Sunday, June 28, 2009

A Wonderful Birthday

My long time readers all remember my sister-in-law, Jean. Last July Jean fell and suffered a terrible head injury. We didn't expect her to survive the massive trauma to her brain. She was on a ventilator and in a coma for almost three months. Then one day she just woke up again. She has slowly regained her ability to speak. She remains totally paralyzed on her left side and her health is fragile. She remains in a nursing home where my brother Bill spends most of his days with her.

Today is Jean's eightieth birthday, and it was a most wonderful day. When asked what she wanted for her birthday, she had a quick request. She wanted to go to church. This morning the nurses woke her up early for her big day. She was showered and dressed in her Sunday best. Bill hired a wheelchair accessible van and a health aide to accompany them and they went to church. They have been an active part of their little congregation for thirty years. The people there are family. My other brother and his family met them there and the church was filled with joy at her return. After the service there was birthday cake and celebration. Jean leaned over to Bill and asked him to tell everyone to please shut up. She wanted to say something. She gave a little speech about her memories and the love she felt for the people there. She told a joke about getting old.

It was just a wonderful day that we never expected to see. God is good.

Happy birthday Jean. You are one tough old lady.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Nothing Much

Sometimes it is hard to think of something interesting to fill this space. How do I make the life of a contented senior citizen sound interesting? My days recently have been pretty quiet. I read, play on the computer, work in the yard, go to the pool for water aerobics, and take lots of folks to various doctor appointments. I am trying to write some lessons for vacation Bible school at church, but I'm having trouble getting motivated. I read the paper and watch the news. Politics and scandals are ever present. I have some fairly strong political views. I am mostly a left-leaning Democrat, but there are no easy solutions to most of the problems, and people I love and admire have different ideas. I don't really want to fill this space with politics. I've been to funerals for two friends recently. One, like Farrah Fawcett, had fought a long hard battle against cancer. Her death was not a surprise. The other was a young, apparently healthy man who, like Michael Jackson, died suddenly and unexpectedly. Their deaths make me more aware of my own mortality and the limited time I have on this earth. I have wonderful children and even more wonderful grandchildren, but you probably get tired of my bragging about them. I feel a bit boring today.

Do you have any suggestions for me? What are some topics that I should write about? Give me some ideas, please. I need some help.

Monday, June 22, 2009

HowI Learned to Study the Bible

This was written by our daughter and published several years ago in a Christian magazine.Her dad cried when he read it.

"How I Learned to Study the Bible"

When I was twelve and was stumped on a math homework problem, the very last resort was to ask Dad for help. Not because he was impatient or because he couldn’t figure it out. Dad could always solve the math problems. The trouble was, he could solve it four different ways – and none of them were the way we solved it in class. He would explain every step and sometimes the history of the mathematician that proved this particular maneuver was possible. After about ten minutes, my eyes would glaze over and I would hurry my head nodding and affirmative grunts to convince him that I understood. Anything to get the paper back and figure it out for myself.

No one in the world looks forward to the annual cycle of school science fairs more than my father. I always enjoyed the biology experiments, like seeing if beans grew faster if watered with water, milk, or orange juice. But my father is a rocket scientist – literally. He wanted to detect the movement of the earth with pendulums. He wanted to calculate the pattern of random numbers with rolling dice (from his personal collection of hundreds of right and left-handed dice.)

One of the moments in my life for which I feel the most guilt is when I threw the universe in the trash. It was after the seventh grade science fair. Dad and I had stayed up late and created a hyperbolic parabaloid (don’t ask) that demonstrated the expanding rate of the universe. This model was big. It was sturdily constructed. It was heavy. The walk home was over a mile. It was hot outside. I saw no future use for this thing now that the projects had been graded. So I tossed it in the school dumpster. That night at dinner when I casually mentioned it, Dad was crestfallen, like a little boy whose shiny new toy gets run over in the street. I thought about going back to the dumpster. I’m grateful that he didn’t. Even though all his children are grown now, he still “competes” in science fairs. He helps his grandchildren. He helps children at church. He volunteers to judge at local schools.

My father taught me the most about God and studying the Bible at the crack of dawn and in the middle of the night. We would agree on a time, 5:30 am, 2:00 am. I would awake to him sitting quietly on the edge of my bed, gently tracing my face with his fingers. “It’s time,” he’d whisper so as not to waken my sister or mother or brothers. We’d tiptoe out of the house. Sometimes we’d get in the car and drive off to a remote area. If we were camping, we’d go on a long hike.
He had all the tools we needed: pens, books, paper for notes, binoculars. We’d creep along the edge of a forest in silence. Every now and then he’d cock his head and whisper, “woodthrush” or “chickadee.” “Do you hear it?” He’d try to imitate the call for me. And then we’d stalk the bird with the binoculars. I’d see a flash of bright yellow or deep red. And then there it was – a spectacular tananger, an exquisite oriole, or a curious woodpecker.

One cold middle of the night I stood in a field with him to look for Halley’s comet. In truth, the comet didn’t look like much. It looked like a star that somebody smudged. But I saw it. I won’t have that chance again for many years. I could have easily missed it. My dad found it for me. It was the kind of moment that wise men cross continents for.

How did I learn to study the Bible? I learned at the kitchen table that there is more than one approach to solve problems. I learned that the teacher doesn’t know the only way. And I learned that if I tried hard enough, I could figure it out for myself.

I learned that when you can figure something out, you share it. And once you’ve put hours into a project, don’t toss it carelessly into the trash. But once you’ve tossed something into the trash, don’t go digging it out again.
I often find that I am study the Bible to win arguments. But if I’m quiet and still, I might see a flash of spectacular beauty.

I learned that sometimes finding the unexpected beauty in scripture happens at unusual times, in the cold and the dark, but most often with a friend at your side, pointing heavenward. If you don’t see it now, it might be fourteen years before you see it.

On my 21st birthday, my parents gave me a terrific study Bible that I am diligently wearing out. Along with the inscriptions, my Dad included three verses that have shaped my approach to the Scriptures: 2 Timothy 2:15, 1 Thessalonians 5:21, and Ephesians 5:10. Read together they combine to make a great charge to anyone seeking God’s truth. “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” “Test everything. Hold on to the good.” “and find out what pleases the Lord.”

I sometimes get in trouble with the “Test everything” part. Sometimes we don’t want to hear questions that challenge our traditional beliefs and interpretations. But I know that God is bigger than our questions. He is bigger than our traditions. He wants us to search His word. He wants us to find out what pleases him.

The other day I was driving with my father. Without warning he swerved to the side of the road by a small wood and reached over to roll down my window. “Sometimes,” he said, “you can hear the woodthrush from the car if you stop and listen. Do you hear it?”

Sunday, June 21, 2009


I've been thinking about my dad today. I guess that is normal on Father's Day.

My dad grew up on a rice farm in east Texas. He was the youngest of nine children. I don't know too much about his childhood except that his dad died before he was born. This worried me when I was a little girl. I could not imagine life without a father. I once asked him how he learned to be a father. He told me that my brothers and I had taught him.

My dad worked in the oilfields as a young man. During the Depression he moved his little family to California where he became the foreman of an oil refinery and later supervised a chemical plant. He worked long, hard hours.

As a little girl I was not very aware of his fatigue and stress. All I knew was that I was his princess and he loved me, he loved my mother, he loved my brothers. Dad was a gentleman who read poetry to his wife and told us children wonderful stories. I remember my older brother coming home from school one day very upset. He thought my dad was the original author of Beowulf and was quite upset to learn that this story was an old English epic poem, not Dad's own imagination at work.

Dad was never able to go college, but he was the best educated man I knew. He read about everything. He dreamed of sending his own children to college. His pride when each of us graduated was enormous.

When we were grown and the grandchildren came along my dad saw each of them as perfect. His grandchildren could do no wrong, and he would never tolerate any criticism of them. The eyes of a proud grandfather saw no wrong.

My dad left us a legacy of love, faith and goodness. He was a good man. I miss my daddy.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


Today is our forty-eighth wedding anniversary. We were young and in love. We didn't know what lay ahead. We just knew we wanted to be married, so we began life's journey together. I often wonder how two kids from California ended up in Maryland with eight grandchildren. It has been a wonderful journey. There have good times and bad times and lots of in between times. God has blessed us.

To celebrate this milestone we went to see Man of La Mancha at our local community theater last week-end. The story is a powerful telling of how one man's love and his quest to right all wrongs can change a woman from an unwanted cast-off into a beloved and beautiful lady. The music always makes us both cry.

Dennis, thank you for letting me be your Dulcinea. Thank you for leading us to find unreachable stars. You have made so many impossible dreams come true. I love you.

Saturday, June 13, 2009


On this date twenty-two years ago we celebrated another beautiful wedding. There was a lovely bride, happy families and funny stories. The memories are all a little tarnished and sometimes painful today. After seventeen years my second son-in-law decided he longer wanted to be married. He moved out and moved on to other relationships.

Divorce is painful. My daughter struggled with anger and uncertainty. What do you do with a broken dream? Their three beautiful children were confused and hurt. My husband and I were stunned, angry and felt totally helpless. How could this man we loved do this? How could he cause his family so much hurt? For a long time my strongest emotion was anger. I planned all sorts of revenge. I wanted to inflict on him the pain that he had inflicted on all of us. My daughter, the children and I all saw a therapist for quite a while to help us sort through those emotions. There were false starts, wrong turns and several moments of collapse as we struggled towards a new life. I did not ever spit on him. I did not put rotten fish under his mattress. I did not demand an apology. None of that seemed helpful. We all just kept putting one foot in front of the other and moved slowly on to a better place.

Today my grandchildren are doing well. They are honor roll students with many friends. They love both their mother and their father. He is involved in their lives. I love my grandchildren. They need to have a relationship with their dad. I am always polite and friendly in his presence. He told me recently that I was the best ex mother-in-law in the world. I guess that is a compliment. Somehow I don't feel very complimented.

My daughter has a full and busy life. She is happy. She is surrounded by many friends and a sweetheart who makes her know she is loved.

There is no such thing as a good divorce. There is just too much pain involved. Divorce is the end of the happily ever after dream, but it is not the end of life. There are new dreams and new joys on the other side of the pain. The scars remain. Sometimes the hurt and anger still bubbles up and burst all around us. Life just keeps moving on. We count our many blessings and look forward to good things that God has in store for us.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

25 Years

It is lovely summer day today. The temperature is in the mid eighties with a gentle breeze blowing. It would be a lovely day for a wedding. Twenty five years ago today the temperature was 104 degrees. There was no breeze. It was humid and hazy. It was my daughter's wedding day. In spite of the weather the wedding was beautiful. In the twenty-five years since that day they have built a strong, happy marriage and raised two beautiful children. Perhaps the weather on their wedding day was a sign of life to come. The world may throw some bad stuff your way, but you can still make something beautiful.

I was thinking today about my husband, the father of the bride. He did so much behind the scenes to make that day special.

One day, about a month before the wedding, he dropped the bride off for the final fitting of her dress. (The dress had been my wedding dress and needed some alterations for my tiny daughter.) He then went on to do a long list of errands. When he returned later to pick her up he was unprepared for the emotion that made him sit down and cry. There before him stood his baby girl, a beautiful bride wearing the dress that his bride had worn. He was overcome.

The day before the wedding, guests began to arrive from many places. The grandparents all flew in from California. Our house was full of happy people. The friends and relatives began coming. Someone had to pick Robert up at the bus station in Washington. A car full of wedding guests broke down near Baltimore. My husband calmly put his tools together and headed up the road to rescue them and fix the car. Just as he was leaving another call came in. This time wedding guests had broken down coming from Virginia. He assured them he would be there in about an hour. Somehow he managed to get all the cars running and everyone arrived on time. That evening the bride's car broke down, the car they needed for their honeymoon trip. They were just going to rent a car, but the bride and groom were only twenty years old. You need to be twenty-one to rent a car. Finally we found a used car lot whose owners knew us. They agreed to rent a car to the young couple for their honeymoon. While they were gone my husband got their car fixed and running again.

It was a beautiful wedding. The memories of that day and all the events around it always make me smile.
Happy anniversary to a wonderful couple.

Friday, June 05, 2009

In The Blink Of An Eye

How is it possible that in the blink of an eye this sweet little baby girl has turned into a bright and beautiful high school graduate?

Why do I always cry when Pomp and Circumstance is played?

Thursday, June 04, 2009


I got reikied yesterday. I feel better today.

For my birthday last month my daughter gave me a gift certificate for a reiki session with my friend Yolinna. I decided to cash it in yesterday. I had been feeling down in the dumps, a bad case of the blahs, and my arthritis had really been aggravating me. My shoulders felt like they were carrying a heavy burden. Seemed like a good time for a bit of healing.

I can't explain how reiki works. If you want an explanation go here. It's not like anything else I know, but I'll try to share my experience. Yolinna is a dear friend. She loves me and I enjoy being with her so it was comfortable to go to her home. After some chit chat I climbed onto the massage table in what she calls her spirit room. It is peaceful, airy place and I began to relax and closed my eyes. When I looked again Yolinna was just standing by me, praying. It felt nice to know someone was praying for me. Then she put her hands on my head, that's all, just lay her hands there. I began to feel warmth radiating from her hands into me. She moved her hands to different areas of my body. Sometimes I felt warmth, sometime the heat from her hands was intense. We made a few comments, but mostly it was just quiet and peaceful. An hour later she was done. The blahs were gone, the shoulders less tense, and the arthritis pain less bothersome. Somehow my chakras got aligned and my energy got itself in balance. I don't know what chakras are either, but I do feel better and that is nice.

Thanks Yolinna.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009


My older son was a competitive swimmer growing up. He was quite good. He got up at 4AM every day and swam for two hours before school. He went to practice every day after school and swam two more hours. He had ribbons and trophies everywhere from his many meets. This past week-end we attended a picnic at the pool where he swam during his childhood summers. There is a board on the wall there that still has his name holding record times at local swim meets. He dropped out of swimming when he went to college. Other things became more important. He grew up, married and raised a family. Last year he decided to start swimming again. He has once again begun to swim competitively. He now practices every morning before work. He is a pretty good swimmer again, but not a record maker. Now he is a good man with a job, a wife and a family who enjoys swimming.

Happy birthday David. I love you. You will always be a winner in my eyes.

Monday, June 01, 2009


One of the things I do to make myself useful is to volunteer for FISH. I don't think that is an acronym for anything, just a made up name for the group. FISH is a group of people who volunteer their time to give rides to people who are unable to drive. Most of the passengers are older folks whose health no longer allows them to drive. It is an easy thing to do. I have a car and time and enjoy being a helper.

Spending time in the waiting rooms of different doctors can be a very interesting experience. Most often I bring a book and the room is a quiet place to read, but other times it gives me an opportunity for prime people watching.

One of my passengers had an appointment with a psychiatrist with a packed waiting room. The patients were happily sharing their diagnoses and how different anti-psychotic drugs affected them. On the way home my passenger pointed out all the Washington DC license plates we saw on the road. We live in suburban DC so this is a common sight. She told me that she kept track of them and has frequently called Homeland Security because there is a plot for DC to take over Maryland. I imagine Homeland Security is thankful for her vigilance.

One day I took a passenger to a dialysis appointment. The patients in this office have spent a lot of time together and know each other well. Their conversation was a debate about whether or not to have a kidney transplant. Dialysis takes about four hours a day three times weekly. I would think they would all be anxious to get a new kidney so they would no longer need dialysis. One gentleman said his son wanted to donate a kidney, but he refused. Donating a kidney is a major surgical procedure. What if something happened to his son? The fear of that possibility overwhelmed him and he could not allow it. The fear of accepting a cadaver kidney seemed to be scary to several patients. The known routine of dialysis seemed preferable to the unknown risks of a transplant. It was an interesting conversation.

Some waiting rooms are bright and cheerful, some are dark and depressing. Some are crowded with long waits, some are near empty with no waiting time. Some drives are short, some are further away. My passengers are always grateful.