Tuesday, December 25, 2012

This Christmas Morning

This Christmas, Santa came to our house, possibly near midnight when we heard a thud on the roof.   I woke up at my usual 5:30 am, to a deep silence.  Ozzie followed me downstairs and had a peek under the tree.  Smelling a mesh bag of dog bones, he gently lifted the bag in his teeth and carried it over to the rug.  While the coffee dripped, I sat down to wait.  Usually, this never happens.  Usually, Elliot or Emily, or both would be jumping on my bed and waking me from a deep slumber. 

This year was different and the same as Christmases usually are.  This year was different because I decided to be happy, no matter that Emily had to go back to her life up north.

There's too much good to celebrate in life to spend a single moment moping about loss, goodbyes and long distance family.  I took a shower, ate a cookie for breakfast, and still, Elliot slept on.  It was a quiet, foggy sunrise before I heard his foot stomps in the hall.

"Merry Christmas!!!!!!!" he said while pounding down the steps.

"Merry Christmas Elliot!" we said, giving hugs and smiles.  He made a bee line for the corner, where Santa had indeed left a few packages to open.

"This is the best day of my LIFE!"  he said, ripping open a box with a Lego The Clone Wars Video game for his Xbox.  Then he jumped on his go cart, a German Kettler Car.  A go cart is Elliot's dream come true!

There were many gifts to open under our tree this year, and lots of surprises.  My mom is continually generous with all of us, sending a big box stuffed with beautiful presents.  Richard enjoyed his big box of kitchen tools including a food processor. I was thrilled to find a gift card for Barnes and Noble....just in time to start rebuilding my library!

Emily also had many gifts to share with us, and lots of fun activities.  We made the most of every single moment. 

Every Christmas seems to come and go so fast, and just when I'm beginning to make the holiday a part of daily life, I have to start thinking of the ordinary calendar once again.  But for now, Richard has the rest of the week off and we plan to really relax and enjoy the every day blessings.

I hope you had a wonderful Christmas and I'll be back again after the New Year.

 Peace to you my friends,


Friday, December 21, 2012

Comfort and Joy

Today there are desperate people living daily with severe anxiety, depression, addiction, and a multitude of painful challenges.  I'm becoming more aware of this troubling society as I spend time outside of my usual circle of internet haunts.  I'm disturbed by television news and the internet.

Disturbed and afraid.

This expanding perspective has granted the gift of gratitude for being me.

Just me, the way I really am.

And while I am feeling good about my situation in life, I realize that the practice of writing is an act that constructs an identity.  What I write here effects the shape and shadows, the light and lines of my soul mass, if souls can contain weight or form.  Writing is a fluid act of creating me.

I have a mind, and I'm training it to obedience and purpose.  It is serious business, and I am a serious person. On another level, writing is an act of letting go.  It is a way of being open, of letting something flow and fall through me.

 I am also lighthearted and humorous and can be incredibly silly in real life.  But sometimes that never makes it to the page.  I hope to include that part of me more often. 

    As a writer constructing the soul mass, I have often thought of leaving the internet entirely for a long sabbatical, perhaps for the rest of my life.  I sometimes wonder:  what good is it really contributing to the quality of my life?  Shouldn't I be out in the garden, in the woods, on the lake?  Then I remember that I am developing within a loving community as well as a troubled society. I don't want to write by myself in a room of my own, or on a grassy hill with no one to talk to. I need the nurturers, the spiritual guides, the seekers, the positive, loving kind people who are also human and fallible.  I need those kinds of teachers for my mind and heart the way my body needs healthy nutrition and plenty of sleep, fresh air and exercise.  Sure, those kinds of writers do exist in the library on a shelf, but they are rare.  There is a lot of serious intellect on those shelves, not a bounty of thoughtful people sharing the goodness of ordinary daily life in a grateful way.  The library is not blogland.

I need living friends whose act of writing kindness uplift my life and help me to carry the kindness outward into the three dimensional world.  I need their energy of goodness.  It is one of the best gifts I receive.

Merry Christmas to all of my wonderful, vibrant, loving and kind friends here.  Peace and blessings of comfort and joy.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

May There Be Peace

The Peace Quilt by Elizabeth Graf

Today I'm sharing the work of fine artist Elizabeth Graf.  Her colorful, evocative work is available here:

In the spirit of sharing calming messages in a time of uncertainty, I'm following the example of artist Eric Carle, who posted this message with a beautiful collage today:

"May there be peace for children everywhere.  May there be peace for all."

 Eric Carle

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The One and the Many

Perhaps this isn't a time for words.

Perhaps this is only a time for silent prayer, for the families and all of those affected by random evil and deadly bullets.  Words of strangers cannot fill the void left by the loss of a child or family member.  While research has proven that the prayers of people unknown to cancer patients has a positive effect, I wonder if the prayers of our nation and the world will have a positive impact on the families enduring the tragedy in Connecticut.  I think about being one person in a world of many who suffer, and it seems impossible that anything I do or say would have an impact or change a single thing.

But I'm going to keep praying anyway.

I spent yesterday in a happily ignorant state, not having turned on the television or the computer.  It was a "ninja mission" day.  Elliot's mission was to shop for toys for children experiencing homelessness.  While the unspeakable act was happening, I was standing in an aisle in Walmart while Elliot carefully worked out his decision.  He was frustrated by the price of toys, commenting on the fact that some of the items were "fake" Lego, or cheaply made junk.  He wanted to give something really, really good, and I was feeling emotional thinking about how seriously he was taking this responsibility.  I watched him push little buttons on action figures, take some items off the shelf, check prices and ask questions. He fully understood that his choice would affect a child's Christmas morning.

  In the end, he chose two folding scooters, thinking about the hours of play he enjoyed on his own scooter.  When we arrived at the IRC building (a day center for people experiencing homelessness), a man with white hair approached us in the parking lot, beaming a smile, carrying a plate of baked goods.  He addressed Elliot and said "Thank you so much for coming here today and bringing toys for the children!" (Was this man the REAL Santa in street clothes? He introduced himself as "Skip" but he was jolly, a little round, and wearing red.)

 Inside the building, we were surprised to see that the walls had been freshly painted a beautiful shade of calming green.  As Elliot explained to the receptionist that he was bringing gifts for children "ages five to 12", he received more warm greetings and gratitude.  On this visit, both of us felt a little less intimidated and more comfortable. Repeated exposure grants the gift of familiarity.  We recognized faces and understood the atmosphere a little better.

  On the ride home, we resumed a discussion about fear.  Elliot said that he no longer feels afraid at the sight of a homeless person, because he is helping.  Giving has equipped him with a path to courage.

I don't have any answers when it comes to the occurrence of violent rampages in our nation or terrorism in this world.  I am often afraid, and left a good job in the heart of a dangerous neighborhood because of my fear.  So it is incredibly important to me that I am able to share the truth of my fears to my child, but in such a way that he understands the importance of hope, and how to take action in the face of fear. 

Individually we are one, together we are many.  Today my action is to pray with the many. 

Dear God, take this world into your loving hands.  We need you more than ever.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Living Inside of Time

Life-long learning means that sometimes I find a huge gap in my education that needs to be filled.  How did it happen that I somehow missed ever knowing the name Ruth Gruber?

Last night, sitting in my thickest socks, drinking tea with a blanket and a head cold, I watched the brilliant Ruth Gruber in a documentary of her life called Ahead of Time.  While I leaned closer to hear the mind blowing story of her life, my heart leaped at several points, the first being the moment when she tells her father that she doesn't want to be a secretary or a teacher, but a writer.  The second was when she described this concept of "living inside time."

During my journey with the Religious Society of Friends, I've discovered the benefits of waiting, patience, sitting, and silence.  But this concept of time was new to me, even though it made perfect sense.  Today, as a way to open the workweek, I want to share a passage from the introduction of Gruber's book Inside of Time.

     "It was on my first trip to Alaska during WWII that I learned to live "inside of time."  I might be sitting in a place like Nome.  I would send a radio message to Anchorage for a bush pilot to pick me up and fly me to Point Barrow.

     The answer would come back--- "See you Tuesday, WEAPERS."  "WEAPERS" meant weather permitting.  Tuesday came.  The next Tuesday came.  Then the next, but no bush pilot. Usually it was the weather.  Or the pilot was sick or on a binge.

     Until that fateful voyage, I had been a restless fighter against time. If the elevated train from my shtetl in Williamsburg, Brooklyn to Manhattan was a few minutes late, I screamed at it under my breath like a longshoreman.

     Now, instead of sending my blood pressure rocketing, I began to use the days and weeks of waiting.  Wherever my lap was became my desk.  I could fill more pages in my notebooks, send more reports to Harold L. Ikes, secretary of the interior---for whom I was working as field representative and later as special assistant---and interview more people, especially the Eskimos, whose serenity and affirmation of life I so admired.

     Time was no longer my enemy. Now it enveloped me, liberated me.  Living in a magical circle of space and energy helped fuel my love of words and images, the tools with which I would later fight injustice."

This new teacher in Ruth is a gift to me.  I'm learning that my impatience is not helping me to accomplish anything.  And to have a new concept of time as we head closer to Christmas is such a blessing.  I vow not to get caught up in the mania of trying to create some kind of magic in our house, when this season really is about the coming of Christ the Lord.  I never feel ready for this. 

This expectant, waiting time is a challenge. I want to have peace in my heart and not stress.  I've learned how to use anger as fuel for creating good things and see my complex emotions as sparks for transformation and forgiveness.  The next step is to use impatience as fuel for learning how to live inside of time.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Colors of My Daughter's Room

The following is an original poem I wrote today, with plans for later revision.

The Colors of My Daughter's Room

I watched her walk under the arch,
Saint Louis in the spring,
That gateway to the West.
The sound of suitcase wheels
scraping concrete,
rolling away,
following tennis shoes.

Then at home there was a space.
The one I tried to fill by starting

Roll up the posters.

The colors of my daughter's room
Change with her absence
When I have hope 
Of her return.

We share a past
One walked away
And someone stayed.

The tone I spoke
A sound that flashed!
Let go of longing the past

Walk into now
With older eyes,
The child grown.

Pink curtains stay
Because I compromise
This new condition
Of my liberty.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Our Clarence the Angel

Every time we make the seventeen hour journey to Richard's family farm in Missouri, I return home with a fresh perspective on faith and life's purpose.  This past Thanksgiving, we spent a week visiting our loved ones on a fifty-three acre farm, with rolling hills and spectacular sunrises.  The air was cold and windy.  Out on that landscape, I woke up to my life.

And the sheer beauty of being alive.

Sometimes the past can be a complicated mess of confusing emotions.  Painful memories surface, yet those memories don't stop the human spirit from healing.  I learned about unconditional love this week, and it made me cry.  

Then, on the ride home, Elliot was stricken with a fierce stomach cramp that made it painful to walk.  For several hours, he suffered in the back seat and we worried.  Then we prayed.  We prayed mile after mile for Elliot to be relieved of his pain, then stopped at a truck stop for medicine.  On the way back to our car, we were stopped by a man who struck up a random conversation.  This man claimed to be a doctor, and told us never to underestimate our child.  He said that when he was a boy, he told everyone he was going to be a doctor, then grew up to attend college and achieve his dream.  The story he told about being a black college student in the south during the time of integration was gripping.  He captivated us with his story, and while he spoke, the world around us faded to the background.  I was aware that I needed to attend to my son who was having an urgent issue, but felt prompted to be patient a little while longer and listen.

While the man spoke, I noticed that it was unusual for a doctor to be dressed in a suit jacket that was frayed and worn, with a rumpled flannel shirt underneath.  As the conversation came to a close, he mentioned the word "Savior" and sent us on our way.  When we sped up to enter the highway, I asked Elliot how he was feeling.  He said, "I'm completely healed."

Richard and I both spoke aloud our suspicions that the black doctor was really an angel in disguise, sent to help Elliot and to give us hope and encouragement.  He reminded us of Clarence from It's a Wonderful Life.

The thing about faith is that you don't have to prove it to anyone. You just believe. 

We came home to find everything just as we left it, but somehow we were different.  We were more appreciative, more excited to be sharing this life together as a family.  When I looked at my desk top computer I realized that in that box, I also have a little home here on this blog.  I didn't miss the new project on Wordpress, and came home with no impulse to start over somewhere else.  I live in an older home in real life, and maybe because Blogger is an older internet home, that's what makes it feel better to me.  I'm not concerned about looking fresh or being taken seriously by critics. I only need a space to write what's in my heart and not worry about whether or not I appear to be a professional.

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