Thursday, February 23, 2017

She Was His Girl Before We Met

She was his girl before we ever met.

When I met him, I met her as well. 

She was a beautiful girl, jet black hair and big brown eyes that could see into your very soul.  Full of energy and good humor, her antics kept us laughing throughout our very first visit together.  She wore a jaunty red bandana tied around her neck. 

I suspect her approval of me was in my favor when we continued to see each other.
Her name was Scarlett, and she was David’s black Labrador Retriever.  She was a little over a year old the first day the three of us met back in 2005.  She was his sidekick, and was our “best pal” when we became a couple.

I heard the story of how he found her many times.  Walking through a flea market in Columbia, he spied a box full of squirming black puppies.  Reaching down into the box among all the black noses, pink tongues and wagging tails, he discovered one puppy beneath all of the other ones.  He scooped her up – she had a white cross-shaped blaze on her chest – and with one look he knew she needed to go home with him. 

During her puppyhood, his days were focused on her care and training.  His work did not go in vain; she was one of the best behaved dogs I’ve ever had the pleasure to know.  In addition – she developed a keen sense of HIM:  she sensed his moods and learned when he was having a bad day.  On those “bad days” she would stick close by his side.  He was her Number One Priority, her entire life.

But besides him, she loved to play!  We had a box full of Frisbees, tennis balls, and small stuffed toys to pick up and fling across the yard and she would dash off to catch whatever we’d thrown, then bring it back to us.  She was, after all, a Labrador Retriever!   She was poetry in motion, running in advance in the direction she knew the Frisbee or ball would be going then leaping into the air to catch it before first bounce.  As long as someone would throw something, she would run, leap, catch, return. 

“Scarlett, wanna go for a ride?”  Those were the Magic Words, guaranteed to make her start bouncing near the door, tail wagging, ready to go!  Once the truck door opened, she would leap into the front passenger seat and ride shotgun.  That is, until I came along – and she moved into the back seat.  She’d ride in the center of the back seat, chin on the back of David’s seat, watching where we were going, being a part of the conversation.  I knew I had really been accepted when she began putting her chin on the back of MY seat once in a while. 

And boy did she travel!  We took road trips to the beach, North Carolina, Ohio, Florida – the three of us, off on new adventures.  Part of packing for a trip included making sure we had her bed, food dish, bag of chow, and bottles of water.  She was a great travel companion and loved walking on the beach, out in the woods, down the dirt roads of my family’s farm, exploring new territories, making new friends.

She also enjoyed boat rides, and would stand on the front of the pontoon, her ears flapping in the breeze.  

When we moved to the lake, she would fetch the stick in the water.  David would fling a stick (actually a small log!) out as far as he could and she’d swim out, grab the stick in her mouth, and swim back to shore.  One of the criteria for our home at the lake was that it would have a yard that you could walk into the water from the shoreline – just for Scarlett!  (Though that is a perk for us humans too!)

Whenever we left the house – whether it was for a couple of hours or all day – Scarlett always greeted us at the door as though she’d missed us for a century!  She would hear the car pull into the garage and begin to bark.  As we unlocked the door, we could hear her nails tapping on the floor and her collar tags jingling as she quickly came to greet us.  She often brought us her stuffed duck as a “welcome home” gift.  It was such a delight, being greeted with such joy every time we walked in the house. 

As it does, time passes quickly.

In the last couple of years, Scarlett began to slow down.  Jumping up into the truck became too difficult for her, so David would lift her up to the seat to go for a ride.  She began developing food allergies that caused itchy “hot spots” on her skin.  Going up or down stairs became intimidating, even scary.  Her muzzle began to look more gray than black.  Her hearing was not as sharp as it once was.

This past summer, she did not fetch the stick from the water a single time.

We were down to one food that she could eat that didn’t cause her to itch:  home-cooked pork roast with no seasonings. 

Sometimes when we returned home, she didn’t hear us arrive.

Her gait was stiff and looked painful.  Her last road trip with us resulted in her staying in her bed the following day – she just didn’t feel like getting up.

We thought of 5 of her favorite things to do, and realized that she was no longer able to enjoy any of them.   David made The Hardest Decision Ever.  He picked up the phone. The appointment was set at the Vet’s office for December 12 at 2 pm.

Her final day with us was fabulous!  We gave her treats – something she hadn’t been able to enjoy in years because of her skin allergies!  We lavished her with love and affection. We took her to visit her “grandma” at the nursing home – she was a huge hit among the other residents, who stopped by to pet her and talk to her.  Even her last hours, she was being a blessing.  But then….it was time to make that trip to the Vet’s office.

We came home later, her collar and red bandana in hand.  We couldn’t speak or even look at each other.

No bark or tag jingles greeted us.  No gift of a stuffed duck.   Just… silence.  And a huge black Labrador-shaped hole in our home and our hearts. 

We cried every day for weeks.  There are still times when we look up, call her name, or think we see her out of the corner of our eyes. We miss the gentle nudge on the side of the bed in the mornings, letting us know that it’s time to get up and start a new day.
We donated her blankets and most of her toys.  But the special duck is on a shelf, along with her collar and bandana.  There’s a box of ashes on the hearth, beside a statue of a black lab.  A favorite photo of her hangs on the wall in the living room, so she’s still with us, a part of our family in spirit. 

Yesterday, Feb. 22, would have been her 13th birthday.  She’s been gone from us a little over two months.  She gave us all she had, her whole heart and life revolved around David.  Oh, she loved me, too, but she was his girl first, and they shared a bond that was stronger than most people can understand.

If you’ve ever had a pet that was part of your life 24/7, then you know the joy they bring, the comfort they offer, the responsibilities they require. 

And if you’ve ever had to say good-bye, then you know the aching emptiness you feel when they’re gone.

At our house, love came in the shape of a big black dog.  
Her name was Scarlett, and she was his girl before we ever met.  And someday, she’ll be waiting for us at the Rainbow Bridge.  I hope there are big sticks in heaven, and a lake where we can swim. 

Thursday, February 2, 2017

This Is What Democracy Looks Like!

Hopefully, you have already read my Nov. 14, 2016 post, “If You REALLY Know Me” – about my decision to participate in the Women’s March on Washington.  If not, you might want to scroll a couple of posts back and refresh your memory.

I was excited about participating in such an event!  I’ve never been very politically active (aside from voting in every election since I was registered to vote).   This was new territory for me and I felt it was important to take a stand for my belief in equality.

During the weeks prior to the March, I received a lot of information about what I needed to carry with me, the route of the March, and safety precautions.  I began collecting a few items, though I knew I wanted to travel light.  I packed  a clear plastic backpack with some necessities:  a couple of bottles of water, some protein bars, hand sanitizer, my notebook & pens, an extra battery pack to charge my phone, and a rain poncho just in case, and a black sharpie marker. 

I was on the first of 4 buses out of Columbia.  I know there were at least that many out of Myrtle Beach, Greenville, Rock Hill, and Charleston.  That's just the ones from SC, and just the group that chose to go by tour bus.  Many others traveled by plane, train, and cars.

We were about an hour's drive outside of the Metro Station in Virginia that we were taking into the city when I looked out the windows of the bus and realized that we were in a convoy of buses, as far as my eyes could see in either direction.  

When we arrived at the Metro Station, I wrote important telephone numbers (my family members) on my arm with a black Sharpie pen – this was a safety recommendation.  I put my on my pink crocheted cap, hoisted my backpack over my shoulder and stepped off the bus. Off to DC!

The Metro station was packed with people, most wearing pink hats, many carrying signs.  The crowd was moving but it was definitely a crowd, very noisy with thousands of different conversations going on.  Then ONE VOICE rang out:  "This is what democracy looks like!"  And it spread like wildfire!  That Metro station was RINGING with the chant -- I got shivers (and I am STILL getting shivers, typing the memory).  Over and over, the walls were echoing it.  “THIS IS WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE!”   

I went with the flow of the crowd (God help you if you tried "swimming upstream!")  to Constitution Avenue.  I was about halfway down, smack in the middle.  If you know where the Air & Space museum is, I was standing in the middle of the street in front of it.  There were jumbotrons and speakers all along the street for several blocks; I was not able to see a screen (there was one not far behind me but I gave up trying to get around to see it) but I was able to hear it.  EVERY. SINGLE. WORD.  There were several speeches, all were fairly short but each had a definite point. 

Of course the media grabbed hold of Madonna's rant and Ashley Judd's very graphic poem (written by a 19-year-old) so I figure you may have heard or read PART of it.  But I urge you to go to youtube and listen to their ENTIRE contributions. Listen to their words in the context of their complete messages.  My favorite speakers were Gloria Steinem, America Ferrera, Ashley Judd, Michael Moore, Muriel Bowser (current mayor of DC),  Alicia Keyes, and Van Jones.  There were a few others that I liked but I didn't catch their names.  I took notes.  Yes, I had a notebook and a couple of pens (surprise, haha) and wrote down a lot of what I heard that I found profound or interesting or informative.

The crowd was a “melting pot” for sure.  A line from an old song I learned in Sunday School many years ago kept ringing through my mind:  “Red and Yellow, Black and White” --  because you could SEE people of all colors.   There were several men in the crowd too.  I kept thinking about how almost all of our ancestors were strangers here at one point (the exception being Native Americans, of course) and that the majority of us are all descended from immigrants.  I saw entire families together, multi-generational groups.  Moms and dads, kids and grandparents, groups of friends.  

I stood in one spot pretty much from 9:30 am until about 3 pm, then I HAD to move around.  We tried to actually MARCH -- but THERE WAS NO ROOM!!  The entire street was full of people, so we could not actually GO anywhere!  (What a problem to have, right??)  I did manage to get with a wave of people and go part of the route -- we were supposed to march down to the Ellipse, back yard of the White House -- but like I said -- there were people already flooding the street down there.  I've never seen such a huge mass of people in my whole life.  

SPEAKING OF THAT -- no arrests made.  Not a single one.  I didn't hear anyone arguing, nobody was pushing or shoving.  If you dropped something, 5 people tried to help you pick it up (I know this first-hand).  The atmosphere was friendly, helpful, excited.  I think we all knew we were there for the same reason, to send a message that Hate Is Not OK

The SIGNS.  Oh my goodness, they were wonderful.  I tried to take pictures but my vantage point was not great.  I’ve seen online a lot of the same posters I saw, plus many more.  So many creative ideas were used to share our message.   The signs covered several different topics, including equality, the environment, LGBTQ rights, rights for people of color, and yes, there were a few that were anti-current Republican president. One that I spotted was carried by a little old grandma in a wheelchair.  It read:  "OH NO. Now you've pissed off GRANNY!!"  
I knew I had to get back to meet the bus by 5, so around 3:30 I thought I'd better try to start making my way out of the crowd and back on the Metro train (the Metro ride was about a half-hour).  Again, I was with a crowd of folks that were all going the same direction.  The group we were with was still buzzing with energy.  I got a little confused and got on the wrong Metro train (I boarded the Silver line when I should have gotten on the Blue line), but I figured it out in time to get off at the next stop and re-route.  I boarded the shuttle bus to go to the food court and who should be sitting there but a friend from my hometown in NC.  Imagine going somewhere hundreds of miles away from your home, being in a crowd of nearly 400,000 people, and running into someone you know!  

We were exhausted by the time we loaded the bus for home at 8:00 pm.  I tried to sleep but couldn't sleep much, maybe 2 hours of the 8-hour ride home.   We reached the Harbison area 4:15 am, I got in my truck and drove home, an hour’s drive away.  I took a hot shower and was in bed at 5:35 -- I think I was asleep at  5:36!  Didn't get up until nearly 11 the next morning.  

In the days since the March, I’ve thought a lot about what I saw, heard, and felt. I saw pictures and videos of other Sister Marches across the country and around the world.  Many of my friends participated in some of those Sister Marches and I felt proud of them and of all who took part in them.  I’ve answered questions (some friendly and some hostile) about my beliefs. I’ve expressed my concerns to my governing officials and I will continue to make phone calls, write emails, and mail letters. Hey, I even joined Twitter!  

The biggest “takeaway” to me, though, comes through the chant .  You see, THIS really IS what democracy looks like!  It takes people actually getting involved, working together on causes that they believe in, voting – to actually make our country work.  Regardless of what “side” you may believe in – it takes coming together, compromise, and participation for the voices of “We The People” to be heard.  Politics is not dry and boring at all – it’s alive and affects our lives every day. 

For me, taking part in the Women’s March on Washington was a big day in my life, one that I will remember forever.  I hope my children, my grandchildren and maybe my great-grandchildren will remember with pride that I was there.  It was the largest single protest in US History.  Sister Marches took place in every state across the United States and in several countries around the world.  According to the website,  there were 673 marches, with a total of 4,876,700 people marching around the world!  In Washington DC alone there were around 400,000 people – and I was one of those!
I made memories.  Hopefully, with time, I will help make a positive difference in the lives of all of us.  Even so --  I MADE HISTORY, along with others world-wide!

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Auld Lang Syne 2016

So here it is.  The last day of 2016.  


By all accounts, it has been a tough year for a lot of people. 

The election brought out the absolute worst in people; I remain shell-shocked at the hatred and bigotry that I see so flagrantly exhibited in our country.

Many beloved heroes, celebrities, and athletes left us:  David Bowie, Arnold Palmer, John Glenn, Leonard Cohen, Prince, Patty Duke, Carrie Fisher, Debbie Reynolds, Harper Lee, Pat Conroy, Nancy Reagan, Mohammed Ali, Merle Haggard, Elie Weisel, Florence Henderson – just to name a tiny handful.  This short list alone contains people who wrote amazing books I read, acted on screens large or small that I watched with rapt attention, or sang songs that are part of the soundtrack of my life.  I vividly remember being 5 years old and watching John Glenn “splash down” on our old black and white television.  I also remember learning about integrity as I watched Mohammed Ali, standing up for his beliefs against the draft and serving time in prison for that decision (rather than escaping to Canada).  While I never actually MET these people, they still have some influence in my life and helped to create who I am. 

We also said good-bye to some dear friends and relatives.  An aunt – one of those near and dear that “helped raise me” passed away.  And one dear friend left us way too soon. Alzheimer’s robbed him of his joy and in turn robbed us of his smiling face and eventually his presence. 

On a personal level, our family was hit with several health issues this year.  One day a grandson is playing like a normal toddler, a couple of days later we are hearing words like “chemotherapy” and “porta-cath” and “leukemia.”  A fun day of skiing ended with my husband being pulled down the mountain in a sled by the ski patrol – his broken leg required weeks of recovery.  I endured “the Mystery Virus From Hell” that pretty much knocked me out of commission for 6 weeks.  Our beloved dog had to be put down just before Christmas.

 There’s more – but I'm sure you didn’t come here to read a whine list.

To say I am glad to see 2016 roll off into history is an understatement.
AND YET –  There have been some pretty amazing blessings. 

We took a cruise with my parents, sister, and brother-in-law to Alaska.  Watching whales break the surface of the water, seeing the ice-blue glaciers, riding a train through the wilderness of the Yukon territory – all of the sights and sounds and experiences of the cruise and excursions were great.  But being able to see my mom and dad enjoy those things magnified the joy of the experience exponentially! 

A new grandson arrived in October!  Kemp is the “Little Brother” for everyone, and we look forward to watching him grow.  I believe that babies are living proof that God intends for the human race to continue. 

We’ve enjoyed the pleasures of friendship.  As I worked on planning a high school class reunion that’s been too long in coming, I re-connected with several “old” friends.   “Old” in the sense that we’ve known each other most of our lives, not that we are getting “old” or anything like that!  I have been particularly happy to re-connect with a pal from elementary school, and I’m looking forward to our continuing adventures together in the coming years.  Our “Ohio Crew” came South this summer for some fun in the sun; we’ve returned the visit a time or two.   We can go months without seeing each other, yet pick right up where we left off and continue on in friendship.  Then there are our local friends and neighbors. Smiles and waves when we see each other, phone calls to chat a bit, making plans to see a movie together – all of these little things make me feel like I am where I belong.   Whether meeting for dinner at The Retreat, dressing up for High Tea at Laura’s Tea Room, gathering for music and barbeque in our basement, or joining up every day for a brisk walk – we are blessed to have a circle of people who help make our lives more enjoyable, more colorful, more fun.  And these friends stepped up to the plate when we needed them.  Just one example:  When David broke his leg, our friend helped him back to the house, made him as comfortable as possible, saw to it that he was able to get back home ok, and stayed in touch during his recuperation.  OK, another example – when we had to have Scarlett euthanized, we got several sympathy cards, phone calls, and two friends even stopped by for a  quick “tight hug and tears visit” on their way to work.  Our friends knew she was a family member, and cared enough to reach out to us while we were mourning.

Our friends have laughed and cried with us.  They’ve shared our joys, lifted our family in prayers, helped to support our dreams, given us sage advice and counsel.  They’ve helped us make it through the year.

Hurricane Matthew blew through and we held our collective breaths as he seemed to take aim at a section of Carolina sand that we hold dear.  Fortunately for us, there was minimal damage to the beach house – and once again we realized the blessings of having such a place where we can enjoy making memories.

Our home is still My Favorite Place; I love that it is large enough to house a family reunion, yet I love the peace it offers when I’m home alone.  I have a gorgeous view to appreciate every single morning; David has captured many photographs of eagles, egrets, turtles, hawks – just outside in Creation.

So as this year of 2016 grinds on into eternity tonight, I’ll say good-bye to the tough parts for sure.  
I’ll light a candle and send off a message of farewell to our girl Scarlett.  
Then I’ll light another candle in gratitude for all the blessings we’ve received.  
Lastly, I’ll light a third candle as I offer up my hopes and dreams for a better, brighter 2017.

Happy New Year, yall!

Friday, December 23, 2016

Christmas Fruitcake Tradition

When I was a very young bride in 1975, my mother gave me a treasure box full of gold.
Actually, it was a small metal box full of recipes, neatly typed on 3x5 index cards.  The box was full of family favorites, foods I had grown up enjoying.  On the back of several of the recipes, she had hand-written special memories and stories about particular dishes – which made them even more valuable to me.  Some were familiar tales that I’d heard before, some notes told me the origin of the recipe or who had first made and shared the dish, and one was a secret that made me laugh (and I’ve never told)!
In the back of the box I found 3 cards clipped together – my grandma Belle’s Fruitcake Recipe.
Every Christmas in my memory, there’s been a homemade fruitcake on the table.  It’s one of the traditions that I hold dear.  Dense with chopped fruits and nuts, rich with homemade ingredients like apple jelly and fig preserves, and thoroughly soaked with Belle’s homemade blackberry wine, the Fruitcake is a delicious combination of flavors and textures.  The top of the cake was always decorated with bright red and green candied cherries, yellow wedges of candied pineapple slices, and whole pecans that came from the trees in the yard.  As a child, I was not a big fan of the fruitcake itself, but I became pretty good at stealing the pecans off of the top!  As I grew older, I discovered how delicious these homemade cakes really were (“store-bought” ones never came close, EVER), and I began to look forward to the distinctive flavors as part of the Christmas Traditions we enjoyed in our family.
My mom had written about watching Belle and my great-aunt Lula preparing the fruitcakes when she was a child.  Preparing the batter is a 2-day process that involves a good bit of chopping and mixing; Belle and Aunt Lula would tell stories, talk, and laugh as they worked together at the kitchen table.  Chopping the candied fruit took hours because the pieces had to be very small and the fruit itself was very sticky.  The recipe makes a huge amount of batter – so much that they would mix it all up in a big white dishpan instead of a regular mixing bowl.  My mom also said she would sneak the pecans off the top of the finished cakes when she was a little girl, I guess that’s an inherited trait! 
Ultimately, making the fruitcakes was a time of preparation, sharing, visiting, laughing, catching up on family and community news.   It was a labor of love and joy, wrapped up in aluminum foil, to be shared with everyone as part of the Holidays.
Aunt Lula passed away many years ago.  My Grandma Belle is also gone; she died in 2008.  My mother continued the tradition of making fruitcakes for several years, by herself.
I am not a great cook (that’s another blog post for another day!), but I have managed to be fairly successful with cakes, cookies, and pies.  The past few years, I’d get that fruitcake recipe out of the box and think, “I should try this…” But I’d read the long list of ingredients and all the labor-intensive steps and feel overwhelmed.  I’d tuck the index cards back into the box and tell myself I’d try it “next year.”
This year, I celebrated my 60th birthday.  I realized that THIS YEAR would be the ideal time for me to finally continue this Christmas Tradition, but I wanted a little help.  A couple of phone calls later, I’d enlisted my mom’s help and invited my sister Becky to join us in The Great Fruitcake Tradition.  We set a date to meet at mom’s house with all our ingredients and tools.  I can’t recall ever being so excited about COOKING something in my whole life! 
Now about bringing all those ingredients and tools…. Hmmmm. The list of ingredients was long.  Some things were easy to find, like sugar and eggs.  Others were a little more difficult to find – like fig preserves.  Becky & I agreed that whoever found that first would purchase enough for both of us.  I discovered some at Whole Foods.  To retrieve enough jars, I literally lay down on the floor so I could reach all the way in the back of the bottom shelf.  This attracted a bit of attention; as I was lying face down in the aisle of the store, a sweet young lady asked if I was “ok” ; I guess she thought I’d collapsed or something!  I laughed as I clutched my collection of the rare fig preserves and I told her that for my next trick, I’d get myself up off the floor!
Sadly, one ingredient no longer exists at all.  Belle always made her own blackberry wine every summer, picking the wild blackberries on the farm.  (That’s another favorite memory, picking blackberries…) My mom used the last few drops left of Belle’s homemade wine a couple of years back.  Becky & I substituted Manishewitz  Blackberry wine, which came fairly close to tasting as sweet as Belle’s homemade.
The appointed day arrived and Becky and I both arrived laden with our ingredients, pans, and big pots for steaming. This stuff took up most of the room on the kitchen table!   

Today’s candied fruit comes already chopped.  We wondered what Belle and Aunt Lula would think about that… would they be relieved at not having to chop up the sticky cherries and pineapple?  Or would they disdain the modern, “lazy” convenience?  To be honest, I was quite grateful that we didn’t have to chop all that fruit ourselves!  The first day we dredged the fruits in flour and put the spices in the wine to “steep” overnight.
The second day, we started early.  We mixed the batter.  It was quite stiff, full of eggs, raisins, cherries, nuts, flour, sugar, apple jelly, fig preserves.  My mom wasn’t kidding, it made a huge amount of batter and I mixed mine in a plastic dishpan.

Next we prepared several pans and filled them.  The cakes do not rise much, so we could fill the pans fairly full.  Rather than being baked, fruitcakes are steamed , so we wrapped the pans tightly with aluminum foil and stacked them on a rack in the big canner.  After steaming for several hours, the cakes were done.

Once they were steamed and cooled, we poured a bit of wine over each loaf to soak.  Once the cakes were turned out of the pans, we decorated the tops with pieces of colorful cherries and pineapple and some whole pecans. 

At our family’s Christmas dinner, I was happy to put one of my finished fruitcakes on the table.

The verdict:  Mama & Daddy declared it delicious!  I think Belle and Aunt Lula would be really proud of the fruitcakes Becky & I made. 
I look forward to continuing the Fruitcake Tradition in coming years.  I felt strong ties to my mother, my grandmother, my great-aunt, and to other family members I remember from Christmases Past as I mixed the batter, then later sliced the cake.  I look forward to sharing in Christmas Future one of the great traditions from our family. 
Meanwhile, I think I’ll prepare myself a cup of tea and a thin slice of this delicious fruitcake!  Care to join me?

Monday, November 14, 2016

If you REALLY know me....

If you REALLY know me, none of this will come as a surprise.  You might even nod your head and smile a little bit. 

I value my friends.  Throughout the years I’ve found friends of all colors, races, genders, political backgrounds, and varying faiths.  I’ve learned and gained so much richness in life from them. For that, I am thankful.

This week – actually this whole election cycle – has made me examine my values, my beliefs, my feelings.  The whole thing has been ugly, on both sides.  At times I shook my head in dismay and amazement.  The things I have read on social media, things I have seen on television, things I have heard first-hand -- all have astounded me.  

I chose to vote for Hillary Clinton.  I absolutely could not reconcile my core beliefs with the racism, misogyny, prejudice, and bullying I saw in the other candidate.  To be perfectly honest, I was shocked by the evangelical support he gathered.  I was disgusted by most of what I heard and saw of him.    Now -- did I agree with Hillary 100%?  No, but rarely do I agree 100% with any politician.  Overall, I felt that she was by far the better choice.  I felt a thrill to be casting my vote for HER!    

We all know the outcome of the election.

We’ve all seen the beginnings of the backlash.  The blatant in-your-face acts of racism, the sexist comments, the fear that runs through the hearts of those who are marginalized in some way. 

Therefore, I made another big decision.

I decided to march in the Women’s March on Washington on January 21, 2017.

The moment I heard about it, I KNEW I was going. I could feel it in my Spirit, that I HAD to do this.  It is one of those once-in-a-lifetime things that I knew if I did NOT go…I would regret it for the rest of my life.  As soon as I could find a group going from my area, I booked my seat on the bus.

WHY am I doing this?  I avoid crowds, and often find myself “all peopled out” after dealing with folks a while.   I am not one to rock the boat, or be vocal about my opinions.  I enjoy my nice quiet retirement life.   But this is one thing that requires me to forget my “comfort zone” and show what I believe.

So to answer WHY:

I am marching in support of love and tolerance, equality for all.

I am marching to honor my parents, who taught me from an early age to value the dignity of EVERY person, to respect all people regardless of color, sex, or belief system.  They taught me that bullying was wrong; I believe it is STILL wrong.

I am marching to honor my daughters and my son, and my grandsons -- who I hope will one day live in a world that has no more prejudice or bullying, where the words “with liberty and justice for all” do  not just apply to all white men of a certain faith system.  And I hope they also enjoy the richness of knowing people who come from different backgrounds than they do.

I am marching to honor my friends whose skin is not the same color as mine.  Two of my dearest friends were victimized in the days following the election.  One received death threats and his car was vandalized.  The other was harassed in a local restaurant and called horrible names by a white stranger.  I’ve had many African American friends who have marched in protests before.  I realize that I am ashamed for not marching with them before now.

I am marching to honor my friends whose faith is different from mine.  I believe that sharing our respective beliefs with one another strengthens us all in that we can all learn something from each other.  Education can conquer fear.

I am marching to honor my friends in the LGBTQ community.  May they no longer have to live in fear for accepting who they are and who they love. 

I am marching for women’s rights.  I will march in gratitude for women in history such as Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and the other suffragettes who bought the right for women like me to vote.  I will march in gratitude to Rosa Parks, who serves as an example of quiet strength and bravery for all of us.  And I will march in gratitude and remembrance of strong women in my own family – like my great-grandmother Emma who struggled to provide for her children after becoming a widow, in an age when it wasn’t considered “proper” for a woman to work outside the home.  And I will march for those of us women who know firsthand how it feels to be discriminated against because of being female, how not being in the “good ol’ boys club” made a direct impact on our lives. 

One of my favorite authors, Maya Angelou summed it up perfectly when she wrote, “We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike.”  I choose to focus on helping build a world that works together for the common good.  I choose to see how we are alike, rather than separate us because of our differences. 

Blessings to all.

Thursday, September 10, 2015


We are all familiar with Ralph Waldo Emerson's poem defining Success.

To laugh often and much;
To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children;
To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends;
To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others;
To leave the world a bit better,
         whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition;
To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.
This is to have succeeded.

Recently, I began participating in an online Retreat for the Writer's Soul.  Each day, in addition to a short meditation, I receive a writing challenge.   One such challenge was to create our own definition of success, following Emerson's lead.

It took me just about all day to put it together.  I played with phrases and words that spoke "success" to me.  It was a tough assignment, but one that I really enjoyed.

I share it here, and offer a challenge to my readers to think about what success is all about to you.

Silver Success
To embrace the joy in every day;
To forgive your past mistakes, and learn from your experiences;
To practice grace, and grant second chances;
To love yourself so that you can truly give love to others; to offer encouragement to fellow travelers through life; 
To scatter kindness as you go;
To leave a legacy of love.

This is to have succeeded.



I tackled "The Drawer" this morning. 

I bet every one of you have one just like it -- that catch-all drawer in the kitchen that gets crammed with all the "stuff" that you don't know where else to put.  I have eyeballed it for several weeks (months?) now, knowing that it's been on my to-do list.  It certainly isn't going anywhere, nor is it going to clean itself out.  So I pulled the drawer completely out and dumped the contents on the table.  I laughed at the collection -- I am not even sure what some of that stuff IS.  The Lizard Man could be living in there, for all I know!

I wiped out the drawer, and felt good about the "clean slate" I now had to start with.  Batteries, glue, a marble, masking tape, a collection of small tools, some keys that fit lord-knows-what, a vast assortment of nails, screws, and nuts, pull chains for ceiling fans, a label-maker, seed packets, 3 miscellaneous electrical cords, gardening gloves, a couple of keychains, a package of steel wool, some magic markers -- a whole mess of "stuff" crammed into a too-small space.  For an hour or so, I sorted, re-homed, tossed out, and re-arranged all of the odds and ends that had resided in The Drawer for the past several years.  

In the middle of this seemingly mundane task, I realized that I found joy in creating order out of chaos, happiness in purging the things that were no longer needed or useful.  I likened it to my life -- at times there are things that just need to be let go, or re-ordered.  Priorities need to be re-examined and re-set.  
I liked the feeling of accomplishment, when I finished and looked at my now neatly organized (and much less stuffed) catch-all drawer.

Today, "The Drawer."  
Tomorrow, "The Guest Room?"  Hmmm.... maybe not tomorrow.  
But soon!  ;)