.

She glanced at the guy on her other side, and found him to be sound asleep.  His head lolled to his left, and his jaw hung open.  No snoring, thank goodness!

She began to read, enjoying the light comedy/romance for the relaxation it was intended to provide. After a few minutes, she felt a tentative tap on her arm. She glanced up, her ready smile already blooming, when she noticed the tear trickling down the wrinkled, powdered cheek.

“Oh dear!  What’s the matter?  How can I help?” asked Millie, wondering what on earth she was dealing with.

“I’m so sorry, dear. I’m embarrassed to ask, but you see I’m nearly blind, and I don’t hear very well, and. . .well, I need to use. . .you know. . .and I don’t know where it is.”

“Oh, please, don’t feel bad about asking.  I’m very glad to help you.  I’m afraid we’re going to have to wait a few minutes, though, because we’re about ready for takeoff and the seat belt lights are on. Will you be ok for a few more minutes?  If you’re really in trouble, we can ask a stewardess for help.”

“No,” sighed the lady.  “I’ll be fine if it’s not too long. Thank you so much.  I’m Adelia, by the way.  What did you say your name is?”

“I’m Millie.  It should be about five minutes, and then we can get up and find the restroom.”

Adelia blushed. Millie thought it was adorable that her new friend was so shy about having to use the facilities.  She didn’t think anyone was embarrassed about those things any more

Millie waited, wondering if Adelia would have anything more to say, but she remained silent. Takeoff went smoothly, and after about five minutes, Millie leaned over and asked if Adelia was ready.

“Yes, dear, but I can’t seem to undo this seat belt.  Can you help me?”

“Of course.”  Millie expertly flipped the buckle, and then undid her own. “Do you need help standing up?”

“No, thank you, dear.  I can stand, but I’m a little unsteady on my pins. If you could just stay close and maybe hold my hand?”

“Sure. Come on, we’ll find the restroom.”

Millie and Adelia had passed four rows of seats when a young man suddenly stood up and stepped right in front of them.

“Grandma!  What’s going on?  Who’s this woman? Are you ok?  I knew I should have insisted on trading seats with whoever was next to you!”

“Oh, Jeffrey, calm down!  I’m fine.  This young lady is my seatmate. Her name is Millie, and I asked her to help me find the. . . the. . .um. . . .restroom. She’s been very sweet. There’s nothing to worry about.”

Jeffrey didn’t seem so sure.  Millie assessed him pretty quickly as a take-charge kind of a guy who wasn’t going to let some stranger mess with his grandma. She smiled, held out her hand, and said, “I’m Millie.  I’m glad to help your grandmother, but if you’d like to take her the rest of the way, I’ll just leave her in your hands and go back to my seat.”

Jeffrey took her hand, holding it in a firm grip while he made his own assessment. She wondered what he was thinking as his gaze traveled from her eyes to her smile, feeling a flush spread up her neck and cheeks as the seconds crept by.

“No, that’s ok.  I was just surprised to see her with a stranger.  Thanks for helping her. She’s important to me.”

Millie waited by the door while Adelia tended to business, and then, holding hands, the two women made their way back to their row.  Millie went in first, guiding Adelia back into her seat and helping her with her seatbelt. Settling back and buckling her own belt, she glanced at her other seatmate and was completely startled to find herself staring into the very much awake blue eyes of Adelia’s grandson.

“I made a switch,” Jeffrey said. “Hope you don’t mind.  I felt  like it was a good idea for me to get to know a person who was so kind to my grandmother. So, where are you headed?”

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/middle-seat/

A Day to Myself

Nothin’ But A Good Time

Imagine that tomorrow, all of your duties and obligations evaporate for the day. You get the day all to yourself, to do anything you please. What types of fun activities would make your day?

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It’s today!  Terry took two of the grandkids fishing, and I’m ALL BY MYSELF IN MY HOUSE!!  Oh frabjous day!  Caloo, calay! No clients to see today.  Everyone is on vacation, I guess, getting it done before school starts.

See, I’m not hard to please. It is so rare that I get to be home all by myself!  I’m playing music on my Bose, and no one is talking over top of it.  I’m going to fix breakfast in a few minutes, and have exactly what I want.  I’m not dressed yet, and that’s cool.  No one is here to care or notice.

I’m going to read. I might even see what morning TV has to offer.

Later, I’ll have to put a meal on the table for the mighty fishermen, but that’s not a chore.  They’ll be full of stories about their day, and it will be fun.

For me?  A day to myself is the BEST thing in the world!

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/nothin-but-a-good-time/

Two Trips

In the Summertime

If it’s autumn or winter where you live, what are you most looking forward to doing next summer? If it’s spring or summer where you are, what has been the highlight of the season so far for you?

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In mid-April, two of my closest friends and I took a trip to Gulf Shores, Alabama. You can read all about it here from April 10-17.

Next up?  A mission trip to Slovakia with a team from my church. I’m leaving Friday to spend a little over a week there, and  you can follow that adventure here starting Friday or Saturday, as I have time and access to wifi.  That means I won’t be posting on this blog for a little over a week, and I’m going to miss reading all the daily prompt responses.  Pretty sure I’m going to be too busy, and probably worn out as well 🙂

This photo is from the High Tatras.  I don’t think we’ll be going there, but it’s so beautiful I decided to include it.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/in-the-summertime/

Honesty Doesn’t Have to be Brutal

Handle With Care

How are you at receiving criticism? Do you prefer that others treat you with kid gloves, or go for brutal honesty?

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(Today’s prompt, https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/truth-or-dare/, is essentially the same prompt as we had on Sept. 24, 2014.  Here is the way I responded then; nothing has changed )

I got plenty of the brutal honesty thing growing up, so no, it doesn’t appeal to me very much.  But, as I said in my title, honesty doesn’t have to be brutal.  If criticism comes from someone I know cares about me; if it is given in a spirit of concern and kindness, then I’m fine with it.  Some of the best advice I’ve ever received has been given in the form of loving, caring criticism.

It’s never easy to hear criticism.  Most of us, I think, would like to believe that we don’t deserve it 🙂  What I’ve learned, over the years, is to toss out the snarky kind and treasure that which is meant to help and encourage. I’ve grown a thicker skin, learned to sort out the good, the bad and the ugly. I’ve also developed pretty good radar.  I usually know the difference between well-intentioned and just mean.

And that’s all good, because in my work I am often called upon to say things my clients don’t always want to hear.  Years ago, someone told me, “Linda, you can say almost anything you need to say and it will be accepted if you say it with a genuine smile.  If people know you care, you can tell the truth.”  He said this to me after putting me in a place of leadership that would indeed require me to deal with difficult situations now and then.  It was an excellent piece of advice, and one I’ve tried to follow through the years.

Honesty doesn’t have to be brutal.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/truth-or-dare/

Three Shots

Take a subject you’re familiar with and imagine it as three photos in a sequence. Tackle the subject by describing those three shots.

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First Shot:  The new client looks up from her iPhone as I come down the stairs.  The expression on her face is apprehensive, shut-down, and scared. Her eyes are shadowed.  There is no smile. As I speak her name, she gathers up her things. I extend my hand, introducing myself, and invite her up to my office.  She follows, saying nothing. I’m already pretty sure I know what her story is.

Second Shot: I’ve gone through the preliminaries, started my paperwork, done my best to make her comfortable. Chit-chat about the weather, her cute shoes, anything to put her more at ease. She sits perched on the very edge of the sofa, in the farthest corner away from me, rigid.

Third Shot: She has told me an abbreviated version of the purpose of her visit.  I’m picking up cues from her body language, her downward glances when she’s avoiding the real truth, her rigid posture on the edge of the sofa as if she’s poised to run.  When she finally stops talking and looks up at me, I say to her, “Who molested you?  Was it a family member?”  The third picture is of her astonished face, tears welling and pouring down her cheeks, her body caving inward as she absorbs the fact that I’ve seen through her words to the truth in such a short period of time.

I wish there were a fourth, fifth and sixth shot.  They would show her beginning the long, difficult process of healing, of accepting that what happened to her was monstrous and ugly and changed her forever; that it was NOT her fault, no matter what her abuser told her; that she CAN rid herself of the guilt (false) and fear (overwhelming) that she will turn around and molest her own child, that she is somehow evil because of what was done to her.

And the final shot would be of her strong, look-you-right-in the-eye face several months later as she puts her shoulders back, smiles, and walks out of my office for the last time with a spring in her step and a determination that she will live a normal life, free of the evil that her molester introduced into her heart when she was too little to defend herself.

She is a survior. She is a champion.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/three-perfect-shots/

Sir Wisdom: A Morality Tale

Tell us about something that happened to you in real life last week — but write it in the style of a fairy tale.

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Once upon a time, not so very long ago, a kind and benevolent queen lived in a pleasant palace with her equally kind and benevolent king. They were no longer young. They had reared their precious princes and princesses, who were all married themselves now and living in other palaces, giving kind and benevolent reigns to their kind and benevolent subjects.

One day the queen, whose name was Benevolence (Bennie to her closest friends) decided she would love to do some writing.  Perhaps she would write a book all about what it was like to be a queen in a pleasant palace, married to an equally kind and benevolent king, whose name was Able (short for Amiable).

So Queen Bennie set about the task of writing her book. She required piles of parchment, and baskets of goose quills.  She ordered ink to be made that would fill a tub, and she had a desk specially built to fit her perfectly, with a matching chair. All of this was set up in a special room with  windows that followed the rising and setting of the sun so that there would be natural light for Queen Bennie.  Her eyesight was failing, you see.

Day after day she wrote, while her servants took each roll of parchment when she had filled it up. They stretched each one out to dry, treating all of them with special  potions that would keep them supple and strong. As each one dried, it was rolled up into a scroll and stacked tidily in a book box.

One day, the queen grew restless. She was having trouble thinking what to write next. She even became a tiny bit less benevolent, and she ordered her court wise man to be brought into her presence.

“Sir Wisdom, you must give me a prompt!  I seem to have run out of things to say.  Please, Sir, give me an idea!  Immediately, if you please!”

Sir Wisdom bowed low before looking up at his Queen. “Madame, I shall have an idea for you in the morning, promptly at 8 a.m. Until then, why don’t you rest, walk in the gardens, enjoy some fresh fruit?”

“Sir Wisdom, I shall be waiting!  If you do not have an idea for me at 8 a.m. tomorrow,  you will be very, very sorry!”

The next morning dawned with a clear sky, the twitter of busy birds, and the bustle of scurrying servants as the morning meal, morning baths, morning dressing rituals and morning cleaning were observed.  Finally Queen Bennie was ready to meet Sir Wisdom.

At precisely 8 o’clock, the queen sat upon her throne, tapping her toe and drumming her fingers on the arm of her cushioned seat.  Sir Wisdom was nowhere in sight.

“Where is he?  Has anyone gone to look for him?  I can’t wait much longer!  He is late!  I have work to do!

At 8:30, when the queen’s patience had disappeared, Sir Wisdom came rushing in. He knelt at the Queen’s feet, begging her forgiveness for his tardiness, and confessing that he hadn’t yet thought of a really good idea for her. He trembled, knowing she was a woman of her word. She was about to make him very, very sorry.

“Sir Wisdom, because you have failed me, you will spend the rest of your miserable days  wandering from country to country. As you travel, you will be required to give an intelligent answer to anyone who may stop you and ask you a question. If you fail to respond, the questioner may do with you as he pleases.  Now, begone!

And Sir Wisdom was banished forever from the kingdom. In fact, he ended up being banished pretty regularly.  He just couldn’t seem to come up with ideas for anyone, and he was almost always late.

And he did not live happily ever after.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/once-upon-a-time/

Written by Hand

When was the last time you wrote something substantive — a letter, a story, a journal entry, etc. — by hand? Could you ever imagine returning to a pre-keyboard era?

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Abby sat at her pretty white desk. She had laid out half-a-dozen pens, arranging them in a perfect row like soldiers standing at attention for inspection. She had her favorite pink stationery in front of her, and she was ready to write.

She just didn’t know how to say what she needed to say.

Her laptop sat closed on its own special stand. Should she just type it?  Wouldn’t that be faster?  Then she could send it via email and it would be done.

But when you have to send this kind of letter, it needed to be personal.  It needed to show respect, and kindness, and a memory of pleasant times.  That’s why she’d chosen this stationery.  It wasn’t fancy, just  plain paper in graduated shades of light pink. It felt airy, cool, and personal.

As she sat gazing out her window, Abby reflected on the last couple of years.  There had been so many good time, both serious and fun. Outings and quiet evenings at home with her family or his.  She knew he was very serious about her, and it broke her heart to have to tell him the truth. It was time, though.  Way past time. She loved him, but not the way he wanted her to.

She had always been honest with him. She admired him for his character, his kindness, his love for his family. He knew she wasn’t in love with him at first, but he hoped that would change as they got to know each other better.  Abby had tried. She really had.  People kept telling her how lucky she was to have such a fine, upstanding young man courting her.

But there was no excitement in her heart at the prospect of seeing him. In fact, she had begun to dread spending time with him because she knew without a doubt that he wasn’t “The One.”  He was a friend, but he wasn’t the one that made her pulse leap and her stomach flutter. Someone else did that, and it was time to do what needed to be done.

Sighing, Abby took a pen, wrote the date  in her elegant hand, and then she wrote. . . . .

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/pens-and-pencils/

Matters of Faith

Describe a memory or encounter in which you considered your faith, religion, spirituality — or lack of — for the first time.

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I have heard many people say, “I grew up in a Christian home,” and then go on to describe some aspect of their childhood that influenced their lives later on.  It is true for me.  I did grow up in a Christian home, but I need to define that statement.

My dad came home from World War II having decided that God and faith and church were all useless.  He’d learned to be a weekend beer-drunk, and he’d tossed his own upbringing into the deep blue sea when it came to matters of faith. My mom, on the other hand, had been introduced to Jesus Christ after Dad left for his war service, and she was thrilled and excited to share that experience with him.  He wanted none of it.

Skipping over the intervening years, when he was maybe 27 or 28 my dad’s own heart was softened by my mom’s faithfulness, the kindness of caring believers, and a persistent pastor who became a lifelong friend.  Dad renewed his faltering relationship with God and felt the call of God on his life to go into the ministry.

I was five when Dad moved us to Minneapolis so he could attend Bible college and earn a degree that would start him on a journey that makes a great story.  Of course, it started the rest of us on that same journey, all in our different ways.

Those caring believers that helped get my dad back on track with the Lord became lifelong family friends, more like relatives. We visited them as often as limited funds and time would allow.  When I was still about five years old, we were there one Sunday. I don’t remember why.  There may have been some special event going on.  It doesn’t really matter.

I remember that the weather was warm enough for me to wear a pretty sleeveless dress my mom had made, and that I loved.  It wasn’t a hand-me-down; I was the first and only wearer of that dress.  We went off to Sunday school, and I loved it.  I loved the singing, the stories, and the little papers we got to take home. 

On this particular Sunday, one of the family members that had taken us into their hearts was my teacher.  I loved her.  I thought she was pretty, and she was kind and gentle.  As she told us the story of Jesus, her words sank into my heart. All these years later, I still remember her telling us how Jesus came from heaven just to take the penalty of our sin on Himself so that we could go to heaven to be with Him.

I had good parents.  I already knew I did wrong things. I understood very clearly that I wasn’t perfect in any way, but that God loved me and sent His own Son to die for me.  When my teacher asked us if any of us would like to stay after class and to ask Jesus to forgive our sin and come into our hearts to live, I immediately raised my hand.  I remember very clearly kneeling on that basement floor and praying with my teacher.  I remember feeling such a sense of gladness, knowing that I was on my way to heaven because Jesus loved me so much.

I’m 67 now, and I’m still filled with gratitude, wonder, joy, and peace at the knowledge that I have a Savior Who was willing to give His life for mine. That one moment, when I was only five, has influenced and affected my entire life.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/in-good-faith/

Sanctuary

A sanctuary is a place you can escape to, to catch your breath and remember who you are. Write about the place you go to when everything is a bit too much.

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It had been a long, difficult day.  The work is not physical, but it is physically draining, especially on Tuesdays, when I’m there from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.  On a full day, I see nine clients.  I insist on having an hour off at noon and at five so I can eat something and have some quiet.

Driving home that late at night, especially in the winter darkness, only increased my need to be finished for the day. I’m usually pretty good at leaving work at work, but on this particular day there had been a couple of clients whose stories were so difficult that I was having a hard time clearing my mind of the ugly details.

Driving in the dark, with very little traffic, I turned on the radio to a station that plays a lot of classical music. To my intense delight, I came in on one of my favorites from Vivaldi’s “Seasons.”  Perfect.  Joyful, relaxing, musically brilliant, the piece got me home in a better frame of mind.

It was one of the rare nights that Terry had already gone to bed.  Typically, he waited to see that I was safely home before he fell asleep.  He must have had a difficult day as well, only his pain was physical.  I quietly got into my robe and slippers, grabbed the book I was reading, and closed the bedroom door.  He never stirred.  Good.  I had no desire to talk, not even with him.

It took a few minutes to brew my favorite tea, a mix of Earl Grey and TyPhoo that I had enjoyed in England many years ago. Enjoying the sweet aroma, I carried the tea into the living room, got comfortable in “my” chair, leaned my head back against the headrest just for a few seconds, and let the peace and quiet seep into my mind and my body. I had turned on the radio to the same station as the one I’d been listening to in the car. 

I began to read, sipping my tea slowly.  I wanted these moments to last.  It was rare, now that Terry was retired, for me to have time completely alone with no interruptions.

This is my sanctuary. A quiet room, a cup of ambrosia, a good book, and soothing music. The only way it could be improved would be to take it all to a warm, sunny beach where the ocean’s sounds would accompany the music.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/oasis/

Trust your Instincts

Tell us about the time you rescued someone else (person or animal) from a dangerous situation. What happened? How did you prevail?

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Heather had the voice of an angel. She was only 15, and her talent was already blooming into full beauty. Everyone in the church looked forward to hearing her clear, sweet voice.

Mrs. Jakes was Heather’s Sunday school teacher, and they had become good friends.  Mrs. Jakes did her best to encourage all the girls in her class, and took them under her wing outside the classroom as well.  They knew they could count on her support.

There were a couple of middle-aged men who had started attending the church.  Mrs. Jakes had pretty good radar, and her instinct was strong that there was just something off about these men.  As the weeks went by, she began to notice that one of the men seemed particularly taken with Heather. He always seemed to be in the vicinity wherever Heather happened to be, and Mrs. Jakes watched that situation with  a careful eye. She didn’t want to create a problem that didn’t exist, but she was very uncomfortable about those men. 

One Sunday evening after the service, Mrs. Jakes noticed that the man had finally approached Heather openly for the first time.  She slowly made her way through groups of people as they milled around in the auditorium and the lobby, always keeping her eye on Heather and the man. He was talking eagerly, earnestly with Heather, stepping closer to her every few minutes.

Mrs. Jakes finally was able to reach them, and she stepped up beside Heather. She extended her hand to the man, introducing herself and asking his name. He mumbled something and quickly turned away, disappearing into the crowd.

“Heather, there’s something I just don’t like about that guy. Did he say anything to you that made you uneasy?”

“Well, kind of.  I mean, he just went on and on about my voice, and how beautiful I am, and how he’d like to have a girl like me for his daughter.  I thought it was kind of weird, ’cause I don’t even know him. Yeah, he kind of creeped me out.”

“Okay, Heather,  here’s what I want you to do.  Never let him get you apart from other people, okay?  Always make sure you’re with someone in your family, or with friends.  And if he really bothers you, tell him you don’t feel comfortable and that you need to leave now. Okay?  I’m not trying to scare you, but I want you to be aware and careful.”

“Yes, sure, okay, Mrs. Jakes.  Both those guys kind of give me the creeps, you know?  I mean, they’re old, but that one keeps trying to talk to me as if we’re, like, the same age or something.”

The following Sunday night, Heather found Mrs. Jakes after the service was over. She was out of breath and very flustered. “Mrs. Jakes, everywhere I GO that guy is there!  He keeps following me!  He even tried to take my arm because he wanted to ‘talk with me alone’ and I said no, I didn’t have time.  Now I’m really scared! What should I do?  See him?  He’s standing back there watching me!”

Mrs. Jakes looked, and indeed he was. It was unnerving. His eyes followed every move Heather made. Mrs. Jakes decided it was time for some action.

“Come on, Heather.  Let’s go find your dad.  You stay right with me!”

It didn’t take long to find Heather’s dad.  Mrs. Jakes explained the situation to him, expressing her concern that the man’s interest in Heather was beyond normal, and needed to be addressed.  Heather’s dad listened, his eyes showing his concern. “Don’t worry about another thing.  Thanks for letting me know about this.  I’ll take care of it.”

Mrs. Jakes felt there was nothing more she could or should do, so she left Heather in her dad’s care and went home.

Later than evening, her phone rang. It was Heather, sounding nervous but relieved. “So, my dad went up to that guy and told him to leave me alone. Dad said he didn’t want to be unkind, but he felt uncomfortable with the attention the guy was giving me, and he wanted it to stop. He was really great.  He didn’t get mad or anything, he just was really strong.”

Heather, thanks for calling to let me know.  Did the guy say anything to your dad?”

“No, he just stood there looking embarrassed, and he turned and walked away before my dad was really finished.”

The men did not reappear at the services, but Mrs. Jakes learned later that they had been attending another church nearby  and had been asked to leave over a similar situation. No one ever seemed to find out what the men’s names were, where they lived, or anything else about them. They never did anything overtly out of line or criminal that Mrs. Jakes ever heard about. Still, the gut reaction she had to them and they way one of them seemed fixated on Heather made her very glad that she had involved Heather’s dad.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/daring-do/