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!