Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Branching Out--

As I have contemplated what to do with the second half of my life, I have realized that I do miss writing and my "notebook" needs to branch out into something a little more substantial. I would love to get the help of my blogger friends. So, if anyone is interested, I will be writing some of my longer thoughts at my new blog "Seeking Peace" found at Please feel free to comment and share your opinions when you have a chance between your carpooling, school homework and photography exhibitions. It has been a little mind expanding just trying to figure out a new blog format--anything to help ward off the Alzheimers. I will keep posting here too. Blogspot is like my comfortable pair of slippers that I just can't give up. (Blogging is much easier with eight inches of snow on the ground and I will use any excuse to not throw off the covers and face the day!)

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Kirkin O' Th' Tartan--(or I like men in plaid skirts)

When I returned to graduate school, I began to pick up a new vocabulary, there were certain words that professors were fond of using that I had not had the occasion to use in my “Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood” days at home. Certain words like conundrum, inextricably and bucolic would often surface in a lecture or discussion. My favorite new word to whip out in a blog is catholic, meaning universal. I had always equated this word with one religion, based in Rome, but catholic with a little “c” can be dropped into a sentence without ever referring to religion. When I graduated, I received a Master of Liberal Arts degree, but in a separate folder, I also received a post-baccalaureate certificate in Global Studies. While I didn’t start school with this end in mind, the more my mind has been opened to the catholic nature of our lives, the more this little piece of paper means to me.

Yesterday at church, I had the opportunity to use my new favorite word once again and to smile at the universal nature of our beliefs. Each year the Presbyterian Church celebrates its Scottish Heritage with the Kirkin’ O’ Th’ Tartan. Having no Scottish or Presbyterian heritage, I had no idea what to expect, except that my friend Carolyn insisted it was an event not to be missed. (She didn’t warn me though that no one misses it and that every inch of the church would be filled a half-hour before it began.) In this ceremony each “clan” brings forth their Tartan to be blessed. The program explained it this way, “It is said that when the English conquerors banned the wearing of the Tartan in 1745 that some Scottish clansmen began to carry swatches of the material concealed under their clothing into their church services. At some point in the service, when the clergyman would give a blessing, the clansmen would touch their bits of Tartan, and with no outward signals, an underground Kirkin’ occurred.”

As the service began, each clan—the McCormicks, the Wallaces, the Campbells, etc. marched in wearing the distinct tartan or plaid of their name and carrying a blanket over their arms representing their family. Bagpipes, drums and brass players led the way to the front of the church. (Amazing how a drum roll and trumpet can assist in calling one to worship). We then repeated the Scottish Confession of 1560, written my John Knox, the founder of the Presbyterian Church. One line stood out to me “This Kirk (meaning Church) is catholic, that is universal, because it contains the chosen of all ages, of all realms, nations, and tongues who have communion and society with God the Father, and with his son Christ Jesus through the sanctification of the Holy Spirit.” As I looked around the building, filled to overflowing with families, dignitaries, Mormons, Presbyterians and a group of red haired Catholic teenagers from the Ulster project in Ireland. I felt a shiver go up my spine and as the bagpipes played the sweet notes of Amazing Grace I thought to myself, today I am blessed to be a member of this “catholic” community—One God, one Lord, one faith and one baptism.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Couch Potato

I was spending the weekend at the cabin, enjoying all the changing colors, when I felt that late afternoon sleepiness descending and my eyelids beginning to get heavy. The warm fire in the stove made it all the harder to resist the tug of a nap. I grabbed a blanket and snuggled down on the couch. It was the maroon and forest green couch that had followed our family from the house on Hidden Valley, into the living room of the Corner Ridge house, up into the loft of the New Hope house and now is tucked into the television corner in the cabin. As I grabbed one of the smaller pillows and sunk down into the cushions, pulling the blanket over my head, I was transported back to the many other times I had laid down on this couch. How many pregnancies had I spent pushing the cushions around me just so, in order to try and get a couple hours sleep? What of all the long weeks spent there while I recovered from hepatitis? How many babies had I nursed sitting on this couch? How many children had I read stories to here? How many books had I become lost in over the years as I sat on cuddled under a quilt? Somehow, those cushions seemed to hold the memories and they flooded over me as I drifted off to sleep.

With fifty years now behind me, we often tend to divide our lives into decades. Me, I divide it into couches. In the far reaches of my mind and in a few baby books, I know we once had a brown striped couch. It must hold memories for my mom. Then I remember the bright blue couch. In the “modern” design of the sixties, it brought the era of Camelot into our home. Today, it would be right in style in a “retro” room. Moving to Arizona, my mom went Mediterranean. Whatever, that means. It is how she referred to our living area; it was Mediterranean. This was the couch of my growing up, this is where I had my “sick days’ home from school, this is where I cuddled my dog, this is where I read all the Laura Inglalls Wilder stories, this is where I have memories of my parents. Sitting. Together. I left home before another couch came into the family. I left home for my own home and the Indian striped couch of our early-married days, a couch that with all the cushions removed and a blanket thrown over the top became a fort for many snowy, afternoons with a houseful of toddlers.

Sometimes, when I think that, “just closing my eyes for a few minutes and taking a power nap” will restore my soul, I plop down on the couch. With my eyes closed and the lulling voices of the television in the background, I am often transported, if only for a few minutes, back to my childhood, back to a time when I was not in charge. For a few minutes, I slip backward in time to a place where my Dad took care of all the bills and my Mom cooked the meals. Sometimes, it takes me clear back to Nana’s house and dozing on the pink divan while she watched “General Hospital” and a pot of gumbo simmered on the stove. I doze for a few minutes and with my eyes closed the world is a simple place and a blanket and pillow once again make everything bearable. No wonder Sigmund Freud and psychotherapy is often equated with a couch; a couch is a magic time machine to your inner childhood.

(Cheryl is my lovely model, dressed in her Mediterranian outfit and sitting as to make her thighs look thin--see KSL "How to sit in a picture")

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Why we do the things we do...

This letter was posted by a mother, Vickie Bell, on her blog found here. I wish I would have written it. The funny thing is that it helped me to make sense of the thousand thoughts stirring around in my own brain as I have tossed and turned the past two nights. I did not mean to offend my friends and family, I only feel, as Ms. Bell pointed out, a deep compassion for the "the underdog." Two suicides this summer and living my own life "on the fringe" has made this all the more personal.

Letter to my daughter ( in the wake of senseless tragedy)


Hello my girl,
I wanted to say hi and tell you how much I miss you and that I hope your classes are going well and that you are having fun too.
But I also have to have a mommy moment- bear with me here. I won't take long, and I won't be saying anything I haven't already said in one form or another, but it is important.

You may or may not have heard about the NJ college student who killed himself last week because his room-mate had posted videotape of him having sex with another guy. A terrible, senseless tragedy.

My mommy job requires that I remind you of two essential things:
Nothing ruins your life forever. NOTHING.
Nothing ruins your life forever. NOTHING.

If that young man had only waited a couple of weeks nobody would have cared- he'd have gotten past it. People have short memories- life would have gotten better, much better. His parents and friends? They loved him prior to the tape- they would have loved him afterward too. A few awkward moments and then life goes on.

But when you are young you don't know that even the awkward moments are fleeting. On this, you just have to trust the old people. Remember when you were really small and cried and cried over something? Well, it didn't last. That's kind of what it's like- awful things happen, you feel like there's a rock in the pit of your stomach, somehow time goes by and it gets better. I promise you, it ALWAYS gets better.

The students, a girl and boy, who were involved in the taping and posting-- they are being charged with bias crime, invasion of privacy and possibly other things. Their college life is over. They will have to live with this death the rest of their lives-- and their families are devastated. What they did was so wrong- but also so kid-stupid. Not to mention mean. And so their lives will be different forever- but even so- their families will love them and they will have time enough to hopefully live in such a way as to make meaning from their mistake.

So, my beautiful girl, never, ever think something is unfixable. NOTHING you do will ever keep us from loving you. NOTHING you do could be so awful you can't get past it.

And if someone is mean to you, and it isn't something you can ignore-- seek out people to talk to about it. Surround yourself with people who are supportive. If you ever need help and don't know how to ask- try writing a letter instead. And right now- before you might need such help- think about who you would talk to if needed. In the midst of turmoil sometimes we don't always think as clearly- having a plan makes it easier to find help in crisis. And remember there are always alternatives. Always.

Finally, don't be mean. Don't let other people be mean.
Stand up for the underdog, protect those who aren't as smart or confident or easygoing as yourself.
Treat people's feelings like fragile little puppies- if you play with them- be gentle.

I love you so much and I know you really don't need me to tell you this stuff.... but it's my job.
Love and hugs,