Yesterday’s headline in the Washington Post said, ”Gerald Ford dies, leaving a legacy of healing.” What a wonderful legacy to leave a nation.
I wonder what the headline will say when George W. Bush dies?
The house is quiet. Everyone has gone home. The gifts have been opened. Scraps are all that remain from Christmas dinner. My heart is full of happy memories and I find a smile keeps creeping across my face. This year I received the best Christmas gift a mother can receive. All of my children and grandchildren gathered around our tree. There was laughter and silliness and lots of good conversation. Life is good.
Did you all notice how long last night was? It was the longest night of the year. Actually I just slept through it, it seemed like any other night. I remember three nights that each competes in my memory for the longest night of my life.
Longest night number one was thirteen years ago. My daughter was in labor with her first child. Things seemed to be progressing pretty well and her husband and I were hoping for a birth in a few hours. Then everything just sort of stopped. It was late night. My daughter got drugs and slept very fitfully. The straight-backed chairs in the room were not very comfortable. The floor was hard and cold. My girl labored on and we waited and waited and waited. I went out to the nurses’ station to complain. We got here before all these other women and they have had their babies and gone home. It didn’t seem fair. Finally, after more than 50 hours of labor, my daughter gave birth to a healthy, beautiful baby girl. I wouldn’t have missed it for anything.
Longest night number two was four years ago. It was about midnight and I was visiting with a girlfriend who was spending the weekend. My husband came walking into the room and said he thought I should call an ambulance because he was having a heart attack. That night we sat in his emergency room cubicle on little stools with wheels. It is very hard to get comfortable on a rolling stool. Eventually it was determined to be “small heart attack.” I came home about 4A.M. knowing he was stable and would probably be fine. He is still fine, but that was a very long night.
Long night number three was two years ago. The beautiful baby born in longest night one was sick. She was very anemic and the doctor said to get her to Children’s Hospital now. The fear of what might be wrong was overwhelming, but we all tried to put on a brave face in front of each other. Her mom and I spent the night in her hospital room. She was receiving blood transfusions and IVs. She had to be prepped for a colonoscopy and drink a jug of obnoxious stuff that made her gag. Finally an NG tube had to be inserted so that she could be properly prepped by morning. We were all scared and very tired. Daylight was a welcome sight. She was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. Medicine has brought all her symptoms under control. She is healthy and happy. It was a very long night.
What was your longest night?
My tree is decorated, and the gifts are wrapped and under the tree. I nibble on fruitcake while I bake cookies. A holiday special is on in the background, a program of lovely Christmas music as seen on public TV. My husband is sleeping in his chair. It is peaceful. All is calm as we wait for the big day to arrive with a house full of family and friends coming for Christmas.
One of the perks of retirement is the gift of time to prepare without the rush and stress of previous years. I listen to my children and friends as they try to squeeze working, family and all the preparations into too short, too busy days. I remember late night shopping trips and later night wrapping and hiding sprees. It was a lot of work. Although I miss the days of having a house full of small children and working full time, I find memories are much less work and can be selected to suit my mood.
All of you remember to breathe. The children will grow up too quickly. Make some wonderful memories today for the years to come.
“Aha, I thought so!” It was Christmas Eve. I was nine years old and feigning sleep when I saw my father sneak into the bedroom and pull a pogo stick out of the top of the closet. I knew it was mine. All I really wanted for Christmas that year was a pogo stick and I was expecting Santa to bring it for me. I guess by nine I had realized that Santa needed help to deliver all those toys. It made sense that my father would be helping to deliver my gift. It was comforting to have my suspicions confirmed.
In our family we all still believe in Santa Claus. If you stop believing you don’t get any presents. There is still magic in Christmas because in my heart of hearts I believe in Santa Claus.
Do you believe in Santa? Were you traumatized or did you know anyone who was traumatized when they discovered mom and dad’s role in helping Santa?
This morning I helped sort food for the forty-eight families our church is helping this Christmas. This is the third year I have helped with this project, and I am amazed every year at the generosity of so many people. Our congregation is not huge, about 200 members, but they provide food enough for about a week including turkey and all the trimmings, plus clothes and toys for 168 children. This morning twenty volunteers worked bagging, sorting and labeling groceries for each family. Tomorrow more volunteers will check the gifts to make sure that each child has an appropriate gift and then wrap everything up. The people of the church donate all the food and all the gifts. It makes me feel good to be part of such a generous group.
What are you doing this year that makes you feel the spirit of Christmas?
Over the years I have attended more school plays, piano recitals, scout award ceremonies, and children’s concerts than I can count. The number would be very large. I love my kids and grandkids so I was always happy to be there and support whatever the activity of the day happened to be. Tonight the roles were reversed. The senior chorale in which I sing had a holiday performance. In the audience were my children, my grandchildren, my husband and several good friends. It was wonderful to look out and see my fan club all there to hear the concert. The singing was much more fun with the people I love there to listen.
There is a beautiful red rose on my kitchen table. My husband gave it to me last night along with a wonderful hug. No real reason he said. It seems he had been listening to his co-workers discuss their divorces and unhappy family situations and he just realized how very blessed we are. He thought maybe it would be a good thing to tell me he loved me.
It is wonderful to know that I am loved.
I love you too.
Today I went to see my orthopedic surgeon. I have been frustrated by the fact that I am recovering from the arthroscopy much more slowly than I anticipated. I still have pain and end up limping by the end of the day. I don’t like pain. The doctor drained a bunch of fluid off the knee and then injected cortisone into the joint. It should be much better in a week. If the knee is not better I will have to return to see him again in a month. Pray that the pain goes away and I can soon quit thinking about my knee.
Today is the second Sunday of Advent. Advent is a time of waiting. Just as the world waited for the birth of Emmanuel, it now awaits the second coming of Emmanuel. Emmanuel is translated God with us. What does it mean in your life today that God is with you?
This afternoon I went to see the movie, ”The Nativity.” It is a very well done telling of the birth Jesus. I highly recommend it.
Yesterday was a day to play.
In the morning I accompanied my daughter to the elementary school where her youngest is a third grader. My daughter volunteers there frequently and yesterday she was planning to do an art project which required a couple of extra hands. She read the kids a cute story, “Stranger In The Woods,” while I passed out the makings for bird feeders. Each child had a pinecone and a big scoop of peanut butter, which they were to carefully spread onto the pinecone, getting it as deep as possible into the little shelves of the cone. (What do you call those little shelves?) Some of the kids were very neat; they spread the peanut butter without getting any on themselves and covered each little shelf with precision. Others gleefully filled their hands with the gooey stuff and spread it over the cone, their desk and themselves. It was a wonderful mess. The cones were then rolled in birdseed and placed into plastic bags for transport home. We left teachers and children happy with the activity. It was fun.
In the afternoon I dressed in my finest attire and picked up two ladies for high tea at the Belair Mansion. The mansion, which was built in 1750, was the home of Maryland’s first governor. It is a beautiful old brick house, which was all decorated for Christmas. My friends are both in their eighties. They were as excited as two little girls playing dress-up. We sipped tea from fine china cups and ate fancy little cucumber sandwiches. We had scones with clotted cream and jam and lovely little cream puffs. It was an elegant affair. Watching the delight in my friends’ eyes made the afternoon a happy holiday memory.
Today is Pearl Harbor Day. Sixty-five years ago President Roosevelt said this date would live in infamy, a day the world would never forget. There are still thousand of sailors entombed in the wreckage of the Arizona where it was sunk on that day. Did you remember that this was the anniversary of the day Japan dropped bombs on the American naval base at Pearl Harbor? Don’t feel bad if you forgot. Very few people remembered. The morning paper is full of Iraq and the war we are fighting there. Many wars have been fought since World War II ended. Sadly war is a much too common thing.
I long for the day the prophet Micah foretold, when the nations, ”Shall beat their swords into plowshares; and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” (Micah 4:3)
Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.
After spending a long day in the stores on Monday, today I decided to look on-line to do a little shopping. It really is just a little too easy to buy things from Amazon. I see lots of things that look like good gift ideas, and all I have to do is click. I click and instantly get a message saying I have just spent a kaboodle of money. Gifts are being shipped. There is no problem finding a parking space and no shivering in the cold. The biggest problem is that many of my first choice items are out of stock and I have to keep browsing. I will have to go back to the mall for some things, but it sure is nice to be able to just click.
I began Christmas shopping today. I am blessed with a big family so there are a lot of gifts to buy. As my grandchildren get older it gets harder to find a gift that makes them go, “Wow! Thanks. This is the greatest thing ever.” I suppose I could just give them money. They would like that, but I can’t afford to give them enough to get a big ”Wow” from them. It is so much fun to watch them open presents that I really do want to get them something wonderful to open.
What was the best present you received as a teenager? What made you say, “Wow! This is the best present ever!”?
While I was at therapy last Friday my husband and grandson got all the Christmas decorations down from the attic and put up our artificial tree. My husband put the angel on top (The angel is Harold, of Hark the Harold angel fame.) The rest of the tree was mine to decorate. DQ and I had a few Hallmark moments as we put on the decorations. Some of the decorations are old and have been on our tree since we married long ago. Our children made some of them. We have styrofoam meat trays cut into cookie cutter shapes and sprinkled with glitter. They still have the kids’ names written on the back in their childish hand. Friends gave many of the decorations to us; others are souvenirs of trips we have made. It is a tree full of memories.
DQ went off to play video games, and my husband napped. I thought about my mother. When I was a girl decorating the tree was a major holiday event. Every year without fail when we finished my mother would say, “It’s the prettiest tree we ever did have!” When I married and moved across the country every year without fail I would call my mother and tell her that this year we again had the prettiest Christmas tree we ever did have. My mother is gone. I miss her.
I want all of you to know that this year we have the prettiest Christmas tree we ever did have.
We enjoyed a non-traditional Thanksgiving Day at the museum of the American Indian on the mall in Washington D.C. It is a beautiful building full of interesting exhibits. It has a wonderful cafeteria serving various foods representing foods eaten by American Indians. Being a traditionalist, I had turkey and all the trimmings. Others in the family ate salmon, buffalo, and burritos. The kids played in the rotunda; spinning in circles until they could no longer stand. It is always wonderful to hear my grandchildren’s laughter.
Over and over again the exhibits explained that today’s Indians maintain their culture by passing the traditions from one generation to the next. The music, the dances, and the stories help them to know who they are. I think that is true for all people. Our traditions help us to know who we are.
Yesterday we made a gumdrop cake. This is a recipe that my mother-in-law gave me. She made it every Christmas. I have made it every Christmas. Now my daughter makes it every Christmas. It contains two pounds of gumdrops, “cut up fine (no black ones!).” While we cut up the gumdrops we reminisced about Christmases past. It was a pleasant evening of telling family stories. We ate a piece of the cake and it tasted like Christmas.
What food is a tradition in your house? What tastes like Christmas to you?
Yesterday we got up at o’dark-thirty to join a group of friends for a day trip to New York City. We arrived in the big city about noon with tickets for the 2 pm matinee of the Radio City Christmas Spectacular. With just over an hour of free time and a not quite strong knee we decided to ride the elevator to the top of Rockefeller Center. From the observation deck seventy stories above the city, we gazed out on this ocean of buildings. It is an amazing sight. The day was crisp and clear. The Empire State Building looked like we could reach out and touch it. The Statue of Liberty looked small standing guard at far end of Manhattan. After soaking in the view we joined the hustle and bustle of the crowds surrounding Rockefeller center. I felt like a kid from the country looking up at tall buildings and sights all around me.
Then we made our way to the Music Hall. Wow! Is the only appropriate word as you enter the grand foyer. It is red and gold and magnificent. The show was great. Radio City means the Rockettes and thirty pairs of legs moving as one. The costumes were fabulous, the sets and lighting were amazing. The music was wonderful. We all came out humming Christmas music. The holidays are here. The Radio City Christmas show is a wonderful way to get into the spirit of Christmas and all the joy and happiness of the season.
It is DQ’s fourteenth birthday. This young man is my grandson. When he was three years old he was in need of a family and my son and his wife and daughter were in need of a little boy. God helped them to find each other. The journey of life has been a constant adventure since this boy joined our family. He has become a Yugioh dueling champion. Once he tried to explain the game to me, but I just can’t quite figure it out. He and his eleven-year-old cousin can play for hours. I think you need to be a boy to learn the intricacies of Yugioh. We spent a week in the mountains with DQ last summer. Together we went on my first and last whitewater-rafting trip. At the end of that journey he declared that it had been the best day of his life. I pray that life is full of many best days for him. Happy Birthday, DQ.
I love Sunday because it is church day. Church is more than a nice building, it is a group of people whom I have learned to love and who care about me. We share a love for God and we are family. The church we attend normally has two Sunday morning services. The 8:30 service has a praise band and more contemporary music. I love to sing along and clap my hands and feel the joy of the Lord. The 11 o’clock service has more traditional music and more organ music. I love the old hymns and the soaring sound of the organ. Today I attended both services and it was wonderful to sing and worship twice. The sermon was good, but I’ll confess I skipped the second go round of the preaching. After the second service we all had lunch together. The food was good, but the fellowship with each other was what was so good, there were lots of hugs and laughter. I love being a part of this church family.
Two days ago I gazed out the window while riding the exercise bike at physical therapy. The view was lovely. The trees were showing off their autumn splendor with bright reds, yellows and orange. I looked out at their beauty and visualized myself pedaling along a lake framed by a mountain of colorful leaves. It was so nice. Yesterday a fierce storm blew through town. We had lots of rain and powerful winds. Today I got on the exercise bike at therapy and gazed out on a bleak, leafless view. The trees looked so bare and empty. The trees announce that winter is not far away. What a difference one storm makes. I am sure there is a great moral to be learned here, but I’ll leave figuring it out up to you.
Getting old is something that happens little by little. Most of the time you don’t notice it is even happening, and then, all of a sudden something comes along and tells you, “Hey, look at that. You are getting old.”
I quit taking baths a couple of months ago. Don’t worry; I do take showers so I am clean. But I love to take a nice hot bubble bath. I soak in the warm, perfumed water and just let life float away. It is a lovely, peaceful time. A problem developed at the end of my last bath. I couldn’t get out of the bathtub. My knees felt too weak to get me up. I was afraid to stand up for fear of slipping and doing severe damage to either the bathtub or me. It was not a peaceful feeling. I did eventually manage to crawl over the edge and land safely on the floor, but it was a sight I am sure no one wants to try to visualize. I have not been in the tub again since that day.
Today my daughter and her friend came over. Her friend installed a grab bar on the wall of the bathtub. It is securely fastened so I can pull up and feel confident that I won’t fall down. It is a lovely gift. I am looking forward to a long, hot bubble bath. The grab bar sits there and says you need help. You are old. It also says my daughter loves me and I can take a bath. Life is full of mixed messages. I will dwell on the fact that I feel loved.
I have been so grateful for the love and concern shown me this past week by my many friends. One of the blessings of having surgery and not feeling well is that you become so aware of the blessing of friendship. With all the modern methods of communication I have heard from so many people in so many ways. A few of those who are closest to me came by to visit and see how they could be of help. It was such a joy to see them. Several called on the phone to check on me. It was so nice to hear their voice. I received a lovely assortment of get-well cards. How nice it is to get something other than bills in the mail. My email in-box was full of get-well wishes. There were many sweet comments on my blog. I love that there are so many ways to reach to people. I am not alone.
“OK, now I’m going to press against your leg with my hand. Don’t let me move your leg. Hold it strong.” The therapist pressed against my right leg and my leg held firm against the pressure of her hand. “Ok, now let’s check the other leg.” She pressed against my left leg and it just gave way to the pressure of her hand. She then checked the range of motion in my knees. The left is limited, but not too bad. I had a knee replacement six years ago in the right leg. That was a long and brutal recovery. This won’t be nearly as bad. I have a ways to go, but I expect to be able to go on long walks again in less than a month. I will do my exercises because I do have places to go.
I’m home. The surgery went well and I sure am glad yesterday is over. While waiting for surgery I got to be a pincushion for the student phlebotomists. I know they need to practice on someone, but three tries and misses were enough. I slept through the surgery part. The doctor trimmed off the torn up cartilage and smoothed out the rough spots. Waking up from anesthesia took a long time and was gross. But today I woke up feeling like me again. Percocet is a lovely drug and I am feeling fine. My sweet husband is a pretty good nurse.
A friend invited us to a choral festival celebration, which we attended last night. It was wonderful. The program was held in the chapel of the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis. What a beautiful place to listen to powerful music. The chapel is laid out as all cathedrals in the shape of a cross. Beautiful stained glass and symbols remind you that this is not only a place of worship, but also a place of history. The festival choir sang music that spoke to my soul and led me to place of worship and peace. The conclusion of the program was a postlude by the pipe organ. Have you ever been so lost in the music that you felt like you actually a part of it? That is how I felt. I was no longer just listening, but actually inside this glorious music. I could feel the vibrations of the sound coming up through the floor and filling my body and my soul. It was a powerful sensation to be lost in that glorious sound. I hope there is a great pipe organ in heaven.
I went to the dentist today for my routine checkup. I heard those wonderful words, “No cavities. Everything looks great. Keep up the good work.” All that flossing paid big dividends today. After leaving the dentist’s office I went to see my doctor for my pre-op clearance. He said I was healthy and everything was ok for surgery. Nice to know that I am healthy enough to have my knee fixed.
Did you get any good news today?
Yesterday we had a trunk or treat party for the children at church. It was so much fun for all the kids. There were little monsters and witches along with mermaids, dragons, a chicken and several princesses. I dressed in my “orange dress” for this party, (I was told that I looked like Cinderella on crack,) and helped at one of the tables. We had an assortment of Halloween crafts and games and a scavenger hunt for the kids, followed by hot dogs and chips Then came the big event of the afternoon, trunk or treating. The church folks had decorated their cars and filled the parking lot. The kids then went from car to car shouting, “Trunk or Treat!” and filled their sacks with goodies. It was a couple of hours of organized pandemonium and great fun. I love that our church lets our kids enjoy the simple joys of this day.
Another life-changing event occurred twenty years ago today. I became a grandmother.
It was a day full of phone calls. Early in the morning my daughter called from Nashville. “Mom, we’re on our way to the hospital. My water broke and the doctor says I should come in now.” I asked her if she was ok and she replied, “Oh Mom, I’m so scared.” Nashville seemed very far away at that moment. I got up and went on to work, making sure everyone knew to come and get me when “the call” came. The call that came first was scary. It was my son-in-law saying they were going to do an emergency C-section because the baby was in distress. “Please pray,” he asked. I prayed. A very long hour later he called again. “We have a little girl. She’s perfect. Laurel is fine. Oh, Sue, I have a little girl and I’m in love.” After I stopped crying I realized I had been taking a patient’s blood pressure and I had just left him sitting there with the cuff around his arm. He laughed and congratulated me and gave me $20 to buy diapers. Then there were lots of happy phone calls to family and friends. What joy! I had a granddaughter. What wonder! My little girl was a mother. Then there were calls to the airlines. I was flying to Nashville to meet my granddaughter. Gary was right. She was perfect.
Now she is twenty years old and she’s back in Tennessee where she is a junior at Milligan College. She is bright, confident, beautiful, and in my eyes she is still perfect.
Happy birthday, Ashley. I love you.
I am counting the days until election day. I am so tired of political ads that spew mud on the opponent and hurl insults on anyone who might support the opponent. I am beginning to feel dirty. According to the ads I hear and read if I vote for the Republicans I must be against finding cures for difficult diseases and I must want the war to continue. Voting for the Democrats means the terrorists will win and I am against family values. What are family values anyway? I think the greatest family value is loving one another and treating each other with kindness and respect. None of the ads I have seen demonstrate respect and kindness toward those with different opinions. I don’t think any of the candidates running in Maryland are evil people. They all seem to have some good ideas and some ideas with which I disagree. I will vote for the people whose ideas seem to most closely reflect my values and opinions. I am hoping for a break in the ugly rhetoric soon.
I went to see my orthopedic surgeon today. He told me just what I expected him to tell me. The cartilage in my knee has two large tears. If I don’t do something the knee will stay inflamed which will lead to arthritis and degeneration. This happened to my other knee and I had to have it replaced six years ago. That was not fun. All I need now is arthroscopic surgery. That is a same day procedure. He will repair the torn cartilage, I’ll be on crutches a couple of days, and then I will be all better. No more knee pain. The success rate is 95%. The main complication is post-op infection, which happens about one percent of the time. There is a remote possibility of a blood clot, less than a one percent probability. I told him to go ahead and schedule the procedure. A procedure sounds less frightening than surgery. I know this is a minor surgery, but it is being done on me, and that makes it major. I am sure I will be fine. I am afraid.
Forty-three years ago today my world changed. I have not been the same person since that day. I became a mother. There are no words that adequately describe what it means to become a mother. There is a part of me that is now a whole separate person and yet still part of every aspect of my being. It is the most wonderful, awesome and scary experience of my life.
Laurel is my first-born. She was this tiny little bundle with huge brown eyes. When I first held her, her eyes seemed to be staring straight into my heart. The wonder of her existence in my arms evoked such powerful, overwhelming feelings of fierce love. I still have that same feeling of overwhelming love when I think about this little girl who has grown into a beautiful woman. She is a wife, a mother, and one of my best friends.
Happy birthday, Laurel. I love you.
Today we received a sweet thank you note from the friends who were our recent houseguests. In the note they said, “Staying with a seasoned couple was good for our marriage.” Now I know that is a compliment, but I also know that seasoned here means old. We have been married forever and have been through a lot of life together. I guess seasoning is just what comes from living a long time. It is nice that someone finds us to be well seasoned.
Replacing our vacuum cleaner caused me to think back to the evening we purchased our Kirby. We were young newly-weds, living in a small apartment in southern California. One evening a door-to-door salesman came knocking. He was selling Kirby vacuum cleaners. We invited this stranger in and he proceeded to demonstrate the wonders of this cleaning machine. It could do everything from clean my carpet to polish my silver and it came with enough attachments to entirely fill up a large closet. We were sold and paid far more than we could afford for this wonderful machine.
After we moved to Maryland the Fuller Brush man came calling. By then we had a houseful of babies and a little adult conversation was worth the price of his wonderful brushes and cleaning supplies. He came by frequently. We also had a milkman who delivered milk, eggs, bread, sweet rolls and friendly conversation.
Today I cannot imagine inviting a strange salesman into my house. I would be afraid. There is no friendly milkman who brings food and friendship. The only door- to-door salesmen I respond to are neighborhood children selling cookies for their school or scout fundraisers.
When was the last time you bought something from a door-to-door salesman?
The house seems a little too quiet tonight. After having houseguests for 10 days it seems a little empty with just the two of us. It was fun to get to know our friends a little better and to spoil their baby while he was here.
This morning at church we celebrated “The Blessing of the Keys.” This is a neat thing our congregation does when a teenager starts to drive. The teenager and an adult friend are called up to the front of the church before the service begins and we pray for their safety as they begin driving. Then they go out together and drive for an hour. They return at the end of service and report on their driving experience. We pray for them again and they are given key chains from the congregation to remind them that they are covered with God’s love. It is a nice thing for the kids. This morning one the teenagers was my tall, handsome grandson. I find it hard to believe he is so nearly grown.
This evening I sat in the bleachers at my eleven year old grandson’s lacrosse game. The air was cool and crisp. Geese were flying overhead in large, noisy vees, making their way south for the winter. There is a touch of red and yellow in the leaves. It is fall, time to enjoy the last beautiful days before another winter moves us indoors. I love the changing seasons.
We bought a new vacuum cleaner today. The old Kirby we bought as newlyweds has just worn out. I guess after forty-five years we did get our money’s worth out of it. Do you know how many different kinds of vacuum cleaners are available? It was very hard to decide. Did I need an upright or a canister? Should it have a bag or be bag less? I could spend anywhere from $40 to over $500. What is the difference between a $200 model and a $500 dollar model? A very nice saleslady came to help us, but she really wasn’t much help. She knew about the merchandise, but, well, it really just depended on my personal preference. So many decisions to make! We did buy a Kenmore canister model. It seemed much lighter than our old Kirby and I thought it would be easier to use. I hope it last us forty-five years.
Yesterday I joined friends from my senior chorale to celebrate fall with an Octoberfest. We gathered in a beautiful home overlooking the river for an afternoon of bratwurst, German potato salad, sauerkraut, and, of course lots of German beer. The host, dressed in his lederhosen, grilled the sausage and manned the bar. There was lots of music, easy conversation, and laughter.
I have observed that the older we get the more we seem to enjoy life. We have figured out that life is a wonderful gift and each moment should be savored. Do something wonderful today!
Today my daughter and I were sitting on her back porch just talking and enjoying the afternoon sun. We began to talk about the trip we are planning to California next summer. Her kids want to see Hollywood and the Pacific Ocean. California is the place where I grew up and I want to introduce my grandchildren to my brothers whom they have never met. I said I would like to go to the Church of Christ in Whittier. As I said those words a huge lump stopped my throat, my eyes filled with tears, and emotions flooded over me. I couldn’t speak as the memories poured over me. I grew up in that church. I learned to love Jesus there. I remember the sweetness and purity I felt when I was baptized there at age eleven. I held tightly to my father’s arm in that building as I walked down the aisle the day I was married. Dennis was smiling and so handsome. The building was decorated with yellow roses and filled with family and friends the day we celebrated my parents golden anniversary. They were laughing and happy that day. Then the building again filled with flowers, family and friends at my dad’s funereal. My mom held tightly to my arm and cried. Two years ago we had mom’s funeral there. At age 94 she had outlived most of her friends so the crowd was smaller, but her family gathered and tearfully honored this wonderful woman.
I want to once again visit this little church. It is holy ground for me.
What did you do this weekend?
This weekend I took my thirteen-year-old granddaughter shopping and out to dinner to celebrate her birthday. I went to three performances of the play. Three of my grandchildren were involved in the latest teen theater production and their performances were stellar! We enjoyed visiting with our houseguests. We enjoyed a pre-theater family dinner for fourteen at my daughter’s home. I got to hear all about my fifteen-year-old granddaughter’s homecoming dance and visit with the nineteen-year-old who was home from college this weekend. We all celebrated with my husband who is part of the scientific team that was just awarded the Nobel Prize for physics. I love weekends crowded to overflowing with happy family activity.
We have houseguests this week, one of whom is a beautiful seven-month-old baby. I am getting my baby fix. Is there any sound sweeter than the burbling and laughter of a contented baby? Is there anything funnier than a grandfather trying to feed sweet potatoes to a hungry baby? Is there a sweeter smell than a baby fresh from his bath? Is there anything more wonderful than rocking a sleeping baby?
One of my favorite hymns begins, “Peace, perfect peace, in this dark world of sin; the blood of Jesus whispers peace within.” Then I read the newspaper and watch the evening news. I truly do see a dark world of sin and wonder about this perfect peace of which I sing. Is it possible to really live in perfect peace in a place where terrorists murder innocent children, where a sniper picks a gun and begins shooting just to see how many innocents he can kill? Our world is unsafe and evil is all around us. Must I arm myself and learn how to shoot a gun in order to have peace? Would that make me feel safer or less afraid? Somehow that thought only makes me feel more afraid. I can imagine a scenario where I could entertain the idea of murder, but I have not actually been in that situation. I do not want to prepare to do something that I should never have to do.
Where is peace? I find it only in a faith that transcends the fear, even when I am afraid. I find it in the arms of a good man who loves me even when I am angry. I find peace rocking a sweet baby and holding this innocence close to my heart. I see hope in groups of teenagers working together to help someone less fortunate than themselves. I find faith beside the bed of an old man who is dying but looking forward to what is yet to be.
“Peace, perfect peace, our future all unknown;
Jesus we know, and he is on the throne.”
Would you tell a stranger things you would not tell a friend?
My seatmate on our recent flight was a woman just a bit younger than me. When I sat down she was looking at a handful of seashells. She then proceeded to tell me about gathering the shells with her granddaughter and how she missed her extended family. Her significant other had just died very unexpectedly and she was having a hard time coping with life. I heard all sorts of personal details and difficult emotions. My comments were “I’m sorry”, or “That must be hard.” On previous flights I have listened to people share emotions about broken hearts or job loses or difficulties with their children. Why do people tell me all these stories? I don’t know them and will probably never see them again. Is that why? Is it easier to talk to a stranger?
Have you heard some interesting stories from strangers?
The town of
Yesterday we toured Taliesin West. Taliesin West is the winter home built by Frank Lloyd Wright. What an interesting place! It was far less and far more than I expected it to be. It was definitely far less grand than I expected. Wright built it more as a camp than a house. The buildings are made of stone quarried from the local area and it blends in so well with the environment that you don’t see it from a distance, the roof was just white canvas, so you felt like you were in a glorified tent. We sat in his living room where he loved to entertain. I sat in a Wright designed chair that was not very comfortable. Chairs like it manufactured now sell for $500,000. (I’ll try to post a picture of me sitting in this half million dollar chair.) His home reflected a very intelligent, eccentric, self-absorbed man.
The thing that inspired us about Wright was that the vast bulk of his work occurred after he was eighty years old. During his last twelve years of life he produced over a third of his work. Being old does not mean you have to quit being productive.
Yesterday we flew across the country to
We went into
My children and grandchildren have introduced me to many different types of music, much of which I really do enjoy. Today, though, I spent an hour singing my music. I helped with a sing-a-long at the senior citizens center and was surrounded by the songs of home. It was like comfort food for the ears. These were the song I heard my mother sing and the songs I listened to on the radio. It was such fun to sing “The Whiffenpoof Song” and “Chickery Chick.” I sang “I Want To Be Happy” with a perky 102-year-old lady who truly made me happy. My favorites were songs from the musicals. In a time before CDs or DVDs I went to the movies over and over again just to hear songs like “Oh What A Beautiful Morning,” “I Believe” and “You’ll Never Walk Alone.”
Music is such a powerful and wonderful blessing!
What songs are like comfort food for your ears?
My mother would have been 101 today. Mom was my hero. I would like to be just like her.
Today I have been thinking about how she could make us laugh. She usually didn’t mean to be funny, she just was. Before she and dad married she decided to buy him a pedestal ashtray to sit beside his easy chair. He opened the gift at her house and said he would just leave it there and use it at her house. “But, William, I wanted you to take it home and have it there” He said he didn’t think his mother would allow it in the house. He asked if she had really looked at the pedestal. She looked more closely at it and discovered the pedestal was a provocatively posed nude. She blushed and admitted she had not noticed the naked woman. One year she gave my dad several pair of cute socks for Christmas. They were decorated with cute smiling pigs and the initials MCP. “Mom, do you know what those initials stand for?” Her response was, “What initials?” she had given dad socks indicating he was a male chauvinist pig. She was again embarrassed. Another time she made a chicken casserole for a big family dinner. It looked great! Then we tasted it and found it was not edible. “Mom, what did you put in this? It is too hot to eat.” She said the recipe called for two cans of green chili peppers, weren’t jalapeno peppers the same thing? Whenever mom got caught in a mistake she would laugh and make it into a wonderful moment for all of us. Life was too precious to get upset by the mistakes she or any one else made. Her laughter was infectious and covered a multitude of life’s problems.
Happy Birthday, Mom!
Yesterday we had a big party at church to honor Dee. Dee has just retired after serving the church for over 20 years as a pastoral assistant. She is a wonderful, caring lady who is much loved by everyone. This party required more work and people than a tea party for grandchildren. Instead of seven and eight, the average age was seventy and eighty. Many people cooked and prepared decorations and favors for this party. We severed of homemade turkey salad, cranberry salad and blueberry muffins to 250 people. The tables were decorated with angels, which had been lovingly made, by a group of older women. I spent Friday and Saturday in the church kitchen helping to get it all ready. The work was actually a lot of fun because of the friendship and love shared by all the helpers. We laughed and told stories and got in each other’s way. After lunch there was a program to honor Dee. The program was just right. Dee glowed in the love that was showered upon her.
Isn’t it fun to do something for someone you love?
A new grocery store has opened here. Today was the grand opening. It is big and beautiful, and they have a little of everything. The produce section had lots of wonderful fruits and vegetables. I had never heard of several of them before. The management figured that these would be new to many customers and had put up little signs that described the flavor and how to cook these strange looking foods. Today it felt like a party in this new store. It was crowded with curious, friendly shoppers. I visited with friends from all over town as we browsed and ate some of the many free samples that were offered today. I left the store full and happy and didn’t even buy anything.
Don’t you just love checking out new stores?
Yesterday we celebrated my number five grandchild’s thirteenth birthday along with my second grandchild’s seventeenth birthday. That means I have five teenage grandchildren. I think I must be old. I’m not sure when they got so big. I must not have been paying attention. How can I be old enough to have five teenagers who call me Gamma?
The table was set with the best china. Lovely white linen napkins were in place on the lace tablecloth. The guests, wearing elegant hats, were sipping Kool-Aid with their pinky fingers sticking out. We had tea sandwiches, which we had cut out with cookie cutters earlier and arranged lovingly on a crystal plate. The plate was garnished with fresh berries and chocolate. My guests, ages seven and eight, and I were having genteel conversation at our elegant tea party. “My children are always so noisy when they return from school. They disturb my quiet reading. I find I must stop and play ‘I Spy With My little Eye’ with them. Then they will be quiet again,” says my eight-year-old granddaughter. I admire her wise child rearing practice and ask how she handles her servants. “Well, I find that when the butler has done a good job, it is good to throw a dollar into his hat. A little extra money seems to keep him happy.” We then discuss which boutiques we have found best and where to shop for handbags. After we have eaten all the sandwiches and chocolate we decide to go watch “The Little Mermaid.”I love being a gramma.
Where were you on 9/11? What did you do?
I was working at the doctor’s office. There was a TV in the waiting room for the patients to watch while they waited. Suddenly we were aware of something unusual going on. It was reported that a plane had hit the World Trade Center. What a terrible accident we thought. How could that have happened? As the events of the morning unfolded on the TV it became more and more difficult to concentrate on the task at hand. The office was full of patients, and taking care of them seemed like the best thing we could do. Then a plane hit the Pentagon and my world seemed to stop. My son works in the Pentagon. Was he okay? Was he alive? What was happening? Our office is located near Andrews Air Force Base and it shook as the planes scrambled into the air. I tried to concentrate on my work, but I kept shaking as I thought about it all. There was no word from David and no way to call him. Dr D came and hugged me. “Any word from your son? Just breathe.” Patients came, were cared for, and left. The noise of airplanes permeated the building. In the afternoon I went outside and listened to the planes and prayed. My coworker found me there. She said, ”Your daughter is on the phone. She just talked to David. He is Okay.” Then the tears came and I could breath again.
That night many of us gathered at church for an impromptu, informal prayer service. We felt angry, afraid, and confused. We found comfort in being together and sharing the emotions of that terrible day.
My son is alive and well. Other families could not say that. So many died. So many more continue to die because of that day. The world is not the same.
This morning I went to school with my granddaughter to celebrate grandparents’ day. There was a short musical program and time to visit in her third grade classroom. She is bright and happy and was proud to introduce her gramma to her classmates. In many ways the world is still the same.
I drew this picture of two abandoned lookout towers at the beach where we played this summer. Similar towers are scattered up and down the Atlantic coast. They are relics left over from World War II. During World War II people who kept a vigilant lookout for submarines that might be trying to launch an attack on America manned these towers. During that same time my father-in-law and other volunteers climbed to the top of the Bank of America building in our little California town. The bank building was six stories high, by far the tallest structure around. They watched for enemy aircraft. They were armed with binoculars and a chart of pictures of enemy airplanes. Lookout towers and volunteers on tall buildings were our homeland security system.
Technology has improved. The old towers stand empty. Do you feel any safer?
The storm of last weekend is long gone. This morning the weather was perfect, just calling us outside. We decided to go visit Annapolis, one of our favorite places to spend time. We forgot that there was a Navy football game today, which delayed us a while as the midshipmen marched from the Academy to the stadium. It was really a neat sight. Thousands of young men and women in their dress whites marched by while the navy band played rousing marching music. It was a stirring patriotic sight. After the parade we went to the City Dock and enjoyed lunch on a patio beside Ego Alley. Ego Alley is a small inlet off the Annapolis harbor where beautiful yachts come in and turn around, just for the joy of seeing and being seen. It is always a busy place full of interesting people showing off their expensive toys. After lunch we cruised out under the Chesapeake Bay Bridge on one of tourist boats. The sky was blue, the sun was warm and a cool breeze made the day perfect. The water looked like a field of glittering diamonds with the sun reflecting off of it. The bridge looks very different looking up from the water. Up on the bridge there is nonstop traffic zooming by. The scene below is calm and peaceful. From either perspective the Chesapeake Bridge is quite an impressive sight. We obviously weren’t the only ones who wanted to be out one the water today. There were thousands of sail boats to be seen enjoying the afternoons breeze. They were a beautiful sight.
I hope you found time to see something beautiful today.
People frequently ask me what I do all day now that I have retired. The answer is, “Whatever I want!” This week I am working as a substitute nurse for two days. This is the job I used to do. I come home exhausted too tired to enjoy anything else. I am so thankful I am not that tired all the time anymore
Retirement is wonderful. I stay very busy, but I do start the day later and go a little slower. I read more. I take art lessons at the senior center and find great pleasure in drawing pictures of this beautiful world. I sing one day a week in the senior chorale. That is a great group of friendly people who think parties are a required part of the program. I spend time visiting people who are sick and lonely. I hear lots of good stories from little old ladies who need a friendly ear. I teach Sunday school and laugh at the antics of my second graders. I am learning yoga. I love yoga. Tonight is bell choir practice. This is the first practice since May and I am really looking forward to our new season. When we get it right the bells make glorious music. I play with my grandchildren and go out to dinner with my sweet husband. Retirement is wonderful. I highly recommend it.
The remains of hurricane Ernesto blew through here last Friday. It brought lots of rain and lots of wind and knocked down several trees, which took down the power lines and left us without electricity for three days. I hate to complain, but being without electricity for three days causes a lot of inconvenience. Electricity is something I usually just take for granted. I flip the switch and the lights are supposed to come on. This morning I am very aware of the blessings of electrical power. I am sitting here at the computer, sipping coffee brewed in my all-electric kitchen, while the dishwasher hums in the background and my music is playing on the CD player. The air-conditioner is cooling my hot and humid house, and the lights are all working. A normal sounding morning brought to me by the power of electricity.
Yesterday we grilled all the meat in our non-working freezer. I won’t have to cook for several days now. This morning I threw away the remains of food in the refrigerator and freezer that were probably unsafe to eat. We spent several hours cleaning the remains of the storm from our yard. There was no serious damage. No one was hurt. It was an inconvenient week-end. I am counting my blessings.
Today would have been my father-in-law’s ninety-fourth birthday. Bill was a good man. He adored his wife. His three sons were each a joy to him. His greatest pleasure was being with his family. Today I looked for a picture of Bill. It was hard to find one of just Bill. He was always pictured with his beloved Kay or with the whole family. Thinking about that, I decided that was right. Bill would have been incomplete without Kay. There was a romantic movie I once saw where the hero says to the heroine, ”You complete me.” Bill and Kay were the perfect example of completing one another. I owe Bill much. He taught my husband how to be a good man, a good husband, and a good father. Thank you Bill. Happy Birthday.
The picture is of Bill and his three sons with Kay. The cute boy in the glasses grew up to be my husband.
Yesterday we received a sample ballot for the primary election to held here in two weeks. I think it is a privilege and an honor to be able to vote, but it is also hard. How do you decide whom to vote for? It is not too hard to make a decision for the better-known posts. I can figure out my candidate choices for governor and senator. They are in the news often and I can see what they say and what they do. But how do I make a decision about which candidate I like for clerk of the circuit court or judge of the orphans court. I don’t know what the job is, and I have never heard of any of names on the ballot. The positions that concern me the most are the people to be elected to serve on the local school board. These people will run the school system and impact the education of my grandchildren and all the children of this county. Our school system has had some serious troubles and flaws in the past and these people will have a big job ahead of them. There are twenty-four candidates running for five positions on the board. I have never heard of any of these people. I have read the little blurbs about them in the paper, but really that has not been very helpful.
How do you make an informed and wise choice for an important job when you have so little information with which to which to make that decision?
What do a World War II flying ace, a tenor, a nursery school teacher, a graphic designer, a homebuilder, and a Foreign Service officer have in common? All of them had obituaries in this morning’s paper. It seems very inadequate to have an entire life reduced to just two or three words.
I wonder what words will define my life. Nurse? Homemaker? Sunday school teacher? Blogger? All of those are accurate, but they seem so incomplete. It doesn’t mention my laugh, which can be heard above everyone else’s in a noisy room. It ignores my love for listening to people and the stories they tell. My faith, which is the thing that sustains me, is ignored. The joy my family and friends bring me is not mentioned.
What few words do you hope will define your life?
Sometimes I wonder if my husband and I have anything in common. There are all the children and grandchildren and forty-five years of being married, but other than that we are not much alike.
Yesterday we were running errands together. He was driving from the post office to the bank when he turned on a street that was not the usual route. I asked him why he turned on that particular street, and he replied, ”There is a 375 car parked on this street. I need to see it.” “OK,” I replied. “What is a 375 car and why do you need to see it?” So he explained that while he is driving he likes to find all the eighth numbers on license plates. I still did not understand. He continued to explain that he likes to find the numbers that represents eighths in decimals, like .125, .250, .375, .500, etc. Since he has been entertaining himself for a while with this license plate number game, he now knows where cars are parked in town with all the numbers he needs. Its not fair to go out of the way to see the right number, but you can go a different way if it gets you there in the same amount of time. He is easily entertained. I enjoy watching flowers and people and beautiful skies. It never occurred to me to look for eighth license plate numbers.
He is a little strange. But I think I will keep him.
The Smithsonian Museum of American History will be closing the end of this month for a two-year renovation. Today I decided I needed to go take a last look at this collection of Americana. What a treasure of stuff this place is! I saw the flag that flew on the pentagon after 9/11 and the flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to write the Star Spangled Banner. I took a docent led tour, which was great fun. The guide had so many interesting tidbits of history. She made us feel like we were there for some of the great events of our country. We saw Julia Child’s kitchen. Did you know she was over six feet tall and had her kitchen customized to accommodate her height? I saw so many things that had great stories behind them. There was George Washington’s uniform and the table and chairs used at Appomattox when Lee surrendered to Grant. There were the ruby red slippers worn by Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz and some of the original Muppets. There was a great collection of things to do with American music. I listened to the Grand Ol Opery and looked at memorabilia from Woodstock and the Grateful Dead. There was a poignant moment in the section about the Vietnam War. A small alcove was dedicated to prisoners of war from that terrible conflict. As I turned into the alcove I saw an older man sobbing. He was standing in front of a small display about the Hanoi Hilton and crying. I felt like I intruding on his grief and left wondering what memories he must be reliving.
It was a wonderful experience. I am going to go more often and enjoy some of the treasures that Washington DC has for us all to enjoy.
Sanctuary is defined as a sacred place or a place of shelter and refuge.
The room in our church building where we have worship services is called the sanctuary. It is a beautiful and peaceful room. I can see woods outside the big windows and watch the light play among the leaves. The change of the seasons is displayed through those windows. The ceiling is high giving the room a spacious feel. I like to be in the sanctuary when it is quiet and empty. I often sense the Devine at those moments. I like the sanctuary when it is full of people who have come together in community to worship God. I love it when the church says the Lord’s Prayer together in one voice. I think God likes to hear his people pray. I think God smiles when we pray. I love the smiles and hugs of people who care about me. I feel safe in this room. It is a sanctuary.
Yesterday during my art class at the senior center one of my fellow students came running in all excited. “Everybody come outside. You have to see the mares’ tails. They are just amazing!” I had no idea what she was talking about, but her excitement made me go outside and look. Mares’ tails are high, thin wispy clouds that fan across the sky and are said to resemble the tails of horses, hence, mares’ tails. The proper name for them is cirrus clouds. The sky was beautiful with all those feathery clouds stretching long fingers across the clear blue sky. My classmates and I stood there pointing out the different cloud formations and discussing how we could paint them. As we stood there the crowd around us began to grow. Others had seen us hurry outside and gaze upwards. More people gathered and stared upward with us. “What are you looking at? What’s up there?” They all seemed a bit disappointed that we were just looking at the beautiful sky. I guess they expected our enthusiasm was from something a bit more exciting. I wonder what they expected.
Would you have come outside and looked up to see what had so attracted a group of senior citizens?
I have just finished reading a book about Theodore Roosevelt called, “The River of Doubt.” It was a fascinating story about a journey Roosevelt made after his presidency. He explored an uncharted thousand mile long river in Brazil that emptied into the Amazon. In 1914 this was an extremely dangerous journey that nearly cost him his life. As part of the background for understanding the Amazon the author told an interesting story about Amazon women.
A Spanish explorer in 1542 was the first European to penetrate the dense, deadly jungle of the Amazon. He returned with an astonishing tale of a tribe of vicious women warriors who went about naked with bows and arrows in their hands .One of these women could do as much fighting as ten Indian men. The explorer named these women the Amazons, after the famed women warriors of Greek mythology, who were said to have removed their right breast so they could more effectively shoot a bow and arrow. It is from the Greek word “a- mazos”, meaning no breasts, that the word “Amazon” is derived.
I had never heard of these Greek women warriors before. I wonder if a mastectomy really could improve your archery skill?
“Look at my blue cow!”” I made a purple turtle.” “Look at mine.”
I heard these and many similar exclamations of joy today at the “Back to School Bash” at our city’s gym. I was there helping my first born in a booth she had at the Bash to entertain the kids and advertise her art education business. We had paint and markers and lots of creative young minds crowding our booth all day. While I helped the young artists my daughter explained her art education program to their parents. She runs the local Abrakadoodle franchise, which specializes in teaching kids various kinds of art. The kids were having a great time. One of the nice things about art is that there is no wrong way to do art. The kids have such a good time. I think my daughter loves her job as much as the kids love to create. She loves the kids. She loves the joy she sees in their faces.
Do you have a job that you love? What makes a job fun?
I’ve had the blahs the last couple of days. I just don’t feel like doing anything, and the things I do are just going through the motions. I have more than my fair share of blessings and nothing is particularly wrong. I just feel kind of lethargic. Maybe it’s a let down from living in a busy beach house full of eleven different personalities and coming home to my peaceful, quiet house. Whatever. It will go away and I’ll feel more like me in a day or two.
What do you do to help get you through the blah days?
At the beach last week I listened to The Dixie Chicks a lot. I really enjoyed several of their songs, but this one is my favorite. It reminds me of my sweet husband who provides a peaceful, quite place for me. It is called “Easy Silence.”
When the calls and conversations
Accidents and accusations
Messages and misperceptions
Paralyze my mind
Busses, cars, and airplanes leaving
Burning fumes of gasoline
And everyone is running
And I come to find a refuge in the
Easy silence that you make for me
It's okay when there's nothing more to say to me
And the peaceful quiet you create for me
And the way you keep the world at bay for me
The way you keep the world at bay
Monkeys on the barricades
Are warning us to back away
They form commissions trying to find
The next one they can crucify
And anger plays on every station
Answers only make more questions
I need something to believe in
Breathe in sanctuary in the
Easy silence that you make for me
It's okay when there's nothing more to say to me
And the peaceful quiet you create for me
And the way you keep the world at bay for me
The way you keep the world at bay
Children lose their youth too soon
Watching war made us immune
And I've got all the world to lose
But I just want to hold on to the
Easy silence that you make for me
It's okay when there's nothing more to say to me
And the peaceful quiet you create for me
And the way you keep the world at bay for me
The easy silence that you make for me
It's okay when there's nothing more to say to me
And the peaceful quiet you create for me
And the way you keep the world at bay for me
The way you keep the world at bay for me
The way you keep the world at bay
With a houseful of children we found eating at home much more pleasant than trying to eat in one of the many restaurants in Rehoboth. Still we each needed to eat our favorite beach food while we were there. Every evening we walked to the boardwalk to find our favorite delicacy. My daughter would have found the week incomplete without a wonderfully sinful candied apple, dipped in caramel and rolled in chocolate or coconut or nuts or all three. I went to the Candy Kitchen to purchase a chocolate covered strawberry, which I did not offer to share. Korh’s Brothers frozen custard, the vanilla, orange twist, was a favorite for several. Matt, my grandson’s buddy who joined us for the week, wanted Po-ta-toes every day, so we had to get a bucket of Thrashers fries soaked in vinegar. Of course the trip would not have been right without Grottos pizza for all the kids at least twice. We ate all the wrong foods and enjoyed every bite.
What is your favorite beach food?
After a week in a beach house full of family and friends, it is good to home again in my quiet and peaceful house where I think about all the wonderful memories we made together.
One evening after supper we all went down to the beach to fly my daughter’s two-string kite, which is a bit more challenging than a regular kite. It was great fun to watch everyone take a turn learning to get the kite aloft. While waiting to fly the kite the kids turned cartwheels and played football in the sand or ran laughing into the water. As I watched something appeared out on the water. I couldn’t figure out what it was. A red, neon looking bubble appeared on the horizon which grew bigger and brighter. It looked otherworldly. Suddenly I realized that it was the moon rising up over the horizon. I have never seen a more spectacular moonrise. It was an amazing sight. For this old gramma it was a perfect evening at the beach, happy grandchildren frolicking together while God provided a backdrop of sheer beauty.
Yesterday I found $150, all of it in quarters. Wow! This is so cool because tomorrow I am leaving for a week in Rehoboth Beach with an assortment of children, grandchildren and friends. The quarters are the kids designated arcade money. It won’t last long.
My daughter has been renting a beach house for a week each summer since her ex left. It has become a great family tradition. The number of people in the house varies each day as an assortment of friends come and go. But the house is filled always with fun, laughter, and some of the people we love most in this world.
One of my favorite memories last year was walking home from the arcade with my 10-year-old grandson. It was the last night of our vacation. He had been saving coupons from the arcade all week. He had a gazillion of them, which he had just cashed in. He had redeemed them for a remote controlled whoopee cushion, gifts for some friends, and a huge disco ball He needed help carrying all his loot. He was so happy. As we walked down the boardwalk, he said to me, ”Gramma, every boy needs to excel at something. I excel at video games. And look, it’s finally paid off!”
I look forward to another week of new adventures and memories.
We have been working with colored pencils in my art class. I really enjoy this medium. To achieve rich, intense colors with pencil, you must put layer upon layer, upon layer. A few layers of color will give only a faded and pale shade. Vibrant, brilliant color takes time as you put layer, upon layer, upon layer.
One of the techniques we have practiced is to undercoat the entire picture with one color. Then as you build the picture on top, the undercoat color influences all the other colors and thus influences the finished picture.
In one picture I first covered the entire page with blue. The finished picture was a cool, cloudy English countryside. The blue, though unseen, had kept a cool feeling throughout the drawing. Another picture was of a sunny beach in Aruba. I had undercoated the paper with a warm yellow that helped give the drawing a warm sunny feel.
Isn’t this a lot like life. It takes time to achieve a rich, vibrant life as we build layer, upon layer of experiences. Underneath all the layers is one thing that influences everything else.
What is the one thing that undercoats your life and influences all the experiences that are layered upon the foundation?
I received a call this morning from the hospice volunteer office. One of their patients was out of groceries. Could I help? I said sure and called the patient to make arrangements. I expected to get a list and run to the store, but it wasn’t quite that simple. The 83-year-old patient is Italian and speaks very little English. Her husband is legally blind but speaks good English. They wanted to go to the store and do their own shopping. I can understand that. I would definitely not have picked the right food. So we loaded her wheelchair into the car and got everyone settled. First we had to go to the bank and cash their check, then on to the store. I pushed the wheelchair and the husband pushed the grocery cart. This couple expresses their love by fussing and arguing loudly with one another. It got to be pretty funny as we tried to find just what she wanted. “No, not that one. Don’t you know what I want?” Then they would fuss in Italian while I tried to figure out what kind of fish she wanted. After squeezing all the plums and peaches and examining all the mushrooms we made our purchase and loaded people and groceries back into the car.
Now we just needed to stop by the pharmacy for his heart medicine. He said he would not need any money for his prescription because the insurance would pay for it. He went into the pharmacy while we waited in the car. In a few minutes he was back, and he was fuming. “What is wrong with this country? What has President Bush done for seniors? Nothing! He has done nothing for me and my wife!” It seems his heart medicine was going to cost $150, and he did not have $150. So we went home. I told him to call the social worker at hospice. People there are good at figuring out how to work with insurance and they could help him. I left my phone number and told them to call whenever they needed a ride to the store.
Growing old is not always easy.
The temperature hovered around 100 degrees today. It is close to 90 degrees now at 10 pm. It is a perfect evening to go to Rita’s.
Rita’s Italian Ice is a summertime favorite. The little building that houses Rita’s is by a busy highway in the parking lot of a little strip mall. The mall is home to a consignment shop, a pizza place and a tattoo parlor. The crowd that gathers there is a multi-generational, multi-ethnic mix of interesting folks. Tonight we joined the throngs craving a refreshing Italian ice. There were gaggles of teenagers laughing and flirting with one another. Moms and dads and excited little children were there in abundance. Several people, dressed in white shirts and ties appeared to be stopping by on the way home from work. It is a fun place to sit on a bench and observe people.
What could be finer on a hot evening than a mango gelati and a parade of interesting people to watch?
I’ve just finished reading an interesting book called, “Father Joe.”
It is a true story by Tony Hendra about his spiritual mentor and friend, a Benedictine monk named Father Joe. Tony is so inspired by this loving, wise man that Tony has dreams of becoming a monk himself.
At the age of fourteen Tony indulged in some hugging and kissing with a married woman. The young woman’s husband finds them. The husband is Catholic and a friend of Father Joe. He decides to take Tony to Father Joe to decide the appropriate punishment. Tony confesses his almost affair to the monk. Father Joe replies,
“You’ve done nothing truly wrong, Tony dear. God has brought you here before any real harm was done. The only sin you’ve committed is the sin of …s-s-selfishness.”
A few years later Tony was troubled by the stirrings and longings of sex. He has been obsessing about a beautiful classmate and wondered if this was some form of idolatry. He goes to Father Joe for advice.
Tony begins by telling Father Joe about his dreams,
“…But at least there was nothing sexual about them.”
“Of course they’re sexual, dear. Whatever’s wrong with that?”
“What about chastity?”
“Chastity doesn’t involve surgery, does it? We’re all sexual beings. Sex is a wonderful gift, a physical way to express the most powerful force in all existence – love. Sex is a brilliant idea of God’s, I think. Almost like a sacrament.”
“Sex is a sacrament?”
“D-don’t tell the Abbot!”
“There’s no sin in having sex?”
“Yes yes yes. There can be. But sex is a sin far less often than we’re led to believe. It’s all a question of context. If you have sex to hurt or exploit another, or to take pleasure only for me, me, me, and not return as much or more to your lover… then it becomes sinful. We monks make promises before God and the community to remain celibate. For us to have sex would be a betrayal of God and our brothers. It’s not the sex so much as breaking the vow that is the sin, just as it is when you break a vow of marriage ---the hurt to your partner. They’ve made sexual sins the worst of the lot, haven’t they? Because sex is so powerful, people are fearful of it! We must take the fear out of sex as well.”
Is Father Joe right? Is the biggest sexual sin one of selfishness?