Saturday, December 12, 2009

Lovely Christmas Memories

I remember when this video was new. It wasn't a video at all, actually, and YouTube didn't exist even in someone's imagination.

Grandma and I were sitting in the living room watching the Bing Crosby Christmas special. Grandpa may have been there, too, but I don't remember.

I thought it was so cool that David Bowie would be performing with Bing Crosby. It was like my generation and Grandma's generation meeting in the middle. I wondered if the children of my generation would have more peace than those of Grandma's.

You might find it odd that I would consider such a thing at that age, but if you knew the politics and information that I had been raised listening to, you wouldn't be surprised.

I wish that Grandpa could see that Russia is no longer the awful threat it once was. I wish he knew that the efforts of World War II had, mostly, paid off.

I wish I could tell him that the terrorist tactics begun in the 1970s had ended, but they seem to have redoubled their efforts instead.

Peace on earth? Can it be?

One life at a time, perhaps. If only everyone knew the Prince of Peace. If everyone understood His plan for growth and prosperity. Then . . . perhaps . . . every child could be made aware, could be made to care.

Thanks, David and Bing for a great Christmas memory.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Christmas Past and Present

Happy Holidays . . Happy HOLLYdays . . the merry bells keep ringing, happy holidays to you!

As Bing croons classically behind me, past and present clash in my little apartment.

The past, redundant with tarnished glitter, dusty pipe cleaners and slightly musty smells covers my floor. Once shiny glass ornaments whose glitter has been rubbed off in spots lay gently in beds of tinsel whose plush beauty diminishes when stretched. Picking carefully through the remains of decorations not packed well enough, I found two smiling Sunday School faces expectedly looking up waiting for their rescue. I remember each of the little boy faces so well and even remember the day the pictures were new.

“Who is that?” says my curious Anna.

“I know who that is. That’s daddy,” answers Mavrik looking over her shoulder.

“OH! Look at that one! I want that one!” In a blink, Anna’s attention has flipped the page from past to present.

The present, with its wonder and awe, easily overtakes all of that bringing new glitz, new shine, new essence.

With a “careful Baby, here let me help you” uttered over and again, we changed the shabby Charlie Brown Christmas tree to a point of honor in the center of a magical village. It even snowed in the village!

The countertop was transformed into a quiet place where Baby Jesus lay as piece by piece the Christmas story was told again. Eyes filled with amazement at the angels singing to the shepherds and wise men riding camels. No doubt. No critical analysis. No need to prove the truth. Just simple childlike faith. Reminds me of a scripture . . .

New Christmas stories are told, too.

“Who is that? Is that your Grandpa? Was he a soldier? Where is he now? Did he love you?” Mavrik’s unending questions tripped over themselves to be spoken as his mind raced ahead.

“Is that your Grandma? I liked her.” It didn’t occur to Anna that she had never, and could never, meet Grandma. Grandma was mine and so became Anna’s, too.

My camera caught Arthur’s reflection in Grandpa’s picture.

A friend helping me through grief told me once that the memories of those lost are always with you and as long as you relive the memories, the person lost is not really . . . lost. They remain with you. Whenever you tell their story, whoever is listening is taking a bit of the one you love into their heart, into their mind. That way, the legacy lives on.

“This is my Grandma and Grandpa who raised me. They let me live with them and they loved me very much. They would have loved you very much, too.” Serious faces tried to understand the difficult words.

“My Grandpa’s name was John. Who else do you know named John?”

“Daddy’s name is John. My name is Mavrik John.”

“Yep. Daddy was named for Grandpa and you were named for Daddy.”

“I’m going to be a soldier just like Grandpa.”

From her picture frame beside the commotion, Grandma smiled quietly. Gone perhaps, but never forgotten.

Silver Bells . . .Silver Bells . . . It’s Christmastime in the City . . .

Friday, November 20, 2009

Daddy's Hands

I wrote the piece below for a speech in class. Some of you may recognize some of it which I borrowed from my short story titled, "Daddy's Hands." I think . . . you might like it.

This picture I added?  Well, that's my Daddy on the left.  That grin?  That slouch?  Yeah.  That's my Daddy.  

There are those in my lifetime who have taught me lessons unintentionally. I have learned that bitterness has no place with peace. I have learned that anger must be, and can be, controlled if one desires good relationships with others. In the words of Andrew Bridge, I have learned that love and failure can exist together. I have learned the value of forgiveness.

These lessons I have learned from the difficult relationship with my father. If I were to listen to the pop culture icons, I would stand before you boldly proclaiming my right to be a victim. I would win your sympathy if I treated my children the way I had been treated. I could justify a cold heart and harsh words from the hurt I had received.

But that isn’t what I learned.

Sometimes memories have a way of surfacing at the most unusual moments. Two years after my father’s death, I was standing in a prayer circle when I felt the unconscious touch of my friend’s thumb along the back of my hand. For a moment, I was a kid again holding my Daddy’s hand.

My Daddy had big strong hands. He had fought to survive on the streets of our city, and did. His hands were scarred from barroom brawls, rumbles, and work. But when he took my hand and I walked next to him, the strength was gentle, reassuring. Often, I would feel his thumb rub along the back of my hand as if to say, “It’s alright, I’m here. Don’t be afraid.” His hands were like a fortress that surrounded and protected me.

Everyone knew him. He was big with a commanding stride, but that’s not why they respected him. He was friendly, kind, giving—if he was on your side. He was generous to a fault, giving away what he could have saved to build on. And Daddy made everyone laugh. He found something to joke about in every situation. One would think he was Italian the way he told a story with his hands; gesturing wildly like a pantomime to get his point across.

Daddy was wound up tight. It wasn’t safe to sneak up on him. Even when he was sitting “still,” his hands were always moving—tapping a Zippo on the table to the B.B. King beat in his mind.

I enjoyed being with my daddy, but then the bitterness in his soul began to eat at him. He almost seemed jealous (or was it ashamed?), when I began to prosper. Or, was it I that was ashamed, and Daddy that couldn’t bear it? Time and circumstance pushed us farther away from one another.

I wished for those younger days when I thought my Daddy could do anything, but found it difficult to watch him sinking into despair with me unable to help him. It was simpler to just live my own life. Certainly, there would be time to fix what was wrong. Years passed without a word.

I happened on him once at a store. We talked, like old days, for a little while. I wished again to find a way to bridge the gap, to feel the comfort of my hand in his bound together strong against the world. But Daddy was caught up in his world, and I in mine. As I left him, I kissed him, like always, “I love you, Daddy, call me and we’ll get together, okay?” Momentarily, he held my hand.

Seven years ago those hands stopped touching. The bridge too long untended could never be mended again. People told me that the best characteristics of my daddy would live on through me and my memories of him.

For a long time it was hard to remember the good. Like an archeologist digging for buried treasure I had to pull up the years of separation and all the hurt it caused; sift through the hard, uncalled for words; remove the anger directed at me that I didn’t create. My heart’s hands were dirty when at last I found the sculpture that remained in the mirror. He had molded me to be strong, love laughter, feel secure in an uncertain world and to love deeply, if not sparingly.

I was reminded of my Daddy’s hands the other day. I was crossing the street with my granddaughter when she reached up and said, “hold my hand, so we don’t get lost.”

I think I have my Daddy’s hands.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Words Dancing Across My Page

So. Here I am. At Dunn Bros. Writing. Because I can.

It’s a new season, I think.

Surrounded by a babble of familiar voices I have never heard. Encased by familiar buildings I’ve never ventured within. Sipping tea and tapping my heart.
But with a new sense of purpose. A new sense of identity.

The barista said, “I can’t write.”

I answered, “oh, I’m sorry. I can’t not write.”

His co-worker laughed in complicity. He understood.

Words don’t leave me even when I’m trying to leave them. I don’t always like my words, you know. I wish they would leave me alone and let me just go on without being so pushy, forceful, demanding.

And so I’m listening to writers talk about issues and friends talk about relationships and I’m letting the words have their way. Like a wild horse let loose to run in the field.

There go the words. Free. Beautiful in their own confidence. Not as if they had ever been reined in and made to walk properly. I can almost see the wind following behind them as they frolic.

I’m really enjoying listening to the writers talk about writing. I wonder what they would say if they knew I was writing about their words, about their thoughts. I think they wouldn’t mind. After all, writers like to be heard. That’s the point of writing.

Well, maybe not the point, actually. But the impetus, the thing that pushes us to the paper. The thing that wakes us in the morning with a song suddenly waiting to be written. The thing that pushes paper to pen – whether the paper is a napkin or the back of a bulletin or a scrap tossed aside and the pen is a pencil or is black or blue or orange. The words don’t always have to be heard, but they must always be recorded, left behind.

Now the writers are discussing a poem and the memories to which it belongs. It makes me think of the bridge at Jackson Park that I just visited. I tried to explain the bridge to someone who didn’t really understand. He tried, but the connection was too ethereal, too disconnected, too much water color and not enough pen and ink.

I wonder if my words are heard like that by most people. Do they float too quickly beyond what people expect to hear? Expect to see? Do they require more definition and people don’t want to work that hard to understand? Or are the ideas and the topics too personal and don’t translate well?

I don’t know if anyone will ever want to read my ramblings, but I still can’t not write. The words live on their own and grow at their own pace.

Mostly, honestly, I do enjoy them.

Like I enjoy sitting here listening to the writers talk about writing and the friends talk about relationships and the students talk about classes while the jazz softly plays and the tea cools.

I’m a writer. And I write because I can’t not.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Stuff and Nonsense

You have so much stuff!

That’s what I keep hearing from the 20-something guys that have helped me move, including my son. I look around at the two rooms that I live in and wonder why they think that. I have gone from a house of eight rooms to an efficiency apartment of two rooms. I have downsized and downsized and downsized until there’s not much left. Honestly. In fact, it took less than 45 minutes to unload all my stuff from the truck to my apartment.

Why does it seem like a lot then?

I think what they see are all the memories and the importance of the stuff that I have. When you downsize as much as I have in the last three years, you don’t carry much junk with you. If you have it, there must be a reason.

And the stuff I have is here for a reason.

My books, for example, we have talked about before. The Hardy Boy volumes published in the 1940s, a Dickens from 1935, Dostoyevsky, the 1878 Bible. Not so many actual, literal books, but so full of history and knowledge. Real books. Not comic books or love stories or fluff.

Pictures are another thing you would notice in my little house. You can watch my sons grow up if you take a minute to look. Tow-headed, smiling, confident and strong you can see their characters forming.

My collection of “others” who call me Mom. Graduation pictures, laughter caught while driving along, church chicks styling in New York. And so very much more.
Somewhere among them is a quote from some song I heard along the way, “photographs record the laughs between the tears.”

I like pictures. A lot.

Knick-Knacks take their share of space, too. The angels from Vanessa and snowmen from Ulanda and teddy bears from Amelia. They are special to me. I won’t bore you with their stories unless you ask, but I would share if I thought you wanted to know.

And of course the angels from Lopez. Glass, gold, ceramic, candlesticks, bookends, large and small. He thought I collected angels and so he bought them for me for every occasion.

Can you hear us laughing when I finally asked, “why do you always buy me angels?”

“Judy said you collect them.”

“I guess I do now.”

I’ll never have another boss quite like Lopez. I would say I miss him, but I’m so surrounded by his memory that I don’t miss him at all, really.

I guess these guys are right. I do have a lot of stuff. I’m a very blessed, rich woman. I hope if those boys ever lose everything they find themselves surrounded by wealth like I am.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Transparent Reflections

I had an interesting slice of life not too long ago, but long enough that I can consider it in retrospect.

It began on Mother’s Day, of all things. I knew I couldn’t face being in church on Mother’s Day without my kids. I could tell you why, but it would take too long and that’s not what I want you to remember today. I want to tell you about the other event; the one that started that day.

Well, to be honest, it started the day before Mother’s Day, but forced itself to be carried to the next day. Some instinct told me it would take more than one trip to convince myself I could do this. I wasn’t afraid of the place, but of the memory rush that it brought. It took me a bit to get my bearings.

Walking in gave me flashbacks of the many trips to the Welfare Office or Public Health Center or Energy Assistance Offices in another city in another life. It was the same sort of building which housed a Social Worker or a WIC-aid or a Public Health Nurse who would be too overwhelmed to really help me. It always bothered me that they never looked at me and would push me along with a “here’s-your-paperwork” sigh. “Next!”

The atmosphere sang a familiar song. The defeated hum of the clients in the waiting room, the constant rush and buzz of conversation clouding the air, the weary shuffle of people tired from the inside out. I knew it immediately.

There is a desperate hope that people cling to who are beyond their abilities. If you have lived among them, you know it’s almost tangible. It’s in their choice of words for greeting, “what’s up?” Strange positive twist when no news is most often the best news. Their dismissals are likewise different: “take care!” or “later.” Rarely do you hear someone say good-bye. Life is too fragile for such permanent bridge burning. Maintaining the precious connections to another life is of utmost importance.

I have spent a lot of time with millionaires in the last several years. I have become accustomed to the feel of a BMW. I have learned to like good food, Broadway performances, have been in several American airports for pleasure travel. I am in the midst of obtaining a degree from a prestigious private college known for its writing expectations. I have come to enjoy listening to brilliant minds battle over points of law or literature.

Within moments, all of that history was gone. “Hey,” I nodded with quiet respect to the tilted hats, sagging jeans and hip/hop songs covering the sidewalk.

They parted in like manner, “’Sup?”

“Ain’t nothin’, brother. All good.”

Inside, I feared the workers would be like the many I had met in these circumstances before. They would look over you, around you, past you, but never AT you. They would talk above you as if they assumed you couldn’t understand them because you were beneath them. You would be identified by your number, your name, but not your person. I was prepared for that.

Maybe because this isn’t exactly a public service, although it provides much needed cash for the clients; or maybe it’s the idea that this office is in business to provide something which ultimately saves lives. It could even be that all of the clients are not necessarily there only for the money. I’m not sure why, but I know the treatment is different. Even when very, very busy – there is time for a smile, time to joke, time to care. If they catch your eyes and see that you’re open to them, you will find a gentleness, a real concern shared.

Even in my hardest days living on welfare and existing on the streets, I had never gotten far enough down to donate plasma. I knew you could get cash for it, but I thought it would hurt and I was sure it would be even more demeaning than food stamps.

I was glad to find that I was wrong when my house of cards began to fall and I found myself without work. There are only so many options a woman of my age and history has to fall back on. There is the goodness of friends, the support of family and the kindness of strangers. But those have their limits when the chips are down for everyone.

I told myself I would try the “plasma thing” as sort of a good deed. I knew the plasma was used for some sort of medical something and that was a good thing. I didn’t want to face Mother’s Day alone again. I needed the cash, badly. It all made sense.

There I was. Looking in a room full of mirrors reflecting different stages of my life.

I spent many, many hours in that clinic over the next six months. My life went from bad to worse financially, but inside I grew exponentially richer. I watched the workers and clients sloughing through the sadness of their days. I saw them pulling good from one another like threads of gold. They didn’t know they were stitching a quilt of comfort around me covering me with hope.

Some were particularly good at being personal. Ubah, of course. Her strong, dry humor keeping the distances proper. William and Sam controlling the floor always watchful of who was needed where, but not without time to notice the clients. Dr. Brooks and The Marine, like odd twins, quick with a smile and distraction that made the girls forget the sadness waiting outside. And the many, many others whose names blend together in a cacophony of professional friendship, but whose faces and conversation have etched themselves in the surface of me.

I walked across the bridge of past and present time and again in those months.

Listening to men whose voices were filled with my father’s words and women whose eyes carried my mother’s worries. I saw young men, much like my brother, whose shoes my sons had never worn. I recognized myself time and again in the deep sighs of young women carrying babies when they should have been carrying textbooks.
I had nothing again. No prospects for work. No way to make money to support myself. I had already sold what I could and was left with value-less remnants.

The worst days came when even my body worked against me and I wasn’t healthy enough to donate plasma. I would not have the precious $20 that would fill my gas tank and get me to school. I wonder if any of my peers saw the bitter tears that my hopelessness bought? It wasn’t pride that kept me from telling them, but the knowledge that I had made my own way. I was at the bottom looking up again because I personally refused to sell out any longer to a world where I didn’t belong.
There, at that clinic, surrounded by faded life, I was reminded of who I am and where I’m from.

I’m not about having stuff. I’m not name brand or big cash or titles or location.

I’m about rich, real relationships colored by love and commitment. I’m about connections that aren’t broken, but strengthened over time.

I understand the musical language of the streets. I like the laughter and the foolish banter. It’s not too deep for me to wonder if I’ve missed something. I like the flattery and flirting of the ghetto. Outsiders think it’s crass, but insiders know it’s complimentary. I would take a blatant whistle and smile over a leering look any day.

I am real. I don’t have time to be fake because life is too quickly lived. You don’t know what tomorrow will bring. Don’t burn bridges. Those people around you might need you and you might need them, even if it is just for a bus transfer. It’s okay to ask. We are all in the same place and get it. We won’t be offended. We understand.

People not in the ghetto don’t get that. It’s not begging. It’s asking. They would just as quickly give to you as ask from you.

I thought I could get used to living with the “others.” I have found I don’t understand their rules. When to speak, when to be silent. When to laugh, when to smile quietly. When to ask, when to give.

I just don’t get it.

That’s why I’m still at home here among those who are living without. And as soon as people realize that I’m really one of them, they open back up with that smile and banter and generosity and goodwill. It’s not as scary as you might think. You have to be wise - that’s hard for me to remember. I always think the best of everyone and not everyone is in the best frame of mind.

I am better for having lived this slice of life. I hope I never forget its depth and blessings. If I have to cross this bridge again, I know I’ll be okay.

I can look in the mirror again and like who I see.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Arthur's Miracle

The post below is a couple of days late due to moving and angelbaby kisses and other important events. Better late than never . . .

I don’t want this story to get lost in the shuffle of life. This one must be told. Shouted from the hilltops, in fact.

My son’s youngest son is Arthur. He was born on a day in May without much fanfare. Being the third child, the second boy, will do that to a birth. Not that we didn’t anticipate him and enjoy him, but it didn’t have the same sort of celebration as the first. People have written books and done studies about birth order and lack of identity after the first or second child. There is some truth to that.

So Arthur joined our world in a normal sort of way.

On October 4, 2008, however, Arthur’s life ceased to be anything normal.

Melissa, my daughter-in-law, says he had been fussy for a couple of days. She was concerned, like mothers are, but not overwhelmingly. Although he was only 5 months old, teething was a possible culprit or constipation or something normal and ordinary like that. Her husband was going to be helping at church for the day so Melissa did what young mothers for generations before have done before with a fussy baby and small children to tend. She called her mom. Her mom did what Grandmas do, invited her to the farm for the day.

Very ordinary. Very common.

Within an hour of that phone call, ordinary was replaced with panic.

The listlessness, the crying, the fussiness was escalated with blood in the diaper. A fearful phone call to the doctor, a quick trip to the closest hospital only increased the drama.

They live in a small town in a rural area. Their hospital is accustomed to dealing with broken bones, stitches, heart attacks. Not infants with internal bleeding.

“We’re going to have to airlift him to the hospital in Marshfield. There is no room in the helicopter. You’ll have to drive.” Later they learned that there was room, but the hospital staff didn’t expect the baby to live through the 20 minute flight. They deemed it better for the young parents to be surrounded by professionals who would help them cope when they learned the news. Melissa’s Mom and Dad drove the parents to the hospital while the baby flew.

Texted messages, short phone calls . . .prayers began around the country. “Pray for Arthur. We don’t know what’s wrong. He’s bleeding inside.” Enough said.

The “big” hospital looked him over upon arrival. Alive, but barely. Immediately, they began checking for this and that as vital signs weakened and hope dwindled.

Moments after the arrival of the family in the car, the pediatric specialist ordered a CT scan. “We have one of three things happening here. A tumor which will need to be removed, telescoping of the intestines or an unknown event; perhaps he swallowed something. We will do the CT scan and then we’ll decide what type of surgery to do. I have to be honest with you. He is in shock. I don’t know if he’ll live through surgery.”

Prayers were piling up all over heaven. God, in His goodness, was teaching a short lesson in faith and truth. Not surprised by the turn of events, He had already set some key players in place.

Fearful parents followed the gurney with their baby through the maze of hallways to Radiology. Time conscious professionals monitored and ministered giving Arthur their undivided attention. No one knew exactly what to expect.

As they were about to lift Arthur from one table to another to do the CT scan a man of authority and distinction entered the room. “I’ll take over from here.”

Without looking up, without changing their directions, everyone continued working. One nurse glanced up and said, “who are you?”

“I’m Dr. Keith Oldham from Milwaukee Children’s. I’m assigned to this case and I’ll take it from here.”

The mention of the name and the importance it carried was lost upon the family members watching, but not upon the staff. In unison, they dropped their hands, stood back and waited for direction.

Later the family learned that Dr. Oldham just “happened” to take over that shift for a colleague. He had never worked there before. Having a broader patient base in Milwaukee, he had seen the classic symptoms of intussusception  many, many times. He knew what to do and how to handle it without surgery.

Two hours later, Arthur was in PICU recovering. A day later, he was eating normally. Now, a year later, you would never guess he had been so close to death.
God sets some things in our lives to help us learn to trust; and some so we can understand how great His is His love for us.

See, He loves us like a parent loves their child. Often, we take that love for granted. Parents know what’s best for their children. God knows what’s best for us. Parents love their children so that the fear of losing them is overwhelming. God loves us and the fear of losing us overwhelms Him.

It’s not an easy concept to grasp. It’s not a simple thing. It’s not trivial. Not everyone wants to know it.

As for me and my house? We will trust Him with all the details. After all, He gave us Arthur and then gave him back to us.

Thanks, God.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Autumn Thoughts

Autumn Thoughts

The change of seasons is one of those things that catch writers by surprise. We always notice it and it always is new to our senses.

I noticed autumn the other day. I was taking a walk with my grandbabies in the sunshine. Anna was properly holding to the side of the stroller which contained her two brothers. We were chatting about motorcycles and trucks as they passed us by. A luscious, Saturday stroll casually going from here to there when all of a sudden we were confronted by a carpet of golden sunshine.

Of course, I am a grandmother so I do my best to maintain proper decorum at all times as is becoming a lady of my age. (You can laugh out loud here. That’s allowable.) So, when I saw the leaves I did what any Bapka of my stature would do. I stopped. Pointed. Shouted! “How fun is that!”

Well, those well-behaved grandchildren of mine didn’t know what I was talking about. They looked up to see if it was a bird or a cloud or a star. All of which I have been known to call to their attention. They looked down the street to see if a car or horse or being of distinction were coming toward us. Then they looked at me in confusion as if to say, “what now?”

I smiled coyly and stooped to pick up a HUGE ARMFUL of golden drops of sunshine. Laughing as I did so, I threw them like snowflakes over the three astonished children.

“Let me out of here!” Mavrik shouted with joy as he pushed his way out of the stroller. He is always the first one to guess Bapka’s games. (It started with blocks and Godzilla, but that’s another story.) Anna squealed and joined the melee. Before long, a storm of golden maple leaves clouded the air and almost covered Arthur whose giggle could be heard above the noise.

We played as long as we wanted and then we went on.

Funny how we never found quite another likely pile of leaves to play in. There were other piles of fallen leaves, but not quite the same. Not as soft or bright or tantalizing.

Autumn is not my favorite time of year. There are many shadows that pull at my heart in autumn.

And yet . . . who can resist the smiles that overwhelm the shadows? I visited New York first in autumn. My sister and I bridged many, many years on those October walks in the City. First days of school, of course, are part of autumn. Teaching and learning are two of my favorite things. St. Catherine University is a splendid place in autumn.

Autumn is also the time of year when God gave us Arthur back. But that, truly, is another day’s writing.

Autumn. Smiles. Golden drops of promise. Yes. I do rather like autumn after all.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


I happened on something I wrote sometime ago and it seems to fit my life again today. See, when life happens to writers, we think and re-think and balance and gauge and feel and consider. We only seem to be impulsive. But nothing is done without consideration.

And so, I share with you a struggle of change through a writer's eyes.

Here and there
March 18, 2008

The bridge downtown that connects a piece of victory and defeat for me has written on a cross bar, “where you always wanted to be.” I have a picture of that at my desk at work.

It’s true.

This is where I always wanted to be. I’ve always wanted to be a student and I love it. I’ve always wanted to be comfortably independent. And I love it. I’ve always wanted a little more freedom, a little more space, a little more urban, a little less race.

And I love it.

But there’s something still not settled about me.

We’ve come a long way this year.

From the woman who was terrified to be driving alone at night, to the traveler who decides when it’s time to leave. From the woman whose life was dictated by someone else’s whims or ideas or notions to someone who makes her own choices and knows her boundaries. From someone who checked her thoughts at the door of her mouth holding them against reproof to someone whose words are received as if wise.

But there’s something still not settled about me.

I like my job, mostly. It’s mentally challenging and draws my creativity, my energy. There’s not much personal reward. It’s not factory work, but sometimes it feels like it. One case looks like the next at my level of involvement. One mistake is just as big as the one before it and the one that is still to come. I push myself to know more, be more efficient, be wiser.

But push comes to shove and then the bucks stop. I worry about when that day will come and what will I do?

It’s different when you’re the bill paying, card carrying, identified head of household. Even if you’re the only one in the household even you have to eat sometimes. Having cash in the bank is an important element.

But I have never been about how much money I make. That’s what I am unsettled about.

I have to make money. I have to live. No one is taking care of me. The things I invested in were people and the people have returned a great deal to me, but I still have to have electricity.

I want to impact the world. I want to be an agent of change. I want to do something good and positive with the pieces of my history. I want to make a difference.

But I have to make the car payment.

I am not extravagant, but starting over comes with a price. And so I’m paying it.
For how long? And when will I feel strong and independent enough to walk on water a little farther out? I got here on personal strength and determination – and the hand of God. Say what you want, but He was clearly a part of the transformation that has made me newer. And I trust that He is orchestrating and designing the future. In fact, I am sure He is the unsettler. Not willing to allow me to fade into mediocrity, He pushes me on.

It’s not about the amount of work or the cash at the end of the day. It’s about feeling like I matter. Like my history has a purpose to help someone.

I’m good with being unsettled as long as I know it’s pushing me on and not pushing me down.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

School Bus Hello

Today I had one of those writer expeiences that just happen to us.

All of you driving around me were just driving along, minding your business listening to whatever. But me? Not so much.

I saw the school bus ahead and wondered who was in it. I was quite positive that I knew no one on the bus. No chance. I was driving through a town where I know no one. Total stranger.

What made me look up into the windows when the bus and I pulled to a stop together?

I remember the many years of bus rides to school. Fresh new clothes, strong boys in the back, smart girls in the front. All the rest of us "extras" sandwiched between. I always looked out the windows to mark where we were. I loved to watch the seasons change. I wondered what was happening in the houses we passed and what it was like to be those people.

I cried, sometimes, on the bus. When kids made fun of me or, the absolute worst day, the first "B" on my report card. I was in 4th grade and knew I was too old to cry for silly things, but I was so disappointed in myself. I knew my Grandma and Grandpa would be mad. What if they decided I was getting bad and they didn't want me anymore?

Ok, you think that's foolish? Next time you meet a foster child - grown or not - ask them how real that fear is. It still brings tears to my eyes.

My Grandma and Grandpa were well above the average sensitive humans, thankfully. They wiped the tears away and gave me some ice cream and the world was righted.

I don't know if the little girl in the bus saw me first or I her. I smiled and sort of half waved. She stared at me, not unfriendly, but not quite connected either. I smiled again. Still no response. Sad eyes, blonde hair, the weight of the world in the mask she wore.

I prayed for this sad little girl. You might think that's foolish. But surely if God knew me when I was young like her, He knows her now.

The bus turned at the corner and she was gone.

Like all of you around me, I was back to driving along, minding my own business, listening to whatever.

Friday, September 11, 2009

September 11th - 8 years Later (Repost)

I wasn't there. I didn't see the planes or smell the dust or hear the screams or the agonizing silence.

Safely tucked away in the Midwest where nothing bad like that ever happens, I listened in horror. The radio newscaster's voice broke as he tried to relay information about unreal events. It sounded like a bad Hollywood movie, but it was real.

This time it wasn't Jerusalem or Belfast or Seoul. It was happening in our country. The United States of America.

Someone had the audacity to take advantage of our trust. The idea that everyone here from wherever they came could learn to become whoever they wanted to be.

No one expected that would mean that a would-be pilot would destroy instead of build.

Over the years I have spoken with New Yorkers about what this meant to them. They tell of their sorrow, who they knew, how they got out, where they were. They never tire of the telling and I'm grateful.

We can't forget this.

Not so we become angry, refusing to allow "foreigners" to learn new trades. Not so we become suspicious of everyone who looks like someone who might have been involved.

So we can be wary, alert, cautious and protect not only our country from this violence - but other countries as well.

This time it was New York City. It's true. How did we feel?

Many, many times in my lifetime it's has been Beirut, Kabul, Seoul, Belfast, Jersusalem. Lockerbie, Moscow. How do they feel?

What can we as human beings do to lessen the violence in our world? What would Jesus do?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Of Reading and Writing

Of course you know that writer's read. I'm not sure which comes first: the love for reading or the love for writing. I told a teacher once that I was sure that I write well because I read so much. She assured me that was not the case as she read voraciously, but couldn't write much. I'm not convinced.

I love to talk about books and authors and plots and distint writing styles and playful words.

Recently I had the distinct pleasure of meeting a young reader. She hasn't read much, but enjoys words.

"Do you have a book I could read?" There's a question one should never ask an avid reader.

Hm, yeah, well, could I make a couple of recommendations? Wow! Talk about opening Pandora's Box! I rambled for a bit and then realized I was overwhelming her with my library-in-the-brain and a series of "Have you reads?"

"Come over to my bookshelf and let's take a look."

The Outsiders was first. That's a must-read. If you have never picked it up and you work with kids, especially kids in poverty, you must read this classic. Well written, expressive, passionate. I have read it to every class I have taught. It creates a new view of troubled kids, honestly. Kids love it. There is nothing to fear in its pages. I promise you. It's just very real.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn kind of does the same thing, too. But it makes the reader realize that there are worse things than being poor, worse things than having a dysfunctional family, worse things than struggling. Ceasing to live would be much worse. Enjoying the moment and living life can make you rich regardless of what you have or don't have, or think you should have. Determination can take you to places you didn't expect.

The list goes on and on of the worlds I've traveled through literature. See? I'm not sure which came first. Before I started kindergarten, I remember learning to read sitting on my Grandpa's lap and carefully putting letters together at my Grandma's table.

I love words and the horizons they present.

So, what do you think? Which came first, the reader or the writer?

Monday, September 7, 2009

Grandma’s PianoOrgan

I had a memory grab me as I walked through the living room today past Grandma’s PianoOrgan. It’s not much to look at anymore. It doesn’t work. Some of the keys are popped up, the finish is cracked and scratched. It has moved with me hither and yon, much to my sons’ chagrin. Countless children have plunked the keys imaging themselves in Carnegie Hall. Beyond being a toy, its only real usefulness is the flat top that holds pictures and books. Well, that and the memories tucked around it.

Today I could hear again the sweet strains of a song never written. It floats above the keys and on the winds of summer. I see myself in my room upstairs awakened by the song’s playful rhythm. I smell fresh cut grass, hear the laughter of the boys next door playing catch and drink of the notion that I am loved. Lovely childhood memory.

“Play some more, Grandma, please.”

“Oh, honey, Grandma’s got work to do. I can’t just sit here all day. You play something.”

But my awkward hands didn’t know a song or the keys or the melody and they plunked along at nothing. In frustration, I turned to a familiar book instead.

Redbird is what Grandma called the song she played. Sort of ragtime, sort of big band, sort of jazz. I don’t think it had words, only the jaunty tune. Its harmony is buried beneath a stone in a Veteran’s cemetery. And in my heart.

Cracked and broken, spilling pictures of yesterday; that’s what I see through my writer’s eyes.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Day 1, Review

Well. Here I am. A blogger. How fun is that?

Kind of intimidating to consider that my words might be read by someone else. Not sure what the specific purpose of blogging is, but I am going to try to make myself write because write I must.

I am compelled to share my view of the world through my writer's eyes. I have come to understand that I see things and feel things differently than people who are not writers. I don't mean that it's better. I actually think it makes life more difficult. I feel things on a different level, more intensely, more personally. Things that other people pass over and count as insignificant take on huge meaning when looked at through my eyes. I see the sound and hear the colors and take on the emotions of the event.

Not on purpose. Oh no, not at all. I'd like to shut it off most days. But I can't. It's how I view the world. What I'm trying to understand is why God has made me this way. What's His purpose in these emotions? What does He want me to see?

And that, my friend, is the purpose of this blog. To learn to view the world through my writer's eyes so that we can discover through the journaling what His purpose is.

Welcome to my world! Walk the path with me a bit. Enjoy the journey!