My Wild Wonderful & Sweet Children–Every One

My Wild Wonderful & Sweet Children--Everyone

My husband and I are blessed with three amazing children. The point of this post is that not only are they all living good lives–it’s that ALL THREE ARE SWEET! Why is that a big deal?

Keep Reading.

HOW TO RAISE A SWEET SON in an ERA of ANGRY MEN 

Faith Salie, author of the Approval Junkie, published a piece with the above title in TIME MAGAZINE. I LOVED WHAT SHE SAID. I wish I’d written that piece. So I looked her up. Faith is an American journalist, writer, actor, comedian, and contributes to CBS Sunday Morning and NPR’s Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me! SHE’S A SMART WOMAN.

Faith has damn good insights. Her first child was her son and when her husband greeted the newborn, he said, “Hi Sweet Pea” not Buddy or Little Man and Faith felt great comfort. She saw from the beginning that both of them would be committed to raising a sweet boy and Faith, like many other mothers, realizes that this is what the world needs now–millions of them.

Faith now has two children–her son is five and her daughter is three. She uses metaphors for the trajectory of their individual lives: the girl deemed a makeshift kite to be a fencing foil and raced around the yard proclaiming “En grade!” At a birthday party, the boy asked the balloon artist for a heart, instead of the usual sword.

Here’s the point Faith makes: “Boys have always known they could do anything; all they had to do was look around at their presidents, religious leaders, professional athletes and at statutes …in cities big and small.” “Girls always knew that they were allowed to feel anything–except anger.”

Yes. But now girls, led by women, are allowed to be angry. They can feel all emotions and use them to determine their futures. LIKE MY TWO DAUGHTERS. Christine had to deal (and did so expertly) with egotistical, obnoxious men when she worked in the film industry. Caroline had initially wanted to major in architecture, but found her way to city planning and landscape as a more wide-open choice for her. They are both powerful women in their own right.

BUT WHAT ARE BOYS TO FEEL? 

Faith states it clearly: while now girls are encouraged to take on the roles that were once only for men, boys who already knew they could be all these things–astronauts, tech giants–their parents often fail to help them access their emotions, understand them and how to work with them. Faith points out that boys are still dressed in trucks and footballs. She saw a onesie for a baby boy that read TOUGH LIKE DADDY and would much rather see one that read RESILIENT LIKE MOMMY. (Also consider how many men around the age of 27 commit suicide or go on a murder rampage. The statistics are chilling.)

There is nothing wrong, but absolutely right, to raise a son and foster his innate sweetness. Because this boy will grow up to see that there is strength in being vulnerable and empathetic. (Empathy, which is now one of my favorite words for all time.)  Faith states that when boys grow to be men and understand their emotions they:

  • aren’t threatened by criticism
  • don’t perceive COMPETITION from people because of their skin color or sexual orientation, religion, education or as Faith writes WHATEVER!!

When boys feel everything without shame it is because their parents and hopefully the wider society have given them permission to access their emotions, welcome them and understand them. There is NO SHAME in having and expressing emotion for males or females.

Faith writes: “Parents must invite their sons to be sad, afraid, hurt, silly and affectionate, and embrace them as often as they snuggle their daughters. Sweet boys learn early on that they can defend themselves against loneliness by reaching out and asking for support rather than turning into people who, literally grab for power. Sweet boys evolve into openhearted men who aren’t confused about consent and sexual boundaries, because they experience women as equals.” 

FINAL THOUGHTS

I kept a baby book for each of my children. I recorded their birth weights and size, taped in  their foot print sheets and went from there. Their growth, new teeth and first words were all recorded. Their illnesses, birthdays, funny and amazing proclamations–all were recorded. My husband and I realized that we were raising two girls and then a boy–but that pattern for each was the same.

HOW DID OUR THREE TURN OUT?  I could go on for hours, but I’ll make it brief.

Caroline has an MA in City Planning & Landscape Architecture, works in the Green Movement, helping to restructure buildings to become LEED certified. (LEED is Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.)

Christine has worked in the film industry, only to do a one-eighty and earn her MA in Theology, with a focus in spiritual direction. She has three amazing children and published a book about what she learned from them.

Andrew works in marketing for a firm that specializes in games, he plays guitar, knows chapter and verse about many kinds of music, and writes his own songs.

They are wild and wonderful, creative and funny, curious and interesting and all have found amazing life-partners. They love adventure and yet sitting around a fireplace on a cold night just talking–nothing could be better.

When my husband and I hurt, they are there for us. When we cry, they cry; when we laugh, they laugh. Last night our son called with excitement as his girlfriend Amy had been honored with first place at an art show. This is a man who GETS IT. But I have to say, he’s had a great role model all his life–his father. He did get called, Buddy, now and again, he was encouraged to play baseball etc but there was never a doubt that he would be sweet and kind–and today he is a man of great empathy–in a world where anger, ego, lust and pride are sometimes held up as the way to be.

No, never. Not our son. Or the sons of our children.

Great thanks to Faith Salie; Photo Credit: DAD

What’s Your Idea of an Adventure?

What's Your Idea of an Adventure?

Once, when I was raising our son, 9 and 13 years younger than his sisters, those two amazing young women suggested that I go on an adventure. We were sitting on the couch in my mother’s home–and they laughingly insinuated that I had taken safe paths and it was time for me to “plan a trip where you drive off by yourself and explore, have some adventures.”

To their credit, one had left the Midwest to study at a major eastern university and adding to that excitement, had a scholarship to do it. The other, after her marriage, decided that California was the place for her career and so she and her husband went west. Adventurers both. Me? My husband and I were confirmed Chicagoans, Midwesterners–because we wanted to raise our son there and because our income was there. (You can always pull up stakes and leave a place, but it’s best to have income if you are raising a child.)

HOW DID I RESPOND? 

I remember feeling hurt. After all, having our son at the age of 42 had been an adventure. There was risk, there was lots of planning and some sacrifice–all things that must go along with adventure. And I was grateful that our two daughters hadn’t just headed out without a plan and financial backing. My husband and I would not have welcomed a call saying one or the other was out of money and alone. But surprised and a little annoyed by what they were saying, at that moment I didn’t agree or lay out some startling future plan.

SO WHAT THE HELL IS AN ADVENTURE, ANYWAY? 

I remember reading a novel by Elizabeth Berg, about a woman, who having issues with her husband, packed up her car with warm clothing and some provisions and headed out. The novel, THE PULL OF THE MOON, is described thusly: Sometimes you have to leave your life behind for a while to see it and really live freshly again. In this luminous, exquisitely written novel, a woman follows the pull of the moon to find her way home. Sometimes humorous, sometimes heartbreaking, always honest, The Pull of the Moon is a novel about the journey of one woman – and about the issues of the heart that transforms the lives of all women.

BUT I DIDN’T NEED OR WANT TO LEAVE MY LIFE. Instead, I wanted to enrich it. THUS: here is MY DEFINITION OF AN ADVENTURE, in a few sentences. 

First it is not what I saw on television while growing up–wild horseback riding or cars driving at dangerous speeds or travels into jungles where you might get mauled by a wild animal. An adventure can be a movement into the unknown, but It does not have to include danger, though it might include risk. There is a difference. Our son grew and thrived and thus:

  • I went back to school at the age of 42 and became a labor and delivery RN.
  • I worked the 3-11 shift at an inner city hospital.
  • I encouraged my husband to take new employment in Des Moines, Iowa & we moved.
  • I decided I could write a novel. In the space of seven years I wrote three of them.
  • I decided to spend weekends at a university studying about writing. (I attended either weekend or week-long classes at the University of Iowa Summer Writing Festival. I did this for eleven years.)
  • I researched a chronic form of leukemia to help my husband when he was diagnosed.
  • I worked for Meredith Corporation in their book department, doing copy editing and  proof reading and I worked at the health department in Des Moines.
  • I drove back and forth to Chicago to oversee my mother’s failing health.
  • Along with my husband, I decided that yes California would be a great place to move to when he retired. We did.
  • I decided I could write a weekly blog, join the Women’s Fiction Writers Association and take classes and workshops with them.

I don’t list these things to brag. No, not at all. Only to show that most did not require major travel in the PHYSICAL world, but they did in the MENTAL WORLD. That’s ME. That’s what I crave.

All of this is to underline that our personal choices make up the adventure of our lives. I totally admire people who do take greater personal risk when they climb a mountain or zip-line or sail around the world in a small craft. (Does one hour of rough water rafting on the Snake River and encountering a 4 count?) Basically, I’m a chicken.

ADVENTURES NEVER END

Maybe adventure is closely related to attitude. Do we exhibit our ability for adventure by taking risks in physical stunts, exotic trips, precarious adventures? OR in exposing ourselves to ideas and mental struggles that in the end might prove to be even more taxing. Whatever you decide:

  • try something new–a film, a food, a city, a book, an art form or type of music
  • be open to new ideas
  • work toward empathy and understanding
  • tell yourself I WANT TO GROW!  Growth is always an adventure.

INTO THE FUTURE

It’s always best to stay awake for something amazing. What would that be? Where would that experience, thought, travel take you? Right now, the internet is a form of adventure, as long as we use it to power good thoughts and actions. What’s on your list of future adventures?

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.”
“I don’t much care where –”
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go.”
Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

Photo Credit: Pinterest Akamai Marketing

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Thoughts for This Season 2017

Thoughts for This Season 2017

No matter what your beliefs, reach out to others. Especially now.

Dear Friends,

I kissed my husband this morning and felt a profound sense of thankfulness. He still with me and our love still blazing, a simple kiss makes me incredibly grateful for this day and every day. And that gratitude will continue when our family gathers and we remember to honor one another and the memories and experiences that make us one.

Later, having my morning coffee, I can across a piece written by Katie Couric and was moved to tears. And so I am sharing her words with all of you. I think this appropriate–when another writer can say something better than I can–then yes, I want you to read this too.

In the piece, Couric recounts losing her first husband, Jay, to colon cancer. Then she writes about her new marriage and the life she has taken up since that great loss. She reflects on the experience and concludes:

Jay often said that I was born on a sunny day, which I took as a real compliment. But that sunniness can also blind you to the suffering of others. No more. Ever since Jay got sick, I have been keenly aware that there are those whose holidays are far from merry and bright. They might be next to you, picking out an ornament or tying a tree on the roof of a car. They could be ordering a standing roast or watching their child perform in an assembly or growing impatient when they can’t reach their carry-on in the overhead compartment. They are all around, bravely holding on to the present and terrified about the future.

If you know them, intrude on their privacy by reaching out, even if they turn you away. If you don’t know someone in this category, say a prayer for them and wish them strength and what Emily Dickinson described as “the thing with feathers”: hope. And if you’re lucky enough to have your health and the health of those you love, look around, soak it in and take a moment to say THANK YOU.

 Katie Couric is an award-wining journalist and a co-founder of Stand Up to Cancer. This piece appeared in the December 25th issue of TIME MAGAZINE, along with pieces by ROBIN ROBERTS, PATTON OSWALT, KESHA, GABBY GIFFORDS and MARK KELLY.

May this Christmas and the New Year provide your families and our country with good will toward EVERYONE. Beth

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Is This a Medical Crisis?

Is This a Medical Crisis?

Trauma Center

It’s not opioids. It’s not marijuana. It’s not obesity and diabetes. It’s not a disease that over time with research and the commingling of hard scientific work and cooperation we have almost conquered–like AIDS and some cancers. No. This continues to be a MEDICAL CRISIS harming 30,618 people in 2016 and killing 15,085. So far this year it has already killed 13, 304 and harmed, 27,206. It’s guns.

Okay, some of you stopped reading right then. But as a nurse and a mother and the wife of a cancer patient, the daughter of a father who died when I was a small child–I know about loss, about struggle, about the importance of good medical care, and the difficulty of picking up your life again IF–you lost a limb, have a spinal cord injury, facial and body deformities or simply can no longer lie down and have a good night’s sleep. PTSD. You keep living it. But so far A GUN has not been part of my family history. I AM SO DAMN LUCKY. So far.

IF YOU WERE SHOT, WHAT’S YOUR FIRST LINE OF DEFENSE?

So if you skipped the above heading, please go back and read it again. What is our first line of defense. Many would answer: your own gun or a man, woman, policeman with a gun. In other words, if someone shoots you–that’s what you need right away. Yes, if you’re down and the guy is just shooting and shooting. Because then, you’re dead. But if you’re in a crowd and the shooter has moved on, your first line of defense for your life IS A DOCTOR!  Or nurse EMT–someone trained to stop your bleeding.

TALK ABOUT GUNS

Dr. Garen Wintemute, an emergency department physician at UC Davis in California called on primary care doctors “to make a commitment to ask your patients about firearms when, in your judgment, it is appropriate.” He has asked his fellow doctors to sign a public commitment: “When risk factors for harm to my patient or others are present, I will ask my patients about firearms ownership and safety.”

DOCTORS CAN DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT, since February 2017 when the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals struck down a 2011 Florida law that would have barred doctors from speaking to their patients about firearms. They concluded that the act violated the first Amendment rights of doctors. Remember, they take an oath TO DO NO HARM.

Here are some things doctors could talk to their patients about:

  • how do you store firearms and ammunition;
  • you need safety locks and separate locked cases;
  • review stats showing that 60% of U.S. gun deaths are due to suicide;
  • impulsive teens with access to firearms are at high risk;

RESEARCH CENTER FOR DOCS

Dr. Wintemute is also heading the nation’s first publicly funded firearm violence research center, established by the state of California at UC Davis. For the first time in 2 decades, there is a growing body of research to guide doctors when they discuss firearms with their patients. He urges doctors NOT TO STAY ON THE SIDELINES. But with this research, Dr. Wintemute says “you won’t be acting alone.”

Examples of when THE TALK should occur:

  • patients who are drinking heavily or abusing drugs should be asked about the presence of a gun in the home;
  • an acute injury, difficult medical diagnosis or a job loss;
  • or when a severe mental illness is not under control;
  • past history of violence, including a suicide attempt or an abusive partner

THE FIRST STEP

Wintemute acknowledges that asking these questions may not lead to immediate behavior change. But there is proof that a doctor’s counseling a patient, especially when that counseling is repeated, can be a powerful prod to change and a healthier behavior. He make this IMPORTANT POINT: “The fact that it doesn’t work all the time isn’t a reason to never do it.”

IMPORTANT COMMENTS FROM DR. WINTEMUTE: “I know as an ER doctor, most of the people who die from gunshot wounds die WHERE they were shot. So for us as clinicians to make the largest inroads we can into the number of people who die, we have to prevent them from being shot in the first place. So that’s why we don’t back down. The questions are fascinating. The opportunity to make a difference for the better is fascinating. There are very very few people working it. There’s active opposition. What’s not to like?”

“Firearms are consumer products. The industry needs to move product. To the extent that they see the work that any of us do as threatening those economic interests, they see as a threat.”

A FINAL THOUGHT 

To determine future blog content, I save articles from newspapers, magazines or printed items from the internet. When I checked today, I found two articles from the LA TIMES about Dr. Wintemute that I had saved. This was AFTER the Las Vegas shooting. Now as I write this piece, we have already had ANOTHER MASS SHOOTING. It has to stop. Go to: http://www.gunviolencearchive.org for statistics.

Photo: Health Tip   Gunshot Wounds Chest, Doctor answers

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What Not to Say to an Expectant Parent

What Not to Say to an Expectant Parent

Parents always look into the future.

My husband and I raised three amazing offspring who are now all adults. And we shared all of it, the raising, the teaching, the loving. But just four days ago while we were walking, my husband told me the most amazing story. One I had never heard.

It happened four years into our marriage. We had just discovered that I was pregnant for the first time and things were going well. We could share our news. And so my husband did–at his office, in a group of people who worked for him and with him. There were hugs and congrats. Until one woman came up at the end and spoke to him (almost like the Bad Fairy in Sleeping Beauty.) This woman might have had ten years on my husband, but she was not another mythic figure, not the aging fortune teller with a not so subtle warning.

But this is what she said to him: “How can you bring a child into this world?”

He was stunned. Maybe the question had some merit, but this woman was not a close friend, not an economic adviser or priest or psychologist–you know what I’m getting at–someone who knew us intimately and might have some specific concerns.

But no–this was just a statement from a woman working in the next department. Take it or leave it. John rejected her question. Absolutely. You do so when you are on Cloud Nine. This is your first child!! You are more than thrilled.

And as we walked, he said that maybe there had been a response at that time, but “my consciousness wasn’t raised enough to know what that response would be.” So honest.

Right this moment we live in times where deciding to bring a child into the world could be problematic. In my work in progress, my novel, I consider exactly that problem. My main character, Ella, a nurse and a mother, reflects on discussions with her mother, Cecile. This scene had its origins in conversations with my own mother–when she would lament the “state of the world” after reading the newspaper or watching a newscast and I had to REJECT her words. After all, I was raising children in that world, I had to embrace it.

She would always defend her practice of medicine, because she was a part of it—medicine was what she was. It was not unlike when she had defended certain aspects of current culture to her mother, something she had done often. Cecile ripped apart the changing mores of society. But Ella defended change, because the result was Ella’s society, Ella’s culture. She lived in it and dealt with it and so she had defended it. She couldn’t condemn what was a part of her, what she had embraced and brought Sarah into. If she had condemned culture and society, then she would be condemning herself.

As my husband and I finished our walk, we reflected on the ups and downs of our family life–mostly ups– and how the reality of our parenting, our family life helped bring all three of our adult children to where they are now–having good lives, good careers. That they are GOOD PEOPLE.

We concluded that is the key: you cannot run away from society and culture–but you can be instruments of change by upholding values and teaching your children those same values. I am not saying that we were perfect. We are STILL LEARNING how to be the best that we can be. And in our society today, everyone of us might think about devoting ten minutes a day to examine how we treat others, how we contribute to society, how we can do better in those regards–and then if we are lacking, to go and do something about it.

What NOT to say to an expectant father or mother?  Hey, wow, what a mistake.

Because life is full of promise and possibility. I love to think about Abraham Lincoln’s mother–a woman that Lincoln prized and honored with these words: All that I am, or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother. 

And certainly, she didn’t bring him into a cushy world, but one of hard work and struggle. I have always been saddened that Barack Obama’s grandmother died the Saturday before he won the 2008 election. Certainly she must know that her love carried him far.

Wishing all mothers, grandmothers, grandfathers reading this a special blessing–especially if a child is on the way. After all, in any age, we cannot see the future, but we can pledge to make it better.

 Photo thanks to NPR  Frida Kahlo art.

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Those Voices in Our Heads

Those Voices in Our Heads

The title of this post is not about some pathology. No. The title is me working toward asking everyone a question: Who thinks about you each morning?

I hope it’s someone you love. I hope it’s a dear close friend–as opposed to a fellow worker who is just eager to talk to you so some duties can be passed along or a crabby neighbor who keeps bugging you to trim that tree.

So who thinks about you each morning fondly or with love?

The question can also be turned around: when you open your eyes, who do you think about?

FAMILY 

On opening my eyes, I think about our three children. I picture my older daughter already at work–she is three hours ahead of us and that’s a bunch of time. I think of my son in Chicago who is also at work. And finally, I know my other daughter is busy getting our three grandchildren ready for school.

Such mother-oriented thoughts might apply to you too–but on a different level. Maybe your first thought of a morning is: I forgot to sign that report card or make the lunches.

I get that.

CHILDREN DON’T COME WITH INSTRUCTIONS 

The above statement is kind of a joke, but it’s also true. Here is the crux or guts of my post today–and it does connect with who thinks about you each morning. 

In human interaction (which starts when we are born, proceeds through childhood etc) no one sits us down and says, SO, ABOUT LIFE and LIVING, this is how it’s done. (You might argue that yes, your parents sat you down about sex, or being safe or something. I get that.)

But what I’m referring to is the fast-paced challenge of daily living. You can look at this from different points of view: when you were or are raising your children OR when your parents were raising you.

A lot went by without a sign that read: hey, this is important, watch what I do–this is how to live. Or: listen up, this is important, watch what I say and how I say it.

No, what each of us learned was ON THE FLY, in the moment, hectic and busy, sometimes with a hint of anger or frustration. And the end result? We grew up and created our own persona either taking in and agreeing with THOSE VOICES IN OUR HEADS or making a point of disregarding them.

And I get that. I get that sometimes what we are exposed to as children needs heavy editing. That’s how we rearrange things and hopefully what our children now hear doesn’t need that kind of editing.

THE HUMAN VOICE

So back to those voices in your head–in my head.

First, regardless of how busy their lives are, I hope and I think I know that our children DO think about me, about my husband every day–or almost every day. Maybe that thought is not the first thing–but later, late afternoon when our son calls on his drive home or one daughter sends an email and the other calls or there is a text. HUMAN CONNECTION. THOSE VOICES IN OUR HEADS.

Even in our current culture, the world of cell phones, I can hear my children’s voices, see their smiles. Distance doesn’t have to be distance. It can be an opportunity to picture them, think about them, answer that initial question: Who thinks about you each morning?  I DO! I think about you. And if the lives of my children are any bit like my life–they hear my voice now and again. It’s in their heads. Hopefully, the message is loving and positive. Or I presented an argument or an answer to a problem that they are now considering. My husband is a great counselor. I’m sure they ponder his ideas.

SOME VOICES REMAIN

As a final thought, each night I remember my parents, especially my mother who raised me and my two brothers alone, because of my father’s too-early death. If there is any voice in my head that has guided me or whose movements, choices, facial expressions created that BOOK OF INSTRUCTIONS, it was my mother.

I still patten much of what she said about living, how she treated other people, her ideas on parenting and being a good friend, a loving spouse. She was awesome. Trailing behind her during those early years of my life helped form me. Of course I wasn’t aware at the time as to how lucky I was.

Thanks for reading.  Tomorrow when I wake up, I’lll think of my family–and my readers. And for sure, I hope there are a lot of you!

PS. There has been much research about parental voices affecting the raising of children, I’m Okay You’re Okay being a major one. But I just wanted to touch on the basics–keep it simple. If there is a book or an experience that provided a turning point in your life, I would be eager to hear about it.

Thanks to Charles Schultz, Peanuts and Pinterest.

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Magic Words Can Lead to Magic in Deeds

Magic Words Can Lead to Magic in Deeds

Uruguay Amethyst Geode

It’s happened to you. You are reading something and you come across one sentence, or a paragraph–WORDS that hold you to the page or your screen. Words that have revealed a thought you’ve had, but expressed in a way that  jumps off the page–like magic.

Consider:

It was a nice thing for her to say. In her way. With Greta, you have to look out for the nice things buried in the rest of her mean stuff. Greta’s talk is like a geode. Ugly as anything on the outside and for the most part the same on the inside, but every once in a while there’s something that shines through.

I love this passage, because it relays the thoughts of fourteen-year-old June Elbus who tells us the story of her relationship with her Uncle Finn, an artist who died of AIDS. But the “Greta” in the quote is her sister, a few years older, the one she now tangles with on a regular basis. Can they make it right by each other. (The novel is: TELL THE WOLVES I’M HOME by Carol Rifka Brunt.)

June’s words, her reflection is on page 52 of a complex story, but it leaped off the page for me, not only because it’s an insight that will come back to complete the story, help the troubled relationship between the two sisters. But also because it is TRUTH.

In our lives, the people that make us crazy, who we sometimes wish we had never met–they are the ones we must acknowledge as human and in the most surprising moments they can say things or do things that reveal their humanity: something that shines through.

Do you know a person who talks a line that starts to give you hope? And then they turn around and annihilate that hope in what they do. THINK: some politicians!! or a friend, even a family member. And think: what did our mothers or fathers tell us when this happened?

  • Oh, she didn’t mean it.
  • Give the guy a break.
  • Tolerance, could we just have a little tolerance in these situations.

Those are all good suggestions, and as June in the novel learns–and we all learn–some people you give space to, hoping they’ll come around and HAVE YOUR BACK–don’t fail you. They wake up. They arrive when you need them. They cement a bond that might have been broken.

But there are also those that never do come around. They are:

  • the salt in a wound instead of the salt of the earth.
  • Their first thought is of themselves and you can go blow in the wind.

Or actually I might be wrong about both those evaluations. Sometimes we just don’t know why the love we sail over to them, the phone calls, the emails, the attention–falls flat. They might arrive in your life years down the road and think nothing of it. But you do, because you wanted to keep that relationship alive. You wanted to be there for them and they wanted to disappear.

Ironically, great thinkers and leaders know that’s not the way to go. If another human being reaches out to someone, a response should occur. It cannot always be commensurate with need, but one dollar, one meal, one phone call, one smile–is better than none.

So if there’s a person in your life, right today, who you are trying to reach, trying to love or help–listen for the magic words. They might be there–and you’re so angry you can’t hear them. Or they might be disguised in bravado or sorrow. That happens ALL THE TIME. But if you keep on giving of yourself, the right words just might come shining through. They won’t be MEAN. They’ll be the KEYS to more communication.

At the end of the novel, Greta helps June to accomplish an enormous task. She’s her support, she provides encouragement–which is something we all need:

“It’s all going to work out fine…I’ll keep an eye on you.”

Here’s hoping that someone in your life RIGHT NOW will open up, keep an eye on you, give some magic sign that they know you need them and they NEED YOU TOO.

Photo credit: The Crystal Rock Store Uruguay Amethyst Geode

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The Latest Skinny on Soul Mates

The Latest Skinny on Soul Mates

I totally believe that my husband and I are soul mates. But what does that mean exactly? To expand on my own ideas, I’m sharing sections of a piece by Ada Calhoun that appeared in TIME. Her recent book is the memoir WEDDING TOASTS I’LL NEVER GIVE.

HISTORY OF THE SOUL MATE CONCEPT

The idea of soul mate goes back to Plato’s Symposium. Zeus, thinking to humble humans, split them in half, forcing us to wander in search of our other half. As Calhoun writes, this mythological concept is VERY ROMANTIC, but has kind of messed us up–as some people keep searching, denying that a happy, healthy relationship fits that bill–and casting about continuously for THE ONE.

Calhoun admits to thinking she had met the magical one–only to discover in the bright light of reality that no–if he was her soul mate, they are definitely over-rated.

ROMANTIC CHIVALRIC TRADITION

J.R.R. Tolkien loved his wife from his teens until her death at the age of 82. But he also had some interesting things to say about our obsession with soul mates and blamed it on the Romantic Tradition. He wrote: “Its weakness is, of course, that it began as an artificial courtly game, a way of enjoying love for its own sake…It takes, or in the past has taken the young man’s eye off women as they are–that is companions in shipwreck…not guiding stars.” 

Such a great statement and so realistic. Life can never be all positives. It’s when the loved person is there when things get tough, when there’s some kind of shipwreck, that real love comes through. Long-lasting love affairs, Calhoun writes, are about time, patience and commitment. Possibly years of dating can also develop these ties that bind. In the end, you are a kindred spirit or the soul mate, because of true knowledge of the other, forgiveness, and consistent love and understanding.

ARE WE CREATING A SOUL MATE? 

In her piece, Calhoun writes about a friend’s parents who appeared to be soul mates, but really didn’t have much to bind them together. “She was Jewish, and he had a good job. That was enough for the marriage to begin.” But they struggled while raising their family and talked about separating when that part of their lives was completed. But what had happened during that time? When the children were grown, they discovered that neither wanted to leave the marriage.

DIVIDE and CONQUER

I can only speak from the one marriage that has blessed my life. When we started out, we were both working, but SILLY ME insisted that I take over the household chores, because my husband came from a large family and had already had a large share of domestic life. He bought me a washer and dryer a month after our wedding. YAY. We had a small townhouse (thank you Park Forest, Illinois) with hardly any yard to mow. To save money, I made lunches for me to take to my teaching job and he to take to his insurance adjuster job in downtown Chicago.

The lunch thing ended abruptly for my husband when in front of co-workers, he opened a sandwich of liver sausage on raisin bread. I was fired! (That’s all I had in the fridge.) But you see, we were developing a marriage. I was forgiven and yet a fable was born.

I fired him from lawn mowing because “I’ll do it on the weekend” just didn’t work in a Chicago spring when it rained every weekend and the grass was a foot high. GIVE AND TAKE.

Like the saying that a cold with medication lasts two weeks and one without medication lasts 14 days, our marriage is solid. No one could have provided for me better, loved me more and fathered our children with constant care, understanding and humor than he. A photographer, trip planner, universal fixer, wine connoisseur, film partner and of course loving husband–he is mine. A total blessing. We decided a few years ago, that marriage should feel comfortable, like a worn and beloved pair of slippers. Anxiety is out. Our home is warm and companionship reigns and he always remembers to set the light timer and check the smoke detectors!! Good will abides within our home.

THUS COMFORT REIGNS 

Tolkien believed “The real soul mate is the one you are actually married to.” That makes sense to me. The years of discovering this person within a marriage–his and her depths, beliefs, weaknesses and strengths–is like water flowing against a rock or a tree growing against a wall. Throughout the years, the give and take forms and shapes us within the relationship. We learn when to push ahead and when to pull back. As Calhoun states in her piece, THE IDEAL PARTNER IS THE ONE YOU CREATE.

Photo: TIME MAGAZINE online

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Updates on My Life: Parenting, Writing

Updates on My Life: Parenting, Writing

On the way home from a writer’s retreat, I’m up in an airplane, praying. No, it’s not turbulence, it’s thankfulness. I have just attended a four day retreat with fellow writers, and I’m feeling grateful for: words, ideas, computers, paper and pen–and most of all READERS and fellow writers.

THREE BELOW

But as always, I think of my three children down below me–their lives spanning the continent: one in Boston, one in Chicago and one in Palos Verdes California. Ah, they are all so different, yet all working with the same DNA. They are my dear friends and sometimes my quiet critics–and they are all mine and my husband’s amazing fault! But the prayer is one of thanksgiving and of WONDER.

Because here I am still adventuring and they are living their own pathways and their own adventures.

STARTING OFF POINT: THE SAME

At some point, all three started the journey with the same gifts: ate the same foods, heard the same loving words and lullabies, enjoyed the same childhood books and music, were hugged and tickled, encouraged and guided by the same parents, grandparents and other family members.

But being their own individual people, along the journey, doors opened or closed to these common elements. They chose who they would love, where they would live, what they would like and dislike, what is most meaningful or as #2 says, what blows your hair back. 

It’s called becoming who we will be and has many labels. Here are a few: guitarist, classicist, vegan, green, poet, agnostic, spiritual counselor, politically involved, iconoclast, getting by, wealthy, MA, BA–singular in choices and proud of it.

And I am proud of each of them–their pursuits, the people and places they love, the devotion they give to music, children, work, the environment, their lover, their country and always the words on the page. They all know the value of reading, of poetry and prose, of research and knowledge. Damn, they are all so WONDERFUL.

BUT ENOUGH OF MINE  

These words, I hope, lead to thoughts of your own creations, whether living on the planet or existing in your head, the children of your mind. We bring to our culture so much besides our DNA–great thoughts power the globe.

FINAL OFFERING…

is a link to my book of stories which continues the journey of being a mother and having a mother (we all do.) It’s my A MOTHER’S TIME CAPSULE, now available on Amazon in ebook form at a lower price–3.99.

Here is the link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B075PH3D2D/

Thanks for reading. Thanks for all you do to help another human being, whether it’s your own flesh and blood or a total stranger. We are all in this together.

P.S. Sample story here: http://boomerhighway.org/windows-one-mothers-view-of-her-world/

Updates on My Life: Parenting, Writing

 

 

 

 

 

 

photo credits: independent.co. uk.  Foreverland Press.

Feelin’ Groovy–You Can Too!

http://www.designerspics.com/,

They are just for you.

Slow down, you move too fast
You got to make the morning last
Just kicking down the cobblestones
Looking for fun and feelin’ groovy
Ba da da da da da da, feelin’ groovy.

This is POETRY, MAN…(and woman)  So lift me up, make me feel good and groovy.

Today, during these times that we are living, more than ever, I need groovy. I need Paul Simon’s song and lyrics, or to be immersed in a Bach fuge or Bill Evans’ endless piano trills. Call it escape if you want to, but sometimes we just need to be SAVED from gathering darkness, fear, illness, lies, hurts, you name it.

HELP FROM SOME POETS 

  • Jill Bialosky has written the book POETRY WILL SAVE YOUR LIFE. So which poem saved her: Robert Frost’s The Road Not Taken.
  • “I read my own story in (that poem). There are two roads one might travel: The road where families are whole and not broken, and fathers don’t die young, and mothers are happy…and the road I travel, which is crooked and not quite right, with bumps along the way. I know it is important I choose the right course.”
  • The poem helped Bialosky realize that what she was experiencing did not have to mark the rest of her life. For her, poetry made her see: “…I’m included. I belong. My imagination has given me a coping skill.”
  • Then today, I stumbled upon this line: “Don’t Fear Poetry”…an interview with poet Matthew Zapruder and his book Why PoetryHe wants you to read poetry and feel comfortable. 
  • He sees a poem as a kind of individual portal: “Poetry comes to be, each time, in the mind of each half-dreaming reader.” Poetry is not a puzzle, a code or riddle to solve. Rather when things are hard to talk about, poetry works. Poetry relates complex ideas in the “simplest way possible.”
  • Zapruder says that when he was reading poetry, he would get mysterious feelings about life, things hard to talk about, but things so precious to him. Thus he became a poet and a lover of poetry BECAUSE that’s what he wanted from his life!
  • Zapruder says: In a poem, language remains itself–yet is also made to feel different, even sacred, like a spell. I love that. You can fall under the spell of poetry. 

BUT POETRY TODAY, REALLY?

Yes. You are in the doctor’s office; you are on your lunch break; you are in a car waiting to pick up your child. What are you doing? Where before we had to search for print media–a newspaper, a magazine, a book (I still try to always have a book in my bag)–today, as Zapruder says, “I just pull out my phone.”

But then he questions himself.  What happened to all those moments? What happened to all that time? 

And he makes a very good point. “I think that poems remind me of what that time was like before everything was so harnessed to usefulness. …the old technology of the book. It starts giving you a little bit of your time back.

WHAT DOES HE MEAN? He means that we all can be poets, that with a notebook app or a pen and paper, we can recreate what life once was for us, the life we noticed.

  • jot down how the sky looks; the sun on the grass;
  • describe the smile and laughter of our child this past morning;
  • briefly defend with language a point of view;
  • capsule feelings about a friend, enemy, bit of news, the world you are seeing right now;

But the final point that Zapruder makes is the most important one.

  • Don’t SHARE what you write.
  • This is just for you.

I confess writing is an intricate part of my day–almost every day. I keep a notepad by my bed and I jot stuff over articles and on ads–where paper and pen are handy. Sometimes even my phone. And I look them over. Some I discard. Some I keep. WHY, because they’re good, I can use them in future blogs or in my novel. Because, basically, they’re GROOVY.

GOT A FAVORITE POEM???  Which one. This you can share. 

Photo: DesignersPics.com  free download

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