Imagine…..

My FaceBook page has been full of posts today of reflections of what people were doing on the morning of September 11, 2001. In the same way that my parent’s generation can tell you exactly where they were and what they were doing on the day John F. Kennedy died, my generation and my children’s generation will forever have seared into their conscience the events of that tragic day. I was at home getting children off to school and “ironically” preparing to make a trip to New York City later that week to attend the United Nation’s Conference on Children, when everything changed, both personally and for our country. As much as I remember the events of 9/11, I reflect more on the night a few months later when in New York City a taxi cab driver dropped us off at the site of the World Trade Center. Surrounded by a chain link fence, it still stood as a makeshift memorial to those thousands of people who lost their lives. Teddy bears, candles, pictures and poems covered the blocks around the gaping hole. Instantly and uncontrollably the tears fell, as statistics became faces; human faces, real faces with real families lighting candles and leaving flowers.

A few days ago, sitting at a dinner table with Pastor Mike Imperial, someone asked him if he was a Presbyterian. He replied “No,” and smiled. He then said, “I am the pastor of the Presbyterian Church in Salt Lake, but I always remind people we are not “Catholics” or “Baptists” or “Mormons” those are the names of the churches where we worship. He then said, “I am a Christian who attends a Presbyterian church.” His little speech brought back memories of the years after my son Andy was born, unaware of the pain their words caused, older people would refer to Andy as a “mongoloid.”  I would make a similar speech, “Andy is a baby boy, with an extra-chromosome. Down Syndrome is his condition, not his identity (and really folks, the term mongoloid is never used anymore).”  Identities like labels can be so confining.

Today, I would like to take Pastor Mike’s remarks one-step further. We are not Christians, Muslims, Hindus or Jews….those are only the containers that hold the rituals we use to worship something higher than ourselves. We are humans….the family of man…children of “life’s longing for itself.” We share the same dreams, feel the same pain, hope the same things for our children, rejoice in birth and suffer together in death. With economic borders dissolving and the internet capturing us all in the same web, hopefully, John Lennon’s world will be one that will no longer have to be imagined. Armageddon will eventually usher in a new world through love….not bloodshed….that is what I hope for my children and children’s children in our post 9/11 world.

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A Nana’s Blessing


Holding and rocking little Charlotte this past month, I find myself kissing her soft head and whispering blessings in her ear. There is something unique about a  daughter or granddaughter that makes you want to pass on all you have learned. Like Flora, Fauna and Merryweather, the matronly fairies in Sleeping Beauty, I feel not only like blessing my own little “Aurora” with beauty, song and protection from the Maleficents in her life, but also with a myriad of other things.  Taking her in my arms, in her beautiful blessing dress, made to match her mother’s wedding dress—it was impossible not to “bless” her and also my own grown daughters with all I hold dear.

A Nana’s Blessing

Dear Charlotte, as I rock you in my arms, I whisper in your ear, a blessing from a Nana who loves you dearly and prays daily for your health and strength and safety. You were born into a loving family and a long line of good, strong, independent women whose hopes and dreams you continue to carry in your heart. I hope you can come to know them throughout your life.

Like so many of your grandmothers before you, you were born into the majesty of the mountains. May they always inspire you to look upward, climb to new heights and feel secure in their strength.  I hope that you can always stand in awe at their beauty and rejoice in the spirit you will feel as you commune with nature, as you hike and bike and ski and run the trails that so many of us have already passed over and I hope that you too will blaze new paths of your own. However, never let mountains encircle you so tight that you forget that you also have wings to fly over the top of their peaks and experience the broad world beyond. May your eyes “see” a higher power in all things, in the opening of a rose, the society of a honeybee, the thrill of a falling star or the splendor of a sunset.

I bless you that, like my mother and grandmother, you will always have a desire for learning and a love of good books. In whatever form they may be packaged in the future, always keep one near you. Devour them when you must. And don’t let the cares and busyness of life leave you wanting when there is always an abundance of wisdom to be found within the pages of a book. Gather manna daily!  Never let your knowing keep you from learning or your finding keep you from seeking or being filled keep you from hungering.

I bless you with a kind and gentle heart, just like your mother’s. Always keep your circle open to those who may find themselves on the outside. Realize that there are two powers granted to us in this life-the power to cause fear and the power to love. Let the power of love guide you in all you do. Always know that God is love— this is the ground and foundation of our being.

I hope you will “dream big dreams” and follow your heart where it leads you. May you become the woman that you are meant to be and share the gifts that are uniquely yours with those around you. Seek out these gifts and when you find them fiercely protect them and guard them from those who may try to steal them away. Always use them to spread joy and to be a force for good in this world.

I hope that you will find strength and love and comfort in the lives of the Nanas who have gone before you. May you have a little of the Southern graciousness and hospitality of Anna and feel of her unconditional love. May you have enough of the rebelliousness of Bernice that you will always stand against injustice and intolerance. I hope you will have some of Barbara’s zest for adventure and travel and her love of nature, the red rocks of the desert and kindness towards animals. I hope that you will know of Suzanne’s love of her family and her “all for one, one for all” philosophy in helping others in times of need. I hope you have Laura’s Northern California openness. I hope you have Vivienne’s gift for music and your Grandma Tiede’s gentleness and beautiful smile. From me, I hope I can pass on my love of family, my quest for truth, my appreciation for art and beauty, my courage to speak out and my desire to leave this world a little better because I was here.

These are the blessings I hope for you my dear, sweet Charlotte, for my daughters Heather, Jessica and Katelyn and even for myself!

My Grandma Bernie and me-1960

Grandma Tiede and Charlotte
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Something Smells Heavenly!

A few weeks ago, as I walked around Jessica’s yard taking pictures of her flowers, I made the comment, “I wish my camera could capture the scents.” She said, “You will just have to do it with your writing Mom!”  I have been thinking of that ever since.

Stepping out of the car and breathing in the warm air, heavy with the scents of blooming Southern flowers, I was transported to another time and place. Suddenly, a rush of memories surrounded me. The feeling was so overwhelming that I had to try and regain my bearings. As I moved through the yard, from plant to plant, I found myself inhaling recollections of people and places buried deep in my past.  Science tells us that our olfactory nerves are connected to the part of the brain associated with memory.  The sense of smell is the first thing lost in Alzheimer’s disease. Even though I can’t remember why I walked out into the kitchen half the time, on this afternoon, in my daughter’s beautiful yard, I was remembering so much more.

The waxy green leaves and white rose-like flowers of the gardenia bush instantly took me back to my childhood home. My mom was dressed in her nicest Sunday dress, her hair freshly ratted, teased and poofed up high. She had on red stiletto shoes with pointy toes that, even as a child, I wondered how her toes fit inside. Her lipstick matched the shoes. My Dad was still dressed in his work clothes, a dark suit and tie, a closely cut crew cut and black, horned rimmed glasses. There were cuff links on his white shirt. Instructions were given to the babysitter and goodnights were said. As my mother bent to kiss me goodbye, the scent of Jungle Gardenia perfume-her favorite, lingered behind, wrapping me securely in her love. All was right in the world at that moment. My parents loved each other and loved me and tomorrow when I woke up there would be little paper umbrellas or coconut shaped glasses, souvenirs from their evening out on the town, for me to play with. It was all there, in one whiff, 45 years later.


Moving to the back fence, I found the Star Jasmine, filling the entire neighborhood with its smell and then transporting me to my bedroom floor where my Kiddles Dolls surrounded me. These small two-inch dolls were the rage among the first grade girls in the 1960’s. Kiddles in lockets, Kiddles in pop bottles and my favorite Kiddles in perfume jars. The blooming Jasmine smell reminded me of their smell and of  a time when I was “big” and life was “Liddle.” There were no problems too big to deal with and laying my Kiddles side by side on the floor, everything was in order and organized in my small bedroom world.

A few days later, I cut several branches of purple lilacs. Again, I was home. This time it was in the backyard. Right behind the swing set, that my parents had so patiently put together from the hundreds of pieces in the box from Sears and Roebuck, were the lilacs.  A large hedge of bushy green divided my world from all the other neighbors. These were the same leaves that my mom used to teach me to “whistle through a leaf.” The big leaves made a deep, base sound. The tiny leaves a high pitch. Learning to pump a swing and stretch my legs towards the sky, I would inhale their fragrance and in my childhood mind ponder Heaven. I wondered, if I could just swing high enough, would I be able to touch it. Both of my grandparents had recently passed away and swinging high, I would feel like, maybe I could somehow get closer to them, just like the picture in my Little Golden Book of the Angel Child. It was all so simple. Heaven was near then and seemed a little nearer once again, as I drew in one last deep breath of the fresh cut lilacs.

Warm memories of happy times all wrapped up in the soft velvety leaves of a single flower. What gift-wrapping the universe uses to store small packages of love. On another morning, tears were close to the surface; homesickness had set in for easier times when there were more answers than questions. Stepping outside my bedroom door, I leaned over and put my nose into a single, blooming pink rose. For a moment, bypassing every logical pathway, security once again swept over me-all was at peace in my universe-but only for an instant, only long enough to remind me that somewhere, long ago and maybe far away was a home. Many, many times since, I have tried to recreate that sacred experience, captured in that single rose. I only now have the faint recollection of the morning and the message, but its memory has always been enough to calm me and remind me, just like a whiff of Jungle Gardenia perfume, that I am loved and home is only a breath away!


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Home Sweet Home

I just read an article in a magazine entitled Making Your Home a General Store.  I smiled as I thought of my own experience with home as store—complete with grocery store shelving, enough Joy dish liquid and honey to last until I die and a year’s supply of rodents. My experience convinced me to leave the grocery business to Safeway and to take Moses’ advice on not gathering more Manna than one can consume at one time,  lest it “breed worms and stink.” The article reminded me of the many other “Making your Home a (Fill in the Blank)” advice I have heard over the years.

 

In my job as full-time homemaker and mother, I have been instructed to make my Home a Place of Learning—I was told I needed to have homework and art centers, book-filled shelves and filters on the internet. (After the gusto of September faded and the new Magic Markers dried out, we were pretty much back to sitting on the couch, watching Idol and doing math homework during commercials.) I attended a seminar where I learned to cook all my meals for the month in one day: grating cheese and putting it in baggies, chopping all the veggies, making mixes etc. I could make my Home a Stouffers Frozen Food Factory—I never even attempted that. Home as Temple just never really caught on amid the skateboards, skis and frogs that came with raising four boys. We did attempt a few Home as Day Spa events with the girls—but pedicures in the bathtub just don’t quite compare with the ones given by my South Asian friends. Another speaker I heard referred to Home as a Launching Pad—for the day’s activities. She instructed us to have everything neatly organized in the mud room with lockers. Each child would simply grab their backpack, neatly typed notes to teachers, lunch money and be on their way. We have had a lot of aborted take-offs around here! I have read advice to make your home a missionary training center, a travel agency and a quilt shop! Hell (o), a recent episode of Doomsday Preppers showed how to turn your swimming pool into a fish hatchery and your basement into a nuclear bomb shelter! There is just so much insanity that should be taking place within the four walls we call “Home!”

(All of my children gathering to research a relevant topic–like Charlie Bit Me!)

Personally, I guess what has worked for me and my “less than entrepreneurial spirit” is home as refuge—Making home a refuge from the demands of life. Even without the McGruff Safety House sticker on the window, I see my home as a safe place. It is a place that you can run down the hall half-naked, because your pants are still in the dryer; a place you can curl up on the couch and throw up in a garbage can when you don’t feel well. It is a place to have a good cry when something terrible happens—the cry that makes your face all red and puffy. Home is where you know you will be loved and accepted no matter how badly you screwed up or how rotten your socks smell.  It is a place where you can still lick the bowl and prepare a meal without a food handler’s permit. It is where the dog and the cat share the same dish in a spirit of mutual respect. Home is a place where you can stand in the shower until the water runs cold and then finish the last chapter of a great book while sitting on your bed wrapped in a towel. It is a place for a late night snack with a sibling and an early morning cup of joe with a spouse. Home is where good grades are very important—except when they are not. Home is where you can barbeque a hamburger, swim in the pool sans rainbow trout and leave the end of the world for another day. Home is hearth and family.  Home is where all is safely gathered in—unless of course, you have to dash to the grocery because the family prepper forgot to stock up on Ben and Jerry’s ice cream.




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Questions and Answers

Walking home from the physical education building after helping a group of young adults train for Special Olympics, I look up at the sky and ask, “Why?” Why, here at an institute of higher learning, am I physically fit, my mind active and expanding, why do others need to struggle so?

Traveling on a road in Galilee, disciples ask the Master, “Why was this man born blind?”

Exhausted and exhilarated after giving birth to my first son, my eyes fill with tears as I plead for answers. “What’s an anomaly? How does a child get Down Syndrome? What am I supposed to do next? Why him? Why me?”

Passing by the bathroom, I see two brothers, grown men now, their faces covered in shaving cream, laughing; joking; flexing their muscles in front of the mirror. The younger helping the older. Love overcoming all boundaries. I smile. All of my questions have been answered!

I have loved the freedom and constraints offered by 150 words! Here are a couple more from friends.

Carolyn–a dear friend who sits by my side each Sunday sharing her wisdom and smile writes:

My story is one of Joy in the world around me and of faith – mostly faith in other people, and that ultimately good will win. Small town girl escaping to a super university and discovering that there were others with major capabilities, dwarfing mine, and a whole new world to explore. Bolstered with high ideals and strong values, and extremely fortunate to meet a young man with a similar background, I embarked on creating a family and a home for them. To me a home is a refuge, and I’ve also enjoyed offering that on occasion to others. My goal is to be a warm and caring person, one to lift up others and let them know someone cares. I’ve yet to discover my purpose in life, and find myself discouraged at the constraints circumstances seem to have imposed, but I work at being joyful and moving forward in faith.

My sister, Cheryl, always one to take on a new challenge or adventure or meet a new person writes:

I ask the students I tutor, “What is a product?” It’s the answer you get when you multiply. I am a product — of all I have done multiplied by all those whose paths I have crossed. My life goals include meeting everyone and going everywhere. I am who I am partly because of my elementary classmates in Kentucky multiplied by my friend Angela in Arizona. The beauty of a bay in Puerto Rico multiplied by the friends I was with on that cruise formed me. The teenage students on a bus in Wales and amazing past roommates are factors in my life. Divorced parents, Korea, adoption, Tennessee, special needs daughter, creative son, Colorado, coworkers at a clothing store, Mexico, widowed neighbors — the factor list is innumerable. I am a product, and fortunately, a product is bigger than the numbers you started with.

My comment board is open 24/7 if anyone else has the urge to tell their story in 150 words!


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Acts of Magic

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“Writing for me, is an act of faith, a hope that I will discover what is meant by truth. I also think of reading as an act of faith, a hope that I will discover something remarkable about ordinary life, about myself. I the writer and the reader discover the same thing, if they have that connection, the act of faith has resulted in an act of magic. To me, that is the mystery and the wonder of both life and fiction–the connection between two individuals who discover in the end that they are more the same than they are different.”—Amy Tan author of “The Joy Luck Club”

 

Reading my friends “stories” this week has definitely resulted in an act of magic. I hope many more will keep posting their thoughts. It is a scary thing…I have blogged long enough to know that “ butterfly feeling” in the stomach, that begins the moment you push the “Post” button. I applaud everyone’s bravery in sharing a little part of yourself!

My sister, Cathy, has always been at my door for every happy and for every sad event of my life with a flower, a casserole or cleaning supplies. Of course, she put aside her fear and showed up to support my blog. She wrote:

 

Piece of Me

It started as a thought, I suppose. Definitely a desire of some kind. Then there was me. A little piece of those who came before. Brown eyes and a love of outdoors from Dad. Smooth skin and the joy of reading from Mom. Years pass. There is another thought, another desire, and a piece of me is born. Repeated seven times. A piece of me that loves to a be a mother but does it so much better. A little piece of my sense of humor personified into one who needs laughter to thrive. An obedient heart, working to be a peacemaker, a love of learning, a small measure of athletic ability, a need to talk, a desire to serve the Lord, trying to do my best; tiny pieces of me passed on with my DNA. Seven different pieces of me, magnified by their own uniqueness, that somehow make me complete.

My friend Katy is wise beyond her years and a source of so much inspiration to me on FaceBook—she is also an amazing baker and artist! She wrote:

I don’t know who I am yet. Maybe I never will. At least, not in this life. Maybe in my next, or next. Maybe by then I will be done living in this world, and can settle in the one I am most comfortable in. I can pretty much guarantee it won’t be this one. In that world, there will be obvious beauty in all things, the most intimate of friends to sit on the porch and rock with no matter how far they live, after all, we can get anywhere in the twinkling of an eye. We will sit back and laugh at how hard we made things on ourselves, and wonder how different our lives would have been if we knew then what we know now. Oh, how hindsight is everything, and nothing….yet now, in hindsight, maybe I do know who I am after all.

When I wrote of sharing a cup of coffee with an intimate friend, Ruthanne would certainly fall in this category—had we been alive in during the Salon days of Paris, she would have been by my side as we expounded our thoughts on “how things should be”—who knows maybe we were! Check out her blog at Floating Flair!

I was raised in a closed minded world. I would often run into the walls around my life but was too fearful of the man-god I was taught about to ever break free. When someone I love broke through, I gladly followed. I was introduced to new ideas and opportunities. I learned to accept everyone, but was challenged with the ability to leave regrets behind. I am learning to live in the now, and value a tomorrow. I continue on the quest to find peace with a desire for enough time to achieve it.

Please keep posting—they put a smile on my face and a tear in my eye-Magic!


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Great and Small

I was born into the great open spaces of the West, in the Mile High City. I am happiest nestled up against a mountain, wrapped in a blanket, in front of a roaring fire. My imagination can soar to the strangest of places, so I keep myself grounded in the dirt of my garden. I love being surrounded by the hustle and bustle of a large family during the day, yet crave the quiet moments of solitude in the early dawn. My love and my kitchen pots can feed an army, but I find communion in intimate conversations over a simple cup of coffee. I can plow through the heaviest of books, however I often find truth in a four-line poem by Rumi. Through it all, I have discovered a God large enough to fill the universe and my longings and personal enough to be reflected in every person’s heart.

(My friend said I couldn’t do anything in 150 words—but I did, so there! Now is it your turn, I can’t wait to see what everyone comes up with!)

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