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Archive for January, 2013

I have learned silence from the talkative, toleration from the intolerant, and kindness from the unkind; yet strange, I am ungrateful to these teachers. (Kahlil Gibran, mystic, poet, and artist 1883-1931) 

I am aware of choice, a precious gift. When the beautiful appears I want to savor and celebrate it. Every moment can’t be mountain-top glorious. If it were, the wonderful would turn into take-it-for-granted.

In the past few weeks, life has given me many lessons. However, I am alluding to only two events. The first occurred one afternoon when I was unexpectedly confronted by someone who holds a long-term grudge against me. The second, far more pleasant,  took place as I prepared a family party. The details  of the first situation don’t need to be shared to be understood. Almost every living person faces folk on different wave lengths. This is the only point that matters: Do I allow someone rent-free space in my head or not?

When I think about scenario two, preparing to celebrate four family birthdays, however, I smile. Eight-year-old Kate painted assembly-line style, and told stories about what she drew: hearts, swirls, action. Enthusiasm for each person being honored flowed as she created. Five-year-old Rebe worked quickly with a few wild strokes across the page. She picked out which tablecloth we should use, and then played with Grandpa. Okay, so the afternoon wasn’t newsworthy. It highlighted the beauty of the gift of family. I treasured that, and didn’t waste the moment fussing about something I couldn’t control anyway.

The Cherokee legend of the Two Wolves explains choice well. The following story is taken directly from FIRST PEOPLE, THE LEGENDS: http://www.firstpeople.us/FP-Html-Legends/TwoWolves-Cherokee.html

An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.

“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil—he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.” He continued, “The other is good—he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you—and inside every other person, too.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

I would like to say that I have completely forgotten about the person who harbors resentment against me. I haven’t. I am fortunate enough to have made very, very few enemies in my life. Strange, as I think about it, the great people of the world have fought many adversaries. Hmmn, looks like I may be meek, but I also don’t take many risks. Perhaps I am now in a position of opportunity, not threat. This place may present a new taste for the Good Wolf.

Whenever this person’s name comes into my mind I pray that she receives the same blessings I would want for myself. Then, all I feel is sadness for her and joy for me as the sun shines through the seven child-simple paintings hung along my back window. Seven is the ancient Hebrew symbol for wholeness, creation, good fortune. The Good Wolf symbolizes healthy spiritual choices in life. I think I’ll keep the girls’ art gallery on display a tad longer—as a reminder of greater possibilities.

feed the good wolf Optimism Revolution

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Never forget where you’ve been. Never lose sight of where you’re going. And never take for granted the people who travel the journey with you. (Susan Gale)

As I went through a box of the collector dolls I gave my mother, I only remembered two of them, curly-haired blond kissing dolls I bought in Metamora, Indiana at least fifteen years ago. Mom displayed them on a table my father designed, instead of locking them in a china cabinet with the others. Apart, the two figures appear contorted, arms twisted, faces lifted, mouths eager, fish-like. Together, they symbolized young love.

I’m not sure I saw them as symbols of my parents when I purchased the porcelain pair. All I knew was that as a child Mom had collector dolls that had been lost. (It’s a long story that doesn’t matter anymore.) I tried to fill that void. Kissing dolls felt appropriate. After my mother died, the pair sat poised in the same position for ten more years. Together, as if Mom, the love of Dad’s life were still with him.

The dolls old-fashioned green-and-white cotton clothing aged in the dust and air, even if their young features didn’t. I managed to get the stains removed. However, I stopped trying to redress the girl when a few stitches from the lace at the neck tore. Her rigid arms couldn’t bend. My hands felt almost as stiff as the porcelain. I decided to try later, or ask someone without arthritic fingers.

I discovered later that I didn’t need to ask anyone. Granddaughter Kate and a neighbor, nine-year-old Hannah, worked together to get our partially dressed doll ready for her long-time puckered companion. Apparently completing a task impossible for me, was so easy for Kate and Hannah they didn’t think to tell me they had done it.

The girls didn’t seem to notice the contorted forms of the pair when separated. They saw what was supposed to be, not my symbols. Their wisdom belongs to their own time, not mine. I am grateful for my young people as they are. Now.

The dolls remind me of the importance of balance and flexibility. Sure, my past is important. It taught, and not all of those seeds have taken full root. Perhaps. sometime before this journey is completed, my path will appear clearer. When do I give up, and when do I simply try harder? It’s not always easy to tell. That’s why it’s such a gift to have loving companions along the way.

As part of her inheritance Kate grabbed a large old doll I’m sure I didn’t give my mother—it came from Germany long before I was born. Little Rebe wanted something cuddly. Ella was more interested in a snack. Priorities change in time, preferably accepted slowly, savored. Lived each moment as it occurs.

And in that acceptance, blessed.

slow down

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There is something beautiful about all scars of whatever nature. A scar means the hurt is over, the wound is closed and healed, done with. (Harry Crews, novelist and playwright)

Dictionary.com defines a whirling dervish as “a member of a Turkish order of dervishes, or Sufis, whose ritual consists in part of a highly stylized whirling dance.” However, mothers and grandmothers see another wild dance in their two and three-year-old kids on their way to world domination. Very few little folk walk from one place to another. They move with a swift, designed purpose—preferably toward something forbidden.

Yes, I know I’m not allowed in the bathroom alone. However . . . Ella doesn’t talk, but her eyes communicate well, so does the slam of the door. I open it as she signs washing her hands, which really means playing in the water. I tell her she may NOT close the door, and we will play in the water after she listens. Besides, even if I roll up her sleeves, they are going to get wet, soaked if possible. She must expect the warmth of her personality to dry them.

Ella grins. I notice that she really does need her hands washed. I guess the quick wipe after lunch wasn’t sufficient, but I win when it comes to prolonged play at the faucet. She doesn’t fuss as we leave the sink, without extended splashing. Our house may be small, but we have plenty of adventurous nooks for a young child to explore. I smile recalling the long road our little one has traveled.

She was born premature with Down syndrome at three pounds and three ounces. I recall her Giraffe bed. Giraffe is a brand name for a high-tech bed that keeps a critical-care newborn warm. It also makes procedures possible without moving a fragile, tiny body. Ella’s first nutrition was intravenous, by hyperalimentation until a defect known as duodenal atresia, could be corrected.

I was fortunate to be one of her primary caretakers while she was in the hospital. During that time I wrote and recorded a song for her. However, her premature system was unable to absorb simultaneous sounds. The song can still be accessed from the site I used before I began this blog: http://terrypetersen.webs.com/music.htm  (Scroll down to find the lyrics to Ella’s song. It was not possible to access the sound track temporarily. It works now. Don’t know why!)

Ella runs to the refrigerator and pulls off a magnetic letter C. “Kuh, kuh,” she says. Then she grabs an M. “Mmmmm.”

“Very good. And you are mmm good, too.”

Her shirt reveals her belly as she raises her arms for me to pick her up. I see the scar from the feeding tube from her first year. She doesn’t remember her infancy. She wants something mmm good from the refrigerator.

Years ago, if people would have told me I would be happy to be the grandmother of a child with Down syndrome, I would have asked them what color the sky was in their fantasy land.  Now, I know the gifts our little girl brings make wealth look trifling. When I wrote that she was “made of spunk and angel wings,” I had no idea how prophetic my own words would become.

(Ella in her Harley jacket. Note speed-blur)

Ella in Harley Jacket Dec. 2012

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For a man to achieve all that is demanded of him he must regard himself as greater than he is. (Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, poet, dramatist, novelist, and philosopher 1749-1832) 

My two older granddaughters love one another. However, sibling rivalry lives, and Grandma needs creative energy to keep the girls from fighting for her undivided attention.

The three of us sit on my bed as Kate and Rebe create a unique pretend-family scenario. They are two-month-old twins who have grown and developed with freakish speed.

I laugh. “You know in the real world you two would be followed night and day. The paparazzi wouldn’t let you make a step without taking a picture of it.”

“I heard that word before on a show,” Kate says, “but I didn’t know what it meant.”

I explain the word paparazzi and the girls chant pa-pa-razz-i, as if power were in the sound and rhythm of the syllables. Even five-year-old Rebe squeals,” The paparazzi are here,” as she hides under the blankets.

We dramatize situations where our impossible infant geniuses walk, talk, draw pictures, and even write a story about being attacked by a lion, then survive. The monster spies appear at every turn. Before long Kate discovers that fame may not be what it is cracked up to be. She wants to play something different.

Rebe says she is going to stay with the game. The paparazzi have captured her. She is going with them to be famous. Run-and-hide hasn’t taught her the flip side of glitz. At her age, time and place haven’t been pinned down yet. Real life and play wear indefinite edges, like one waterway merging into another. Nevertheless, our five-year-old is reaching for something greater than herself.

As the mood settles Kate decides to write more of the story about the girl, named Kate, who survives a wild animal attack. Maybe she understands metaphor more than I realize, and she’s playing the same game with different characters.

Learning comes in bits and pieces.

enjoy little things words of wisdom

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Remember the quiet wonders. The world has more need of them than it has for warriors. (Charles de Lint)

My two other grandchildren are on their way to the Y with Grandpa. Our middle granddaughter isn’t feeling well today. She is staying home with me. When I ask five-year-old Rebe what she wants to do during Grandma-Rebe time, I already know the answer: “Let’s play house.”

Rebe is Mommy, and I am Daughter, no other name necessary.

“It’s time for school, Daughter. But first I have to wrap you in toilet paper.”

Okay. I expect confusion sometime during this experience, but not generally within the first few seconds.

“Uh, did you say . . . ?”

“Toilet paper. It’s Halloween, and you are going to be a zombie.”

“Oh.” That sounds more like a mummy. But, at least we’re back on the same page, and Rebe doesn’t request an actual wrapping. It all happens magically, as if the decision alone makes it happen.

We climb into the “car,” which is actually our rocking chair as a front seat and the couch as the back. I’m buckled into my imaginary car seat. “And tomorrow is Christmas Eve,” Rebe says, appearing pleased to tell me the news.

Wow! Time flies quickly enough in the adult world. In pretend existence the speed of light seems slow.

I expect our little girl to forget the sequence of her plan, but in a few minutes she stops at my crib set and steps out of character. “Grandma, can I move these to the living room?”

I want to say, no. After all, the set was a gift from my parents. The figures are large and breakable. But, Rebe needs to know she can handle the situation, that she doesn’t have to be afraid. She is capable.

“Carry one piece at a time, doll baby. And use both hands. Then, tell me a story about what you are doing.”

She follows directions. However, her voice is so soft and gentle that I don’t hear many of her words. I do catch a sweet, innocent reverence.

Finally, after she has placed the infant in the manger in the center of her scene, she crosses her hands over her chest. “You can be in my heart now,” she says to the figure on the floor.

I smile—at Rebe my granddaughter, at Mommy, my pretending partner. They both need a tissue. But then again, right now maybe I do, too.

the world as it should be

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