Archive for August, 2013

If Your Name Is Patience Or Grace, Why Don’t You Have Any?

August 29, 2013

by florence ondré

In the oppressive heat of a hazy, hot and humid day in July, it’s hard enough for a person to get around, accomplish the day’s duties and still keep one’s wits and reflexes above functioning level.  Add to this recipe, a physical handicap, the lateness of the day or merely age and the human machine slows, glitches and/or crawls to a halt.

I believe most of us are aware enough to know this from probable first hand experience.  So, why is it that awareness and sensitivity take leave of the human experience at the checkout counter in a supermarket?

Firstly, what is so super about our food markets today?  The experience of shopping for our daily sustenance is hardly pleasurable.  Employees can be rude or ill informed; prices inaccurate and many cashiers could care less whether it’s important to you that your hard earned money stretch as far as possible or that your food be in good condition- i.e. grapes on top of canned goods and bread uncrushed when bagged.  Mostly, now it’s fast zip your groceries down the ramp for a meet and greet with metal armed hangers of plastic bags which you are expected to pack yourself.

“Express line” generally means smaller orders of fewer items to be expeditious to shoppers but to those behind the register it’s more of a “get out of my face fast and don’t ask any questions!” as in: ‘have no needs of your own.’   God forbid, you have the audacity to ask them to bag the stuff or to ask for for a double of those flimsy, chemical smelling sacks so your jars of marinara sauce don’t crash, and slash; sending you to the nearest emergency facility!

Any condition that might slow one up aggravates rather than engenders any compassion and seems to give register ringers a target for whatever pent up hostilities are lurking beneath their badges.

I experienced “The Shopping Trip From Hell” on one of these steamy July days when I had the chutzpah to take myself with my Chronic Fatigue Immune Dysfunction Syndrome to the ‘super’- sometimes referred to as ‘stupid’- market.

Having schlepped my tired self through the aisles, trudging behind my wobbly-wheeled basket, I placed my 6 items on the conveyor belt to the cash register on the ‘Express Line’ designated ’10 items or less.’  Feeling rather safe in doing so, I was shaken and appalled as I heard and saw the demeanor of the checkout clerk, whose name tag read, ‘Patience.’   She was anything but!

A grey haired woman stooped in front of me, was getting a tongue lashing about the number of items she’d placed for checkout-11!  Her hands which formerly may have cared for a home and children, created art or capably closed deals in a chosen profession, today clearly shook as she meekly apologized and tried to give the right amount of money for her tallied food bill.  In addition, she asked in measured speech for an explanation of the charges to make sure her receipt was correct.

The curtness and hostility of the cashier was overt and there was no mistaking the aggression of the loud, large, young woman at the register toward the small, quiet, elderly one who moved a few steps, struggling to get her change into her wallet, while her grocery bag was thrown harshly to the end of the checkout ramp by ‘commandant clerk.’

Then it was my turn!

As Patience totted up my purchases at the speed of light, I found myself aghast at not being able to find the cash that I had just gotten from the bank.  I searched my purse 3 times through every pocket, nook and cranny; knowing I had placed the bills there, yet fearing I might have either misplaced them or been robbed.

Inside, I had a sick, sinking feeling that I get when Chronic Fatigue cognitive block happens.  I know it mercifully passes but I also know increases with added stress, and here I am; face to face with ‘She Whose Name Is Patience!’

“Jaws” music begins to play in my head as she glowers at me for being less than perfect and lightning fast on Her Express LIne!

I begin to feel not so much slow and inept, but rather one who has committed a mortal sin.  She grouses loudly and instigates insurrection on the line behind me which now seems not to be just 2 men and 2 women, but an angry lynch mob of 400!

“O.K., Calm down,” I tell myself silently.  The bill is 14 dollars and 53 cents and,  Whew!  Thank God!  There’s the 50 dollar bill I put in my purse, right next to a 5!

I sigh with relief.  I haven’t been robbed.  CFIDS brain fog hasn’t caused me to mislay my money AND I say triumphantly to Clerk Mengele, “Here’s $50 and I have  the 3 pennies!”

Snarling, she snatches the bill, slams her cash drawer shut like a jail cell; loudly informing me that she ‘will not take my 3 cents’ and shoves the denominations of change, which she deems suitable punishment, into my hand.

I have no more rights for committing the crime of ‘slowness.’

When I say, quietly but firmly, “No, that’s not acceptable,” she imperiously barks, “You’ve taken up too much time!”

Standing firm on the outside but shaken on the inside, I ask to see a manager; even though the larger of the men in line behind me has become belligerent and is siding with the clerk to intimidate me.  Clearly, he would like to do her executioner’s work and if the guillotine were at the end of the bag ramp, my head would be in a basket with melons, to the delight of the onlookers!

I refuse to be cowed.  She glares at me with the intensity of a flamethrower.  I feel napalmed in New York.  I’m a stone-statue-still gunslinger at the O.K. Corral standoff til she finally calls.

The manager, a woman of small physical stature, shows up. hears my complaint of rudeness and ill treatment this clerk has dished out to me and the preceding customer.  She says nothing as I tell her that everyone, including senior, handicapped and slow people, all deserve to be treated courteously when shopping and spending their money in that store.

From the looks she sneaks at pistol packin’ Patience, I can see she will do nothing.  There’s not so much as an, “I’m sorry for your trouble.”

No amends will be forthcoming.

I notice her name tag reads, “Grace,” and what I see on her face is fear and dullness.  All in all, I’m sick to my stomach and I know it’s not from the heat!

Returning home with a lump of anger in my throat, I woodenly put away my groceries, which now seemed tainted with negative energy.  I slump exhaustedly on the safety of my comfy couch; an island of friendly, floral print in a world of khaki conflict.  A knot of hopelessness mixed in with a healthier dollop of defiance in my gut moves me to grab notebook and pen as the following declaration of dignity emerges:

I, hereby, put every cash register clinking checker,  or anyone in service positions, on notice to remember and, better yet, write this down and place it clearly where you will see it every day of your life:


This means you and every blessed one of us on this planet!

No matter your job, any person who comes before you who is ‘slow’ is your opportunity to become still and practice compassionate patience.

Every person who asks you a question is your opportunity to practice tolerance and generosity of spirit, wherein you can be helpful in sharing your knowledge with others.

Those who shuffle before you with infirmity or age are your opportunity to treat others with the same kindness and respect you would like to receive when you are in similar circumstances.  They may be the mirror image of your future and deserve your admiration for their courage, willingness and commitment to show in the world; attempting to be as self reliant as possible.

These people, ( and remember, you are these people; if not now, later) need your help not your hostility.

O.K., so you got in the right letter of the alphabet.  Try harder.  You can do better.  Get the right word, the right attitude.  I have faith in you.  You can do it!

Anyone who vexes you is your opportunity to grow; to be the best you can be instead of the worst or most mediocre.  This is your chance to notice differences and samenesses of humans; to value everyone just the way you want to be valued and appreciated.  There’s no exact time allotment for getting ‘it’ right.  What is ‘it’ anyway and by whose timeline or definitions are we living?

I know that, even with this day; this experience of mine, I will not die of terminal uniqueness and, still, I feel strongly moved to speak out for all the times any of us has said or felt, “Why bother? No one cares anyway?”

Well, I do care.  I want everyday experiences to be peaceful, harmonious, gentle and interactions respectful of each other.  I believe kindness counts.  How much extra time does that take?

Call writing this my random act of kindness for all who can’t speak up or out.  I encourage everyone to say ‘NO’ to unfair, unkind treatment- one’s own or another’s; to courageously say, “I deserve to be treated courteously and compassionately.  We all do.”

And then, perhaps the market will be ‘super!’


Eye Object

August 15, 2013

by florence ondré

While window seated at dinner with my beloved Tom, I gazed out at the light blue, summer sky.  A few soft, white clouds scudded across the clear horizon when all of a sudden a flock of tiny birds flew past my line of vision, like the swooping birds I see out on the parkway.

When seen, I have named them harbingers of good luck.   Each time I watch their airborne wings wheel and turn above waters, dune grasses and marshes this happy sight always uplifts and gives me pause for positive pondering.  I think, ‘Woo hoo!  We’re winning a lottery soon!’ or ‘Wheeeee!  Something wonderful is on its way!”

I peered out the window and watched to see their air show, thinking,  ‘Wow!  How neat they’re in town and these guys are persistent!  They don’t seem to be flying away!’

Then, out of the far side of my left eye, a veritable Rorschach test pattern emerged; dark whorls and paintbrush strokes joining a host of black squiggle lines and the flock of itty bitty birds.

No matter how much I squinted or blinked, none of these works of art in my eye dissipated.

In fact, they increased in intensity and left me staring off into the blue to discover that the ‘little birdies’ were hundreds of teensy, black, clear-in-the-center circles.

As I realized something was unusual and very wrong, food-forgotten-fear crept up onto the hem of the garment of my mind.

Seeing me  burger-dropped, stopped still, Tom asked if I was ok.

No answer.

Again, I heard him as if through an ocean away.

“Blubber blub burble…”


“Something something… you ok?”

Slowly, through the molasses of my mostly mesmerized mind,  “I’m not sure but I don’t think so, ” I replied and described, zombie-like, what I was seeing.

It was more a curious experience; a slo-mo movie reel unspooling.

Realization of why it had just been difficult to read the menu board, dawned on me.  No amount of head shaking, blinking or peep peeking, one eye to another, had kept me from ordering stintingly like I’d just learned language.

“Blub burble… pain?”  I could see Tom’s lips moving again.

“Ummmmmm… nooo…”

“Do we need to go the hospital?” he queried quickly, alarm now visible on his face, swimming ashore on my wavering vision.

Back to the blue, with my baby blues, checking inside for symptoms of sanity,  “Mmmmmm, dunno,” I mused in answer; still eerily trying to get a handle on this weird panorama, which I now knew was inside my eye, not part of the sky above us.

Ohhhhh, darn.  No swooping birds of budding good luck and prosperity.

Grief and sheer shock merged into a confused yet calm countenance.

“Let’s go home,” I said outside.  Inside, I hard-hoped it would all go away; this fresh hell looking horror in the palette of my eye.

Most definitely now, a full fledged gallery showing of water color brush strokes, broad and black; a museum worthy chiaroscuro, was moving ever so gently inside me; wonderfully weird and absolutely awe-ful.

Funny odd how one’s life can be stopped in its tracks; sheared off, like being beamed off planet by instant alien events.

Back up in the apartment which I, post-hurricane/sans electricity and elevator, dubbed ‘ Mt 6 Manjaro’ for its steep daily climb, I sat at the dining room table, wondering,  ‘What next?’ while Tom hit the computer, looking up eye everything; my description of the birds, painting and eye objects; reading to me so we could share unfolding understanding of what was happening.

There it all was, in ethernet black and white; terrorizing and comforting in a couple of clicks.  Textbook.  No flights of fancy or any other ilk..this was blood vessel hemorrhage retinal detachment.

Sitting soberly still, cold comforted with computed communication, I remembered back to childhood; always having some little lines called ‘floaters’ in my eyes and recall being on the beach with my mom and sister; lying on a towel; closing my eyes, face up to the warm sun, and seeing these little curiosities from behind closed lids.

We’d been told everyone has them.

Sharing this with Tom, the next thoughts beamed laser of ‘now what?’ into the picture.

Usually a person of zip into action, I couldn’t move a muscle as I grappled with a parade of possibilities, none very pretty.

With no hospital in our own town, post Superstorm Sandy flood-out, Tom began calling hospitals and emergency rooms anywhere on Long Island, to find any place with ophthalmologists on staff or on call.

None had anyone and the waits would be into tomorrow.

Next, I called my friend, Merri, who I knew was a night owl with a hefty medical tome of specialist’s numbers and experience.

She listened, compassionately, walked me through what happened , asked questions, helped clarify and gave me, among the best specialists-most in New York City- one number for an ophthalmic group three towns away, saying that her mom had had very good results with them.  “Go.  Any of the doctors there are wonderful.”

Suggesting that I call and leave a message stating  my emergency and try to get some sleep if I could, in a head’s up position, she gave me a bit of daylight in a night turned dark.

Waves of tension and fear receded offshore on this sandbar named ’emergency.’  Rational thinking returned enough to paddle my way to ‘ok, I can make it to morning’ island.

One neon sign of sight loss was absent in this ball of confusion…I had not seen flashes of light in my now covered eye.

The next day, refreshed a bit with a shower and a night’s whisper of sleep, my mind went into clearer focus on a fuzzy topic.

I made a call to another trusted friend, Terry, just in case there might be no room at any inn.  I knew it was best to have second opinions if needed.

She graciously also listened and responded with her own wisdom, kind help and recommendations and numbers.

I breathed in the love and support, building muscles in mind to self advocacy and felt the beginnings of freedoms within what had only been constricted prison of onset helplessness.

It is an amazing gift we give and receive in the present of choices in our communication with friends.

I made a couple of calls and got machines; left messages and prepared to wait.

In the meantime, in getting a bit of necessary business off my plate, I called my contractor’s office to delegate a bit of research and, when saying, “I don’t have time today to make those necessary calls nor do I have time to talk much, I have an eye emergency,” Lisa, asked if I needed a good ophthalmologist.  I almost said ‘no,’ but something stilled my tongue and out popped the word, ‘yes.’

She went on to rave about this ophthalmic group she, her mom, cousins and friends had all used to great success in several areas of needed care.  She gave me the exact information Merri had shared last night.


Hello Universe!

Wishing me well and assuring me that nothing was more important than taking care of myself and healing, she said she’d handle the business calls and flew off the phone.

Next, my friend Melanie called and when I gave her the 411, she told me to call her group.  She explained that she was one of the most fear-filled eye patients ever and when her doctor had told her she needed to have cataract surgery, she’d told him, “You’re gonna have to knock me out in a hospital to do it!”

Yet, with the gentleness,  expertise , full communication and patience of her ophthalmic surgeon, she’d had actually had the procedure done in the office without the slightest bit of pain or discomfort of any kind.

She blapped out the name of her surgeon and the retinal specialist, who’d taken care of her whole family.  Both on staff at the group Merri and Lisa had independently given me.

Tom, having done research, found outstanding reputations on all recommendations and, in particular, one of the top retinal specialists in New York was part of this group; the very one who’d taken such good care  of Melanie’s family.

Hello Angels!

A moment later, it was that office which got back to me first.

Hello Universe!

An hour later, I had a complete eye exam, had been assured there’d been hemorrhage  in the vitreous but no retinal detachment.  I would not have what I feared most- complete loss of sight.

The next day, though the big guys wasn’t available for weeks, another of their retinal specialists did his own examination and performed laser surgery to seal a retinal tear.

A week later, experiencing some further discomfort and blurry vision, I was back in the office and who was waiting for me?

Yep, you guessed it…that very specialist who I’d wanted to see but had been totally booked weeks out; who as it turns out, also had treated my friend Melanie’s whole family!

Hello Spirit!

One other doctor on their staff turned out to be a man I’d done shows in regional theatre with years ago.  An ophthalmic surgeon with an operatic tenor voice.

Thank you Angels!  Thank you Universe! Thank you Spirit!

Keep connecting the dots for me, please.

I’ll keep looking and listening with outer and inner eyes and ears.

‘Cause I/eye do not object to that!

100 Words

August 15, 2013

by florence ondré


One hundred words, merely a few

Thoughts set down to read to you

What to write about, I muse

Worthy subjects yet to choose

Something funny, maybe dark

From the mind or the heart

Future forward, reminisce

Timely tale, dream or wish

Must make sense directions say

So, on this page, I wend my way

Through topic possibilities

Visiting before time flees

Merely momentary blink

None becoming pen point’s ink

One hundred words, so large a chore

Just one hundred. not one more

Now, I’m counting as I write

Gads!  There is no end in sight!

Brain- diminished…..

100!!  I’ve finished!

Quote For The Day

August 15, 2013

“What is tolerance? It is the consequence of humanity. We are all formed of frailty and error; let us pardon reciprocally each other’s folly – that is the first law of nature.”

Day In Haiku

August 11, 2013

Removed little things

Surgery went well they say

Believing is seeing.


Had a rib removed

They’re making a man

God’s sense of humor.



Experienced And Learned October 29, 2013

August 11, 2013

Bottled water, batteries

Gathered in survival needs

Bathtubs filled

Ice chests chilled

Prayer fields filled


On our knees in the sand

Bags and shovels in each hand

We gathered our band

The planned and unplanned


We stacked and we stocked

Days and nights ’round the clock

Boxing, bagging tick-tock

Til our doors were storm rocked


Did what we could

To protect neighborhood

Houses boarded and taped

Fear filled skies greyly draped

As the light faded, then we let go


Water swelling ashore

Waves forty feet, maybe more

Rolling in miles from the sea

A startling sight

Stunned all with fright

Giant omens of force yet to be


As night time descended

Evacuations tended

Those left couldn’t imagine the worst

Sea walls went smashing

‘Neath tsunami size crashing

Walls of water rolled, roiled and reversed


Streets ran raging rivers

Drowning cars, sounding shivers

Of death throes deluged, swimming past

Transformers exploded

Green flames and eroded

Faith as we knelt stunned, aghast


Sturdy light poles bent down

Like twigs to the ground

In the wake of wild water and wind

It was as if they were bent

By hand of God sent

To flatten a world which had sinned


The rage and the wrath

Cut a Biblical swath

Sweeping what man made asunder

And in the middle of it all

Rose a clarion call

Onomatopoeia of thunder


We lived through first high tide

A nightmarish ride

With one more to go we’d survive

Then hundred mile winds conspired

To fan flames of fires

Incinerating cars, homes and lives.


Tall buildings tremored

Foundations dismembered

Sand dunes and ocean met bay

Sewers imploded

In pipes overloaded

From more than man-made strength could outweigh


Darkness doused every light

On the unfolding plight

Wrought of the second high tide

What hope we had left

Brave and bereft

This pounding had pummeled our pride


Dim dawn broke grey

On the aftermath day

In silence profound and profane

Birdsong dead in the street

We tiptoed to meet

The truth of our losses and pain


What was left were mere threads

Homes and lives torn to shreds

While we huddled in bed

Under blankets of dread

Praying it wouldn’t be so bad.


Unrecognizable world

Tatters unfurled

Fires smoke whorled

Cold breath curled

We saw it was worse than imagined.


All the sand bags were breached

While we begged and beseeched

Ships unmoored like whales beached

Shattered dreams out of reach

Scattered on lawns, streets and railroads.


Highways were smashed

Homes sewage seawater thrashed

Boardwalk broken and trashed

Structures large and small mashed

All moved like game pieces thrown off a playing board.


Wreckage created

Sand inundated

Future unstated

Areas ill fated

Bit by reckoning bit, we let go of our lives as we knew them.


Bitter cold settled in

Where to begin

Mold grew quickly within

How could we ever win

Any semblance of normalcy gone in massive destruction.


Basics all gone

Civility shorn

Marhall law born

Tendons stretched; torn

Becoming beasts of burden in brutality.


Shortages rise

As do rumors and lies

Communication glitches and dies

Lines for needs wind for miles

As people queue up for icy insanity.


The diaspora rules

While temperature cools

Like snowiest yules

In the new era schools

Of deprivation and near Neanderthal ice age living.


It’s safe shelter all seek

In the mildewy reek

Homes all lurch, limp and leak

Where we work til we’re weak

As each sewagey creek recedes, leaving ruin upon ruin.


Light of day shown

Hospitals blown

Physicians flown

Gauntlet down. thrown

Balance and health hang in the balance.


Survive this if you can

You puny human

Look and see where you began

Remember where colors ran

The playing field’s leveled, you are one.


After months of rebuild

There are many dreams killed

As we struggle, strong willed

Ever learning, new skilled

At the lessons of letting go of all.


And as time and events move on with or without me, I float on a new sea of I-don’t-know and remember these two aftermath house and soul cleansing truths:

Firstly, I have learned that my essential needs for life are:

Clean air to breathe

Clean water to drink

Safe roof overhead for shelter




Secondly, I have learned a new mantra, applicable in all situations:

“I cannot control the ocean.”



Nature, Cheaper Than Therapy

August 8, 2013

When I feel disappointed, demeaned or demanded

And wondering why life gets so hard, underhanded

I sit somehwere green where a breeze softly blows

Allowing sweet grasses to tickle my toes

And gaze on a garden of earthly delight

Until inner vision clears a daily sight

Of hurts and frustration, and human behavior

Flowers can be both a balm and a savior

For showing me when I feel I’m at my end

There’s always a way of  beginning again

In flowery reflection, colorful hues

I’m shown new pathways to heal and renew

The  broken and bentness which comes with each pain

Can drop like Spring blossoms pelted by rain

Dashed into earth, covered by mud

Blended with branches, each breaking a thud

Of dropping away, falling to rise

Life and continuum, Mother Nature’s devise

Mourning the passing of seasonal souls

I let go of wanting and wishing controls

And sink into allowing another illusion

Silently noticing brings new conclusion

Of what is essential and what is not needed

How, without my touch, life’s garden gets weeded

All I have to do is stop and let go

Walk in the woods, watch growing to know

That all is in order, no matter my little view

For if flowers can push concrete

I too can get through…


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