What the heck?

A voice from the dust…

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My Friends!!! I have not written a blog post since April. GASP!! Forgive me. Suddenly it is the last day of October…Halloween…and I realize that the days, like the leaves on the trees, have come and turned and are being wildly blown away.

I traveled here and there and back again many times. This summer I found myself surrounded by my Grandlings and perfectly deliriously happy making the best memories. Moreover, I thought to myself that if you could only know how happy I was here in the center of life and love and a pure perfect summer you would forgive me for not writing. I have never laughed as much as I did this summer with my Grandlings, who have the most delightful senses of humor. What a precious gift…laughter. I am so blessed and do not take being loved by them lightly. It is a sacred trust to me to be loved so deeply and purely. I love them all with every single part of me. I am amazed by the human heart’s capacity to love. I also realize that we are pretty much born with an ability to love. I see my little one-year-old Grandling reach up to me and kiss me for no other reason than she loves me. My heart fills with a deep joy to see her constantly reach for me when I am with her. It is innate, that ability to love, as is the need each of us has to be loved.

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On train trips and plane trips, car trips and ferry rides I have a lot of time to think. So in all that travel times, I have random thinks, which is sometimes dangerous. Back when Saturday Night Live was actually funny and fairly decent, they used to show a black screen with the words, “Deep thoughts by Jack Handey” and a disembodied voice would gently and quietly speak a deep thought thunk by Jack. A deep though such as: “Consider the daffodil. And while you’re doing that, I will be over here, looking through your stuff.” I find it funny because…well it’s just funny. (Obviously it doesn’t take a lot to tickle my funny bone.) My thoughts are not quite as deep as Jack’s, but they are nonetheless random and so…for your thinking pleasure, I will share some of the thoughts I’ve thunk as I traveled miles and miles.

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Like…toilet seat covers, for instance. I am toilet seat cover inept. I either pull them out and they tear beyond usage, or they come out but I tear them trying to get the center part out (for obvious reasons…and don’t ask me how I know this, but you actually do need to pull that part out) and usually when i’m in a hurry, which is a pretty constant state for me. Or when the dispenser is so full, I pull out half a dozen when I only need one. This summer I went into a beautiful McDonald’s restaurant and there, in the bathroom was a seat cover dispenser where all you needed to do was to push the lever down and a perfectly pristine seat cover, with the center already open, presented itself. Why aren’t there more of that variety of toilet seat dispensers in the world? A thing of beauty and convenience, I tell you. Seat cover users unite!

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Or like…eyelash curlers. I spent so much of my life looking for the perfect eyelash curler. I realize that those things are perfectly useless, unless I want a fold line at the base of my seemingly shrinking eyelashes. I discovered that using good mascara with a perfect brush totally eliminates the need for eyelash curlers. And for the record, I once used a spoon to curl my lashes…a skill I learned in my dorm at college (oh the valuable things I learned); but I gave it up when I discovered my eyelashes lying in a fetal position on the bathroom counter.

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And speaking of eyelashes, my daughter-in-law took her Groupon coupon to a participating salon and got eyelash extensions. About a month before she did this, I saw a salon advertising eyelash extensions and thought to myself, what next? I could not even fathom such a thing. Then I saw them. On my daughter-in-law. She looks incredible. They made her eyes look like the female characters in Disney animated movies. My son calls her eyes Disney eyes. She does not wear any other make-up. Just those lashes. She doesn’t need anything else. I tell you, had I indiscriminate funds…I would get eyelash extensions every month or however long they last. I am tempted to throw over food for beautiful eyelash extensions. Maybe it all equals out in the end. I would never need to buy eye make-up again. But then…I probably wouldn’t have beautiful Disney eyes like she has.

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News of the weird, which I refer to as…what-the-heck? I have had the opportunity to learn about things I never thought possible. For example, one of my nursing daughters-in-law is a super milk-producing woman. I want to call her Elsie. She has and had so much milk! They had a small freezer entirely full of nothing but her milk in their laundry room! Kinda floored me every single time I opened that freezer…plastic packets of frozen white, all of it dated and organized. They moved from Portland to Montana this summer, which necessitated getting rid of all that milk. My DIL is a savvy girl and knew that where there is a supply, there is generally a demand. She got online. Now the crazy thing I learned is that mother’s milk is a very sellable commodity. Who woulda thunk it? And not only by people who have children who need human milk, but by others. There are cheese makers in Portland (which does not actually surprise me) who make cheese from human milk. Um….. I did not see this particular cheese at the New Seasons store. She ended up selling her milk for $150 or thereabouts to a family with an infant whose mother was unable to nurse and this infant was allergic to every single kind of milk out there except for human milk. In this case, it was lifesaving. As I thought about it, I figured selling her breast milk was the modern version of a wet-nurse.

2015-09-19 22.00.51Second item of what-the-heck? So apparently, if you have a loved one with tattoos that you dearly love…the tattoo-ee and the tattoo itself, of course…and the tattooed loved one passes on, you can have that particular portion of their skin with your favorite tattoo removed, dried, pressed and returned to you…framed, no less, well after the funeral. Um….. To each his own, I suppose. Someone in the comment column, completely offended by one not so clearly enamored of this idea, said that a tastefully framed picture of your loved one’s dried and pressed tattooed skin was not any different than having an urn of your dearly departed loved one’s ashes on your mantle. Havin’ a little headshake moment here.

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I have hopefully given you some food for thought…something to gnaw on while in the wilderness of your mind…at least for a moment or two possibly. Happy Halloween to you and may you find little monsters, superheroes, princesses and goblins of only the best kind at your door tonight.

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This entry was posted on November 1, 2015. 9 Comments

HOME

We shall not cease from exploration;

And at the end of all our exploring,

Will be to arrive where we started

And know the place for the first time.

–T.S. Eliot

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I have been away from my cottage for three months.

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During all that time away, I was determined to stay in the present, focus and enjoy wherever I was. I cherished every moment of time with my family and I made it a priority to stay in the present while I was with them. Time slipped through my fingers like so much sand, as time has a way of doing, and suddenly I found myself at the end of a season of helping my family. All that time away from home, I refused to let my thoughts and my heart step into the future, to think about home and I resisted the pull; however, the last several days before I left, my mind and heart wandered towards home.

IMG_9500I thought about the eleventy million things I could do and needed to do when I returned home; but first, I wanted to spend one hour reacquainting myself with my home. One delicious hour free from demands, distractions, unpacking and settling in. I wanted to do lose myself in sixty glorious minutes before I did anything else. I missed an entire season while I was away. That thought stunned me. I needed one hour to catch up. To watch. To focus. To see. To wonder. To sigh. To embrace.

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My azalea dressed herself in her finest robes….she has never looked this lovely. It was as though she threw open her arms and said, “Welcome Home!”

IMG_9522I was home one weekend in February when our big old cherry tree exploded in buds and only a few opened up to tease me before I had to leave again. The blossoms are gone now, the last few spent blossoms lay like antique snow onto the ground, the branches now green with new leaves.

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I sat on a wooden rocker on my porch the afternoon I returned home and listened to the silence….a sweet rest on the measure of notes written for birdsong. In all that lilting melody and harmony by happy, returning birds, that gentle, silent rest in the middle was most welcome.

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A humming bird flew to the feeder for only a moment before dashing off….the sun glancing off his jeweled neck leaving an aquamarine flash in the air. He has forgotten me. It is going to take a bit of time before he feels comfortable once again to sip his food while I sit or work below him.

I gazed at the water that stretched out before me, the sun gluing spangles to the fabric of it while the seagulls stitched wide circles onto the sky.

IMG_9421I walked out to my waking garden. It is postage-stamp size and not big at all. I surveyed the damage the deer did to my lilies. I could see their hoof prints where they carefully stepped around the peonies, bless their hearts. I told the weeds they had better enjoy their last days and plucked out a few to show them I meant business. I flicked the dirt from around the red pencil points of peonies pushing their way up through the ground. It will be a good year for those peonies; the ones I dug up from the garden where we used to live. They love the sunshine here. The promise of peonies….sigh. They will be at their finest in a month or two.

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I visited the planter where miniature tete-a-tete daffodils are the prelude for the concert the bigger daffodils will play later in the month. The hyacinths are struggling, but one of them managed to send up a single stem with a few tender pink bells playing on it, a tinkling percussion.

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I caught up with the plants on my sun porch, where the hydrangeas are already leafed out and the beginning of small clustered blossoms still hide shyly in the leaves, where strawberries set their green leaves and dainty petals emerged and where one prodigious purple bloomer is already in full bloom and hostess to eager bees.

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The rose-scented geranium survived the winter without me trimming it back and new shoots climb the long branches. I am thrilled. The lemon verbena also seemed to somehow survive the winter without a cursory pruning and my failure to move it out of harm’s way. A simple snip here and there and it will hopefully snap back so that I will not need to buy a new one this year. I looked longingly at bare pots waiting for something to go into them. I cannot wait. A peegee hydrangea? A tree peony? A David Austen English rose? I am leaning towards the rose. I miss my roses but I cannot have them in my gardens. The deer love them as much as I do. But on my porch? Hopefully I can have one lovely apricot David Austen rose, an Abraham Darby. Or demurely pink Evelyn? Sigh. Maybe both.

I surveyed the little gardens in front of my house, taking note of the survivors and of the ever-ailing Spanish lavender topiary that did not survive the winter. I exulted over things that were already springing to life and have high hopes for the agapanthus this year and the expanding iris. There are mystery plants that have surprised me and grouped themselves in congregations in my gardens. They have leaves similar to lily leaves and I hope they flower, or I’m excommunicating them…congregations notwithstanding.

IMG_9487The lilac is in bloom….lovely, lilting lilacs so soon. With the early spring we’re having, everything spring has come up, leafed and bloomed nearly a month or two early. My thoughts move to planting deer-resistant summer perennials.

IMG_9441I turned my attention inside my home. Especially this.

FullSizeRender 4My studio.

FullSizeRender 6I missed my gardens and this room most of all. My studio calls to me every bit as loudly as do my gardens. There is promise in this room. I hope to really create here this year. To dare. My heart yearns to be here and to make use of the tools and materials I have secreted away. And to write with abandon.

FullSizeRender 2The timer went off on my phone. One hour. Whoosh. I had no sense of minutes or of time at all. I was lost in seeing and discovering, in thinking deeply and in focusing, which led to a deeper, purer clarity of the present and the shadows of wishes that stepped gently into my future. I was invigorated, blissful, glad to be home and utterly content. You could have heard me purr.

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I wonder why it is that we don’t take the time to have one singular hour for ourselves, 60 minutes out of the 1,440 minutes in a day. Sixty minutes where we focus, where we clarify, where we learn, where we wonder and discover, where we think deeply and allow our mind and our senses and our heart to catch up to each other. Sixty minutes to simply wish. Sixty perfect uncluttered minutes would do wonders to let us de-stress, to let anxiety and worry slip out of our lives, to allow us get in touch with the self that all too often is overextended seeing to the needs of everyone else, a self that is spread far too thinly at times or a self that has disappeared. An hour to develop a talent, an hour to focus on our thoughts and hopes and dreams and wishes. An hour to take a walk or a drive somewhere beautiful. An hour to breathe and to be.

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Would you take a challenge? Would you find 60 minutes a day for yourself and your thoughts? It may mean getting up an hour earlier, which is what I suggest as your mind is rested, open and read. Dedicating this time will stabilize your day. Or find an hour later in the evening, or anytime during your day…just seek that one solitary hour. I would love to hear how setting this time aside affected your lives, what you taught yourself and what you learned or what you experienced during that time.

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I once read a quote by Henry David Thoreau, who was the master of leaving the clamor and demands of the world behind him and discovering a world he created for himself: “As if you could kill time without injuring eternity.” I read that quote years and years ago. It haunts me sometimes. Time is so valuable and yet we say, “I have an hour to kill so I will….” Don’t kill time….feed it, nourish it, care for it and make good use of it. Especially those 60 sacred minutes you make for yourself.

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HERO

he-ro  n. a person who, in the opinion of others, has heroic qualities or has performed a heroic act and is regarded as a model or ideal

he-ro-ic  adj. extraordinarily bold, altruistic, determined; describing the deeds, attributes, etc. of heroes; syn. dauntless, valiant, valorous, brave, courageous

This was my first hero.  My daddy.

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This is how he looked when I was a little girl. Handsome. I have his smile….slightly crooked and drawn up on the right side. He was the first man I fell in love with. He taught me how to dance when I was 12-years-old. When I turned 18, he took time from his extraordinary busy and stressful day to take me to lunch at The Hotel in the little town where we lived. Then walked to the drug store just up the street and he told me to pick out the biggest bottle of perfume they had. I picked a big old bottle of Chantilly and every time I wore it, I thought of how special he made me feel that day. He gave me an extraordinary gift when I turned 16, a father’s blessing, and he took the time to record it. I still have the copy he transcribed and typed from his recording and I read through it from time to time to see if I am still measuring up to everything he hoped and dreamed I would be. He has been my hero my whole entire life….he left me far too soon.

This was my other hero.

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You have to know that I was a very literal, fairy-tale believing, imaginative child. (Um….and yeah, I still am as an adult. True confession.) I never missed an episode of Superman on our little old black and white TV. Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s Superman! This….THIS was my second hero. There was one episode I remember about a very sick little boy who could not walk. He needed to get to a certain hospital so they could mend his poor, lame little legs. His family couldn’t do it. Enter Superman…who FLEW that boy UP IN THE AIR to the hospital and that little boy had his thin little arms wrapped so tightly around Superman’s hero neck (just the way I did when my daddy carried me up to bed!) with a crazy big grin on his sickly little face! Holy cow. So every single night I said my prayers and asked for Superman to fly me somewhere. Even if I had to get sick to have him do it. No sacrifice was too great. Man…I so loved that guy.

So, I’ve been thinking a lot about heroes lately. And what makes a hero. I have come to a conclusion: Heroes are people who, in the throes of life, display courage they never knew they possessed, when the only other alternative was to simply wither or turn away. Heroes do not do extraordinary things. They do ordinary things extraordinarily. I do not believe that anyone asks to be a hero. There is an old saying that indicated that heroes are made, not born. I agree with that. I also believe that heroes happen. They are like a light that suddenly goes on. Undaunted heroes leak from history books. We put them out of our reach, I think, because they are out of our time. We hear of heroes nearly every single day. Their exploits are on TV, in the newspapers, we sing about them, dream about them at times and know many personally. We read about them in books. I just finished Unbroken. That book is full of heroes. Wars are full of heroes and their heroic deeds. But often time we do not hear about ordinary heroes. Unsung heroes. Heroes in our own communities. Heroes next door. You may know someone, but not realize they are a hero. You may not ever think of yourselves as heroic, but I bet you are.

Here’s another one of my heroes.

He's been waiting 301 days for a new heart!

This is my great-nephew, Alex, who prefers to be called Gator. He’s just shy of his 8th birthday this April. He was born with Hypoplastic Left heart Syndrome. This little guy was born with basically half a heart….and half is a generous word. The first time I actually met Alex, he was tethered to an oxygen line, about a third the size of his second cousin Oliver, and these boys’ birthdays bump right into each other. His lips, fingertips and toes were blue. His skin so pale I could see tiny little roads of veins just below the surface. His little heart couldn’t get enough blood to all the parts of him. You can see spunk written all over that sweet little face. He is daring, full of life and love, funny, endearing, at times I am sure he is frustrating and typically a 7-year-old boy. He has endured so many surgeries…oftentimes more than once a year, but at least that. This is a picture of him in the hospital. He went in before Thanksgiving last year and unable to come home until he had a new heart. Alex sat on a heart donor list. He and his family waited nearly a year for a donor heart. When he went into the hospital, it was with the hope that a donor heart would be found before his broken little heart ceased to work. Alex  is my hero. His parents are my heroes. His doctors are my heroes.

In order for Gator to live, he had to have a new heart. You do not get one of those at Costco. In order for him to have a chance at life, a child had to die. And that child’s parents had to be heroes when their child died. The whole entire time a world of us prayed for Gator to get a heart, there were those of us who also prayed for the donor family. Because we knew. I knew. I knew exactly what that meant.

Twenty-five year ago I stood in an emergency room looking down at my 11-year-old son who lay too still on an examination table. The doctor stood after doing everything he could and simply said, “I’m sorry. There is no brain activity.” “But he’s still breathing! His heart’s still beating! I can see it!” “That will all stop soon,” he added. So two things happened the moment he said that. There was the immediate voice that came to my mind and heart Mom, give them my organs at the exact same time I blurted out without even thinking, “He wants his organs donated!”  I said it just like that. He wants…. I never thought it. It was out of my mouth before I could even think it. I had never even thought about organ donation and certainly just after I was told my son was dead, I wouldn’t have thought of it. He thought of it. It was the right thing to do. The doctor never mentioned it. Maybe because I didn’t even give him time. All I remember is that he made a very urgent call, we kissed our son goodbye and the nurses whisked us out of that room after a respectful amount of hurried time as the transplant team began the process of saving his beautiful organs. Everything done quickly to ensure viable organs

We received a letter in the mail the spring after our son’s death. Both of Logan’s kidneys and his lungs were harvested that September. His heart was too bruised. I always thought it was bruised because it broke and bruised our son’s heart to leave his family. It was likely due to the heroic efforts to save his life as we rode to the hospital in the ambulance. The letter indicated that four people were given the gift of life because of my son’s generosity. Four people saved and doing so well.  Four people alive! Were they children? I have no idea. I have no knowledge of their names or where they live or if they are still alive or if they were children who received them. After learning the miracle of four lives, I made sure I was an organ donor when I renewed my driver’s license.

Late at night on January 22, 2015, our Gator and his family received news that there was a heart available. He was in surgery all night long as  surgeons carved away layers of scar tissue for hours before they could even make their way into the chest cavity where his poor also-scarred, barely working heart was beating and then they removed it. That beautiful, healthy perfect heart, given with so much love and at such a great sacrifice, was sewn to Gator’s arteries and veins, the blood allowed to flow back into it, holes patched, monitors set to record every beat, every inhalation and exhalation. Gator pinked instantly. It worked. The ensuing week has been a roller coaster ride. He was bad at one moment, but perked. Plasmapheresis, oxygen, catheterization, tubes here and there, blood tests, heart biopsies to check for organ rejection, a bit of delirium when he did not recognize her mommy or daddy. Then he was extubated so he could talk! A huge gift. More tubes removed. A single-lumen PICC line exchanged for a double. Heart biopsies were clean–no signs of rejection. His sick little liver rallied. That little heart was a perfect match. Imagine that. IMAGINE! The one heart he needed, was the one heart he received. Perfect. A miracle. Albert Einstein said, “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” I’m of that everything is a miracle camp. We do live in an age of miracles. They surround us. This little guy is living proof….yes LIVING proof, of miracles. He is my hero. He has endured more than I can possibly imagine. The heart donor family are heroes. ALL those in Gator’s village: his school, his church, his family, the Make-A-Wish foundation, his little bake-sale-holding and piggy-bank proffering friends, sports heroes, firemen, policemen, doctors, nurses, technicians, FAMILY, various organizations, neighbors and heart buddies who now on wait lists and their families are ALL heroes. Thousands of people who donated time and money…that village is full of heroes. That alone….that tremendous surge of belief and love and hope and help was miraculous, my friends.

Would you like to become a hero? I am sure that there are many times in your lives when you are heroic. When you accomplish courageous feats of daring-do simply by the way you live your lives. I know and love so many of you out there and to me, you are my heroes. I have ridden on your shoulders so I could see my own life and future a lot clearer. Let me invite you to become heroes to those you do not know. Become an organ donor. Please. You can give the remarkable gift of life with your own last miraculous gifts.

More than 123,000 people in the United States are currently on the waiting list for a lifesaving organ transplant.

  • Another name is added to the national transplant waiting list every 12 minutes.
  • On average, 21 people die every day from the lack of available organs for transplant.
  • Seven percent of people on the waiting list—more than 6,500 each year—die before they are able to receive a transplant.
  • One deceased donor can save up to eight lives through organ donation and can save and enhance more than 100 lives through the lifesaving and healing gift of tissue donation.
  • Organ recipients are selected based primarily on medical need, location and compatibility.
  • Over 617,000 transplants have occurred in the U.S. since 1988.
  • Organs that can be donated after death are the heart, liver, kidneys, lungs, pancreas and small intestines. Tissues include corneas, skin, veins, heart valves, tendons, ligaments and bones.
  • The cornea is the most commonly transplanted tissue. More than 40,000 corneal transplants take place each year in the United States.
  • A healthy person can become a ‘living donor’ by donating a kidney, or a part of the liver, lung, intestine, blood or bone marrow.
  • More than 6,000 living donations occur each year. One in four donors is not biologically related to the recipient. Go here for more information: http://www.americantransplantfoundation.org/about-transplant/facts-and-myths

If you go to that site, you will find out all about the facts and myths concerning organ transplant….like some who believe that you cannot have an open casket funeral if you donate organs. Nope. You can be in full display, just without your heart, liver, lungs or corneas. They will be beating and working and seeing in someone else. Or that if you are really old when you die and you think, mistakenly, that everything else is really old and no one needs it, you are so wrong. There are still parts of you that would help some one else…old or not. Learn what you need to know from this site. You then leave your last wishes with your children or your spouse or those in charge of your estate, and you discuss it and write it down so your wishes are known. You determine what organs you wish to have donated; if you want your corneas donated; if you want skin or bones or whatever donated, it is up to you.

The next time you renew your license, become an organ donor. Tell your family your wishes. Read about what you can do at the American Transplant Foundation site. Become a hero of gigantic proportion. If some of you have the desire to leave something behind you after you die, let it be organs and whatever else that will give life to others. Those lives will be your legacy.

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This is the cover of a book that is at least a million years old. Joe Strong, the Boy Fire Eater. He was a hero. He was just a kid. Joe Strong. Can you be Joe Strong? You don’t have to eat fire.  Just become an organ donor. You have within you the power to give life. Women know what that is like…to give life. You can give life to those you do not know. Those who lie in hospital beds waiting for one last chance at life. There is no age discrimination with death. There are children, like Gator, who sit on the edge of it, hoping. The hospital where he is right now is full of children waiting for a chance at life.

I will forever be grateful for the sacrifice of that donor family, who gave that perfect little heart, so loved and so beautiful, to Gator. All his life that child’s heart will beat within him. I hope it is a good, long life for Gator. And that gratitude for life and his heart never escapes him. Not for one moment.

This entry was posted on February 4, 2015. 12 Comments

A Year’s Worth of Words

I love words. I play with words. Learn words. Look up words. Say words. Write words. In short, words fascinate me. They have power to inspire, motivate, captivate, express, elate, delight and at times make me weep with the pure beauty of them. On the other side of the coin, they can destroy, hurt, infuriate, sadden, abuse and lie. Sometimes just saying them is like music, art and poetry all wrapped up in one little word. My favorite wordsmiths are Annie Dillard and Diane Ackerman. If you have not read Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard, you should; but keep a dictionary handy. My volume has my favorite quotes from her book written on the inside covers and front and back pages, but her words and their definitions line the tops of each page. Her book was a Pulitzer winner and she deserved it. I am on my third reading of her book. Then there is always Shakespeare, who made up words. I love Shakespeare and I love that when he needed a word, he made one up. I make up my own words and they are perfect. Like wonderiffing. You would say it like this: I was wonderiffing, would you like to go exploring with me? Or wibbly….which is what I get when I am very dizzy. You see? Perfect words. Wibbly is actually onomatopoeic because it sounds exactly like what it feels like when I have vertigo.

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I read quite a few blogs at the beginning of the year and the bloggers wrote about landing upon a perfect word and making that word their word for the year. The idea is rather than making resolutions that they likely will not keep, they place their focus on one word for the entire year, which is much easier. The word then inspires them from day-to-day or month to month. I think this is commendable. Words work for me rather than jumbling (another made up word) them all up in a bunch of resolutions that usually sit at the bottom of my mind.

So I thought about doing that very thing. Selecting A word to inspire me and motivate me and change me over the course of a year. Then I thought about the reality of that. How probably the bloggers, at the end of the year, remember that they actually had a word of the year and then looked back over the course of that year and plugged in things that happened to them, or did not happen to them, and they made the word work. I could be judging there. Sometimes I do not even see a blogger, at year’s end, refer to that word. Sometimes I do. I did not want to fall into that category of backtracking over a year and deciding where my chosen word worked. I wanted to be reminded of that word every day and see how my life fit into it and around it, or how that word caressed the moments of my day and what I learned as I cuddled up against it.

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How could I simply choose ONE word….because there are SO MANY beautiful words out there and how could a single word fit over the course of 365 days, 52 weeks and 12 months of the entire year? I did not even factor in all those precious minutes from a single year. Minutes can change a life, or decorate it. My solution was to select 12 words for each month. A word to think on, act on, notice, apply, put into practice, to be consumed by and changed by. It made sense. So which of millions of words could I choose? I thinked and thought and thunked….and came up with 12 words that will direct the course of my life this year.

1 – Minister. I chose this word because the first two months of this year I are filling with caring for my 5-month-old granddaughter while her mama finishes her work at her place of employment, and then she will be a stay-at-home mama. Minister means to look after, tend or see to, but it also means to wait on, to comfort, support and care for. I wanted what I was doing to be a means of growing, of giving unselfishly, or nurturing those I love and spending the first months of my grandchild’s life in such a way that we bond forever. It also means giving my time to my grown children joyfully and completely, in finding ways to be of service to them because I love them so deeply. Minister reminds me of angelic tending to, as there are ministering angels in the heavens and I simply want to be an earthly one.

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2 – Connections. I chose this word because I want to make deeper connections with my own family and their families, but also with my friends and friends I do not yet know. I want to connect more with my community and offer more service when I am no longer being of consistent service to my children and to Mr. Farnia as he pursues his doctorate work. I also want to connect with the inner me, to find out whatever is still in me that I have not yet discovered. I want to connect with artists, authors and musicians. I want to connect more with my world and the world outside of my island. Mr. Farnia hopes to be in Europe in some near future. I hope to tag along sometime and make those global connections with him.

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3 – Magnify. To magnify mean to make bigger, to enlarge. I want to magnify my soul, my belief, my talents and abilities, my knowledge, my heart and everything I do. I want to live larger than life. I need to read more and learn more. Michelangelo, towards the end of his life and after accomplishing such marvelous works of art that it brought and still brings the world to its knees because of such beauty said this, “I am still learning.” Can you even imagine? I want to still learn. Every single day. But for one month of this year, I will learn whatever I can. And learning alone does not magnify one. It is the application of what one has learned that enlarges them. That is the tricky part.

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4 – Clarity. I need to know how to focus. To be still. There’s an art to being still. Especially being still inside. I need to tame my wild thoughts. I cannot not think of something….there are so many thoughts running rampant through the canyons of my mind. I need to fix that. Meditation is a good thing and I need to know how to meditate. To think of nothing and let my soul and heart and spirit be so still that after I’ve thought of nothing, I will think of everything with much more clarity. At least I hope it works that way. Winnie the Pooh said: “Think it over…think it under.” That’s lot of thinking. There is a word called eunoia, which means beautiful thinking and comes from the Greek word for a well mind. I need eunoia in my life. I need a well mind.

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5 – Dare. I’m a big chicken sometimes. A procrastinator. I fear. I do not worry so much any more, although I am sure some worry tinges my fear a bit. What I am afraid of is failing. I know, I know. There is no such word as failure to one who continually tries, unless one fails to get up after they fall. I also realize that some very perfect and beautiful things come from what we may perceive as failure. What I fear is that my dreams may not come true. There are things on my list of things to do in my life that will might never happen. So maybe it is time for a little list revising. That’s what I plan to do. Revise. Edit. Dare. Do something that absolutely scares me to death….in a good way. Dare to start something and dare to finish it. Dare to look at what I produce with nonjudgmental eyes. Dare to see that art (whatever it is) as an extension of me and a beginning and then go from there. Dare to try something new for dinner (within reason…no liver, no raw fish), tinker with a new idea. This daring mostly applies to my art and taking the time to develop that yearning in my soul. I’m not standing back and looking, but jumping in with both feet. My motto for this month: Alis volat propilis – she flies with her own wings.

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6 – Beautify. I once read a quote I found on a poster hanging in one of my children’s high school classrooms and it struck me as so simply perfect. It said something like this: “The Balinese people have no word for art…they simply do everything beautifully.” Holy cow. Talk about an epiphany. That’s what I wanted to do! And I tried. But now I really want to do this. William Morris (the famous wallpaper, furniture maker, designer guy) said, “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” I think I have that covered as a move necessitated a purging of things that probably did not fall into these categories. I want to beautify my corner of the world. I want the food I cook, the gardens I plant, the words I write, the ideas I think and  the work of my hands to be beautiful. I want my heart to be beautiful. I want my thoughts to be beautiful and let my actions….all of them…reflect beauty. I want to seek it out and find it in obscure places…places that most people walk right by. My daddy taught me that through the lens of his camera. My grandmother taught me that in the gardens she planted. My mother taught me that by what delighted her.

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7 – Curious and Curiouser. Alice said it perfectly. That’s what I want to be: always curious and ever curiouser. I want to wonder more, discover the mysteries, find out more. Marcel Proust said that, “The real voyage of discovery consists of not seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” I want new eyes. I want to see in minute detail everything about me. I bought a maco-lens for my cell phone camera and it is amazing looking at the world through that thing. It enables me to see things with incredible detail. Sharply and clearly. I want to sit and just watch the world and see what transpires in moments. To see the small all around me. Things that I normally do not take notice of, yet what brims and buzzes and teems with life. Perhaps I will buy a magnifying glass and examine things through that lens. This month is about being observant. This applies not only to my world but also to people. To see without judgment and to love unconditionally, to see what isn’t being said. To take notice. Roald Dahl, one of my favorites, said: “Above all, watch with Glittering Eyes the Whole World around you because the Greatest Secrets are always hidden in the most Unlikely Places.” There is an artist’s term called pasticcio. It is a work of style produced by borrowing fragments, ingredients or motifs from various sources. I want my life to be the result of my personal pasticcio. I want to fill it with fragments and motifs. I want glittering eyes.

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8 – Wander. Sometimes I feel homesick for something that I cannot quite put my finger on. I just feel homesick. I have a yearning. I long for something. It could be my cottage when I am far away from it, but that’s more of a pull to me rather than homesickness. I get homesick for the tickly tinkle of children’s laughter. I am deeply homesick for Nielsen’s Frozen Custard’s cherry double almond concretes. I am homesick for some of my memories. I get homesick for Cannon Beach and Port Townsend. Before we moved to the island, I had wanderlust so bad. By the time I married and we moved to where we’ve now lived for all the time we’ve nearly been married, I lived in five states. My family moved to four different states while I was growing up and I liked that. It gave me chance to start over and make changes in my life that made me a better person. I like moving around. Coming to our island was a great move. I am not homesick for my old home, except at Christmas time. What I am homesick for are feelings and newness of things I haven’t found yet, but that are waiting for me. I miss them and I haven’t even bumped up against them yet. I am going to hike more, walk without having a place that I have to reach, I want to feel like I do when I walk on the beach. I get so lost in that present moment, lost in the beauty around me, that often times I turn back in amazement by how far I traveled on that vast length of beach. It stuns me. I want to be so consumed by a present moment that the past and future have no place in it. I want my life to feel like that. To be so lost in a moment or an hour or a day that I fill it to its apogee.

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9 – Elysian. This word is a new discovery. It is Greek and means: beautiful or creative; divinely inspired; peaceful; perfect. It all works for me. Although my life is not perfect, nor am I, I think it important that we seek FOR perfection….or to be as perfect as we can be. Perfection is not my goal. It is not my destination. It really isn’t even on the map. It is simply a way of trying to live. The practical part of this word for me is the divinely inspired part. The beautiful and creative part sort of mingle with the other words I’ve chosen for the month and I like that because then they remind me that the days and months and minutes and moments of a year all have to work together anyway for any sort of progress to take place. So the divinely inspired part….that’s what I fully intend on working on. That “be still” part I talked about earlier. Being still enough so that I can hear what is whispered to me as I read, as I study, as I learn, as I teach, as I create….as I live.

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10 – Embrace. I love this word. Embracing is more than hugging. A hug is quick, but an embrace is well-thought-out. It is intentional. You embrace another as long as necessary because your hearts connect and there’s a bit of unspoken communication going on. My daddy was a crazy good embracer. You quite literally fell into his arms. I never wanted him to let go. I’d give anything to be enveloped in his hug right now. When I was a little girl, when our family went somewhere that resulted in us getting home later than my bedtime, I always pretended to be asleep so that he would have to carry me upstairs to my bed and tuck me in. He would hold me so close to him and I would have my arms tight around his neck so that I could smell his cologne, feel his breath on my neck and the sandpapery roughness of his whiskers on my cheek. His heart beat with mine. That is an embrace. It is comfort and security. It is full-on unconditional love. I want to embrace the world and its people. I want to embrace new ideas and new ways of seeing things. I want to embrace my life. I want to bring all those things into my arms and pull them close to my heart and love the daylights out of them.

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11 – Kindness. I chose this word because I believe that kindness will change the world because kindness stems from unselfish love. We all need to be kind. J.M.M. Barrie said that we all need to be kinder than necessary. I love that. That means kicking unselfishness from our hearts. It means acts of service. Of thinking of another and their situation. It means putting a dollar in every Salvation Army bucket you pass at Christmas time. It means giving someone on the street a hamburger or $5….especially when it is your last $5. My dear friend Val taught me that lesson and she was a tremendous example of that, especially in the last years of her life. We cannot judge another. Ever. We cannot assume. I get in real trouble assuming things. That is one of my biggest faults and I want to eradicate that fault this year. I never want to assume again. I want to randomly do acts of kindness without even hardly thinking about them. They become automatic. That means I am going to really have to work hard on every word each month because eventually it will all lead to this: kindness. It means giving people the benefit of the doubt. Of smiling. Of forgiving. I have to find out what my gifts are and then give them. Everyone struggles and touching someone’s life with kindness will ease that struggle. I also need to be kinder to myself. Oh my gosh….this will be the biggest challenge, I think. Sometimes I am not very kind to myself, so there is going to be some good self-talk going on.

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12 – Scriptunent. Another new word I happened upon. It means having a consuming passion to write. I have that. Or had it. I’m taking it off that shelf where I shoved it, and where I keep shoving it from time to time, and I am going to dust it off, open it up and start using it. That means more writing. I will finally develop the habit of writing. Sending things off to publishers and then hoping and then sending more out. It means blogging more. I won’t make a promise of a blog a week, but I am working towards that. That is a huge challenge. Do I have enough words? Ideas? Things to share? Gosh…I so hope so. Write. As Isabel Allende said, “Write what should not be forgotten.”

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Thank you for reading along with me. It is going to be a great year. All photos are from my Instagram site and I would love to have you follow along with me in my year’s discovery. The photos are a bit out of focus here because I have not yet learned how to take them from teeny tiny Instagram pictures and put them here without having them blurry when I enlarge them. One of those things I definitely have to do this year!

This entry was posted on January 20, 2015. 14 Comments

We are nearly midway through my favorite month of the year! December! I sometimes wish there were months of December, not so that I could get everything done, but so that I could enjoy the feelings, the giddy wonder and excitement of this month of all months for a lot longer. I wait the entire year for the wonderful surprise-package month at the end of it. Thanksgiving came so late in November this year that it was like a cheat because it made December seem shorter. I vow that next year I will have my house decorated before Thanksgiving even comes. That way, I can enjoy the anticipation and the joy and beauty even longer. I was listening to Christmas music as I canned peaches in September this year. We have a little ongoing, unannounced competition every year in our family to see which of us starts listening to Christmas music first. I was the clear winner this year.

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I come from a long line of Santa believers. My maiden name, Clawson, proves it. In the Germanic and Scandinavian countries if a man’s name was Claus (our name apparently got a new spelling when it immigrated), his son was Clausson or Claus’s son. As further proof, every year at Christmas time, my daddy was the voice of that jolly old elf as he read and ho-ho-hoed his way through every letter children sent to the radio stations where he worked. As a young child I sat rapt on the floor in front of our radio listening to his voice that magically became Santa’s voice. He read my letter every single year and as I heard him read it, it was Santa’s voice I heard. I kept that delicious secret from all my friends, who excitedly told me that they heard Santa read their letters on the radio. As a teenager, I reveled in the same delicious shivers of belief as he read the letters from children in the small town where we lived. My daddy was Santa personified, not only with that beautiful voice he had, but also the tremendous generosity of heart and spirit he possessed. I think of him every Christmas, his deep voice reading the real Christmas story from the Book of Luke: “And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed…..” I can sill hear his voice, for which I am grateful.  Over Thanksgiving, I took some Christmas videos to my genius son, who managed to have them transferred to DVD.  I can barely hear his voice, but it is there.  We whooshed ourselves, my son and I, back to that Christmas of 1987.  And we wept.  And wept.  Memories can do that. They are those bittersweet things that both delight and break your heart.

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There is a song by Mannheim Steamroller called “Traditions of Christmas” you can listen at here (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wPbs4Lf-CKw).  That music transports me to another time and place.  In my mind, I stand outside the window of our home and I watch as my Daddy decorates the tree, putting on the colored lights (those big old lights with the pointed ends) and wrapping the branches with thick gold tinsel, hanging the ornaments so carefully and placing the star atop the tree.  Snow falls softly and candlelight flickers in the front room.  He smiles, content in what he’s doing.  I watch every movement, catch his smile, study the concentration on his face, the thick brows framing his twinkly eyes (I remember them twinkling….he was Santa after all) and the halo of his gray hair reflecting the multicolored lights. I long to hug him. Smell his aftershave, feel his sandpaper cheeks on mine. During that whole song I see him. And then I hear his voice reading the story from Luke.  That voice of his is still with me in my mind and heart.  I hope there never comes a day when I don’t hear it.

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I have my Daddy’s Santa Clawson coat. When I was a little girl, he wore that coat to brave the cold and snowy Idaho winters. He worked the night shift and on Saturdays went to the station to read the letters. He always wore that coat and I really truly did think of him as one of Santa’s best helpers.  The wool coat was holly berry read with big broad black stripes that ran around it. The coat fastened with loops around square black leather buttons. It also had a hood. I can still see him wearing that coat. It is mine now and when the weather is cold and frosty, I put that on and am twice warmed.

I am giving you little snippets of our Christmas Cottage. The pictures are wonderfully dark, mostly because I shot them with my phone at night. Because we have a wraparound porch (that I so love), even in the daylight the pictures are dark. I like to think of myself as a little chipmunk tucked away in my cozy nest during the winter. I love it here. I love that it dresses for Christmas so perfectly. I adore the dark days that lead to a lot of “moodling” as Sarah ban Breathnacht calls it. Just hunkering down with a book or movie, a fire, candlelight, something to nibble on and I am good.  Aah, December.

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One big huge thing that I insisted on when my husband and I married was tradition. His family had no  traditions. I remember my first Christmas as one of the worst. We had no money, I needed a coat at the end of November and that was my Christmas present. My mom made a quilt for our wedding and finished it and that was their gift to us. My husband’s mom and dad gave us sleeping bags and we knew they were also under the tree. I made decorations. Mr. Farnia and I both worked the entire day before Christmas. He was in school and had a part-time job. I knew…..I so knew that Santa Claus would come down our stairs that night, miss the bed as soon as he opened the door to our basement apartment, and put something under that tree. I knew it.

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And when we got up on Christmas morning, the same presents were under the tree.  Not a new thing at all. I was pretty much devastated. Call me the original BELIEVER. In my utter disappointment, I determined that I was going to be Santa’s best helper for the rest of my life. I was going to be the Queen of Christmas Cheer. The second Christmas we spent at his parent’s home. On Christmas Eve night I waited for Tradition.  Um…..Mr. Farnia and his dad and mom watched a game on TV and I half-heartedly pretended to, holding back the tears and thinking that it might just as well be another day. I walked upstairs and looked out the window at the lights, watching the snow fall and thinking that this Christmas Eve was completely wasted. I read from the book of Luke, missing my father’s voice. I finally went downstairs and the game was over and they all went to bed. I still wanted Christmas Eve…my family’s style of Christmas Eve: the dinner, the caroling around the piano, the pajamas, setting out the cookies, laughing and being so excited. I turned on the TV and watched the Bolshoi Ballet dance “The Nutcracker.” Thank goodness for that. There were no cookies for Santa, no carrots for the reindeer and after the ballet, I sang Christmas carols to myself.

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Sniff. I was a sad lump of Yuletide humanity that night. I promised myself that Christmas would never be like that again. We would have the greatest and the grandest traditions! And over time, I did just that! We had so many beautiful traditions with our children. So many. And most of those traditions are still kept by them now that they have their own families: cutting down the trees and a tailgate picnic of doughnuts and hot chocolate with candy cane stirrers afterwards; The Nutcracker ballet on Christmas Eve; eggnog Christmas bread and sparkling cider tailgate-picnic style after the ballet; our Savior Supper on Christmas Eve; cookies for Santa and reindeer food sprinkled on the lawn to guide the reindeer; Christmas books read every night of December; Christmas movies watched on weekends; moving the little bear around his house on the advent quilt; new pajamas on Christmas Eve; reading 3 books on Christmas Eve: The account from the Book of Luke, The Polar Express and The Night Before Christmas; stockings placed in strategic places; doing service with our family throughout the month; opening the gifts from each other on Christmas night, rather than losing the meaning when Santa’s gifts are tucked into in the morning; ambrosia for breakfast (my Daddy’s tradition) and so many, many more lovely traditions.  December was a month of joy and wonder and excitement and nearly breathless anticipation for all of us.

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If you have time during this wonderful season, I would love to hear about your family’s traditions. Christmas is about giving. The Savior was Heavenly Father’s gift to the world. The shepherds and Magi brought gifts to the Christ child. The Savior gave us his life as the ultimate gift. Christmas is a time to draw your families close or to find someone to share your Christmas if you are without a family. You can share your love and joy of the season with everyone you meet. Sometimes we are blinded by the trappings of Christmas and that places undue pressure on us and makes for expectations that we feel obliged to fulfill. Simplify your lives. Know the Reason for the Season and give from your heart the simple things.  Remember the joy. Sing. Smile. Tell people, “Merry Christmas!” Leave a dollar in the Salvation Army kettle. Pull your family tighter and tell them you love them. Believe in the magic. Create that magic.

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Merriest of all Christmases, my dear friends. Thank you for following along with me on the blog. I hope that your every Christmas wish comes true and that you keep Christmas with you all year long.  God bless us, everyone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

This entry was posted on December 15, 2014. 6 Comments