In a pinch, skip the naughty. Be nice.

The blond pharmacist checked on my insurance and said sure, she could give me a flu shot.

I see her behind the counter just about every time I pick up a script.  Always engrossed in the computer, on the phone, in and out among the shelves.  So focused, she rarely looks up and we probably have never spoken before.

She wore a beautiful turquoise necklace with large stones, the kind you might buy on a Caribbean cruise and wear with a sarong on a sunset beach.  I wanted the necklace, the cruise, and the rest of the fantasy.  I was so close to complimenting her on it, but I stopped myself.  I don’t know why.  Maybe that day I just didn’t feel like being nice.

Sometimes I get tired of being nice.  Sometimes it feels like a solo mission in the world.   Michael will tease me good-naturedly and roll his eyes just a bit when I go out of my way to compliment the job of the grocery store bagger or the CVS clerk.  I wonder if I’m the only one who does this stuff.

Sometimes being nice seems like a facade, when inside I feel all prickly.  My family may still love me when I get testy, but strangers don’t have that obligation.  If I’m prickly to the Home Depot guy, all he knows is that I am yet another difficult customer.  Is that really what I want to show to the world?

Sometimes I wonder if being nice even matters.  At that moment of connection, I’m sure people appreciate a kind word, but does it last?  Does it make a difference?

So I guess that day at the pharmacy, I just didn’t have it in me to pay a simple compliment.

When she came from behind the counter with her supplies, the pharmacist plopped down in the chair next to me.

I’m not bothered by flu shots or any shots too much, but maybe I looked nervous and I guess I was holding my arm too stiffly.  She told me to relax my arm, gave it a gentle wiggle.   It would hurt less if I relaxed, she explained.  “I would hate to hurt you because you’re so nice,” she said.  “You’re always so pleasant when you come in, and I just don’t want to hurt you.”  Then she warned me, “It’ll be just a little pinch, now.”

I felt the pinch, but she didn’t hurt me.  Quite the opposite.  In fact, I felt kind of … nice.

In this season of giving, during this time of upheaval and vitriol in our country, maybe a little extra kindness is what we all need to temper the pinches of life.   Maybe when we feel our most prickly is when we need to try to be most kind.  Maybe it really does come full circle.  And who knows the impact?  On us and on the world?

I’m going to look for the blond pharmacist the next time I’m in.  And if she’s wearing that necklace, you know what I’m going to do …

In full swing after 30 years.

About 30 years ago, we got a porch swing.  A few years earlier, we had purchased our first house, a modest old Dutch Colonial with lots of charm hidden behind its 1960’s updates.  It had a large front porch – deep enough to gather with friends or spend time in solitude, contemplating life.

The swing didn’t cost us a dime – a good thing in those early days of parenthood and home-ownership.  We got the swing with coupons.  My in-laws ran a corner grocery store, and the manufacturers’ coupons they collected from customers could be redeemed for merchandise.  Like S&H green stamps for small businesses.  I had helped to organize the coupons so I got to pick my prize.

Back then, I had this Good Housekeeping vision of a home with hard wood floors, tastefully sponge-painted walls, and neatly folded bathroom towels.  Ahh.  The serenity that such a house would bring.  A porch swing would be the perfect finishing touch.

The swing arrived in a box, assembly required.  But we were painting the outside of the house, and I was working full time and going to school at night, so it stayed in the box.  Over the next 20 years, we tore apart the house and raised two boys, both of which wore me down.  We rebuilt the house, room by room, but the swing never got assembled.

When we moved to our current old house 10 years ago, the box ended up in my brother-in-law’s garage loft, in “temporary storage.”  Then the tiling and patching and painting started up again and the porch swing stayed put, suspended in time.

This past summer, at a book club meeting on the host’s big front porch, I grabbed the coveted spot on her porch swing. I could have spent the night there.  Something about that back-and-forth swaying suits me.  Being an introvert, I spend a lot of time “in my head” as the expression goes, meaning that I think a lot- about who I am, my life, and the world.  I’m always trying to figure it all out.

I came home that night and said to Michael, “We’ve gotta get that swing from your brother’s garage and put it up.”  With just the two of us now in the house, and fewer house projects left, there was no excuse.  So we got down the box and opened it.  I wondered if it would be missing any parts.  What if it was infested with bugs?  But all the pieces were there and the wood was pristine.

So after 30 years, our porch swing finally has a home.  When I sway on it and contemplate my life and the world, not all the pieces fall into place, and the picture is far from pristine.  Nothing like the glossies in a Good Housekeeping magazine.  But that’s not the point.  For me, the more moments and spaces I create to nurture myself – what I call being WellNested –  the better I can figure out how to make the world a better place.  I don’t have that answer yet, but I’ll keep swinging on it.

A gardener’s favorite season.

IMG_0923.jpgAs a gardener here in the northeast, winter isn’t exactly my favorite season.  Other than drooling over the seed catalogs that get sown in my January mailbox, there’s not much to do, garden-wise.  Instead of transplanting perennials, I’m moving snow again from the sidewalk to the … well, wherever I can find a place that doesn’t already have a three foot pile.  For me, digging in the snow is not at all as satisfying as digging in the earth.  And it’s surreal to imagine that all that dirty wet stuff will actually give way to a lawn and beautiful blooms in too many long months.

Give me spring any day.  I have crocuses in the garden just off our front porch. Once I spy those first tiny tips of green pushing through the frozen earth, I check every day to see if they’ve grown.  And then once they bloom, I pray for another day of their company before the rabbits mow them down.  In other spots in my gardens, things pop up that I forgot all about … Oh, yes, I have allium there!  So much promise and surprise in spring.   But if you assume it’s my top season, you would be wrong.

You’re now probably sure that summer is IT for me.  When the waves of color and fragrance begin to roll in, it’s gardening heaven, right?   Yes, but …   If it weren’t for gardening, I probably wouldn’t be crazy about summer.  It feels like a coincidence that my favorite hobby just so happens to be a hot weather past-time.   I get tired of hiding my fair skin under sunscreen and wide-brimmed hats.  I’ve already got a few ugly age spots on my hands, although I don’t consider myself “aged,”  unless you’re comparing me to fine wine.   And I get burned-out by the sun and the oppressive heat, more and more so as I age, er, I mean … ferment?  So, in spite of my passion for gardening, summer is not my first love.

But a crisp, brilliant fall day that crackles with dry leaves and hints of a blazing fireplace somewhere in the neighborhood.  Now that’s something I savor. Yes, my irises have already had their end-of-season crewcut. The hydrangeas look like charred marshmallows on a passel of campfire sticks.  And my hosta are gooey yellow lumps.  Yuck.  But fall feels so right to me.  Why is it when everything is starting to die, I feel so at peace?

I think it has to do with being an introvert. We introverts love to pull within ourselves, to shelter from the storm of daily life in the boisterous world. Fall just fits our nature.  It’s a time to reflect and rejuvenate our spirits, getting ready to hunker down for the long winter of welcome solitude.

An autumn-loving avid gardener.  This is who I am – an enigma, a contrast of opposites.  Whether I’m aging or fermenting or just getting moldy, I wouldn’t change a thing.