Archive for May, 2016

Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it. (Maya Angelou)

Ella finds two dolls inside the top floor of the dollhouse set up in the library. The male figure is noticeably smaller than the female doll. Nevertheless, they become Daughter and Daddy. Daughter and Daddy are their names.

One staircase and three floors is incidental. No problem. The characters move to the higher levels as if walls and open air did not exist. Hops are required on stairs. I become Daddy. Ella is Daughter.

When I comment that the leap from Daughter’s bedroom to attic has been a doozy, Ella does not respond. Either she is too involved in the game, or the slang term doozy is outdated.

“Carry me to bed, Daddy,” she says.

One plastic doll next to the other looks more like the letter X. But I have been living in the real world too long.


And the same scenarios repeat. In cycles so rapid day and night have no meaning. The relationship between child and father does.

“Carry me to bed, Daddy.” Followed by, “Daughter needs ear drops.”

And Daddy carries Daughter safely—over the chasm of rooms that have no entrance or exit. Her ear infection disappears within two minutes per the library clock, and perhaps four trips up one set of toy stairs and one jump into the impossible.

I am Grandmother. Playing a role. When I first sat down on the floor my mind was immersed in the plot for a short story for grownups. It got sidelined temporarily. Somewhere between make-believe and the profound. In make-believe I enter the imagination of a little girl with special needs and special love.

Daddy is always available, whether he is big enough for the task or not. He shines. Daughter’s physical problems dissolve. Ella idolizes her father.

I speak in hushed tones. This is a library. Ella talks as if she were in the toy room in my house. A woman sits at an adjoining table. She does not complain. When Grandpa pulls out his car keys as we get ready to go, Ella offers to drive.

The woman bursts out laughing. She has been amused, not annoyed. I am happy to have the job of grandma.

Ella has left a few blessings behind.

Ella back view at Mt. Airy Park April 2015


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Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow. (Melody Beattie)

My birthday has arrived—number seventy. I tell my husband: Let’s celebrate nature. No fancy restaurant. Forget anything that involves crowds. If something happens at the last minute and our plans need to change, I’m flexible. Postponement is one way of saying another day exists.

When I was young the new green of spring represented no more than background. When will we get to the zoo or the picnic? Travel without comic books meant blank, boring space. As a kid, I suspected I had plenty of time left. Adulthood belonged to some unrelated, untouchable dimension. After all, the grownup belonged to a different species. They knew all the rules. Kids didn’t get detailed explanations until after they broke the side laws.

And I was beyond naïve. As well as profoundly less-than-popular. My youth was shattered on an April night I expected to be murdered. I was in my late teens. In fact, as I screamed out that one of the men was hurting me, he said that it was supposed to hurt. And I expected to be found dead in the beautiful nature I had taken for granted. Details of that event are unnecessary. Let the past remain in the past.

I lived. But my mother reacted against me. As I lay in my bed the next day after returning home from the emergency room, she handed me a rosary. “This is what you need.” And I could not pull my fingers along the familiar beads. Instead I pretended to be in a coffin, and prayed that my room would morph into a funeral home if I remained still long enough.

It did not happen. Friends appeared. Few, but vital—Sue—I haven’t seen her in years. But she planted seeds that took decades to grow.

I write about the positive, the beautiful, the glory of being alive. Even while the difficult, the unfair, the ugly continue to try to destroy the world. I do not want to author a full-length-memoir. Sure, the past exists in the present. Someplace hidden within the body. Those tiny nits never go away, but they can teach instead of dominate. They can open the door for compassion.

I mention my experience now to show that I did not come from a utopian existence. With the help of arms and ears, not advice or dogma, I grew. With the direction of people who showed me that I had untapped talents, I found them. And wrote songs, poems, short stories, and a full-length middle-grade fantasy, The Curse Under the Freckles. Love became possible in a fuller life-isn’t-all-about-me sense.

Now, there are days when I look at the time on the clock, backward in the mirror, and wonder if I can get up yet to begin the day. There may not be a way I can go back and tell the despairing young-girl-me  that she was passing through a desert, not eternal damnation. But I can forgive my mother. She gave the solution she knew, albeit inadequate.

Moreover, I can pass on the word that what sometimes seems to be a dead-end may have an exit. And it can begin with something as simple as a genuine, non-judgmental I-care.

Happy Birthday to me. I don’t ask for seventy more years. Only for each day’s blessings, recognized as completely as possible.

May all know the beauty of who you are.

little Terry on flowered background (2)

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Be who you are. / Give what you have.  (Rose Ausländer )

 I watch my precious six-year-old Ella in Occupational therapy as she threads the letters to her name through a fluorescent green pipe cleaner. She recognizes the letters—she has been reading for more than a year. But she struggles through fine motor skills exercises because of her small hands and shortened fingers. typical for persons with Down syndrome.

At times she breaks away and puts on a show, her head between her knees, a look-at-me-I’m-cute expression on her face. I remain calm without reacting, showing no censure. Only what I hope is a you-can-do-it look. The OT is in charge. And she encourages Ella. With both experience and love.

And I realize how much I treasure my granddaughter because another image of someone with handicaps far more severe, appears in my mind. Her name is Diane Smith. I have never met her except through the written word, Dancing in Heaven, a sister’s memoir by Christine M. Grote.

The book is available through Amazon.

front cover

dancing-in-heaven cover

When Diane was born young Christine had difficulty saying her name. Diane became Annie. In the 1950’s diagnostic skills were primitive. And Annie and her family went through hell as the frightening news appeared. Annie was seriously brain-damaged. She would never walk, talk, live a normal life.

Through Christine’s sensitive, never-glossed-over memories about her sister’s life, Annie becomes real.  Beautiful. An angel spirit in a broken body. Yes, I suggest a box of tissues nearby. But I also recommend absorbing every word.

 Then, perhaps, the next time a man, woman, or child appears bound to a wheelchair at the mall or some other public place, that individual won’t seem either frightening or repulsive. The natural response will be an ability to look the person in the eye and see a unique spirit, perhaps someone with far more courage than many people could fathom.

the author, Christine M. Grote



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The people who help me find my courage are not the ones who swoop in to save the day. They’re the ones who sit with me in the fear puddle and hold my hand while my knees shake. Here’s to the hand-holders. (Nanea Hoffman)

Our blue spruce tree needs a few limbs removed. The tree is being treated for spider mites and a variety of other ailments. Spikes that contain healing potions lead into the ground.

I watch the goldfinch, sparrow, and purple finch at the bird feeder. I have no idea how many have passed through blue spruce’s branches in its forty years in our yard. The number doesn’t matter. My husband and I don’t want to lose our bed-and-breakfast for birds. Even if the squirrels take advantage and eat sumo-wrestler-sized portions of feed. Cats watch and wait for slower flyers. Cooper hawks attack sparrows. Life is not perfect. Anywhere.

As I enter the house, my arms laden with groceries, I notice dead limbs. The word amputate comes to mind. A conversation I had at the store returns in my memory as if it is happening now:

“Terry, hi!”

I stop studying the varieties of paper products and turn around. I see a friend I haven’t seen in eight months. She has been through two rounds of chemo and one course of radiation for breast cancer.

“How are you? I have thought about you so many times.”

“I’m doing okay.” She pulls back a section of her scarf. “See. My hair is growing back in.” She reaches for my hand.

An employee comes by to check something in the aisle. I move to give her room, but don’t let go of my friend’s hand. The warmness of her being washes through me. And I don’t know who is offering whom courage.

She talks about the experience of chemo without putting glossy euphemisms on it. Yet, she is accepting. And hopeful. I have no idea how much time passes and don’t care.

I may have remembered everything on my list. Then again, I could have forgotten an essential item for tomorrow evening’s meal. It won’t matter. Something else will do. Larger matters surround me. Another friend is beginning a second fight against breast cancer. A neighbor lost her husband.

The bare branches will be gone soon. The tree will survive.  I lent my car to a family member this week. She needs it more than I do right now. I used my husband’s car for the weekly grocery trip. Suddenly the car loss appears trivial. The time I have been given to care for at-home chores seems essential. Basic. I’ve been neglecting some core needs. It is time to face them.

The tree reaches into the sky. My friend’s head shows tiny gray stubble. And today begins another day. No promises, but plenty of both sun and fear puddles. And I am grateful to join friends through both.

closeup blue spruce



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