Friday, February 16, 2018

TToT: Wee Small Hours

My work week has ended, and I am restless.  More and more my caseload seems to be driven by the headlines. The past two weeks have brought to light a number of domestic violence situations in the homes of my students.  My mind swirls with the stories I have heard, and sleep aludes me.

Merriam-Webster describes the phrase at home:

1relaxed and comfortable at ease  2   in harmony with the surroundings 

3on familiar ground

Too few young people are growing up feeling relaxed and comfortable.  They cannot feel at ease in a home where violence might erupt at any moment.  Harmony is in short supply, and volatility is all too familiar ground for scores of young people in American homes.

I find myself walking the floor in the wee small hours this morning.  As I include my students in my prayers,  I can't help but recognize how fortunate I am in contrast with what others experience.  There is no reason I should lead such a charmed existence when others struggle.  I cannot explain it, but I can respond with gratitude.

I grew up in a home free from violence.
My husband grew up in a home free from violence.
My children grew up in a home free from violence.
My husband provides a role model of masculinity without machismo.
My home is relaxed and comfortable.
My family is at ease and in harmony.
My work has meaning.
I have been given the opportunity to connect with young people.
I have the privilege of seeing first hand the love of young people for their families.
I have the privilege of supporting young people looking for ways to live lives free from violence.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Going to the Chapel

Danforth Chapel on the campus of Kansas State University
It is safe to say that I am not the woman that my in-laws envisioned as their son's wife. There were regional differences, religious differences, and political differences.  Despite these differences there was one very fundamental commonality we did share.  We all loved their son.
I do believe that they knew this fact to be true by the end of their lives; they seemed less certain at the outset of ours.
There was much tension during the planning of our nuptials.  To make the day easier on all of us we decided to have a small wedding for immediate family only.  We would hold it in the "all faiths" chapel on the campus where we met.
The morning of the wedding there were a few last minute details to see to.  My groom and I had agreed to tackle the tasks together, but he could not be reached that morning. Miffed, I finished the jobs on my own and prepared myself for the ceremony.
It wasn't until much later that I learned he was tackling something much more difficult than any of the tasks I had in mind.  He was standing up to the parents he loved as they attempted to persuade him not to go through with the wedding.
While waiting with my sisters for our cue to enter the chapel word came that the men of the bridal party were ready whenever we were.
As I stepped into the aisle at the back of the chapel, I linked arms with my dad and took a deep breath.  I looked up and saw the man I loved waiting for me.  He looked small and uncertain until he looked into my eyes.
A smile crossed his face and lines crinkled in the corners of his eyes.  I stepped forward moving towards him, moving towards our future.  The closer I came to both, the tighter my chest felt.
I was overwhelmed with emotion.  When it came time for my vows I could not speak. My tears flowed unchecked.  Silently, he reached into the pocket on the inside of his tux and removed a white handkerchief.  Gently, while looking into my eyes and smiling he wiped my tears away.
Struggling, I could only speak loudly enough to make my vows known to the kindly priest.  That was enough.  He proclaimed us husband and wife.
What God has joined together, let no man put asunder.  Thirty-three years, one month and nine days later no man has.
In that time there have been many tears, some of joy, some of sorrow.  Without fail, my wonderful husband has been right by my side to dry my eyes.

For my valentine:  When love is certain it can overcome obstacles.  In overcoming obstacles, love becomes more certain.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Valentine's Kiss

My valentine woke me today
The way he has nearly every morning for going on three decades now
With a kiss
Not a long, passionate kiss
But a short, efficient kiss
Setting off the fact that we have been given the gift of another day
And we should not waste it

Sunday, February 11, 2018

TToT: Holding onto Hope

We had tickets to the symphony last night.  I was tired, and not in the least enthusiastic about leaving the house on a bitterly cold night that was promising to become icy.  In the end I was glad I did.
The program was a celebration of Black History Month.  It opened with pieces from Porgy and Bess; Gershwin is consistently good for my soul. Another set featured pieces by William Grant Sills, the first African-American to compose an opera.
Hands down my favorite part of the night was a powerful delivery of Martin Luther King Jr.'s I Have a Dream speech.  As the poetry of the words spoken in the rich tones of Richard Todd Payne's voice filled the auditorium, the symphony played Precious Lord, Take My Hand and We Shall Overcome in the background. The effect was incredibly moving.  Any residual hesitation about leaving the comfort of my home I might have still clung to melted away as Payne spoke of the symphony of brotherhood and my heart felt a sense of hope for our country that it hadn't felt in a long time.

Ten Things of Thankful
Music that soothes the savage soul
The wise and lovely words of Martin Luther King Jr
A reminder that this country has faced difficult times filled with hate and anger in the past, and has managed to weather the storm
A closely related reminder that this too shall pass
Strong voices who lead in peace through example
The arts
The company of my husband
My community

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Filling an Empty Nest

Thinking of Shakespeare and Company, I decided to share this piece from 2015 once more.  
Prompt: If you could have given yourself a snapshot five years ago of what your life is like now, what would the picture be of and how do you think you would have felt about it?

 Five years ago, I had adjusted well to my oldest child being a college student three states away.  My other two kids were in high school though the end was in sight.  I so enjoy having the three of them around that I was not looking forward to the emptying of my nest.

My wise friend June was in the same stage of life.  She told me that we had to figure out what made us personally happy and pursue it.  What she understood was that our nests wouldn’t feel so empty if they were filled with what we loved other than our children. 

And so I rekindled love:  the love and friendship that my husband and I shared as newlyweds;  my love of creating art or something like it;  and my love of reading.  While all my rekindled loves bring me joy, it is my reading that has surprised me with its voraciousness.  Each night as I lay in bed it is not the stillness that has replaced footfalls on the stairs that I hear, but the adventures re-experienced with characters I’ve known forever or new escapades with those I have just discovered.  I feel no loneliness in the wee hours as my husband sleeps peacefully by my side because I am kept company by historical figures and fictional friends page after page.

The greatest accomplishment of my life is motherhood.  The times that my children are nestled under my roof are still my favorite times of all.  But the other times–the quiet times of solitude and contented partnership have a magic of their own.  Like all great stories, as life unfolds I am surprised and entranced by the plot twists, especially those which I could have not predicted such as an empty nest where a sense of emptiness is completely foreign to me.

Snapshots taken at an English bookstore, Shakespeare and Company, in Paris, France.

TToT: Shakespeare and Company

It is not my usual habit to include material items in my count of things I feel thankful for, but the parcel that arrived via Deutsche Post today represents much more than the material.

In November I saw an Instagram post from Shakespeare and Company, an English bookstore in Paris.  The post explained The Year of Reading program offered by the bookstore.  Shakespeare & Co employees would package their recommended reads for the lucky participant to discover in their mailbox throughout 2018.  Immediately I sent the post on to my daughters who received it politely, but with far less enthusiasm than I would have anticipated.  So, I thought maybe it was just me who found the concept intriguing.  I mulled it over for days finally deciding that I was not comfortable spending the amount being charged on a gift for myself.

What I didn't realize until Christmas was that one daughter had seen the same post minutes before I did.  She had already shared it with her sister, and they were discussing what a perfect gift it would make for me as they received my forwarded post. They were getting in touch with their brother and father and didn't need me complicating their plans.  

The first of three installments arrived today.  It did not disappoint.  The attention to detail in the packaging made my heart race just opening the box.  Literary quotes cover the wrappings.

The bags are sealed with the company logo, and it is also stamped inside each book.  Each of the books is wrapped with a note from the staff person who chose it explaining why they picked this particular book for the package.

Tucked inside each book is a bookmark featuring a different photographic image from the bookstore.  On a sheet of stationery a poem has been typed on an old typewriter in the store.  A poem is tucked into each book.  One of the books is even signed by the author.

Everything about this package was meant to make a literary nerd's heart swoon...and it succeeded.  

Which brings me to my list of Ten Things of Thankful this week:

For books and for words that have the power to move me.
For talented writers.

For Paris and memories of browsing at Shakespeare and Company.  For grown children who are intrepid world travelers and have encouraged me to be as well.

For the four incredible and generous people I am lucky enough to claim as my family.  They are the very best gifts of all. 


I am cheating a bit. The Last Nice Thing Someone Did for You was one of the prompts for the Writer's Workshop this week.  I saw the prompts right after posting this piece, and knew it works for that prompt as well.
mama kat