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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Spirit's Vacation

Sometimes there is just too much reality to deal with. It is at those times that I need most to be outside. Something about being out doors helps make the reality somehow more managable and smaller, less important in the over all scheme of things. Whether it is a long walk or just enjoying a cup of coffee in the back yard, the beauty and honesty of nature somehow brings things into perspective. What is more honest than the way a branch moves in the wind, or a bird flying through the sky, and what is more beautiful than the shape of a tree or the sky reflected in the surface of a lake? How reassuring it is to know that in the spring the grass will grow, in the summer flowers will bloom, in the autumn leaves will explode into a riot of color, and in the winter colors will be muted and shapes revealed. Getting lost in thought even for a few moments is such a relief and vacation for the spirit, a reminder that God is with us, for how else could everything be so balanced, so beautiful. When I return to my personal realities, it is with a fresh sense of acceptance, optimism, and faith that somehow everything will be good in the end.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Shopping Zombies

As I approached the intersection of the parking lot that would lead to the center aisle in front of our local big box department discount store I noticed an unusually large number of people walking toward the entrance. “Wow!” I mused, “What are they giving away to bring all these people out today?” Once inside, with my list in hand I perceived that there weren’t actually that many people in the store. Guess we just all happened to arrive at the same time.
I was walking toward the grocery department, trying to figure out where everything is now that the holidays are over and they have done some rearranging. I just hate it when they rearrange everything in a store, I am the kind of shopper that just wants to get in, get my stuff, and get out, and rearrangement makes it nearly impossible to do that. As I was looking around I noticed something about my fellow shoppers. They were all walking around (as I’m sure I was) with a glazed, zombie like expression. As if once inside the store something takes over the mind. On a few of the faces I thought I recognized the same thing I was feeling, an overwhelming sense of confusion brought on by too much information to process quickly. Occasionally one of us would stop and look around, like a small child who has lost sight of his mother, until we found the direction we needed to go. Perhaps this is one of the reasons I don’t truly enjoy shopping. I don’t think that I’ve seen the same expression on the faces of the shoppers at a small out door market that I’ve seen in a magazine or a clip on the TV. Those people all seem to have their wits about them and know exactly what they are looking for and which stall to find it at.
The same thing happens at those big home improvement stores. I don’t recall my father ever walking into our local hardware store and looking around as if he was lost. Then again, in my father’s day there would be a nice friendly clerk around to say hello and ask if he needed assistance. It was a different time. Last winter, on the night before a big storm was expected, we realized that we were too low on ice melter to be able to wait until another day to buy some. I remember that parking spots were hard to come by and that once inside the huge cavern of hardware & home improvement, we became confused. We did stop at the courtesy desk and inquire as to the whereabouts of ice melter. The woman working pointed us in the general direction and off we went with our empty shopping cart. As we walked, I felt the need to look behind me and suddenly it was like a scene from some bizzarr remake of “Night of the Living Dead: Suburban Winter” as there were what seemed like hoards of fellow ice melter searching zombies following behind. We picked up the pace and arrived in time to see the last bag being loaded into someone else’s cart. Standing there, looking around in eye glazed confusion wondering among ourselves how it could be that there was no more ice melter, one of us over heard two employees talking about a “secret stash” of ice melter in the corner of the contractor’s entrance behind the lift truck. “Quick!” I urged my husband, “Go get a bag!” He was already on his way, but so were about 6 other male zombies, who had heard of the secret stash. One man with his zombie like strength jumped over the forks of the lift truck and was loading several bags into his cart. The people who arrived shortly after the initial word got out rushed over and I lost sight of my husband for a minute or two. Anxiously my daughter and I waited, not breathing, until finally he emerged triumphantly carrying a bag of ice melter. It was a sad thing to witness those who were not so lucky, looking on in consternation at the empty pallet and the bag of ice melter in the carts of those of us who were lucky enough to have arrived in time. Next, it was a race to the registers. No one wanted to linger lest things turned ugly and people started stealing the ice melter they desperately needed. Clearly those jumbo sized stores are not good for our brain function.
Fortunately for the general well being of our society the zombie like trance of the big box stores mostly disappears once we are out of them. With any luck, I won’t have any need to visit one of them any time soon.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Hot Chocolate Memory

By Susan Donald
When I was a kid I spent a week every summer with my grandparents at their farm house in Phillipsburg, NJ. My grandmother, Mama, was a sturdy woman of mixed German and Scotch descent. I was the only daughter of her youngest daughter, who was the youngest of seven children. My oldest brother stayed for 3 weeks, as there were 4 of us and my grandparents could probably only handle 2 of us at a time. The first night of our stay was always a bit teary since I missed my parents very much, as most young children are likely to do. Having had seven children and numerous grandchildren, Mama knew of an excellent way to bridge the gap between tearfully waving at parents and siblings driving away and a peaceful night’s sleep for all. She would take us into the big old farm house kitchen with the circle of a florescent bulb casting a dim yellowish light on the big wooden table and make us some hot chocolate. Not the instant kind, the kind where you heat the milk in a sauce pan on the stove and then stir in the chocolate and sugar before pouring the delicious liquid into a mug. Then she’d get out a box of graham crackers and we’d talk and munch waiting for the cocoa to cool enough to sip without burning our lips. By the time we were finished, we had nearly forgotten about how much we missed our family and were looking forward to the week ahead, filled with lazy days playing by the creek, rolling down the grassy hill, card games, and feeding the black birds crusts of bread each night after dinner. There must have been a hundred of them. The lawn would be covered with them eating the bread and then they would take off as one forming a large black cloud as they noisily returned to the trees. I have never forgotten the healing power of hot chocolate.
When my oldest daughter was about 9 years old, I felt like she needed some prompting to talk to me about whatever was bothering her, and to get her homework done. I took to making us mugs of hot chocolate and just sitting across the table from each other. There is something about that which makes things cozy and invites confidences. It was with this comfort in mind that I packed up a dozen home made sugar cookies and a couple of packets of hot chocolate and tucked them into my daughter’s bag as she was leaving to return to college. Hot chocolate can really help make things cozy and homey.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


So I went to a concert today at Hillary's school to see her perform with the chorus. They did a program about Martin Luther King, Jr. It was nice, and they had Hillary with her aide on stage with the chorus and she was playing a drum and a tambourine. As I sat there I was torn between being happy that she was being actively included in something that she obviously enjoyed, and feeling kind of sad and tired of watching Hillary doing pretty much the same thing and feeling like I was pretending that she could really do it herself. It was bittersweet to be sure. Most of what I do with Hillary is bittersweet. Happy that she is being given the chance to do "normal" things and have a happy life, sad that she can't enjoy them the same way that I would. But if she is enjoying things in her own way, why should that be sad? We all experience life in a slightly different way, no two people take the same thing away from a shared experience.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

So change can come suddenly and without warning. How you react is what makes the difference. Don't really like change much, but it is inevitable. I especially don't like sudden change that comes with life altering experiences and decisions.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Where Are the Paper Bags?

In search of the elusive paper bag. Just can't seem to get them any more at my local supermarket. We have to ask for them, and most of the time they say they don't have any. What is up with that? I use them to recycle the newspapers. Can't recycle newspapers in plastic bags! Don't need more of the plastic bags, anyway. No place to recycle them any more around here, except to use them as small garbage bags, which I do, or take them back to the store on shopping days. I have some of the "green" bags that I either bought or got as a giveaway at some event, and I do use them, but ...I really need some paper bags! I saw a cashier with one today when I was using the self check lane. I left my stuff and went to the spot he got it from, but there weren't any there. My question is what happened to them? Is there a secret compartment, or can only employees see them? And why can't we have them? I would have pursued this further, but I didn't want someone else to take my stuff that I just paid for, and I was on a time limit because I had to make sure I was home in time to get Hillary off the bus. Perhaps there is some secret code word that one has to know in order to get the paper bags. But how can I find out the secred code word? Where do we get it? It sure is a well kept secret! I remember when all there was available was paper bags, even at department stores. I prefer the sound of a crisp paper bag to the slippery rustle of a plastic bag. Paper bag, paper bag, where for art thou, paper bag? Perhaps they will do a story on the disappearing paper bag on the news one day. They should put a reporter on the case, and get to the bottom of it because surely I am not the only one who would prefer a paper bag.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Welcome to my blog! 

broken shells

Anyone who has ever spent time on vacation as a beachcomber knows that what you are looking for is the perfect, complete shell. No cracks, nothing broken off, beautifully polished by the ocean; whole. This is what I was always looking for, passing over the broken, slightly imperfect, and small pieces of broken shells. They were not perfect, so why give them another thought? What value were they to anyone? You couldn’t put them on display, say “look what I found!” with pride. No, at best you might put them in the bottom of a potted plant for drainage. How could they possibly be worth anything? Let them be--eventually maybe they would be pulverized and become part of the sand, easily forgotten.
That is what I used to do, and think. What changed my mind? My children. I say that like I have so many. I have two. Two girls. One whole and perfect, the other broken, imperfect. Oh, she looks perfect in her baby pictures. But look at her when she’s a little older and you can see right away. Even if the wheelchair didn’t tip you off, the low facial muscle tone would, as would the drooling and a host of other things. She is my youngest. Is she the one who taught me to see the beauty of broken shells? Well, not really. That honor goes to the older one. When Anna was a small child and we would go to the beach, she helped me look for shells, but she was not as discriminating as I was. She looked for pretty colors, nice shapes, interesting patterns, no matter whether it was whole or just a small broken piece. To her it didn’t matter. She would bring them to me as if they were diamonds, precious pieces to be wondered at and admired, displayed with pride when we got home . That was when I began to see the beauty of broken shells. When Hillary came along and we realized that she was “broken”, it was a devastating shock to all of us except Anna. To her, she was just her sister, someone to play with and love, someone of great value--like the broken shells she used to bring me. It was Anna who saved me from falling apart. There she was, just being a kid, talking to and playing with her sister, introducing her to her friends as if she were just like their siblings. In some ways that was true, she was a rival for our attention, she made noise and needed us. If Anna needed to have a ride to scouts with someone else, it was it was the same as the other kids. The only difference was the reason she needed one. While the other kids might need a ride because their sibling had soccer at the same time on the other side of town, Anna needed one because her sister had physical therapy. To her it was the same basic thing--she needed to be at point A at the same time Hillary needed to be at point B.. It was I who felt the abnormality of the whole thing. When I just stopped and looked at Hillary through Anna’s eyes, I could see that in spite of her “brokenness”, she was the perfect sister. Someone to be placed right along side her friends’ siblings, someone who was a natural part of her life, her family, and of great value.
Watching how Anna developed a relationship with Hillary taught me that every shell, every person, whether whole or broken or just a sliver of what they were intended to be, was beautiful and valuable and worthy of a place of honor. And so I see my daughters as shells, one whole and perfect, the other one a sliver that has such great beauty I simply do not care that she isn’t whole. I’m just glad that she is.