Tuesday, January 29, 2008

A Thousand Splendid Suns

I just finished reading a good book and don’t know what to do with myself. I’ve been living the story of two women living in the tumult and violence of Afghanistan for the past thirty years. The book “ A Thousand Splendid Suns” by Khaled Hosseini described the personal story of people trying to raise families and go about the business of life in a world full of political upheaval and war. It is a powerful story that helps me understand the overwhelming problems in Afghanistan. In spite of all the pain and tragedy this a story of hope, courage and victory. I highly recommend it.

The book lists some of the rules imposed by the Taliban on these people.

· All citizens must pray five times a day. If it is prayer time and you are caught doing something else you will be beaten.

· All men will grow their beard. The correct length is at least one clenched fist beneath your chin. If you do not abide by this you will be beaten.

· Singing is forbidden.

· Dancing is forbidden.

· Playing cards, playing chess, gambling and kite flying are forbidden.

· Writing books, watching films, and painting pictures are forbidden.

· Special rules for women.

· You will stay inside your homes at all times. It is not proper for a woman to wander aimlessly around the streets. If you go outside, you must be accompanied by a male relative. If you are caught alone on the street you will be beaten and sent home.

· You will not under any circumstances show your face. You will cover with a burqa when outside. If you do not you will be severely beaten.

· Cosmetics are forbidden.

· Jewelry is forbidden.

· You will not wear charming clothes.

· You will not speak unless spoken to.

· You will not laugh in public. If you do you will be beaten.

· You will not paint your nails. If you do you will lose a finger.

· Girls are forbidden from attending school.

· Women are forbidden from working.

· If you are found guilty of adultery you will be stoned to death.

The faithful of the Taliban thought they were imposing the will of God. I find that frightening.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Free Cell

I’ve just won another game of free cell on my computer. I think I have become addicted to this game. I play whenever I have a spare moment and look forward to finding a chance to play again. I am getting much better and win more often than I did when started playing a week ago. I excuse myself by saying that the logical thinking involved is good for my brain and will help to postpone on onset of Alzheimers. But the truth is that it is just fun.

Do you play computer games? What games do you play?

Friday, January 25, 2008


This morning I received the nicest compliment. I was at my water aerobics class just getting started when one of my classmates came over to me. “I’m so glad you are here this morning’, she said, “I was feeling a little down, but when I saw your bright, friendly smile I felt better. I always feel better when you are here with me.” I thought,”Wow, I don’t even know this woman’s name. She is just a classmate I chat with while we swim.”

I am amazed at how unaware I was that I had any influence on this woman’s emotions. I am grateful that I caused good feelings and not bad.

Has anyone ever completely unknowingly made your day better? Worse?

Monday, January 21, 2008

Warm Nights

Our church building is being used as a shelter this week. The county runs a program called Warm Nights during the cold months to give homeless people a warm place to sleep. Different churches house the shelter for one week each winter. It is very cold here and shelters are all full. Tonight I worked in the church kitchen helping with dinner for the people staying there. It was interesting visiting with them because they are all just like me. Most of these folks have just hit a hard place in life and are stuck with a bad situation. They were very grateful for a warm, safe place to sleep and dinner to fill their bellies. We talked together about families, schools and football. It was easy to visit and laugh with the people staying there.

I came home to my warm, safe and quiet house more grateful than usual for my many blessings.

Have any of you ever spent time in a shelter? What was your experience there like?

Saturday, January 19, 2008


We’ve been invited to a party tonight to celebrate a friend’s fiftieth birthday. Fifty seems like one of those milestone years when you should celebrate the fact that you have lived half a century.

This event, of course, has caused me to remember my own fiftieth birthday. It was a wonderful celebration. My life was near perfect and I assumed it would always be as it was that day. There was ice cream and cake after church on Wednesday night. My church family was a loving and supportive group. I could never imagine then that this group would not always be loving and supportive and I would one day feel compelled to leave them. My mother came from California. She met her great-grandchildren and seemed so happy. I did not realize that dementia would soon overtake her and she would never be able to come again. We had lobster for dinner at my daughter’s home. Mom got so excited because she had never eaten lobster. She had to be shown how to get to the meat. When she understood she exclaimed. “Why, it’s just like shelling pecans!” It was a happy moment. My gift from the children was group portrait of all my children and grandchildren. I loved that picture. In the picture there are three grandchildren. We now have a total of eight grandchildren. They are each a blessing. My daughter and her husband (standing in the back row) had three beautiful children before he decided that marriage was no longer fun and moved on to other places. I had not expected that loss. Our foster son (standing in back on the left) was a high school senior and doing well. He has disappeared from our lives and remains only in our memory. I miss him. The other picture is of me with my mother and my husband that day.

That birthday was sixteen years ago. Today life is good. My sweet husband continues to love me. Children and grandchildren bless me. I have a loving and supportive church family.

I guess the moral of my fiftieth birthday is to live in the moment and enjoy the blessings each day brings. Life will change.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

One night while we were in Orlando we went to a Blue Man Group concert. I knew very little about the group and was just out for evening of entertainment. I did get a bit nervous when I found a poncho provided for everyone in our second row seats, and everyone unhesitatingly putting them on. It was a wonderful show. I laughed until I hurt and was amazed at the tremendous talent. I have been trying to find words to describe the performance, but it is hard. The show involved blue-faced men and pounding percussion, playful pantomime, precision marshmallow throwing, paint pots, pipes and paper, piles and piles of paper. My poncho stayed clean but I did get a big splat of Twinkie goop in the face.

If you ever have opportunity, go see a Blue Man Group concert. Then you can try to describe it for me.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008


This weekend my son-in-law proved that he is indeed goofy. He completed Disney’s Goofy challenge by running the half marathon on Saturday and then the full marathon on Sunday. That is 13.1 miles Saturday plus 26.2 miles on Sunday for a total of 39.3 miles of running. The reward for this effort was a Donald Duck medal for the half, a Mickey Mouse medal for the full and a Goofy medal for doing a marathon and a half. This marathon was more about fun than time and we all had a wonderful weekend.

Race days began at 3am. The early wake up call got us to Epcot for the 6am start. Runners had to be in place no later than 5am.With 18,000 runners and their many fans there was a bit of a traffic jam getting everyone in place. It was a lot earlier than this retired lady normally gets up, but the energy and excitement were contagious and it was a wonderful adventure. Many of the runners dressed in costume. We saw many of Disney’s cartoon characters running by us. One sweaty, well built young man ran in only a white speedo. All the women admired him. One group of happy runners was dressed like pink flamingos. Most runners stopped along the way and had their pictures made with the Disney characters that were all along the route cheering for them. The spectators were all a wonderful cheering section. I really enjoyed watching the finish. Runners who could hardly move suddenly had a great burst of energy when they saw the finish line and ran with renewed strength. Others joined hands and ran across together with upraised, joined hands. A few could hardly move and fellow runners would slow down and run beside them encouraging them to find energy for those last few yards. I was really quite moved by the camaraderie of all the participants. The happy, sweaty finishers wore their medals with well deserved pride.

The top picture shows the runners going up main street in the Magic Kingdom

The middle picture is high fiving Pluto at the finish line.

The last one show our happy finisher and his number one fan.

Friday, January 11, 2008

The sky is blue. The palm trees are swaying in the gentle breeze, The temperature is in the eighties. It is a beautiful day in Orlando. We are here to cheer for the world's best son-in-law as he runs the Disney Marathon this week-end. I don't understand why he thinks running 26 mules is fun, but he is quite excited about it. It will be fun to watch as he runs through all the Disney Parks.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008


You just can’t trust the polls. They all said that Obama would win in New Hampshire. He did come in second, but Hillary won. This whole election process is such a long, drawn out process. I get tired of the speeches that all begin to sound alike. I wonder how much I can believe of anything anybody says. It is frustrating and confusing. But it sure is better than a bloody coup as a way of getting new leaders. I am grateful for the privilege of voting. I live in Maryland where the primary election will occur on February 12. More than twenty states will have held their primaries before I get to vote. I wonder if my vote will matter by then. Will the candidate already be chosen by February 12?

I took a couple of on-line quizzes to see which candidate most closely reflected my views. They both said Obama was my closest match. John Edwards was second and Hillary was third. None of the Republicans were anywhere near my point of view.

I guess we will just have to wait and see. The only thing I know for sure is that W will no longer be president.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Children's Church

I teach a group of preschoolers during church on Sundays. We do a lot of singing. One of the favorite songs is “Father Abraham.” It is a happy song about the biblical character Abraham with lots of motions. We look like we’re doing Hokey Pokey when we are singing it. So I knew what three-year-old Ben meant when he asked if we could sing the song about Abraham Lincoln, but I found it hard not to laugh. He must live with a family who talks a lot about American history. His next request was that famous church song, “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.”

I love teaching children.

Thursday, January 03, 2008


“Traffic is just a fact of life, Gramma. You have to get used to it when you’re here in New Martinsville. There is always traffic.”

We are sitting at a signal at the two lane state highway that serves as the main drag of New Martinsville, a small West Virginia town that stretches along the Ohio River. My nine-year old granddaughter has recently moved here from the very small town of Sistersville, where the downtown consists of a Dairy Queen and a drug store and where traffic is non-existent. New Martinsville has several restaurants, a movie theater and a Wal-Mart. My granddaughter thinks it is a big city.

Everything is relative to what we know. This little girl will have a very different view of what is normal than my other grandchildren who are growing up in the heavily populated Washington DC-Baltimore megalopolis. Traffic in this part of the country travels on 12 lane highways that aren’t able to handle the rush hour crawl.

What is heavy traffic where you live? Do you usually travel on small country roads or multi-lane freeways? How does traffic affect your life?

The picture shows my little country girl and me after a trip to Wal-Mart.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Rose Parade

Today, as we traditionally do, we took down all our Christmas decorations while watching the Rose Parade on TV. As usual the floats were beautiful. I am always amazed at the intricate designs they make with all those millions of flowers.

While watching today’s parade on TV my mind floated back to another Rose Parade. It was January 1, 1961. I was a student nurse at Pasadena City College. My fiancĂ© was a student at Cal Tech. We decided we wanted to see the parade so we, along with several thousand other young adventures, dressed in our warmest clothes and headed to Colorado Boulevard about 10 PM on New Year’s Eve. We secured prime space right next to the restraining rope, pitched our blanket and prepared to wait for morning. It was cold and it got colder. Our warmest southern California clothes were nowhere near warm enough. Our thermos of hot chocolate did nothing to alleviate the cold. I believe it was the coldest night of my entire life. The morning sun was one of most welcome sights I had ever seen. By parade time the sun had thawed out our frozen bodies and we were able to oooh and awe at the floats. We waved to the equestrian units and sang along with the marching bands. The parade was spectacularly wonderful. I have always been glad we saw the Rose Parade. We experienced it all. It is wonderful memory.

I will never do it again.