The Professional Guest: Marching On

pole3It’s March in Naples, Florida. Because it’s an El Nino year, Florida has been warmer than usual just like the rest of the country. A week ago, we were in the upper 80s with 94% humidity—in early March! The trees were blooming. I actually awoke to a heavy film on the windshield of my car for many days— pure pollen. Since that’s my big allergy, the windows and doors remained closed in the house, the AC running… and I was running on Zyrtec. During the winter, we had a few weeks of cool weather which I found delightful and refreshing but they were soon gone and the hot and humid returned.
I’ve begun to second guess my move here. Will I ever be able to tolerate the heat and humidity and actually live normally here or do I need to look elsewhere for a more permanent place to live? I’ll give it a couple years. If I haven’t prospered, found plenty of work, and am still suffering every time I venture out, I’ll look for more temperate climes.
Our skin is composed of four to five basal and supra basal layers in the epidermis. I have worn off the top four layers of my epidermis on my forehead with constant wiping off the flooding of humid sweat. It now shines like a new penny. Girls don’t like shiny foreheads. We keep powder on hand for things like this. But powder lasts about 3-1/2 minutes outside and then it, too, is wiped away with my forearm or kerchief. The hair goes flat, makeup pools off, and I look in the mirror and exclaim, “What happened here?”
I remember my parents lived in Hawaii for ten years. My dad said he never got used to the humidity there… never, not even after 10 years! Because I seem to have inherited quite a bit of my dad’s genetics and constituency, I’m fearful the same thing will happen to me in Florida.
For some inexplicable reason, my dad clung to the belief that you only bathed on Saturdays, the night before church on Sunday. Over the years, he earned the moniker of “Stinky Herb” because of his penchant for working hard all week long, wearing the same sweat-stained clothes, and only changing into fresh duds at the end of the week. I don’t know how my mom could stand it. There was plenty of arguing and fighting going on in our house. Maybe that was one of her concession points. One thing I know—I’m not willing to be “Stinky Herb.” Three showers a day are not unusual here.
So, it’s a starting point: A starting point to the rest of my life. There’s no going back to Minnesota, even though I miss my family terribly. Minnesota winters are too hard on me. The expense of owning a home became a burden I could no longer bear on a single, self-employed income. I love my work. I was born to be a graphic designer. I just wish I could make more money doing it.
Uncle Alec sleepingOne also needs to bear in mind that the economy has been tanking for many years. We are almost back to Depression Era times. Kids have moved back in with their parents because they cannot find sustaining work outside the home. And some of us upped stakes and moved across the country, just as our immigrant forebears did. Life was greener on the other side of the fence. Heck, it was worth a try.
Relocation involves more than just geographical stuff. Nine out of ten hangers in my closet never find a body frame to hang on. Finding hair products that work in this humidity has been a challenge, too. Absolutely none of the products I brought with me from Minnesota work and my hair has taken a beating. At first, I cut it all off, taking a super short, “boy” cut to deal with the climate. After a month or two, it became clear that this short cut made me look less feminine and I bemoaned the loss. Now it was too short to get highlighted so I endured five ugly months of letting it grow out so I could get a proper foil highlight and cut. Let me tell you, when you look in the mirror every day and see the “Ugly You,” your spirit wilts and your joie de vivre tanks. Maybe that’s why Hemingway let all his six-toed cats proliferate at his home in the Keys. If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. The oddity became the normal.
I’ve kept my spirits up by cultivating an attitude of gratitude. Every day I wake up and thank God for what he’s doing in my life, how He’s leading me, how he’s providing. With even a more pro-active stance, I now start out my day with, “God, I expect good things today. I expect miracles. I expect provision. I expect healing. I expect direction and guidance.”
I heard a speaker talking about depression and anxiety: ailments that afflict many of us older folks in our menopausal years, female and male. We lose the ability to sleep long and deliciously. We worry about the bills, keeping the roof over our heads, the elections, and—personally, now that I’ve moved to a hot and humid state—worry over black mold, insects, rats, and slithering black racer snakes. The speaker maintained that much of depression and anxiety (outside of medical causes) can be caused by unmet expectations and disappointment. We have held out hopes that certain things would happen in our lives: marriage, a baby, a home of our own, financial stability; and somehow those things never materialized. So we were disappointed. And then we got depressed.
He went on to say, “Well, what CAN we expect each day? If we are believers in Jesus, we can expect the things he did on a near daily basis for his listeners, followers, disciples. He healed the sick, cast out demons, opened the eyes of the blind, told the disciples to cast their nets on the other side of the boat for a huge catch of fish (provision). He even had one of them find a fish and open its mouth to find a coin to pay their taxes for the year! I need to pay my taxes for this year. Where’s that fish again?
Each morning, I proclaim, “I expect my needs to be met, according to your will, Lord.” “I expect financial provision to pay my taxes and bills.” “I expect the miracle of healing.” The gospels are chock-a-block full of examples of people being healed, and they weren’t necessarily believers when it happened. It was God’s way of telling them how much he loved them. How much more can I expect results when I am a child of God.
So I struggle on. The most exciting thing that has happened in the last four months of my relocation was when I decided to do some de-bearding of my blonde mustache and chin hair. I bought a Sally Hanson wax kit and set myself up for an evening of pain. I did not plan well. Putting the wax strip on my upper lip meant the wax covered both of my lips. Ripping it off, eyes flinching, took the upper four layers of my epidermis with it and left a waxy residue which, in turn, caused an allergic reaction around my mouth. My lips blistered up with cold sores which remained for three weeks. Uff. If I thought I was ugly with my mouse-brown, growing-out-hair, I was even uglier with swollen, blistered lips. Looking in the mirror became an amazing exercise of self-denial.
Grandpa 08I think about my ancestors who emigrated from Sweden in the 1800s, over the land of ice and snow, enduring hard times, spending weeks aboard a ship, arriving at Ellis Island to become Americans, and then traveling over half the continent to land in Minnesota and South Dakota—for the promise of free land to anyone who would settle it. They didn’t even have refrigeration, let alone Sally Hanson wax strips. The grass was greener and they went for it.
Each time one of our older cousins passes away and goes on to their final resting place in heaven, I’ve attended the funeral. We do our stoic, Swedish meet and greet, gather in front of the casket, and hug. And then we have good food, conversation, reconnecting and joy downstairs with the Church Basement Ladies. Twice now, the casket held the physical bodies of my own parents. My son is blind so when I guided him up to the casket that held Grandpa’s body, I let him touch and feel the cold person lying there. He felt Grandpa’s hands, felt his chest that he had hugged warmly (and probably Stinky Herb), for many years, and processed the dying process as only a blind person can. When Mom passed away two years later, Garrett was unable to make the trip, but I’m glad he got to be there for the Patriarch.
I was there in the hospital room when my dad breathed his last. My sister Janet had called and said that Dad had a stroke, kidneys weren’t functioning, it looked like this was it. John, Dave, Bob, Janet, Mom and I all gathered around his bedside. Janet had contacted Mom’s home in Cambridge and organized transport for her to be brought to his bedside. Even my own logistical-thinking brain was numbed, but Janet’s fired on all cylinders. She really shined. And two of my parents’ favorite missionary people, Jeff and Kathy Boyum, were there to help usher him into his heavenly abode. For Dad, they had prayed out loud, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant,” and Dad let go. Two years later, Kathy was the only one by Mom’s bedside when she left. We had all been doing the bedside viligance, yet Mom had clung to life. It was on the day when none of us could be by her that she transported. And Kathy was there.
Sheryl 3-22-16Now we’re the grown ups. We’ve learned how to bake sweet rolls, cook Thanksgiving turkey, hammer a picture into place, establish traditions, be a listening ear when our kids need, and keep in contact with the cousins. I never cease to be amazed by the talent pool my cousins and family keep… musicians, singers, artists, thoughtful travelers. Thank God for Facebook so I can see what everyone is doing and marvel anew. The dream of our emigrant ancestors remains alive.
And I am still emigrating.


One thought on “The Professional Guest: Marching On

  1. Sheryl, you struck so many chords with me in this article. There are so many challenges in life, not the least being unexpected facial hair and how to deal with it! (Real shame about those cold sores.). I could never go back to Mn. winters either, but I do marvel at anyone that can stand up to Fl. humidity! Your references to God and Jesus have certainly made me think long and hard about being more grateful and praying more. Thank you again for guiding me to look deeper into myself. Happy Easter.


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