Another New Years Day…

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Today is a new moon and a new year, time to let go of the old and bring in the new. My tradition in recent years has been to look back and see what I have learned. This has been more productive than spending the day making too many resolutions, which I am finding more and more, I have very little control over.  I think often of Herman Hesse’s classic novel Siddhartha. Siddhartha finally found peace at a river, where he realized we are carried through this life as the current carries water to the ocean. This past year, I feel like I have been moving a little further downstream, intermingling my voice and story with so many around me.

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Ironically, it is about looking to the future not the past, that has been  my greatest lesson this year. In “bearing another’s burden,” I have watched my son-in-law deal with a life changing event. We have joked that he has no other choice now, but to look forward. In that light-hearted kidding is a powerful truth. Life changes in an instant and when it does you do not have the luxury of asking, “what if” or saying “if only.” You simply deal with the new reality, look forward, not backwards (or up or down) and adjust. Dave has been an example to everyone he has come in contact with and has changed all of us—I learned that no matter how excruciating the pain or how dark the night—we can still dig deep enough to be gracious and gentle to those around us. And Heather, like a gently winding river, has taught us to “go with the flow.”Image

Through this and other challenges, I have felt the love and concern of friends and family and have realized that when someone sends their prayers, thoughts and love, it has been as if they are adding twigs to my nest, to hold and sustain me and my family while we are in a fragile place.

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And speaking of nests… many of my friends are dealing with the “empty nest.” I am also finding that mine has more space these days, but it certainly is not empty and my motherhood days are still demanding. At times, like when I am going to my umpteenth Parent -Teacher conference or helping Andy with his laundry, I feel like Mazie, the lazy bird in Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hatches and Egg!

I’m tired and I’m bored,

And I’ve kinks in my leg,

From sitting just sitting here day after day.

It’s work how I hate it, I’d much rather play,

I’d take a vacation, fly off for a rest,

If I could find someone to stay on my nest!

But, then I remember–I am not done yet and neither are my child-rearing days and like Horton, I remind myself, I meant what I said, and I said what I meant and I will keep at it 100%!

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On a lighter note, I discovered Lemy Shine and Quantum Finish this year. Keeping the nest eggs clean and spot free has been so much easier lately!!

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I also tried on several of those cute SouthWestern motifed sweaters that are so popular this year and learned that I look like a wall hanging in my Mom’s living room!

I rediscovered my love of Art! A love that was dormant for so long has been reawakened and has fed my soul many times this year. One day while making a mosaic table for my patio, Steve asked me, “Why are you doing this?” My mind quickly thought of all the academic reasons given by Ellen Dissananyake in a textbook I read in grad school, “What Is Art For?” and our ensuing discussions. But then, I quickly answered, “Because, there is not going to be another one like it in the entire world.” I love expressing myself. I find joy creating instead of duplicating. And, art helps me to look at people, at nature, at the beauty that surrounds me with a whole new set of eyes.

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While I am on the topic of “one of a kinds”—Katy Perry, cured my fear of spiders, among other things, in her music video Roar! Katy joined Helen Reddy in reminding me that I am a Leo—and you are going to hear me roar.

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I experienced “Poetry in a bottle” during a wine tasting tour in Sonoma and tasted the Food of the Gods at Kendall/Jackson. It is quality not quantity that enlivens the soul…and it must be done with dear friends.

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I went back to my high school reunion—and learned that in 35 years—life imparts wisdom to everyone—all those voices in the same river—(Everyone really needs to read Siddhartha again!!)

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I attended the TED-x conference in Salt Lake City—and partook of a huge dose of Hope for the future.

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I have learned about floor coverings, window covering, paint colors, fabrics, wallpaper, mirrors, lighting design and how they all work together to create “sacred space” for living, working, socializing and eating!!

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I have marveled at the passion of designers, gardeners, architects, teachers, chefs….and one amazing neurosurgeon who share their talents and gifts and devote so many, many years of their lives to studying and learning so they can bless lives!

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I learned that sometimes we must stop seeking God and let God find us. In the words of Meister Eckhart “the ultimate leave taking is the leaving of God for God.” And God has found me, in a sunset, in a frosty morning, in a grand child’s hand, in a flower and in an empty nest—who knew when I bought my Nikkon it would be my window to heaven!

ImageHappy New Year everyone! May 2014 be as much of a growing season as have all the previous years..somehow, I imagine it will!

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If I Could Do It All Again….

My muse finally reappeared this month. She was wearing a red, tailored suit with tennis shoes and holding a cigarette between her fingers in the exact same way my Grandma Bernie always did. Her smile and forthrightness broke down any excuses and her warm encouragement melted away my cowardliness. She let me know in no uncertain terms that I must start writing again.  Then a day later, an offhanded comment to a friend, was returned to me with a question—and my thoughts have been moving towards my fingers ever since.

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What began as a chat room on Facebook in the dead of winter, quickly moved to a ladies luncheon and then a long overdue high school reunion.  This summer, with my sister as my security blanket, I made my way home to Kentucky to reminisce and reunite with people I had not seen in over 35 years. It was a wonderful two days of renewing acquaintances and catching up with friends who had made my five years of living in the Bluegrass state memorable—and recent years on Facebook addicting. As I was leaving, I made the remark, “If we could only know then, what we know now”—it seemed like an intelligent thing to say for no particular reason. And my friend, Randy, shot back, “and if you did, what would you have done differently?”  Busted!! A very long airline ride home and a lot of weeding in my garden and I am still thinking of an answer.

I know I would have worn less polyester and purchased contact lens five years sooner!  I would have spent more time in the art room (did we even have an art room) and less time in the home ec department! I would have listened to Mrs. Stoehr, when she told me to compete in the broadcast journalism category at the State Speech Competition. (And been more grateful to her when she signed me up-without my permission!) I would have embraced those friends who would lead such very short lives after we graduated and tell them how much their friendship had meant to a displaced girl from Phoenix. Most important, I would realize then that life would have a great leveling effect on all of us. I wouldn’t have had to worry who was in the “in” group or who was sitting with the “cool kids.” Together, as the great class of “78, we would face it all– school, kids, death, divorce, jobs, illness, drugs, alcohol, success, failure, money, poverty, happiness and pain. And then we would come out on the other side, slightly heavier and greyer, but much more kind and humble. (I wouldn’t have told them over lunch what they would be up against though—or that John Travolta would go from being Danny Zuko to a middle-aged mom in Hairspray!) And oh the things I could share, if I had one more day in World Civ with Mrs. Simmerman standing at the chalkboard in her cheery voice asking, “What’s New!”  I wish I could have known then, what I know so well now, that encouraging and building someone else never diminishes or takes away from my own self-worth. I could have then walked the halls of Boyd County high school with a little more confidence and a lot more smiles.

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As I swept and pondered, watered flowers and contemplated, I wondered how I would answer the same question about my entire life. If I was to know then, what I know now what would I do differently? ….besides wearing a lot more sunscreen! I would understand that all of life’s experiences make us who we are and teach us to love a little deeper– so I guess I would still just go with them. But, with a little more knowledge I could fear less and trust more. I would follow my kid’s advice and worry less and chill more! I would certainly dance more, sing more, create more, write more and let go of the unimportant and unfulfilling. I would trust my own intuitions a whole lot more and other’s opinions quite a bit less. I would judge my neighbors less harshly (except for the one down the street) and refuse to let others define me. I would be much more concerned with nourishing my soul today and have less anxiety about the temperature of where it might land tomorrow. And, if I knew then what I know now … on cold, snowy days, I would let my father-in-law sit in the house, at my kitchen table and smoke a cigarette and drink a cup of coffee with me, instead of standing in the garage without me—who knows, maybe if I had, my muse would have shown up a lot sooner!!

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Feeling Somber

DSC_0014I often spend time with a thesaurus, the way some people use their scriptures—looking for the right word, the right expression to describe how I am feeling. I look for a particular word to describe a moment or a memory like an artist may look for the right color for a sunrise. I am still searching tonight for exactly what it is I feel, for a way to describe what is in my heart. Is it sadness? Is it melancholy? Pain may be too strong a word and gratitude doesn’t really bring my feelings into focus either—although that is a part of it. This unnamed feeling, has slowed me down (and I have a lot to do), it has kept me looking at the sunset, long after the sun has dropped behind the mountains. It has caused me to look at the birds in our trees and to listen to their song. I stared at the crocus coming up in my garden until I was so cold I had to come inside and wrap up.  I have talked on the phone to every single one of my children.

Today, I sat for the longest time watching out my window as a black, shiny suburban pulled into my neighbors driveway, as police officers came and went to their cars, as my dog paced like he knew something was amiss. I watched two men in black suits load my neighbor’s covered body into a car. I watched his friend making calls on a cell phone. It seemed surreal. Spring is in the air. The trees are budding. The grass which had been snow covered this morning was beginning to green. But my friend was now gone.

Just yesterday, we stood at the fence and talked. We talked about lawn fertilizer and ObamaCare. We talked about my kids going to the new high school and about how he wanted to hitch up his trailer and see the country. We talked about his swollen feet and how he needed to have his pacemaker reset. And, my parting words were, ‘I will see you next week, after your surgery, riding your lawnmower.” John and I had a guarded relationship as neighbors. He did not like my barking dog, but hey, he had the herd of deer living in his backyard. He was a single, quiet-loving bachelor—I had the herd of kids —who often drove too fast down the road. But still we were neighbors. He kept my fence repaired and helped us trim trees and I made sure he had fancy Christmas cookies. Most importantly, he was always kind to my boys and loved to share fishing stories and talk about water-skiing….and we all shared a love of the mountains and rivers and lakes—and rough hewn log cabins.

And tonight, when my son sent a text telling me he felt somber, I knew I found my word. I felt somber. Watching the sun set and the spring rise, I felt like a connection had been cut with a good man, a little gruff on the outside, but in my boy’s words—very kind underneath. John I hope you have found the perfect fishing hole today! I am going to miss my over-the-fence neighbor.

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Leaving the Inn–(for Zac, but really for me!)

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Recently, Zac lost his job as an innkeeper.  I have felt his pain in a corner of my heart as he has said goodbye to friends and associates who have become like family. I have been moved by something deep inside, as he has said farewell to his beloved mountain where he has spent so many, many hours. He knows every ridge, every run and every rock that needs to be jumped off of.  I have found myself wiping away a tear both for him, and for myself, as I also experience some of my own moving on and letting go. Because for both of us the reality of life is that inns are never places we are meant to stay in long term. Inns are stops along the way in this journey we call life.

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There are many kinds of inns. There are inns we go to as families ready for fun and excitement, swimming pools and ski slopes.  Some inns we arrive at “battered and bruised” like the man left by the Good Samaritan to be cared for and nursed back to health. Some inns, like in one of my favorite movies, The Inn of the Sixth Happiness, are places to hear stories and partake of a good meal. And in other Inns, we share our stories, with fellow pilgrim like in Canterbury Tales. Some, like in the movie Groundhog Day, we may find impossible to leave until we have a change of heart. Whatever purpose they serve for us in life, they are always places of impermanence. They are a stopping place, a wayside, but never a destination. And sometimes we have to be “pushed’ out, so that we can continue our journey.

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Some inns we may be able to return to and experience in new ways.  Some inns we only go to one time, never to return. Some we stay at for a long time and some for only a night. At some we may make life long friends and at others we may not meet a single person.  Some we may enjoy a long and delicious meal while at others we are lucky if we get a continental breakfast. Some inns are plush and elegant. Others are sparse and bare. And some like one we stayed at in Paris may be charming and European on the inside while being located next door to a porn shop!

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Life is always more about the journey than the temporary places we find ourselves a long the way.  Zac is looking forward with excitement to the next phase of his life and I am feeling healed and mended and ready to pack my bags and move on to new adventures.  This blog has been a healing place for me on my journey, but therapy, vacations and most employment should never last forever. There are simply too many roads to follow and too many paths to explore to spend too much time on the wayside. Hopefully, in the future I will come back here….and Zac will return to his beloved Solitude, but we will be new people with new and fresh stories to tell of other mountains we have climbed and other slopes we have “shredded.” And until then, hopefully someone leaves the light on!

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To Market, To Market…..

DSC_0009One of my new “happy places” in Salt Lake City is the grocery store Trader Joe’sTrader Joe’s has been around for a long time in the surrounding states, but only recently came to our city, sans their famous wine. Even without it, they are doing a bustling business. From the burst of color in the floral department, to the uniqueness of the produce, to the friendly clerks in their Hawaiian shirts—the whole experience of walking through the doors puts a smile on my face. What I love most is the variety. I love the wide assortment of cheeses. I love the smells of the spices and the taster’s table of juices. I love the “testers” of lotions and potions and smelling like I have been on a Caribbean vacation when I leave. I love grabbing a box of something I have never tried before. I love the diversity of customers who frequent the store— the urban, the young and the hip folks.

DSC_0011 The size of my family has necessitated that I still make a bi-weekly pilgrimage to the “warehouse” store. When you are feeding a small army, you simply must shop where blocks of cheese weigh five pounds and bread and milk prices are slashed to bearable!  Unfortunately, thirty plus years of family life and buying enough Tide and toilet paper to reach to the moon and back—has led to a loss of sizzle in mine and Sam’s relationship. Like oil changes and teeth cleanings, shopping for dog food and frozen chicken breasts is just something you hold your nose and do to keep life running.  My spirit does not lend itself to the institutional and concrete. I much prefer the intimate and perishable.

produceFarmer’s markets, bakeries, nurseries, and delis, those on the other hand, are places I relish; I experience; I inhale. These are the places that feed my soul. Variety is the spice of life and it is in the small, the personal and the diverse that I find my taste buds enlivened—whether it is food for my body or food for my thoughts. As I carried my stuffed Trader Joe bags to the car last week, (Will I ever remember to bring along recycle grocery sacks when out and about?) I had the same happy feeling I always do when I leave the library, with my bag heavy and overflowing with a pile of new books.  Shopping at Trader Joes, gives me the same thrill that I find when shopping in an out of the way bookstore.  The smell of Freesia and roses stimulates the same pleasure place in my brain as musty books in the used book store that my mom always makes sure I visit near her home. I love living in a time and place where the world is my market and a bounty of ideas, smells, tastes and colors can be carried home in a canvas bag (o.k.—paper)!

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Banning the W-word

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I am now old enough to remember several words that were used during regular dinnertime conversations that would never be used by educated people in a discussion today. Many words have been ‘banned” and as a society we have agreed that because of the pain inflicted by certain words they are no longer acceptable in either written or spoken forms.  I hope that someday there will be other words added to this list of hurtful and unnecessary words. Words that we will no longer let glibly roll off our tongues without first giving thought to what we are saying. One word that I would like to see banished to the garbage can of history is what I call the W-word, the word “Worthy” and along with it, its twin sister, “Unworthy.”

The single greatest regret of my life, the one for which I will never be able to make amends, is leaving my Dad sitting on a couch in the foyer on my wedding day, along with my sweet, Nana. At my father’s funeral my aunt told me that the greatest heartbreak of his life was never seeing any of his daughters married.  Long ago, back when racial epitaphs were still being used on a regular basis, I, too, succumbed to the idea that an arbitrary set of rules could determines if someone was “worthy” or “unworthy.” During a time of immaturity, I overlooked the fact that my father had raised me, cared for me, supported me, sat by me when sick, taught me to drive, moved me into college, hiked with me, fished with me, dreamed with me and loved me enough to travel and sit outside on my wedding day; but was not deemed “worthy” to see me married. Worthy-what a painful word.

When we use the N-word we make a person less-than for the color of their skin, when we use the R-word someone is made to feel less than for the level of their intelligence and when we use the W-word someone is made to feel less than because of capricious standards of right-ness.  Would we ever use the word “unworthy” in connection with a cousin who smokes an occasional joint, but then picks up a homeless teenager on the street and takes him home to give him a roof over his head? Does anyone have a right to judge as worthy or unworthy the gay man who has devoted his life to being a cancer nurse, lovingly caring for men in the last days of their lives? And what of the worthiness of a young, single mother who has given birth and now cares for her young child during the day while working the night shift?

Most regrettably, is the use of the W-word, by those who stand in self-judgment; never quite feeling that they are enough in the sight of God, never feeling they can live up to some unattainable standard of morality. What a cruel and painful word for any young man or young woman to inflict upon themselves as they struggle towards maturity.  What a burdensome word for any father or mother to allow in a family conversation. In our human experience, we all make mistakes and have regrets, we struggle and triumphant and learn and grown…no one is immune to the turbulence of life—young and old alike. Ironically, it is these very experiences that make us worthy (in the middle English sense of the word): honorable, admirable, deserving.

As members of “the family of man,” no one should be left standing outside of the circle. And as we partake, serve, stand, bless, enter and especially marry, the words we should use are those that must never be banned—I am Joyful. I am Blessed.  I am Grateful. I am Loved. I am Striving. I am Human. Scan

 

 

 

 

 

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The Ride of my Life!

DSC_0104A few years ago, I was attending the third funeral in a row of a family that had been forever changed by the ravages of Huntington’s disease. My friend and neighbor, Lael, had lost her husband and two children within a very short time. As her son spoke at the funeral, he paid tribute to his mother and said, “My mother is who she is because of this disease.” Lael is a wonderful woman; perhaps one of her greatest characteristics is her sense of humor.  I have never suffered the pain of this dear lady, but sometimes I hear those words in the back of my mind when I think of my son Andy.  “I am who I am because of Andy.” And, isn’t it ironic that at a time I am wondering, “What’s in a name?” that even my name carries an inside joke between God and me—about the need for a sense of humor in this life and also it offers a clue about who I am. Never does the last week of January pass without a few moments of reflection on that day when Andy came into my life bringing with him the gifts of Peace, Love and a lot of Rock and Roll!

Few people go through life spending as much time together as Andy and me— we have certainly spent more time together than I have with my parents, siblings or spouse. We do a tricky dance, the two of us.  He  “doesn’t need parents”—just ask him; but he still needs a “driver!”  At 28, Andy is very much an adult—not a kid in an adult body, but an adult, with adult needs, adult wants and adult frustrations from living in a world where things don’t always go according to plan. In other words, your “driver” doesn’t always get you to your desired destination! Oh Andy, how I can relate! Somehow, though, we just crank up the radio, keep moving and rock on!

No longer do I look back at what Andy has taught me—but now I look at how Andy has changed me. I am a much different person than when we met so many years ago. He has made me slower—perhaps that is not the politically correct way to phrase that-but life in the slow lane means that you take your time going everywhere and doing everything. We take our time getting dressed; we amble through the grocery store, we don’t hurry when we eat and together we get to enjoy the journey. (I practice A LOT of patience at Sam’s Club-because that is a BIG store to walk slowly through.) Andy and his friends have blurred my vision. I no longer can see those socially constructed lines between normal and not-normal, able and disabled. Everything is fuzzy and I now realize that everyone I meet in life has “special needs.” Even though I am still a “work in progress,” Andy has made me more honest with myself. Living with someone who is 100% authentic at all times, makes you envy the genuine life. It makes you appreciate being able to say, “No, I don’t like that” or “No, that doesn’t work for me” (his favorite phrase of late)—without having to tag on an excuse! But when Andy does smile and laugh—it is from the heart, pure, guileless, no strings attached.  Finally, Andy has taught me to love, unconditionally—as best I can anyway. Andy has poor vision too. He has no concept of class, color, intellectual ability, occupation, religious beliefs, age—he doesn’t even pay attention to the difference between mean people and nice people. Everyone just is in Andy’s world.

When I think back on that cold, January morning, twenty-eight years ago, I remember Steve laying Andy in my arms and telling me what the Dr. had just told him—I remember saying, “It will be o.k.  We will just take him home and love him.”  Maybe what was really going on in that moment was Andy was laying there in my arms looking up at me and thinking, “Well, she has potential, I will go home with her and see what I can do. Her eyes are a little different than mine, but they look kind.  I will just love her the best I can and hopefully someday in the future she will be whole again. Meanwhile, I will be patient and remember that she does have “Down” syndrome—and that is o.k.!”

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The Write Name!

DSC_0025“What’s in a name?” Juliet laments as she thinks of her lover Romeo-of the rival Montague family.  “Who am I?” Jean ValJean sings as he is torn between revealing his true self or allowing another to be charged with a crime he did not commit. “Did you lie?” Oprah grills Lance Armstrong. All of these questions mix in my mind as I think about writing, as I consider “what to do next” and even as I carve my initials in a slightly off-center bowl I have just pulled off a potter’s wheel.

“You have a contract with your reader…,” the English professor looks me in the eyes through my computer screen as I complete an online lesson on Writing  Creative Non-Fiction, “…a contract to always  tell the truth!”  “What difference does it make?”—Hillary Clinton screeches to a committee looking for answers. “The role of a writer is not to say what we all can say, but what we are unable to say.” A quote from Anais Nin, hastily written on a post-it note, stares at me from my desk drawer. These voices fill the empty spaces of my imagination as I clean and fold and drive and shower.

“Why do you want to write?”—my friend asks, as we sit in the warmth of the January sun talking about life and death, dreams and poetry. “I wish I had a pseudonym,” my daughter says as we discuss our blogs and I think of the one I would have chosen—Anne Honeyfield—names from both of my grandmothers. “My what a tangled web we weave when at first we do deceive,” so learned Manti Ta’o the Norte Dame football player caught in a game of Catfish! All of these thoughts have continued to simmer on the back burners of my mind, while other more important ideas evaporate into doubt and confusion.

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And, as the questions brew, slowly the answers begin to come. Gradually, new goals come into focus and stories once again begin to form. I grow to love the outspokenness of the family matriarch in Downton Abbey and secretly yearn to be like her. I feel indignation rise in my blood at the suggestion that “women who understand their roles have no need to lobby for rights!” I smile when I see a .com that bears my name and long to use it. I remind a teenager to be a leader not a follower—and realize I am reprimanding myself. I cheer on those elite women Navy Seals who will now be able to work beside their male counterparts, as I watch the evening news. I sink into warrior pose as I follow a morning yoga DVD and “feel the strength of mother earth” moving up through my legs.  I reclaim my name and boldly sign a piece of art…Colleen. I install Word on my new computer and once again begin to write.

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Auld Lang Syne…

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As I get older, I am finding that it is almost more important to reflect back on the old year and the things that I have learned, than it is to set goals for the New Year.  My greatest learning almost always comes from the experiences I would never choose for myself and certainly not from resolutions I make and break on paper.  I am not the person I was a year ago and many events in 2012 have changed me, refined me and helped me to grow. So here are a few of things I have “learned” in the past year…..

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*  The election of a president, the rantings of an incarcerated “prophet,” or the chiselings on an ancient Mayan Dayplanner will not bring about the end of the world. Each night it is important to set your alarm and your Mr. Coffee and prepare for a better tomorrow!

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* Little girls are made of sugar and spice and everything nice…and really fun to shop for.

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* Don’t try to explain the unexplainable. Silence truly can be golden. Sometimes the only prayer that can be uttered is, “Help us to bear, the unbearable.”

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* Any “change of life” is best done with a support group!

* “Cool parents” is an oxymoron. These two words should never be used in the same sentence.

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*  True art, whether it is poetry, a painting, a film or a novel (or even clumsy hands on a potter’s wheel), must push us to the edge of our comfort zone. It must make us make us slightly nervous and cause us to look at the world in a different way. It needs to speak to and for a part of our soul that has not yet been addressed.

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*The full and abundant life cannot be poured into a pair of “skinny jeans.” (I speak from experience!)

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* Dreams can come true—just put them out there! There is nothing that a lot of faith, hope and love cannot build!

* Some injuries take a very long time to heal, but we can learn much as we trust the process. A massage can heal both body and soul!

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* Happiness is not a state of being. Happiness is found in small moments that need to be acknowledged. If it were a state of being there would not be room for sadness, vulnerability, discouragement, yearning, melancholy, anger—all of those other emotions that make us human. However, the more we recognize the moments of happiness, the more content we will be.

* FaceBook is making the world a kinder, gentler, smaller place (except for those weeks leading up to an election!)

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*All we must do to keep hope alive in our hearts is to leave the door open so that the “breath of life” can circulate in and around and through us. Even the smallest spark of hope can be fanned and tended until a flame begins to grow and we once again experience warmth and light. Never shut the doors of your heart or hearth so tight that circulation is cut off!

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* After thirty-two years, Steve still loves me as much as ever!

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* EVERYONE needs a set of wheels!

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*Love is tangible enough to hold up a nervous groom walking down the aisle and to hold up a grieving bride following down the aisle to memorialize him  a few months later. The love of family and friends can fill a room to the point of being able to feel it wafting through the air and moving across your skin. Hearts and lives are sealed together by tears, laughter and love. Period.

Finally, I wholeheartedly agree with Stephen Hawking who said, “The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge.” I have also learned the more I know, the more I realize how much I don’t know! So here is a toast to 2013 and the lessons that will keep coming!

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For Clarissa

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I feel so blessed that I could be in Texas for the birth of little Clarissa. She has now taken up residence in that part of my heart where I pray and worry and dream for my children and grandchildren. I have thought of her often these past couple of months and wish that I could once again hold her in my arms, rock her and whisper a blessing in her ear of all that I would hope for her. Like Fiona, Fauna and Merriweather, the matronly fairies in Sleeping Beauty, I wish I could wave my magic wand and bestow my deepest wishes upon her.

For Clarissa

My Dear Clarissa Ann, my little Southern Belle, you were born into a long line of Southern ladies, women gracious, hospitable and strong in every way. Texas ladies who single handily ran cattle ranches and cared for the sick. And in your line of ancestors you have those who fought in the Alamo and preached self-reliance and hope after the Civil War. I hope that you will be strong of character and gentle of heart as you look to this wonderful heritage you have through all the different lineages.

 You were also born into a city of diversity. It is a melting pot of so many cultures, a city of art and science, a city that put men on the moon and is a mecca for art and theater. I hope that you will carry this tradition in your heart also and be open to all. Seek learning and wisdom. Embrace science and math. Surround yourself with art and literature.  Follow your mother’s example of seeing beauty and delight in the smallest flowers and in the most glorious sunsets. Glean from her those principles of art– balance, movement, color and composition that will help you to look at the world with wonder and amazement. From your father learn reasoning and science so that your life will be balanced and full.

 Take advantage of every opportunity you will have for travel, to explore, to circle the world and to share your experiences with others. Live broadly and deeply. Read broadly and deeply. Love broadly and deeply. Know how much you are loved and thought about, no matter where you may be living. Know that even a picture brings joy to a Nana’s heart. You were born into an age when the world is shrinking and we are connected with each other in so many different ways, always take advantage of these to stay in touch, both with those you love intimately and those whose lives you may cross paths with briefly.

Gather all of life in a loosely woven basket. Gather the moon and the stars and the sunrises. Gather the smell of pines and the fragrance of roses. Gather the sounds of rushing rivers and the songs of birds at the end of the day. Gather smiles and tears and love and laughter. Gather hugs and pain. Gather manna daily from the poets and philosophers; the thinkers and the musicians. Gather joy and sorrow. Fill your basket to overflowing and then share with others. Give of your meager loaves and fishes and then gather the abundance that will come back to you.

I bless you that you will always be yourself and never try to be someone else. Nurture your spirit and soul and learn of those gifts which only you possess and which only you can use to help heal this world. Dream big. Live fully and at times even recklessly. Take risks and be prudent. Climb mountains and swim in oceans and then sit quietly under the stars and ponder your place in this vast universe. Rejoice in the mystery of it all. Be satisfied with not knowing while always continuing to seek.

Most importantly, I bless you with a strong heart, a loving heart, a giving heart. Open your arms and life to all those around you. Notice the one who is not within your circle and bring them into it. I pray that you will be healthy and strong. I pray that you will have all you desire and need in this life. I pray that you will be safe and secure. Never forget how much you are loved and prayed for and thought of and how delighted we are that you are part of our family, welcome to our hearts, our sweet, precious Rissy.

rissy

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