My Romantic Grandmothers

I know we are well past Valentine’s Day weekend, but I have carried my grandmother Rosa’s love story in my back pocket since I began collecting stories to tell. I consider that I’m either late for this year or early for the next, but some love stories never get old, and this may be the year Rosa’s finally gets on the page.

The truth is that when Valentine’s Day comes around, what I remember about Rosa, causes me to speculate about love and the hype associated with happily ever after. What is it about a connection between two people that goes beyond the “I do” and society’s expectations? What keeps some people together for decades while others give up after the first round of conflict? I’ve put down some thoughts, actually lots of thoughts, which I will share over the coming days.

The Hype

Each year, countless individuals put LOVE at the center of their vision boards or at the top of their list of New Year’s resolutions. No matter what age group or whether looking for a new or improved relationship, we find hearts filled with hopes and dreams of catching that elusive mythical butterfly of love.

In the same way that marketing and merchandizing stir up dreams of the proverbial romantic love, social media keeps pace with the trend. The newsfeeds are flooded with memes, poems, and words of wisdom involving love and relationships to address all expectations or interpretations of love.  

The Help

After decades of trial and error, I’ll share some reflections based solely on my personal observations or experience. 

I remember that before there was social media and its memes, I would take the personality quizzes in my teen magazines to find the characteristics to look for in my perfect match, my soulmate.  Then, I would turn to the back pages to find my horoscope to see if a tall, dark, and handsome stranger would cross my path that month.

Thankfully, along with the fantasy, there are genuinely informative and helpful articles.  Sometimes the headings tend to be sensationalized to intrigue the reader, but generally, one can find a helpful nugget or two. Some common themes that have crossed my desktop are: The Egomaniac Partner; How to Recognize a Toxic Person; What to do if your Love Language doesn’t Translate; Don’t be a Doormat; Self-love is the best love, and variations of these.  These are not actual titles but if you are interested in these topics, use your search engine to find information and expert opinion.

The Grandmother Stories –

This finally brings me to my grandmother’s story.  In 1893, Rosa was a young girl of fourteen when she married Carlos, who was four years older. He bought her a house on the edge of town, and together they had thirteen children, seven of which made it to adulthood as caring and loving individuals. My grandfather Carlos was a hardworking, honest man of his time. To his grandchildren,  he was loving, and we remember him as an old bulldog with a bark worse than his bite. There was no question, though, that he was the law and the justice of his little personal fiefdom. I’m told that in his youth, his personality and good looks gave him certain liberties with the women in town. By the social standards of her time, my grandmother had to learn to accept it. She didn’t like it, but she was a woman that stood by her man, faithful no matter what.  

I remember once, when her sister Lola was visiting for a few days, she teased my grandmother about this. Lola told us about a certain younger woman from down the street who, now in her seventies, still made sure she had bright red lipstick on when she walked by my grandparents’ house on her way to town. I was not accustomed to seeing my sweet grandmother with ruffled feathers, but that day, between gritted teeth, she said to her sister, “Oh hush! That old fool looks ridiculous wearing such vulgar lipstick at her age.” I had to laugh because I couldn’t believe that she apparently still had issues about an affair my grandfather had after all these years. What was that all about?  Was that Love? Was she still insecure about her marriage after almost seventy years?  Different times, different culture- maybe? 

Several years later, a couple months after my grandfather died, a few of us went over to check-in and visit with Rosa. Truthfully, I don’t remember all the conversations that day. We were all bustling around cooking, cleaning, and trying to keep her spirits up. Still, I remember that she broke my heart when she quietly interrupted to tell us, “I don’t think I will make it to Valentine’s Day this year. I have celebrated Valentine’s Day with Carlos since before I was fourteen.  I don’t think I can do it alone this year.”

Days later, I got a call that my grandmother was in ICU at the hospital where I worked. She was with a pulmonary embolism and not doing well. I went up to see her, kissed her forehead, and held her hand. Her eyes fluttered, and she was gone. It was Valentine’s Day. She was determined to spend it with Carlos for all eternity.  

My paternal grandmother, Euphemia, has a different story. Whenever I think of Rosa, I naturally think of her.  One day with a house full of people, she sought me out, and silently sat by my side while I watched my little girls feed and chase the chickens in her yard. After a bit, she whispered, “Does Eddie ever visit you?” Eddie, my husband, passed at a young age.  A muted anguish in her tone alarmed me.

Based on family stories, I understand that Eufemia’s was an arranged marriage. She was well into her 20s – almost a spinster by the social norms of her culture. Perhaps, some say she was firmly encouraged by her parents to marry her cousin’s cousin, my grandfather, Saturno. He was ten years her senior. They had seven children.

In response to her question, I told her that I vividly dreamed of him a couple of times during the first year.  She put her head down as her dark eyes glistened with tears and said, “Saturno, never visited me.  I guess he never really loved me.”  

 They had been married fifty years at the time of his death at seventy-two.  At the time of our conversation, she had survived him by about thirty years. Sadly, she waited for him to show his love – from beyond the grave. Was this Love? I can’t imagine what it would be like living all those years, wondering if your husband loved you. We never spoke of it again. She passed many years later at the age of one hundred and five. I always wonder if they met again in another life.

It is Better to Have Loved

I am a firm believer in the premise of the famous quote from Alfred Lord Tennyson, “’tis better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all.”  It took me years to find a balance after my life and dreams were turned upside down by my first husband’s death.  However, I have been fortunate to have experienced unconditional love and support from family and friends, some of whom have already passed.  I have been widowed, divorced, betrayed by close friends and lovers – and still, I believe.

What do I believe about love?  It is magical!  You can’t package it, and you really can’t fake it.  But it’s not the same for everyone. It’s that feeling of warm sunshine on your face, but it also warms your heart when you are with a loved one.  It feels like tickles and giggles and laughter till your sides ache. It’s feeling safe in someone’s arms, like when a mother cradles a baby. It’s a child feeding or bathing an elderly parent. It’s a partner shoveling the driveway so that you can get to work. It’s a friend bringing you chicken soup when you are under the weather. It’s a pooch or a kitty following you around until it can cuddle and comfort you when you’ve had a hard day. I can go on.  I think it’s wonderful, painful, risky, and scary but worth it.  Feel free to add your own ideas in the comments. 

Forms of Love

Elusive Butterfly of Love – Bob Lind 1966

Quote from Alfred Lord Tennyson (Brainyquote.com)

Photo- Love Year-Round Yoga Digest

I love the Summer Rain

I’m late in posting for Father’s Day.   This is always one of my go-to happy memories.

feet rain wet puddle
Photo by Alicia Zinn on Pexels.com Jeans soaked, feet wet in a puddle of rain

This is the original essay which was my tribute for Father’s Day a few years ago.  I condensed it for an assignment last week.  Please enjoy this version too.

“I love the summer rain!” I shouted in my head because there was no one around to hear my declaration and ‘cause no one really cared.  “Why?” I asked myself; I knew the answer from the minute I felt the first heavy drops.  It was because of him.  And because of him, I stood there for a moment in the pouring rain.  Just a moment, long enough for my jeans to get soaked and my tee shirt drenched and long enough to conjure up the video I wanted to play in my mind. 

splash of water
Photo by Noelle Otto on Pexels.com Fun in the rain

He must have been about the age I am now that day.  Mid-fifties, receding gray hair, twinkling eyes, round face with half a crooked smile and a round belly to match. He wore shorts, his thin shirt unbuttoned halfway, and he’d already lost his shoes on the porch as he ran out to catch the rain.   In all the excitement, he skipped and twirled tempting my girls to join him.  Lovey had already shed her sandals and was waiting for the “go ahead.”   I realized it was contagious as I liberated Annie from her orthopedics.  Soon they were all laughing and skipping and twirling, wet through and through in the tropical rain.  My mother and I just smiled from the sidelines, more concerned with what

the neighbors in the subdivision were thinking behind their blinds.

They called him “El Sapo” – “The Frog.”  They say as a kid he would love to cool down by laying on the floor, with his legs in a diamond shape like a frog.  He loved the water, he loved the rain, and he loved us.  In the good times and the bad, of that, we could be sure.

I wished him here today.  I wanted to be that little girl and dance in the rain and to have him hold me tight like he did the day Eddie died and he had no words to console me.  How does one console a daughter whose young husband just died in the recovery room?  We held each other the same way as we said our final good-byes to my mom on a warm summer morning.   I wanted to hold him for the night that he died that I didn’t, but rather blew him a kiss from the door because I had the flu and didn’t want to share it with him.  

As I think of him now, I know he wasn’t perfect, but I am grateful for all he was and all he left behind including that little bit of him in me. 

 

Sweet Lemonade Out of Wrinkly Limes.

She was a gentle spirit who sang her prayers, but even the saintly have limits.  She was an artist, a singer, a storyteller.   She was a mother, a daughter, a wounded healer sought out by her neighbors for comfort and answers.  She was my hero, my teacher, my friend. 

 She was crafts and science projects of carrot tops in shallow saucers or bird seeds in eggshells which later resembled a miniature forest on our windowsill.   She was pastel colored chicks at Easter, picnics, and carousels at the park in summer.  She was happy Christmas carols a shiny aluminum Christmas trees with bright blue ornaments.  

I was her daughter – sometimes rude, sometimes impatient, but always in awe of the brave woman who could make a tall glass of sweet lemonade when life gave her a bowl of tart, wrinkled,  old limes.

full drinking glass with slice of lime
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

A PRECIOUS Tribute to Mom

This has been a week of anniversaries for me.  I’ve come to a place where I am at peace with each one.  I’ve reposted this in remembrance of my Mom.  I know she is free and sometimes I feel her so close to me.   I am forever grateful for her.  She wasn’t perfect and yet she was wonderful.  I hope you can enjoy

via AtoZ Challenge P is for PRECIOUS

The letter I never wrote

My Dearest Bobby, 

It’s been almost half a century since we last saw each other or since we shared about our lives and yet I looked for you a few years back when I found myself in a new city without friends. Where have all my young friends gone, long time passing? 

How I had missed you!  You drove west on a cross-country adventure right after college, looking for John Denver’s Rocky Mountain High.  I went looking for myself on the little Caribbean Island where my family roots were waiting. 

The last time you wrote to me, you told me that you finally understood when I wrote to you about my special love for Edward.  You wrote that you had found someone extraordinary as well and felt like you were on cloud nine. “I’m walking on air! This is the one,” you wrote.  I was so happy for you.  You deserved to be loved to the max.   I never heard from you again; not even when I wrote to tell you of Edward’s unexpected passing.  I always wondered about that and thought it strange.  Did you get my letter?  It was before Facebook and emails when letters often were lost and neither party knew it.  I believe in my heart that if you would have gotten it, you would have reached out.  You were always there for me.

Speaking of Facebook, let me tell you that there must be a gazillion Robert J. Smiths on Facebook! You had told me once. that Robert James Smith was a common family name from one of the islands in the Canadian Maritime provinces where your parents were born. I expected many Smiths but I don’t know why I wasn’t expecting so many with that name combination in our age group. I tried many variations to filter my search and convince the algorithms to give you up. 

Finally there it was; a Robert J Smith from New York currently living in the Rocky Mountains!  The profile picture was a portrait of a past president known as a great social reformer. I knew I had to be on to something, but the profile said this Robert J was a computer guy at some Rocky Mountain University, not a famous photojournalist traveling the world in search of a great story. 

Although this Robert J was not the photojournalist you had dreamed of becoming, there were random sarcastic posts and funny tongue-in-cheek comments in reference to some joke among your friends.  I remember that you were always amusing with a sharp wit. I kept scrolling on that page.  The information available on the public profile gave me an indication that I may have found the right person. 

It seems this Robert J was an activist like my Bobby who inspired and motivated us to march and protest many things while we were in high school.  I remember the cold, wet days we spent holding signs in front of the local state-run mental hospital to oppose the abuse and demand better community options for the mentally ill and developmentally disabled.  We recycled and protested about pollution. All the while you documented it with exceptional photos for the school paper.

It seemed like this Robert J was also a patron of the arts and I remembered how we spent that one summer exploring all the little museums in the city because we had already exhausted the larger ones.  The haunting photos you took at the Cloisters were amazing.  It was exciting watching them develop in the makeshift darkroom in your parents’ apartment. 

We enjoyed that summer even if it was just the two of us. All our friends were busy with their own projects or were just not interested in the same things.  Bernice approached me once about her insecurities because we were spending so much time together.  I remembered assuring her that you loved her and the only reason you kept inviting me was that you being ever the supportive friend, didn’t want me to be alone as I dealt with my recent breakup with Harry.  

Suddenly as I scrolled through the photos on that Facebook page, I saw your smiling face; still looking like a cherub with curly gray hair.  Even in the black and white photo, your eyes had a sparkle as you sipped from a champagne flute in the back seat of a limo with your wife.  She looked nice. I was glad to see you so happy; I didn’t bother with the friend request.

About a year later I tried again.  This time there was just one status update post.  You were glad it would be your last radiation treatment. You explained that you had just started chemotherapy on Brain Cancer Awareness Day.  So many memories, and some regrets, all came rushing at me.  I said a prayer but didn’t contact you.  I wish I had.   

Months later around your birthday, I checked a third time, but when nothing new had been posted, I looked for your wife.  Did I just become a stalker? I didn’t care; I had a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach.  I saw the condolences on her page.  So many people were acknowledging what a wonderful friend you were and how you touched their lives.  They all loved you, as I did.  I saw what she said was her favorite picture of you posted for your birthday.  She wanted to reassure her friends that she was coping well and but admitted she missed you so much. I was glad to see she loved you so.

It was a professional portrait, and it was how I had imagined you aging with soft gray curls and a neatly trimmed beard.  Your mismatched eyes were apparent, one green, one hazel.  They were thoughtful eyes, caring eyes.  My sweet Bobby; you found someone who loved you the way I couldn’t.  I thank God for her. I wanted to reach out to her and add my condolences, but I didn’t. 

I still remember you on your birthday and say a prayer.  I’m sorry I didn’t love you the way you wanted; the way your parents would have wanted. I’m glad we were best friends though. I’ll always remember the special moments we shared, the decision we made that summer to protect Bernice. I question myself about that choice from time to time and naturally wonder what could have been,. 

Of one thing I am certain, I am grateful that I had you to walk beside me as we were growing up and transitioning into adulthood. 

Rest in peace my dear one. 

You are forever in my heart – love me.                                                                                                                                                           

america arizona blue canyon

Day Eight: Reinvent the Letter Format   #everydayinspiration

Everybody Plays the Fool

Infect

When I saw today’s prompt, Infect, two blog topics popped into my mind, nasty oozing boils or sunshine and lollipops. I’ve been giving a lot of thought to where I want to go with my blog.  In recent days I read a great post by Leo the Nerdy Lion, encouraging new bloggers to find their passion, to find a voice and success will follow. He writes with humor, so I took it to heart.  Whether it’s to encourage writing, the arts or simply to be the best, we’ve probably all heard the saying “Find something you love to do, and you’ll never have to work a day in your life.” (Author Unknown from Quote investigator)

Infect – influence somebody’s feelings; to communicate an emotion such as enthusiasm or fear to somebody

I originally started writing this blog to vent and rant about politics and religion, but every time I start going down that path, it gets dark.  While politics and religion are things I’m passionate about, I don’t want to be stuck with the type of message.  Some days I may write about faith practices and social issues but generally,  I want to send out messages of faith, hope, love, and light in all shapes and sizes.  We all travel in that continuum of feelings from happiness to gloominess back and forth during our lives.  Where we stop or get stuck and which way we choose to go forward from there is so important.  

This morning I received a notification from an internet radio station with another subscription offer.  The gimmick was to put in the year of your graduation, and they will play all the top hits of that time.   Why not take a stroll down memory lane this morning?  “Everybody plays the Fool” was the first song and undoubtedly the one I could write about today.  I’d been blog surfing the last few nights, and among many creative, well-written blogs, I found a few broken hearts on the mend.  When I heard the song I chuckled, ain’t that the truth I thought.  Lots of us have been there.  Most of us manage to survive and move on in some manner. 

Today I want to infect you with hope, faith, love, and light.  Truly the most important is love.  Love yourself.  I’m not telling you anything new, you’ve heard it before.  I’m not talking about your looks or your style, your status – just you.  That presence inside that has love to give and wants love in return. Get to know that person.  Sometimes we walk around this earth, and we try to be everything to everyone.  We morph into what we think people want us to be and give what we think people want from us, but we don’t take time for ourselves to know ourselves, to love ourselves. 

When we make time to know ourselves, we can take a step back and look at our life objectively.  We are not afraid to ask the tough questions of ourselves or others.  We are not scared of the answers.  Whether in our personal lives or work, we all go into each relationship with certain expectations, certain assumptions.  We assume certain things are true for the others involved.  These assumptions can sabotage our relationships. Keep in mind that each person’s mind is coming from a different place.  Yes, you may have lots in common, but as I’ve said before our life experiences make us all unique in how we respond to specific situations.   You don’t know exactly what the other person is thinking or feeling.  Someone once told me “just because someone doesn’t love you the way you want, doesn’t mean they don’t love you with all they have to give.”   If there is nothing left in the box, it’s empty.  Don’t take it personally; there is nothing left to give.   

That being said, another wise friend told me: “enjoy each moment because you never know when the opportunity may come again.” Can you look back at your experience and find that there were enjoyable moments, maybe even moments that took your breath away?  Were there moments in which you gave love with all your heart and moments when you felt special and loved?  Keep that with you.  It is what it is, one particular moment in time and your life goes on.  The chances are that if you had that much love to give, your cup is still full and you have more to give.  There are different ways to share that gift.  Love has different shapes and sizes.  It may be another romantic relationship but don’t limit yourself to the possibilities. Look around; people are sharing love and addressing different needs all over the world.  Know yourself.

So why does everybody play the fool?  Why is it that fools fall in love?  Why do fools rush in? Some of it is hormones plain and simple.  The other reasons?  We believe in dreams and have faith in the future.

“To everything, there is a season and a time for every purpose under heaven.”  Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

Why does it hurt?  For the same reasons, because we lost our faith in our dreams when what we expected did not come to fruition the way we thought.  Change the pattern, re-write the story.   

“Do not cry because they are past!  Smile, because they once were!” (L. Jacobowski- courtesy of Quote Investigator)

 

PS- In addition to my Christian base faith, some of the ideas I have adopted in my life are from Dr. Miguel Ruiz books Four Agreements, the Mastery of Love and The Fifth Agreement.  You may recognize some concepts in my writing from time to time.

Mental Health stories of courage and resilience Part 4

Y is for the true You inside

This post is the last of the Mental Health stories that I will share in honor Mental Health Awareness Month.  As I’ve written earlier, these are memories I carry with me from past experiences. I hope that in reading these snapshots, you can get a glimpse of the struggles for a  person who lives with chronic and persistent symptoms of mental illness and from that glimpse, gain understanding and empathy.  This mini-series resulted from the letter “Y” in April 2018 A to Z writing Challenge. If you’d like, you can go back to Part 1 and start at the beginning.  

I met Margaret as I did many of my clients, in a state-run psychiatric hospital to be a part of discharge planning.  As I had mentioned in my last post, Margaret was on the younger end of middle age. She had been married once and had a child, a boy named Shaun. The boy’s father had full custody.  Margaret had not seen her son, now a teenager, for many years.mother-daughter-love-sunset-51953.jpeg

Margaret carried a dual diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder with manic episodes along with Alcohol Abuse and Dependency.  Hospital records indicated that there was a family history of substance abuse by both parents and siblings. Margaret had lost contact with her family. She had lived “on the streets” or in psychiatric facilities for most of her adult life.

One of the first things that Margaret wanted me to know was that she “was not like the other homeless drunks.”  She wanted me to know she had lived in a big white house overlooking the Bay in a small posh town known as a summer retreat for famous people.  As she stuck out her arm in front of herself, she fanned her hand and wiggled spread fingers to make a point,  “and, I had di-ah-mends…”   

Whenever she was having a hard time, she would repeat the story to me with the same gestures and intonations.  She wanted me to remember. It was her dream to get back to that point in her life.  It was my goal to help her get as close as possible.  She was discharged to a women’s transitional residential program with seven other women and plenty of support.  The structure proved too much for Margaret.  There were curfews, chores and according to Margaret “the staff was pushy and some of the other girls were too young or too sick.” 

We started looking for safe alternative housing.  It was the 1990s. Margaret’s only income was Supplemental Security Income and the minimum allowance of food stamps. Today she would probably get a gallon of milk and a dozen eggs for that amount.  Without a housing subsidy, it was impossible for Margaret to afford even a room in one of the many rundown boarding room houses in the city.  We applied for a rental assistance allowance through a special grant designed for downsizing the state hospitals.  While we waited, Margaret’s boyfriend, Jean found a small attic apartment in an old triple decker. 

Jean was supportive of Margaret’s treatment and personal goals. We were able to adjust the subsidy request to use at that apartment.  With a place of her own, the primary thing on her mind was to see her son Shaun again. Margaret was able to open communication with Shaun and his father.  Now she could tell his dad that she had a safe place for him to visit.  Jean was able to borrow a car to meet her son for lunch near his home. It was the first time they had seen each other since he was a small boy.   She was so excited.  She bought a stylish blouse and slacks at the Salvation Army.  For Shaun, she purchased a gift from a local department store, precursors to Target or Walmart.   They tell me she looked fabulous.  It was very stressful, but she managed to get through it without hospitalization or too much disruption in her life.

It was a year later when Shaun got his driver’s license and a car, that he was able to visit Margaret.   From the moment she got the apartment, everything she did was with Shaun in mind.  Now, her little boy was coming for Christmas!  

Margaret and I would shop for her groceries and personal items at the beginning of each month when her Representative Payee would give her spending allowance according to her budget.  Margaret had planned and budgeted for Shaun’s Christmas visit for months.  She wanted to make sure she had enough for a Christmas tree.  She was extra careful shopping because she also wanted some ingredients for a special dinner.  After we secured her monthly staples, we were done, but with very little left for a Christmas tree. 

Margaret wanted a real tree for Shaun.  She didn’t want a dusty beat-up artificial one from a thrift store.  We searched high and low on that cold New England winter day.  Finally, in the back of a tree lot, Margaret spotted the perfect one.   It was short and lopsided, but not too scraggly and at least one hundred times better than Charlie Brown’s.  To Margaret, it looked like the one at Rockefeller Center. She negotiated and got it for eight dollars.  She cried silent tears as we drove home.

At my next visit, I saw the lopsided little evergreen sitting in the corner glowing brightly pexels-photo-264988.jpegfrom the lights and ornaments that Margaret had collected from around town – donation boxes, thrift stores, and friends.  The little Christmas tree did look like it belonged in a big white house by the Bay with strings of “di-ah-mends” to light it up.  Margaret had poured years of bottled up love for her son into decorating the tiny apartment for that visit. It was Margaret’s first Christmas in a long time as well, and sometimes she would become flooded with so many emotions. It was good to hear they had a lovely time.    

Margaret was a loving mother who also happened to struggle with distressing symptoms of a major mental illness.  I tip my hat to her this Mother’s Day wherever she may be.   

Each one of us has our own evolution of life, and each one of us goes through different tests which are unique and challenging. But certain things are common. And we do learn things from each other’s experience. On a spiritual journey, we all have the same destination. A. R. Rahman  (from BrainQuotes.com)

Please check out the links below for additional information for family supports as well.  Many times family and friends want to help but don’t know how. There is also information about Peer support groups and peer mentoring programs.  No one has to do this alone.

SAMSHA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration) at  https://www.samhsa.gov/

NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness (a grassroots organization run by families and consumers) https://www.nami.org/About-NAMI

Upside Down – A to Z challenge letter U

 

What happens when your world is upside down, and you feel like you are holding on to the edge with your fingertips? How do you manage to get back on top or at least get a better grip?

The other day I received a message from a young man who I hadn’t spoken to in about 30 years. The last time I saw him, he was 16 or 17, and I was his Youth Leader in church. Some of you may be doing the math and maybe don’t consider this a young man, but time and memory are funny that way. Your memory keeps those snapshots of the way it was, and in this situation, we both found ourselves the way we were.

He was never your typical Choir Boy or Boy Scout. In truth, he was the proverbial black sheep of his family, but he had a good heart, and one could tell he just couldn’t get out of his own way. Although his mother was a leader in our church, her son was out of reach to her and his immediate family. The rest of us tried to bridge that gap during those turbulent years and so when he reached out, I was there for him- his youth leader again.

He got straight to the point. Since I had last seen him, he had continued with his self-reported “craziness” for several years but when he met someone with “good sense”; he fell in love, and his life began to turn around. They’ve been married for twenty plus years; have three lovely children-already finishing college. He went back to church for a while, bought the house with the picket fence, the furnishings, the cars and the dog. A few months ago, without warning, his wife announced that she needed space and wanted to separate for an indefinite period. He felt he couldn’t go on without her; everything he’d accomplished had been for her. I reminded him that this was what he had always wanted and he achieved it. Not just for her, but for himself.

I listened carefully with my third ear, trying to hear what was actually going on. I don’t make assumptions, I don’t know his wife, and although I believe our core stays the same, the chances are that so much time has passed, that I don’t truly know who this young man has become. In my experience, things never come out of the blue.

When he was done, I asked a few questions. Some he wasn’t ready to answer, but he listened.  He was briefly able to step back and recognize some of the things I was talking about. Naturally, when it was too painful, he deflected, and we moved on. Put in on the back burner, I told him, and I shared some of what has helped me in times of trouble or distress.  The trick to survival is using your tools.

• Take care of yourself. Stay healthy. Get out and move – exercise. Keep your mind clear and grounded with mediation or prayer or both. If you know substances like alcohol or drugs are a trigger, don’t reach for that as your life saver. The chances are that you’ll go under to the dark side quicker.
• Be open to self-reflection but don’t beat yourself up. We all make mistakes, just be honest with yourself. Are you doing the best you can? Is this your best self?
• Try to walk in the shoes of the other person but don’t judge. Don’t take it personally. Each one of us is dealing with our own issues, battle scars, and fears. Yes, even your life partner may have difficulties communicating some things. Don’t push. Be ready to accept and respect the other person’s decision.
• Remember each day is a clean slate. We can make it what we want. Eleanor Roosevelt, one of my favorites said “With the new day comes new strength and new thoughts.” from Brainyquote.com

It happens to all of us. How do you get back on top when your world is upside down?

Blog challengea2z-h-small.

Twinkle little star. A to Z Challenge

Windows in heaven
Perhaps they are not stars, but rather windows in Heaven where the love of those who went ahead pours through and shines upon us…

 

Twinkle, twinkle little star, how I wonder what you are. Up above the world so high, like a diamond in the sky… or as my fifteen-month granddaughter sings it “kakle, kakle, sahh, ahh, ahh.” Don’t judge.  Her mother grew up in New England where people say “Pahk yah, cahs in Hahvahd Yahd.”  It could be she’s already picking up the accent her mother brought to their new home fifteen hundred miles away. The point is that my granddaughter loves that song. Every time I go to visit, almost as soon as I walk in through the door, she brings her storybook with the big yellow star on the cover. We put the world on “pause”,  she proceeds to climb on my lap and rests her little head on my chest. We cuddle to read it- at least three times before we can move on. I don’t mind. I love it!

I can’t say that she’s made a connection between the star in the book and the immense collection of twinkling diamonds in the night sky outside her window. She rarely stays up past 7:30 anyway. I’m sure when she’s old enough; she will be as mesmerized by the vast infinity of bright lights in the night sky as I am. How can she not?

The first time I was aware of the overwhelming expansion of the stars in the black velvet sky, I was breathless. To understand the extent of my reaction, you have to remember that I am a “city kid.” I grew up at a time when folks were talking about smog, pollution and how to make the air better in the large cities across the country.  I don’t lie when I tell you that I never imagined the night sky could be so much more amazing than a visit to the planetarium. I was about 16. It was during a Winter Youth Retreat in the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania, the night was crisp and not a cloud in the sky. It was magical.

I’ve lived just outside city limits since then, and whenever there is a night clear enough to see the sky full of stars, I swear I feel a little tipsy.  It still takes my breath away.  In one of those moments of stretching reality through imagination, I promised my kids that when I’m gone from this world, I’ll try to find a way to still keep looking out for them. Maybe I’ll be looking out from behind one of those stars. In our family, many of our loved ones have left this earth before we were ready to  say “Goodbye.” I love that quote that suggests that stars are windows in the sky for our loved ones to see us. Here Anne Murray’s version of the same idea.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XbZBZC01_sQ

I do believe that our loved ones have the opportunity to become angels or spirit guides as some faith practices believe. A teacher once said it might take some longer than others, but that’s why we pray for the deceased souls and offer services. I find that comforting, maybe that’s why I will always love a starry, starry night. It lights my soul and gives me hope. Blog challengea2z-h-small.

AtoZ Challenge P is for PRECIOUS

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FROM MY MEMORY BOX

PRECIOUS GEMSTONES
(A Tribute to my mother)

Precious gemstones, sparkling blue-green
Embedded in chiseled ivory
Shimmering reflections of the sea
Vibrant and alive; brave and defiant.

Gold sun flecks, intricate details
Dancing on the waves of life
Hidden secrets of tales untold
Projection of love’s warm, gentle kindness.

Behind the windows darkness lives
Barely a flicker of light-hope
Hear the sounds, smell the smells, hands touch,
If only the window could open wide.

The looking glass is just a blur
Where did that young woman go now?
Long dark tresses, smooth satin skin,
Life of the sea and sunlight in her eyes.

I am here, alive in the dark
Behind the windowpanes of green.
Living life with other senses
Sounds of the sea, warmth of the sun, love’s touch.

This dark place has not smothered me
I am strong and willing to live
My loved ones still have need of me
I direct their paths and provide comfort.

The will was there, but the time had come
A Valley to cross, the River so deep
A choir in need of a new voice
Not my will but Thine be done, I bid farewell.

The dark shades were now lifted
The Saving Grace within her sight
At His gates, she marveled.