Posts Tagged ‘expecting miracles’

When it’s gone, you’ll know what a gift love was. You’ll suffer like this. So go back and fight to keep it. (Ian McEwan)

Most people, whether they wear glasses or not, believe they see other people with 20-20 vision. I have neither X-ray vision nor psychic powers. But, I can erroneously imagine with little evidence that certain actions have clear causes. For example, a woman in the grocery store rages because the check-out lane isn’t moving fast enough. Obviously, she has an easily lit fuse. And, of course when her son demands candy and gets it, he is spoiled beyond rotten.

However, I don’t know anything about this woman and boy. I can’t document the fact that they are mother and son, not aunt and nephew, or babysitter and child-next-door. Missing facts lead to possibilities when it comes to fiction. I can give the woman a bizarre brain disorder. The boy doesn’t know how to cope and regrets his ornery behavior years later through an unexpected twist in the story line.

In the real world, both speculation and judgment are useless. Even if my original guess is accurate, what does it prove? I’ve limited future possibilities for the woman and child.

I’m reminded of the moment in water aerobics when I was talking with another class member about mundane and comical experiences. My husband joked loudly from the back of the pool. I responded with mock criticism, thinly veiled, since my smile must have reached from ear to ear. “Uh, yeah, he’s mine. We will be married 45 years in July.”

She responded, “My husband died 14 years ago.”

And I realized that I had been caught up in a moment of fun in the water, a few stories we had shared about grandchildren—not kicks through loss and grief.

We continued to talk. I deepened my sharing. We listened to one another. We spoke between jumps up, down, left, and right. We said good-bye on pleasant, perhaps blessed terms. I rode home next to my husband and celebrated human, imperfect, everyday love.

Today, I speak to a young girl, obviously successful. From my point of view. Then, the surprise appears. She has overcome difficulties, yet compares herself to others who have not needed to fight to win. The geniuses. The economically advantaged. I assure her of the beauty I see.

Chances are I have not eradicated all of her uncertainties. Any more than I have erased all of my own. But, I have learned not to assume my vision is 20-20. One more time.

Assumptions about people, groups of people, us versus them, lead to ugliness, disintegration, war. I’d like to eliminate hatred with the right word. The right gesture. It won’t happen. Even if debate and arguments were my forte. That doesn’t mean I can’t affect one person…and then another… and another. I may never know the outcome. I have enough trouble keeping my floors vacuumed. Taking over the job as a god is more than I could fathom. Ever.

Taking over the job as one useful, loving human being in a difficult world, is another matter. One. Only one. That needs to be enough.

rumi gratitude as antidote

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There is no real ending. It’s just the place where you stop the story. (Frank Herbert)

From my grandchildren’s point of view my published book is something like an honorary mention trophy. Nice on a shelf. When I gave my eight-year-old a copy of “The Curse Under the Freckles,” she wanted to know where the pictures were. The girls are more impressed by ice cream—chocolate chips blended in sweet raspberry flavoring. Or a day of pretend with Grandma. Touch a child’s life directly; that is what matters. The words will hit later.

My older son, Gregory Petersen, is also a writer. His book, Open Mike, was published through Martin Sisters several years ago. He is working through an agent with his next book. Greg is capable of writing thousands of words a day even though he has a full-time position that includes a leash phone; he takes his job as daddy seriously. I am more proud of him for his excellent relationship with his daughters than I am for his incredible ability with words. And his gift for expression is exquisite.

All life can be presented as a story. I often have difficulty turning that perception off because imagination doesn’t always fit the moment. For example: in the middle of the night. Oh sure, I’m told to write ideas down, whenever they come. But that doesn’t seem to be realistic when the notion isn’t a one-liner. The rolling avalanche of a plot and the inevitability of sleep deprivation are counter-productive in the long run.

Sometimes relaxation comes from reading—letting the thoughts of others feed me, especially when those thoughts lead to the profound. My sister Claire shared a book she had already read, Same Kind of Different as Me. It fits into the grab-the-soul category. Thanks, Sis.

Authors Ron Hall and Denver Moore tell a true story. Ron is an international art dealer. Denver is a modern-day slave, a sharecropper, who runs away into a life as a homeless person and decides it is better than being unofficially owned. The love of Ron’s wife, Deborah, leads toward an unlikely friendship.

Denver Moore says, “I found out everybody’s different—the same kind of different as me.” What and how he discovered that similarity, the human center-core spirit, is where the beauty of the story lives—sometimes clothed in miracles, or incredible pain, or deep sadness.

Stories never really end. The characters in my own tales develop a kind of reality. But in fiction, at least before publication, entire chapters can be erased and rewritten and then changed again. The past, present, and future are as pliable as soft clay.

In Hall and Moore’s story the facts of their lives remain solid because “The Same Kind of Different as Me” is non-fiction. At the end of the narration at almost seventy, Denver admits he has a lot to learn. The last page is not the last page.

In April Paramount plans to release a movie starring Greg Kinnear, Renee Zellweger, and Djimon Hounsou based on Ron and Denver’s New York Times best seller’s impossible journey. I did not know this until I checked the Internet for more information about the original publication.

Impossible, hidden, a forgotten acorn that becomes an oak…who knows? The story continues…Any story can continue…

same kind of different as me

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You build on failure. You use it as a stepping stone. Close the door on the past. You don’t try to forget the mistakes, but you don’t dwell on them. You don’t let them have any of your energy, or any of your time, or any of your space. (Johnny Cash)

Somewhere around two in the morning I waken with a throbbing right hand. Did I roll over onto it? Did my sleeping body drift into the past and forget that arthritis rules my right thumb. Inflammation tells each movement what it can do and what it can’t. And it is a strict taskmaster.

Of course I rebel. I have writing projects to complete, and the cooking, cleaning, and laundry don’t do themselves. Fantasy appears only in story form. Even on the written page reality intervenes. Sure, I can invent a character, a girl who floats into the air at will. However, if she levitates at the local Seven-Eleven havoc will appear, unless, of course that is part of the plot.

A cold compress helps my hand. It tells it to stop complaining for a few minutes anyway. Somewhat. So does calming thought. But sleep does not return. I get up at four and begin to write, trying to embrace the silence as a gift. I add a page to my next novel, then another. This does not mean they won’t be backspaced later. A story has progressed. The missed sleep will demand to be repaid later. For now I take advantage of the moment.

The ache reminds me that I am alive. Fully. In this moment. I’m told this is the most common form of arthritis. Osteoarthritis. As my parents, aunts, and uncles told me: “It won’t kill you. You’ll just die with it.”

Finding someone with more serious problems is easier than I would like. I’ve been praying for a young friend who is expected to be in intensive care for longer than the two weeks originally expected. She, too, is a writer. And a reader. Her security is a book resting on her chest along with the ambiance of IVs, monitors, and an existence where pain owns the building. She has had two surgeries. Complications continue. So far her miracle begins with survival.

A child close to me has a friend who died of a rare inherited disorder; her sister has the same disease. My little friend is reluctant to talk about her grief. So I cannot reveal her identity. Life and joy do not circumvent difficulties. They travel through them.

The sun peeks through the window of my office, also a toy room, the place where my grandchildren and I play. The rays will find family pictures, disorder, my half-empty coffee cup, and possibilities I don’t see yet.

Sure, I would like to take the brace off my hand post-miracle. But I’m not going to count on it. However, I haven’t typed the ending to my story yet. That choice isn’t mine anyway.


seeing the inside brightness

hand brace09212015_0000

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The world breaks everyone, and afterward, many are strong at the broken places. (Ernest Hemingway)

My husband and I are at the checkout counter at Trader Joe’s. No one is behind us in line. The girl at the register asks us about our day and Jay tells her we are going to visit our granddaughter in the coronary care unit.

The girl at the checkout pauses, and then gets the attention of a fellow employee who gives us a bouquet of flowers for Ella. I doubt that our little one can have flowers in her room yet, but the gesture takes me by surprise. I hope that a few controlled tears represent sufficient gratitude. Kudos to Trader Joe’s for the personal touch.

Jay found a package of somewhat-natural sweets for Ella. We expect her to respond more to taste than sight at the moment, but her parents should appreciate the kindness of multicolored flowers. No kindness is wasted.

My son sent a picture of our girl with her big, bright eyes glowing. Her hands are tied down to various lines. Nevertheless, she opens her mouth for fruit. Ella is a survivor. We count on that.

When we arrive in her room Ella fights sleep. She doesn’t want to miss anything—except perhaps the next poke or prod. She is sans oxygen now, however. Her ventilator came out earlier. Her open heart surgery was 24-hours ago. She is progressing ahead of schedule.

I think about the start Ella had in life: born seven weeks early with a birth weight of three pounds three ounces, duodenal atresia, and an AV Canal heart defect. Yet the nurses fought about who would care for her each day.

She has grown to be an active, enthusiastic five-year-old girl.

As I watch her I worry that this time her spark will burn out. Then I realize I am looking at my fears, not hers. Ella uses her tripled chromosome as a lever for caring. She doesn’t allow ego to get in her way. She isn’t competing with anyone for first place—in anything.

Two days ago she wanted to push me on the swing at a local park. She insisted, and I let her do it.

“Want to go higher, Mawmaw?”


But I kept the toe of my shoe on the ground so that the swing didn’t come back to hit her. The surgeon needed to break through her chest—with skill—not through a clumsy accident. I knew what she would be facing. She didn’t. But somehow she intuited it was time to put on extra charm, keep the grandparents at ease. The trial hadn’t come; we had not arrived at the huge medical bridge that needed to be crossed. Yet.

The cut flowers won’t last. They never do. The store’s gesture remains as a ripple of kindness I need to pass along. The broken places in a person become opportunities—to remain severed or to become something new, something better.

Ella’s surgery was on Thursday. By Sunday she has left behind the ventilator, oxygen, and the lines that connect her to a bed. She stands. She will be running soon. Tylenol or ibuprofen controls her pain. I can’t imagine an adult bouncing back that quickly. Ella doesn’t know misery can be extended by choice.

She isn’t ready to push me on any swings yet. But I can’t imagine that it will take long.

Ella at Mt. Airy Park04242015_0000


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Life isn’t about getting and having, it’s about giving and being. (Kevin Kruse)

 As I’m dusting the windowsill I see the note Kate wrote to Ella, probably several years ago. I saved it because it reflects who Kate is. Ordinarily I choose to publish only quotes and pictures that include correct spelling and grammar. However, there are times when perfection can ruin the beauty of the moment. The sincerity of my eldest granddaughter’s wish blasts out from her innocence. She wants the best for her young cousin. I can’t fault that.

However, no one experiences a perfect life. Our Ella probably understands that better than many people do. She approaches a quarantine time. Her open heart surgery has been postponed twice. Now, so that she can move forward, we must keep her away from crowds and lots of germs. Of course she has no fear of infection. Saturday she dropped a vending machine M&M on a restaurant floor and then picked up the candy and chomped on it. Fear of another sick day does not govern her life.

I would like to delete fear from my own life. I would also like to send a message like Kate’s to a few other folk I know, to wish safety, health, and simple joys.

There is a young woman at a place I visit frequently who has recently had a recurrence of cancer. She is frightened, as anyone would be. She says she does not expect to recover this time.

She shows me the site from her biopsy, just below her throat. We share a few tears. I hug her. This is all I have to give. She says six words that scream a lifetime of experience: “I have always been the oddball.”

We are standing in front of a public bathroom mirror. I want to turn her toward the glass and point out what I see—a beauty that isn’t superficial. Tenacity and willingness to serve don’t appear in a flat reflection. Yet, I can’t find an opening in her spirit to explain that different is not a synonym for inferior. She is devastated, too broken for words to seep in yet.

I recall how I was the taunted kid through twelve grades of school. And I never understood why, except for the innate inferiority theory. After all, my parents never told me that I had gifts of any value.

This young woman has struggled through developmental handicaps. She has gone through chemotherapy. She volunteers. Daily. With a smile. She is in too much pain to understand more than a hug. Moreover, my recent accomplishments can obscure the realities of the past. She doesn’t see a future. Now is not the time for me to talk, but to listen.

Then I see her again this morning. She wears a pink fighting-breast-cancer scarf. She readily accepts my embrace and tells me she is taking her driving test on Tuesday. I grin. She talks about her nervousness. I think about facing tons of steel on the road. I envision this young lady approaching a 32-wheeler on the expressway and crushing cancer in the passing lane.

Perhaps enough people have listened to this volunteer. Maybe she is beginning to see her own worth, prayer answered before it was barely begun…

May that power continue to grow.


Dear Ella



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I knew when I met you an adventure was going to happen. (A.A. Milne)

When my oldest granddaughter was born, eleven years ago today, I was overjoyed. Of course she was the most beautiful baby in the world with big round, observant eyes and her mother’s dark hair. Naturally I was expected to ooh and ah about my grandchild. All babies are wonderful even if they arrive premature, huge, with wild hair or none at all, with or without disabilities. The newborn with more wrinkles than an English bulldog, a perfect clone to a ninety-year-old relative, is a gift.

However, our Kate was incredible from day one. Her bright eyes predicted her future. She would become charismatic and gentle, a natural in social situations, as well as Grandma’s teacher about life and gratitude.

Kate’s parents had child care lined up for when Mommy went back to work. However, I had learned from my mother-in-law how deep a grandparent-grandchild relationship can become. And I wanted that gift. Since I worked part-time Kate and I were together on Fridays.

I was grateful that I did not need to watch my first granddaughter grow from a distance. My computer room became a computer/toy room and it housed balls, cars, and puzzles. Stuffed animals took on human roles. Bears and bunnies ate whatever cook-Kate pretended to prepare for them. We had adventures and read picture books together.

Friday was Toddler Story Time at the library. Kate loved it. In fact, when she refused to leave one day, and then ran away from me and fell, her barrette sliced the back of her head. She recovered from the several-stitches-that-followed long before I did.

Now, Kate sees the places in other people that need stitches—not the kind that can be repaired with a surgical needle and thread. She is the girl who defends the other kids when they are taunted by bullies, the person the child with autism trusts. Kate does not see disability. She sees the person.

And I learn from her beautiful spirit, her enthusiasm, her growth. Actually she is about a hair taller than I am now. She shows me the secrets inside the iPad I don’t understand. She explains the rules of girls’ basketball, but doesn’t give me a hard time when my shots don’t come anywhere close to the basket.

Many years ago she asked me how long I would live. Obviously I didn’t have an answer, but I told her that I hoped to dance at her wedding. She bought the answer. For now I simply wish her peace, and joy, and a special kind of mirror—the kind that sees inside to all the beauty that lives within her spirit, budding, blossoming, becoming even more wonderful every day.

Happy Birthday, Kate! I love you.

learning from children  morning coach


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Friends are those rare people who ask how we are, and then wait to hear the answer. (Ed Cunningham) 

My mind is in my usual run-faster-than-the-clock mode even as I browse through Facebook, something I do for relaxation. I see a message from my new friend, Cecelia. How was your day?

I envision my invisible to-do list, the one that doesn’t place chores and goals in tangible order. It lumps them together, landfill style. I frequently need to stop and re-think my next step. Sure, I have occasionally created lists. However, I tend to lose them or leave them on my dresser while I am on some phase of the day’s plans, miles outside the reach of that paper.

Yet, as I read CeCe’s message I smile. My day has been good, touched by both minor accomplishments and everyday blessings.

Our chat begins with ordinary-life talk, slips into the sublime, and picks up laughs along the way. We travel through the past, present, and future. I notice how the lag between each bubble-of-talk creates comical miscommunications, misplaced antecedents, confusing new topics. They can be easily explained, but are nevertheless humorous. I wish that these misunderstandings could be settled as simply in the real world.

Chat is new to me. Sure, I’ve used Messenger on Facebook—for one-time statements. It is simple on the computer because I am familiar with the full-sized keyboard on my laptop. Besides, my cell is a  basic flip-top. No Internet service. As Cecelia and I tap sentence after sentence I ease into a new age. We will meet in person again. Soon. I hope. However, for now the wrinkles around my neck fade and her fresh twenty-seven years move closer to my sixty-eight. She is wise beyond her age. Our spirits understand one another. She is beautiful both inside and out. And I am blessed by her openness.

Seconds advance into minutes… a half hour… I will save some of my impossibly vague list for tomorrow. Other tasks need to be crossed off my invisible agenda today. For example, a shirt left in the dryer for an hour may be wrinkled; overnight the cloth could resemble a salt-dough-map of the Himalayas. Boiling eggs explode to the ceiling when the water in the pot evaporates.  I only needed to do that once to learn not to do it again.

Eventually I write, Good night. Talk to you later.

Then, we chat just a little bit longer, a few extra words, one more shared smile.

Some gifts need to be savored.

how awesome you are

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