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Archive for the ‘Family stories’ Category

“Meaning does not come from what we do. It comes from what we are. If we are lovers of beauty, then beauty will fill us all our days. If we are committed to justice, then justice will drive us past all fatigue or failure. If we are devoted to building human community, then we will find meaning in the people whose lives we touch. It’s when we are driven by nothing other than our daily schedules that life becomes gray, listless, and dour.

Life happens quickly but the meaning of it comes into focus only slowly, slowly, slowly. The challenge is to keep on asking ourselves what it is.” These words are taken from author and Benedictine nun, Joan Chittister, in Songs of the heart, Reflections on THE PSALMS.

She offers a simple and profound book of poignant and challenging reflections on twenty five of the 150 songs of praise found in the psalms. Each of the twenty-five chosen reflections offer a spiritual oasis away from the stresses of a world that demands more than the human soul can sometimes bear and have rich meaning for people today.

In my memoir, Journey Girl, Steps in Secrets and Sanctuary, I too offer at the beginning of each chapter a brief pause for the reader that is like the spiritual oasis Joan Chittister speaks of. I call them Islands of Silence. They are easy and accessible to the at-home mother who needs a private pause from combined child-care, taxi driver, medical emergencies and unending upkeep of home responsibilities.

They are equally beneficial for the students of all ages (we are all students of life) and business and corporate ladder climbers who can find an instant cubby-hole within to take stock and quiet the busy and overworked mind.

The first Island of Silence I offer in Chapter One is…..

 

The Breath
The Easiest of All Practices of Consciousness
Wherever God lays his glance life starts clapping.
Hafiz

Your breath is an Island of Silence that is with you at all times. You cannot live without it. A baby’s first important work to do when he/she arrives and separates from the maternal umbilical cord is to… breathe.

There are many meditative practices that focus on different ways to engage with your breath for stress relief and relaxation, but taken down to its simplest level, one may just choose to watch one’s breath.

If you don’t want to go to a gym, if you are not ready to engage in Pilates or Yoga (where the attention is put on the breath), you are perfectly free to sit comfortably alone, turn your thoughts inward, seek the quiet and simply breathe… in… out… in… out.

You will see this Island of Silence will come to you and you will appreciate the restoration it gives. Beautiful scenery will not take your breath away. It will give you more breath.
If you don’t wish to sit, you may walk in one of your favorite landscapes, amidst flowers and trees, birds, and animals, still focusing on your breath coming in… going out… coming in… going out.

You may be stuck in traffic with things to do, but still… you are stuck in traffic and you can breathe in… breathe out… breathe in… breathe out.

Return to this Island of Silence many times during the day. It is perfectly fine to take short stay vacations of breathing tranquility. It is low cost, efficient, and brings rewards of renewed energy and purpose. Turn your attention to your breath daily and give this a try.

This is an Island of Silence that begins the first chapter of an at-risk emergency birth where the child is saved, yet the young twenty-nine year old mother dies. Life and death do, indeed, both happen quickly. I am the child who lived. The meaning of it and the grace held within the loss of my mother all happened very, very slowly

 

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“It’s been a long day for you,” the angel said to me. It was only 7:45pm but this angel knew the length of my day was not truly measured in the minutes on the clock. “Yes,” I agreed. “And it is the third long day this week with two more likely ahead of me.”

He listened quietly and nodded his head. This angel was the driver of the hospital shuttle bus that had picked me up to drive me across the street to the parking garage I left at 8:30 am this morning. I was his sole rider going back, just as I was the only one on the morning shuttle, most unusual.

This ride was very short and I was burdened down with two carry bags and my purse. In the course of this short ride, he learned today was my 54th wedding anniversary date, and my husband lay in the hospital, possibly awaiting the insertion of a pacemaker for his tired, slow beating heart. The conversation dribbled on between the two of us – me telling him we came to Lexington the day after we were married for Tom had gotten his first job out of college at the IBM Corporation.

“Oh,” he said. “I wished I would have gone with them. I had a chance, but I stayed in printing a long time.” The only trouble is, he lamented, was that the pay was good, but there was no retirement for him at the end.

Well, I told him, I worked in public relations so I had many interactions with printers.  Our lives took many turns after Tom left IBM, and with Tom’s health challenges and our own financial limitations I hoped God had me somewhere in the Big Picture.

“Oh, that’s certain. You believe he does.”  Yes, I said, I do.

So much in such a short trip. An old man still making his way on earth. Me, still hanging with it. I know I thanked him and told him he was kind as I stepped down the loading ramp of the shuttle.

Afterward at home, I was, sitting tired in my lounge chair, heading for bed, I thought about him again. Either as man or angel, he is why I don’t believe what they are telling us about living in a hateful, spiteful world. I, myself, keep bumping up against kind and thoughtful people like this one encounter with a perfect stranger.

I wished I had said to him, “You are doing a very important job now. Thank you.”

 

 

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January 23, 2019

 

I have been separating egg whites for my whole baking career by precariously cracking them on the edge of a bowl, and tossing the white back and forth between the two shell halves. The danger, of course, is that yolk will spill into the egg white and ruin it for beating them stiff. It is particular agony if it happens on the sixth egg.

It didn’t happen to me today, however, as I was creating my Gugelhupf for my daughter’s office staff. I am grateful for that because I owe them a debt of gratitude for their graciousness in late December when I called Laura while her dad and I were being rushed to Emergency in a siren blaring, lights flashing ambulance.

I gave her our destination and they told her to “Go! Right now! To meet your mom.” And she did, which helped to calm the high vibrations of the hour. Many hours, actually, as tests were run to diagnose extreme pains in his lower chest-top belly area.

I used to see my mom crack and separate eggs this same way, but I also saw her use an egg white separator kitchen tool. There are two reasons why I don’t have one of those. The first is I am too lazy to go shop for something if I don’t know exactly where to find it. The second is that I don’t bake often anymore since Tom has to watch his sugar and I have to endlessly watch my weight. It is just more efficient to not have temptation around.

I was in a bit of a hurry to complete the Gugelhupf, for I had made my “to do” list fairly long for this day. That is not wise either, as I don’t do “hurry” well anymore. And I have given up multi-tasking because it is highly overrated and I am not as good as I once was at it anymore.

I need to recall Brother Lawrence’s Practice of the Presence of God. Where ever I am God is. Whatever I am doing, I can bring God’s presence into it. I do that pretty readily these days as we live a rather quiet mid-70 years of age lifestyle. Things are simpler. I see the packed schedules and tasks of the younger generations in my daughters, nieces and nephews. And I see they are packing a lot of good into that multi-tasking….a lot of God.

Tom and I endured his seven day hospital stay, diagnosed with Acute Pancreatitis, for which he is still being treated. But he is out of pain without medicine. My aspiration for 2019 is to see things more clearly… I don’t ascribe to the current culture of blame game hyped by the media. It has taken me a very long time and a lot of hard lessons to rid myself of the last vestiges of blaming others for anything and I am still not perfect at it. But I have learned the value of self-inventory and “my part” (thank you 4th step inventory of AA) of disturbances in or nearby me and I carry on to making amends where necessary and letting go of blaming myself or others.

The Gugelhupf is baking in the oven and…

 

A little dust of confectioner’s sugar and I am off to Laura’s with this treat.

 

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We recently witnessed the passing of one of our presidents, George Herbert Walker Bush. With that passing, the honor and respect of a full military funeral was given to him and many of us watched the progression of the rituals and the mourning of his family and the citizens of our country.

Along the way, people spoke of his accomplishments politically, in the military, and in his family life.  Two things rose to the top and were mentioned over and over again: that he listened–really listened–to who ever was speaking to him. Much to be admired. And that he wrote so many personal notes to so many people throughout his life.

Sad to say texts and abbreviated words now comprise the most common form of communication. I have always been a letter writer and a note and card giver. I know these were loved to be received. I still do this, just not as often.

When I taught Write Now! writing workshops, I headed off any fear the writers might have had by telling them that they would write what they heard coming from their heart; the words would flow down their arm, through their fingertips, into the writing pen or pencil and out onto the paper.

And their words did.

There is an intimacy and genuineness in this simple act of note-writing. It is a treat to both the writer and the recipient.

 

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Just reminding myself that life is good…with images that please me.

I am Journey Girl and I open to the blessings in my life.

 

 

And I do see it, more and more.

So blessed to be with my friend on this trip in the Alps in 2013.

So blessed by my path, even when I don’t know where it leads.

 

Praying in gratitude for my good friend, Lois. Seeing her in comfort as many ways as she can, and even rooting for Notre Dame, her favorite team.

 

We are indeed, encouraged.

I see God’s glory all around us, and

 

My taste buds are enhanced in the goodness of life.


My heart gives thanks.

and He knows my name.

 

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Big John

 

My brother, John, would have turned 72 last week on August 21. But a month earlier, on July 17, 2018 he succumbed to a long illness and suffering in the hospital with a nurse attending him during routine morning care.  “I turned away for a second and when I turned back, he had just stopped breathing.” she told me on the telephone less than fifteen minutes after his death. She was so kind.  She said there was no struggle, no call out for help, just what seemed an easy passing on after many days of physical challenge and pain.

Tom and I had been with John within the last month and that was a good thing for all of us. He called me and asked me to come and I am grateful that we were able to make the trip.

John loved to fish, just like his parents did. So many trips they shared in the dinghy motor boat on the rivers and lakes. Baiting fish, stringing up trophies, and the yukkiest (I thought) of all shared duties of cleaning them before they hit the frying pan. Once we had moved to Michigan, dad’s favorite hide-away spot was Moose Horn Lodge in Chapleau, Ontario where we went many summers of the 60s. Crossing the Mackinac Straits on ferry before the Mighty Mac Bridge was built. Dave and John made one last, sad trip there in July 1977, when dad and mom had returned from the Virgin Islands for a Canadian week vacation at the cabin and on the lake. Dad died of a heart attack in the boat as they completed their first day of fishing. Dave and John traveled together to get to mom.

When Tom and I owned and worked the Walnut Woods Golf Course, outside Gobles, Michigan in the mid 1970s and early ’80s, John was famous for two things there. The first one was his mounted Northern, that was easily mistaken for a muskie, because it was so huge. He told me he wasn’t allowed to put it up in his home, and when he saw our rustic barn wood bar in the clubhouse, he claimed it was the perfect place for it, and he would bring it down “soon!”  He did.

Because of this golf course ownership, my patch-work quilt resume and professional career even included bartending. I was amazed that the golfers, who sat there, could describe in detail, every shot of the round they had played either today or any year preceding today….just as those who were fishermen could also describe all the details of their favorite catch, where they were, what bait they used, what time they were on the water. Many conversations drew on, because of that fish…and of course, they wanted to know the details of John’s conquest, as well.

John liked to cook and grill too. Another likeness to his father.  The second thing he was famous for in Gobles at the golf course was his…..BJ’s Disorderly Josephs, which he had taught me to make. Not a simple sloppy joe…a big, messy disorderly JOSEPH.  In the wintertime, we designed a cross-country ski trail system across the 18 hole course, and rented out skis on weekends and to school groups during the week. I had a lot of fun with that. We did spaghetti Saturday night lighted ski trail parties (from Tom’s homemade lighting system) and attracted business groups out for skiing under the stars.

The Gobles Snowmobile Club, who could not run on our ski trails, devised a trail from over the hills through the neighbor’s fields, down his fence line to get to the clubhouse and generally emptied the crockpot of BJ Disorderly Josephs before they left. The Disorderly Joseph is a mixture of ground beef, onion, green pepper, mushrooms, and a can of Manwich.  Oh, so good.

As I met and listened to people at the funeral who knew John over the years, almost without exception, they mentioned his humor and “kept us laughing” kind of remembrance. That was his brand, from little brother, through our teen age years together, and occasionally as we met up where ever life took us.

I know the look in his eye, and the expression on his face when it is about to slip out of him in a remark, even in caustic circumstances. It is how he looks at me now and his circumstances are much better than they were a few months ago. I always love you, John.

 

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Ode to Amy’s Hiccups
by Grama

(A Poem for Amy)
How do you stop
a hiccup?
Do you stand
on one foot?
or do you close
one eye and look
at your toe?
Do you hold
your nose and
hop three jumps
to the left and four
to the right?
Do you scream
with all your might
and then whisper
in someone’s ear,
“Please, please don’t
your hear?”
How, just how do
you stop a hiccup.
and then, I knew,
I just knew it was gone.
Just how did that happen
I have not a clue!

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