Saturday, January 21, 2017

We, The People, Are Calling on Our Better Angels

I got out A Writer's Book of Days thinking that a random writing prompt might take my mind off the inauguration.  (Hmm...Not so much!)  Today's prompt:  The passing of hours

For the past twenty-four hours I have felt as though my feet are embedded in tar.  Picking them up and moving forward has taken more energy than I can muster.  I felt this same way in the days after the election.  Yet, as the details of the election came out, and it became clear that Donald Trump was not chosen by a majority of my fellow citizens, I began to feel hope returning.  
Yesterday was demoralizing for me.  This man does not sound presidential.  The words that issue from his mouth are not intended to build us up.  They are not meant to call us to a higher purpose.  Yet with each passing hour, something unexpected is happening.  People are banding together--in DC, across the country, even across the world.  We, the people, have begun to speak for ourselves.  And the things we are saying are not the same vile, disrespectful things that have issued forth from that man's mouth over the course of the past year.  They are words of unity, words of healing.  We are making promises to the least of these that you are not alone, we are with you.
Wouldn't it be something if the most divisive man in recent American history inadvertently united us?  What if his message of intolerance itself became so intolerable that those of us who have remained too quiet for too long suddenly took a stand?  What if liberty and justice for all became our demand instead of a phrase we mumble as we recite a pledge from rote memory?  Maybe then the citizens of this nation would be moved towards reconciliation.  Maybe then we would select a person of character and dignity to lead us through the coming days with words befitting a person worthy of the presidency such as these from Abraham Lincoln's first inaugural address..

We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Old Glory

I was thinking this morning how recognizable the American flag is.  Its stars and stripes, a bright representation of where we started and what we’ve become boldly depicted in the red, white and blue of which we are so proud.  Yet even when something happens to dim those colors, we remain steadfast.  Plain as ever are the stars of all fifty states and the stripes of our fore-bearers.  The icon is important, but the people it represents are what truly matter.  It is our strength, our wisdom, our values and our love of humanity that lend the true brightness to our flag.  Long may she wave!

Monday, January 16, 2017

TToT: Things I Remember

Sharing more photos of the Glockenspiel in Marienplatz, Munich, Germany.  Memories of this place will always be among my favorites.  February 2016.

I have been thinking about the concept of memory this week.  My brother and sister-in-law are planning a trip to the Grand Canyon soon and called to get pointers from us about what we saw there a few summers back. Unfortunately, mere hours before we went,  a large roll of school bulletin board paper fell on my foot badly breaking my big toe.  As a result I saw the Grand Canyon through the fog of pain medication.  It wasn’t until the conversation with my brother and his wife that I realized I really have no memory of the Canyon itself.  I am sure it is very pretty, but I couldn’t swear to it. I could say with certainty that there is a bench up top that provides a great place for a mother and daughter to talk while others hike.  There is a mini-bus that takes you to different spots near the edge to give you the best views, but somehow the image of the mini-bus is much clearer in my mind than the views we must have enjoyed.  Memory is a funny thing.

I read the book The $64 Tomato this week written by one of my favorite authors, William Alexander.  In the closing Alexander writes, “Things I remember: Witnessing childbirth. Finding myself standing absolutely alone before Da Vinci’s Last Supper.  And planting potatoes on a perfect spring morning.”

And so “in memory” of things I have already forgotten, and celebration of things I can still picture clearly, here is my own (ten) Things I remember:
I remember spilling an entire bottle of orange soda–back in the days when the bottles were thin, and tall, and glass– down the front of my new pristine white turtle neck.  I remember crying as my mom slipped it over my head and into sudsy water that made the orange go away.

I remember Mom, my brothers, and I gathered at the front screen door watching a rare downpour in our dry prairie town.  The creek across the street, filled to overflowing, rushed through the City Park and across town.

I remember the first time my heart was broken and the boy who did the breaking.
I remember snow wet and cold on my cheeks as I flew downhill on an old wooden sled.

I remember moving back to my hometown for a semester while my soon-to-be husband finished college.  I remember sitting at the dining room table with my dad, him telling me it means so much to your mom to have these months with you before you get married.
I remember marrying that young man and being so choked with emotion I couldn’t say my vows.

I remember wanting a baby for so long and finally holding a test stick in my hand that said she was on the way.  I remember the shear panic of feeling I could never be the mother she deserved.
I remember seeing her face on a sonogram one week and looking down into that same face for real the next week, and being numb as the reality set in that this small creature really was mine. I remember what it is like to feel the blossom of love unfold and grown inside your heart instantaneously.

I remember nursing another baby and being startled by the big brown eyes instead of green gazing back at me.  I remember the young woman with those same brown eyes sitting by my side on a bench atop the Grand Canyon years later so I wouldn’t be alone.

They say you can tell a lot about the qualities of a man by the way he treats his mother.  I remember a son who has been by my side when I have experienced loss and has gathered me in his arms and shown me comfort.

All of these things I remember, and I am thankful.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

The Soup Pot

Today the temperatures dipped into the range of real winter temperatures.  In an otherwise fairly wimpy winter this caught my attention.  Since I had the day off I decided to make the most of it. For this mild-mannered homebody “making the most of it” meant getting some homemade bread on the rise and then pulling out the soup pot.
Making a pot of homemade soup on a blustery winter day is one of life’s simple and great pleasures to me.  The pot itself suggests abundance before the first chopped vegetable hits its bottom.  It is substantial and requires a bounty from the pantry and the refrigerator.  By virtue of my ability to fill this pot I understand that I am surrounded by plenty.
I chop the vegetables by hand.  The repetitive rhythm gives me time to think about the people I am preparing this soup for.  In its way it is like a prayer sent up for each member of the family for their health and well being.
As the vegetables begin to simmer in a pat of butter they give off an earthy fragrance that reminds me that spring and another growing season lie just around the corner.  Soon the earth will bud and bloom, but for now we rest.  The air is redolent with herbs and the smell of the soup that will warm us from the inside out.  Just now I want nothing more than to hunker down at home on this quiet night with good food and better company.
As the soup simmers on top of the stove and the oven heats the bread, the kitchen gets steamy.  When I began my project a leaf on the viburnum bush shivered outside the window above the cooktop.  The soup simmered and brewed for so long the window is now opaque from condensation and the quaking of the leaf is no longer in view.  Inside my little house all is warm and cozy.
Soup’s on!

Saturday, January 14, 2017

TToT: Potential Ice Storm

Thursday after work I headed to the grocery store along with most other people in town.  The weather forecast featured eerie photos of ice storms past--fallen power lines, stranded vehicles.  Warnings urging preparedness boomed from the radio and TV almost constantly.  This is not just a bread and milk kind of preparation the announcer proclaimed.  We should have batteries, blankets and candles in great supply.  Things were about to get really ugly.  I write this mid-day Saturday.  Still no ice...but it is coming they say.  Meh.  Maybe, maybe not.  Either way I set myself up for a weekend of no commitments, a weekend at home.  And there are the first two items of my list of Ten Things of Thankful.  Add the lack of actual ice, the company of people I love, and the continuation of power and you have five thankfuls right off the bat.  
I wrote letters by hand and sent them in the mail yesterday, slowing my pace and really thinking about the old friends who will receive the letters.
I have soup bones simmering on the stove while I write.  Something healthy, warming and tasting like home will come of that.
It is a long weekend.  Monday we pause and consider the difference an individual with wisdom and a gift for motivational speaking can make by inspiring others and moving our country towards positive change through nonviolent means.
I think I will make a cup of hot chocolate topped with a dollop of homemade whipped cream.  Sipping the sweet, hot liquid I will send up a little prayer for all the goodness that surrounds me as I sit snug in my little house waiting for the ice that may or may not come.

Friday, January 13, 2017

The Quiet Center

This week Mama Kat asks what is your favorite time of day.  My favorite time is any time I can be quiet and focused, something I wrote about in 2011.

Stylized view of Point Zero in the center of Paris. 

Find your own quiet center and write from that to the world. ~Sarah Orne Jewett

Raising a family it is hard to find quiet anywhere, let alone your own quiet center.  But quiet is essential.  You must spend time in quiet to know what you think and where you stand on issues.  Quiet is required for prayer and strengthening your faith.  And dreams can not take form in a cacophony.

I started this blog in an effort to find my own quiet center, and the writing has helped me do just that.  It is not that I have experienced an epiphany about what lies at my core, but the writing quite literally has helped me put into words what it is that I value most.

My quiet center has three main components.  It is being in the place I love doing what I love with those I love.  I have a greater than average need to be home.  Much as I love to travel, there is no place I have encountered that could ever permanently lure me away from home.  The  Kansas plains, calm and steady, are where I am meant to be.  My little stone house on a quiet little street appeals to me more than the Biltmore Estate ever could.

I find my quiet center in creating… whether chopping vegetables while making dinner for my family, digging in the garden, piddling with an art project or writing here, I need to create.  It makes me happy.

Life is too short to spend with people who you drain you.  I have learned to let go of relationships that do nothing to build me up.  Time is short as it is; I intend to spend as much of mine as possible with the people I love.

May we all find our own quiet center and spend much time there.  We will leave the world a better place if we do.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Resist--My One Word for 2017

It has been a few years since I have chosen a single word to capture my resolutions at the beginning of a new year, but as 2017 dawns I feel unmoored and in need of an anchor.  To that end, I chose the world "resist": to withstand the actions or effects of something either inside or outside oneself.  
I will resist the suggestion that I accept as normal what is happening politically in my country.  I am too young to personally recall the Duck and Cover drills from childhood school days, but not too young to realize that we are smart to be wary of Russia.  I am not so naive as to think it is an ordinary day when the incoming leader of the Free World says we ought to "get on with our lives" rather than investigate fully what our long-time adversary has done to us, and so I resist.  
I will resist the temptation to trust that someone else has their eye on things.  I will resist the urge to bury my head, to be lazy and uneducated about current events.  
I will resist the coarsening of our culture, the trend towards meanness directed at those who are different.  I will remain firm in my understanding that Jesus said how we treat the least of these directly correlates to how we treat Him.  I am clear that in our society the least of these are the very groups that have been maligned over the course of the last year, and I will offer resistance to this type of speech and behavior.  
I will resist the temptation to ignore the signs of aging and the toll they take on my health becoming more actively engaged in healthy eating and movement.  
I will acknowledge the feelings I have as we move into this new year.  Every day I remain aware of the disappointment I feel that we as a nation did not stand with one unified voice to declare that we are better than the petty, mean-spiritedness of 2016;  that disappointment could harden me making me bitter, but I will resist.

 One Word