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Posts Tagged ‘experience’

When I was 5 years, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy.’ They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life. (John Lennon)

 The young Beatle-to-be obviously didn’t have nuns as teachers. He would have been knocked down a step or two, or three, or four. With or without a cracking ruler.

If only happiness didn’t need to be pursued. I tell my grandchildren they are important often. Sure, action and discipline remain necessary. The-world-owes-me makes a sad goal. However, a happy-to-be-alive everyday life isn’t easy to achieve.

“You need to live to be 138,” one grandchild told me recently. “I’m going to need you that long.”

Sweet. Yes. And yet a potent message. A need to be assured remains powerful.

The little things. Always the little things. How well or poorly are they set together?

 

 

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Know you what it is to be a child? It is to be something very different from the man of to-day. It is to have a spirit yet streaming from the waters of baptism; it is to believe in love, to believe in loveliness, to believe in belief; it is to be so little that the elves can reach to whisper in your ear; it is to turn pumpkins into coaches, and mice into horses, lowness into loftiness, and nothing into everything, for each child has his fairy godmother in his own soul. (Francis Thompson)

 Instead of a rant about racial prejudice, I reprinted this long-ago blog from March of 2011. I will let the children in the scene speak. May their innocence win.

 

A two-year-old girl at the Museum Center in Cincinnati protects one of the Children’s Center’s naked dolls as if it were her own. Her mother laughs. “I wonder how we are going to get out of here without it.” I watch as it becomes clear that she only wants this brown doll, not a nearly identical pale one she picks up by mistake. The little girl has ivory skin and wisps of honey hair, but she gravitates toward color.

 

 Funny, more of the pale dolls appear abandoned on the floor of the toddler room than darker-skinned ones. I smile, then laugh when I see my granddaughter Rebe making the same choice. “Baby” goes down the slide with her, takes a trip to the grocery in a miniature grocery cart, and explores the sandbox. Sometimes the doll is held upside down, but Rebe is visibly upset if “Baby” disappears into the arms of another child.

 

 Fortunately, I find another. Lots of pale faces lying around. But Rebe is not satisfied with the Caucasian version. As soon as the doll she wants is left for a second, she adopts it, with the speed of a hawk diving for prey.

    

True, Rebe has grown up in a mixed racial community. So did her father. But it seems that another awareness is involved here, on an innocence level lost long before adulthood. I think of the number of adjectives that describe darker skin, from mocha to mahogany to ebony. I can’t think of anywhere near as many words to describe fair and olive-skinned folk. 

 

Little people don’t need words. They go to the essence of a beautiful reality without it.

The photo is created from a simple colored penciled public domain photo, designed to mimic innocence. 

 

 

 

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Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift. That is why it is called the present. (Eleanor Roosevelt.)

On this day in 1946, I was the huge bulge in my mother’s middle that made her enormously uncomfortable. In the last few weeks of pregnancy, a hole in my umbilical cord fed her instead of me. She didn’t appreciate it. I don’t blame her.

 I appeared six days later, scrawny, my head the size of an orange. I was malnourished. For the first and last time in my life. Mom wondered why I was so red, wrinkled, and ugly.

The nurses didn’t let her hold me. I was rushed to the nursery. They told her I was all right. Too small. Four pounds and a few more ounces. But okay. A contradiction.

 Would I believe that reason for separation? I’m not sure.

 Too much distance now. In a bonding that never happened. In years. In my mother’s death. In the changes in the economy. Pictured is a typed bill. For ten days in a newborn nursery. Sixty dollars, the current cost a hospital may charge for an aspirin.

 No, I can’t see the print without a magnifying glass either. The past. The present. Neither can be explained with a dogmatic approach. Better in some ways. Worse in others.

 We choose what we know. Now. I pray to choose and love well.

 

 

 

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We’re capable of much more than mediocrity, much more than merely getting by in this world. (Sharon Salzberg, Real Love: The Art of Mindful Connection)

 Unstable weather. Tornadoes. Sun, wind, rain take turns crapshoot style. While a novel virus spreads like something from a horror movie. And yet, somehow, love hasn’t died. My sister-in-law drops off an Easter lily. Neighbors check on us. We pass our blessings on. As news channels broadcast possibilities—none of them definite.

 A friend calls. She’s lonely and wants to visit. It hurts to tell her, “not now.”

 Our birdfeeder is empty. The feed will come. Eventually. When we can get to a store.

 Love. It’s so imperfect.

 My husband and I follow YouTube aerobics in front of our picture window. Our performance is below par, at best. Yet, our relationship deepens during this homebound time when human faults could tear a couple apart.

Are we better people? Good glory, no! Just lucky. We discovered a few life tools, crapshoot style. Sure, the tension could get to us at any time. We could forget. Let aches and pains tell us we need to be center of the universe, or at least the household.

 What is important? Now. A house that sparkles or a home that welcomes change, life as it is? The presence of a husband who thanks me for everything I do. The goodness of a neighbor who cuts our grass as I type. I pray to see blessings. Speak gratitude. Often.

 My husband has a unique skill. When he knows I’m irritated about something, he makes me laugh. I don’t want perfect in a mate. Not really. We would have nothing in common.

 Spring appears with open blossoms. A beginning. Always another beginning. Yes, there will always be an ending. In between are other days.

 

 

 

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open door

The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them. (Ernest Hemingway

In 2012 I wrote a journal during Lent when memories of trauma ate through the present. Today I survive, as imperfectly as everyone else. I decided to reread an entry or two. This story appeared on an ordinary Wednesday when I was babysitting two of my granddaughters. Rebe was four and Ella was a toddler:  

I’m rinsing breakfast dishes as the doorbell rings. Jay is busy with Ella, so I answer. Outside a young girl stands sobbing. She asks to use our phone.

     “Who are you?” I ask.

     She doesn’t answer. Instead she tells me her boyfriend beat her up, and she wants to call the police.

     Jay is standing behind me by now. He holds Ella. I don’t know what else to do. I don’t want this girl standing out in the cold. I let her in and get her a glass of water, then finish the dishes as she calls from our living room.

     When I get back, Ella blows kisses to her and the girl smiles and tells me she has a one-year-old child.

     “How old are you?”

     “Eighteen.”

     The girl’s skin is a flawless ebony. I would have guessed she was much younger.

     While I don’t watch the clock, it seems like a long time until two policewomen arrive in two separate cars.

     We leave the room. I need to change Ella’s diaper anyway. On our way into the bedroom we hear one of the officers ask, “So why do you stay with him?”

     Apparently this is not a first-time event.

     After the girl leaves with bus money we provide, one of the policewomen comes back into the house and chides us for our kindness. This girl’s live-in is trouble. It is her choice to remain in jeopardy. Drugs are an issue.

       We should have called the police and made her stay on the porch. Twenty-twenty hindsight. (Although, an addition added to this entry in 2020, I doubt I would have followed her advice. After all, an abused eighteen-year-old girl is a child in need.)

Ella as a baby

       I am relieved later while Ella and Rebe watch Caillou, a children’s cartoon show, where a lost toy dinosaur is the only problem. Two little girls wrapped in the discovery of a stuffed toy and the loving concern of Caillou’s father.

     Real life isn’t always that sweet. I have been fortunate. My flaw today was trust. Yet, I pray that our little Ella’s blown kisses can be a blessing into the soul of this lost girl. A seed, perhaps. One that can grow someday, even if I never see it blossom.

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She generally gave herself very good advice, (though she very seldom followed it.) Lewis Carroll

Take one opinion.

Call it the whole.

Shout your words

with venom if necessary.

Cover your home,

your car, every space you touch

with bumper stickers, clever words,

succinct, biting,

so simple and transparent

an ostrich could strut

your message across a zoo.

Then flick on the television,

curl up in your favorite chair,

or lie on a distant beach,

and revel in the comfort of your truth.

Relax, with food and wine within reach,

your part completed.

 

(originally published in For A Better World)

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Hygge is about having less, enjoying more; the pleasure of simply being… Louisa Thomsen Brits, The Book of Hygge: The Danish Art of Living Well

Hygge time. A Danish concept. Moments when we are grateful and aware of the now. Not yesterday or tomorrow. Snow falls while Jay and I sip coffee.

He tells me about someone he met at the pool. “I killed two kids,” the man told him.

My first thoughts are DUI or an accident, but this is my time to listen. The man is a veteran. He followed the command to shoot. Children sometimes carried explosives. The dead are not people; they are the enemy. Saved by the military.

Jay tells him it wasn’t his fault. He did what he was told to do. The man answered, “But I pulled the trigger.”

Now that moment explodes through the man’s head. A mantra called PTSD, created by the battlefield. Guilt with no place to go. He wants someone to apologize for the command. Jay can only listen, a powerful tool for the moment. Not an immediate answer.

The man left the pool.

I had been looking out our front window and watching the lines formed by the houses in our neighborhood. The homes. I look for the focal point I have been discovering in art class. As a student at age 73.

Even a simple line remains true and honest, then easily misunderstood by point of view. A tilted camera. An I-already-know attitude. In the photo I didn’t want a picture of my car, the house across the street. I didn’t want the half-iced street. This tilt is obvious. Not every slant is.

In the picture I know the difference. In real life, perception can be blurry in ways that have nothing to do with eyesight.

The whiteness won’t stay. Neither will ten o’clock on a February Saturday morning. However, I hope the integrity inherent in a few moments on an ordinary couch, remains and grows into whatever I need to be now. Into tomorrow. Into each giving opportunity as it opens.

 

 

 

 

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Courage doesn’t happen when you have all the answers. It happens when you are ready to face the questions you have been avoiding your whole life. (Shannon L. Alder)

The summer of 1963. I’m at a journalism workshop in Detroit to prepare for a position on my high school magazine. And I have a date. Other pre-seniors, a group of at least six, give advice about makeup.

“More eyebrow pencil. They look pale. Lost.”

A description of how I felt. Strange. I had a date. With a guy I’d just met. Not the love of my life, but someone who would introduce me to a fancy restaurant and frog legs. Yet my memory of the moment says I wasn’t enough.

Today I look in the mirror and see one red, irritated eye. The itching is a unique form of torture and I am grateful for antibiotic drops. Pink eye is temporary. Human frailties are not.

I have survived adolescence by now. However, what is this thing in me that says rest must be limited? Does laundry really need to be done, now? I need to type even when the letters could be more fog than print. I take a break, a short one. Maybe not-good-enough has morphed through the years. Soothed with action.

The new year begins. May I remain open to change, especially if it doesn’t seem easy. Time to focus on the real. And grow inside both joy and turmoil.

 

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Men are not moved by things but by the views which they take of them. (Epictetus)

ICED WINDOWS, FROSTED VISION

 

White sky and ground

blend into a seamless horizon

where snow-encased branches dominate

as threat or as beauty,

whether the scene is viewed

from a ditch or a window.

 

December, January, February,

eased into March,

the months where

six-pointed flakes commune,

 

fragile alone, yet bound gaining

the power of a frozen battlefield

or the awe of nature’s art.

 

a bond for better or worse

solid, white yet susceptible

to dirt, ugliness, separation.

 

Which moment, light or dark,

will settle in the spirit when

ice succumbs to bright sky again

and tree buds loosen their grip?

 

I kick off my boots

and let them dry in a warm house.

I allow my toes to find feeling again,

then embrace soot, crystal beauty,

and battlefield.

 

Life belongs to the whole.

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We must find time to stop and thank the people who make a difference in our lives. (John F. Kennedy)

One dollar. I want to keep this one separate from the others in my wallet. Long enough to celebrate the moment. When I told my friend Ann that my sister-in-law needed serious surgery, she asked me to get a card and sign it for her. Ann is blind. She doesn’t know my family. She gives out of kindness.

Her dollar is a symbol. When I see it, I think of a simple woman’s generosity. Her borderless love. I could resemble a worn scarecrow or discarded carved pumpkin; she wouldn’t care. Our house could have dirty windows with bedsheet drapes. It wouldn’t matter. (Our windows are properly clothed. I can’t make false claims about their condition.)

I made a card for my sister-in-law. I will give it to her, signed with Ann’s full name. Ann can have the dollar back. Of course, I won’t be surprised if I see it again. Marked to be given for someone else. I suspect this is what real-world love is all about.

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