Sunday, February 11, 2018

My very gentle Valentine

"Je suis desja d’amour tannĂ©" (I am already sick of love), "Ma tres doulce ValentinĂ©e" (my very gentle Valentine)

Charles, Duke of Orleans, was imprisoned in the Tower of London after being captured by the Brits during the Battle of Agincourt. The year was 1415. The love note was sent to Bonne of Armagnac, his wife. She died before these words of love reached her. They are forever preserved in the British Library. A loving Valentine message sent that would remain unopened by the recipient, yet it has been viewed by hundreds of people, keeping this love alive.

"The rose is red, the violet's blue, The honey's sweet and so are you." Yep, that little poem is from the 1784. It began life as a nursery rhyme.  The poem's origins reach back in time to Sir Edmund Spenser's 1590 epic, The Faerie Queene. "She bath'd with roses red, and violets blew, and all the sweetest flowres, that in the forrest grew."

Shoppers look for that perfect card or gift. Always they look for words to express their feelings.  Words written by someone else. If you are like me, the verse means very little. Those words written by hand at the bottom of the verse are those treasured. As my son said, "Don't send me a card if you don't write in it." Yes, those are the words that are important. They need not be poetic. They need not flow in rhyme. Sometimes just the word 'love' written by hand is enough.

I run my finger across the words and hold the card to my face. In her flourished writing, she tells me she loves me. As my fingers touch the lovely words, I am once again with my mother. It is as close as I can get now, but I know that her hand wrote each letter as loved filled her heart for a daughter who lived far away. The love in those words, in her writing, still holds me close to her. They are all I have left and are more treasured than those in the British Museum. For these words are meant for me only.

We all need to express words of love. Words from our own hearts written in our own hands, spoken in our own words, recognizing that love is an action word needing to be said and needing to be heard.

In the 17th century, Shakespeare expressed it beautifully in his play Hamlet.  Ophelia waits, "To-morrow is Saint Valentine’s day, All in the morning betime, 
And I a maid at your window, To be your Valentine.

Monday, February 5, 2018

I hand you love

Valentines Day is just around the corner. Thoughts turn to love....and sometimes loves lost. Roses, candy, a night out on the town. Love of family, love of life, love of all sorts fill that love bank we carry within all of us. Love. That word has great significance for me. Merriam-Webster defined it for me. But the definition is only words unless it is believed and shown in actions. 
The fourth definition of love
 a : unselfish, loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another: such as
(1) : the fatherly concern of God for humankind
(2) : brotherly concern for others 

Wherever we go I end up in a conversation with strangers. And, always as we part be it from a five minute conversation or one that truly evolves into friendship, we end with an embrace and sometimes tears. One of the best compliments I ever received was from a counselor I worked with at the high school. She said, "Pam, you love the dregs of the earth, and they love you back." Wow! What a treasured comment. I knew from the time when I was a child back the lane that there was more to love.

(Back to my dictionary) be·nev·o·lent: kind, kindly, kindhearted, big-hearted, good-natured, benign, compassionate (synonyms) caring, altruistic, humanitarian, philanthropic; generous, magnanimous, munificent, unselfish, openhanded, beneficent.

If ever the world needed love, it is now. Love that has no boundaries. Love that should wrap around us all making us kind, compassionate, humanitarians thinking only in altruistic terms (selfless concern for the well-being of others; unselfish). We cannot be Christians if love lacks all of the above. Love does not dwell beneath only one flag. It does not come in only one color. Love is not only for those of one race, one belief, one country, one lifestyle. Love is a universal language singing from the hearts of those who believe in it and understand it. Love. Meant to flow out. Meant to embrace. 

As you all know, I believe we are to love everyone we meet....and even those we never meet, but those who share Planet Earth. We are all pieces of a puzzle that is not complete until we find that love of one another. Isn't it, in fact, what we are told in the words of Christ? Love one another. As simple as that. No discrimination, no theology difference, no race, no creed, no judgement of any kind. A simple four letter word. LOVE. Red and yellow, black and white. He loved the sinner and spent time with those who all others turned away from. He gave us an example because He was 'love come down'.
I cannot make others love one another, but I can love all I meet. I can look beyond differences and find similarities. I can reach out a hand to those in need instead of slapping it down. I can share the light I find in myself calling forward love and handing it out to every person I meet without asking them to change. 

Today I hand you a valentine. I hand you love.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Because I love you

MeMe (after dinner out with the family): I need to go home now. (I had been with the kids for 3 hours)
Nolan: No, you go home with us.
MeMe: Nolan, why would I go home with you again?
Nolan: (leaning into me and in a soft voice) Because I love you.

Moments in time. Those precious moments we want to savor now and always. How I wish I had a journal of every sweet, silly, wise word my children and grandchildren have ever spoken. Those words that touch me so deeply that I could weep. Okay, sometimes I do shed a tear or two.

We are planning our trip to Ohio in August. I like to schedule my time away when I will not  miss any family events big or small. My son James told me that we can go whenever we choose. They will work out the kinks in schedules. Then I explained to him that it is not the fact that they will need to fill in the time for my absence. No, it is because I don't want to miss a minute of this precious time with them. The twins grow so quickly. In my estimation, there is nothing more important as that time with them. James surprised me when he said that he totally understood. He feels the same way.

Perhaps it is because the older I get the less important travel, possessions, things that separate me from 'potential moments' become. I see more clearly that all we have in the end are those we love. The rest is just garnish.

With my parents living across the country, they never partook of the special events in their grandchildren's lives. Finances were a key player. And, I don't think Mom and Dad ever thought about it. But I knew it. So when my family expanded, I swore that I would always live within a distance where I could be part of my children's lives. Those children would never wonder why their grandma was absent.

Last week Loren and I had lunch with the twins. His 6'2" frame scrunched into the seat next to Nolan. I sat between the kids. We were instructed by them as to proper cafeteria behavior and the recess rules that would follow. Quickly we learned the names of the other children who were eating or staring at us and were often asked if we were Emma and Nolan's grandparents. Children who saw me the last time came up for a hug. It was a win-win for all concerned.

'Grandparent' should be a verb. It is not passive. It is not a good noun. It is another word for loving, for playing, for caring enough to give up time to focus on what is fleeting. There is so much joy in this word. It is a title we share with friends who have no grandchildren. It is a gift.

Wednesday I had a full afternoon with the twins. When the weather is nice, we play a game where they ride their bikes up to my chair (the pet store) and order the things they need. Emma always orders 1,000 of all the animals she can name and food for each. She delights me in her determination and imagination. Nolan.....well, this will explain it.

MeMe: Nolan, what would you like to order today.
Nolan: 100 frogs, 100 turtles, 100 chickens, 1 horse, 1 cow, 1 leopard and a bucket of paint.

These are precious moments....because I love them.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Turn on Love

The wrapping paper is piled on the floor, waiting for me to get busy. I have not been up long, but upon awakening, my house shouts Christmas on every shelf and all the walls. The tree lights up the room like a ray of sunshine and hope. Then I turn on the TV.

I struggle with my writing today. So many stories were twirling around in my head ready for mind to meet the blank page, for today to reflect yesterdays and tomorrows. Then I turned on the TV.

So what to write with a heavy heart. What can I find in that bag of ideas that last night was so ripe and today so empty. Well, there is much to write. The writing is not about despair. It is not necessarily about hope. No, today it is about embracing, loving, caring beyond what you believe, beyond what you have in your comfort zone, beyond your own home and neighborhood. Yes, I turned on the TV.

Two young people ran from car to car calming the inhabitants. They did not look at the color of the people, the religion of the people, not even if they were rich or poor. They ran to save lives and to offer comfort. For me, Christmas reaffirms my belief that we are more than what we allow ourselves to be. We are indeed light in world of darkness. We are the hands that reach out. Not the hand that stops to question. A baby was born to teach us to love one another. Nothing more. Love one another without judgement, with compassion, looking past ourselves and rushing to embrace all others. We are Love. We are Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Sharaf (Baha'i), Shinto (Japan), Iroquois Midwinter, Shalako Kochina (Zuni), Posadas Navidenas (Mexican), Hopi Holy Cycle. So many faiths sharing a month of celebration and remembrance. Our celebration of Christmas is for a baby not born in December. So many seek separation this time of the year instead of inclusion. Indeed, I turned on the TV.

This time of the year is that of embracing those we love, understanding how precious our time is with them. We need to get out of ourselves as did those young people this morning and run person to person, making sure they know they are loved and cared for regardless of their beliefs, country, status in life. We are those coming to the rescue. We are those who need to put aside prejudice in order that peace can come to this world we live in not just now but always. Christmas is my time of renewing my belief in unity. A belief that is instilled with the birth of a baby who wanted to love all, asking us to do the same.

Yes, I turned on the TV. I saw a train broken, lives broken, a holiday turned to tragedy for so many. I write this morning not to pull you down but to lift you up, to tell you how powerful you are right now.  We are not about our own homes and lives. We are the pieces of a puzzle that is not complete until the last piece is laid in place. We are all the same family regardless of faith, color, rags or riches.

I send this off to the Advocate this morning with love for each and every one of you. You may not know me, but I love you. You may not care, but I love you. You probably don't agree with me, but I love you. This is the season for me of a baby's birth. I know that baby would agree with me. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to each and every one of you.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

A season of kindness

Thanksgiving is over. It seems that Christmas trees have already brightened many homes. The shopping frenzy has begun. My friend Jo Anne joined us for Thanksgiving dinner. With tummies full to bursting, we all settled into conversation. All of us swore to never go Black Friday shopping. So on Friday morning I was surprised to receive a text from Jo Anne saying that she decided to return something she bought at the outlet mall. Contrary to the conversation the night before, she wanted us to go to head out into the chaos. Well, we knew it was Black Friday, but more than that, we knew how much fun we have shopping together. Conversation and laughter kept us company on the twenty-eight mile drive. Before we could even see the mall, let alone the off-ramp, we maintained the mighty speed of a Belgian mare pulling a full load of straw through a mud pit. For the next hour and forty five minutes we looked for a parking place. Hm, seemed like a decent idea when we left home. As we shopped, people plowed mindlessly into one another, others walked side by side five across, doors opened and smacked passer-byers (? so many options so I make up my own spellings). We stood in lines, dodged children set loose by unconcerned parents and found that rudeness was alive and in full swing at the mall.

It was indeed a study of humanity.  A lesson in behavior lacking the smallest amount of concern for others. Kindness seemed to take a holiday, and, indeed, I realized why it was referred to as black. I have a weird tendency to love crowds like this. They offer an opportunity to change the worn-out, stressed workers and shoppers by a mere smile or kind word. Maybe I wasn't there to shop. Giving thanks and encouragement to store employees, telling an exhausted mother that her child is beautiful, holding a door for a man and watching his startled face, telling someone standing in front of a mirror that she looks lovely. Yes, it was my day of shopping for people. A day to make black warm and loving.

Christmas is approaching. My grandchildren are making cards for the family. Well, Emma made fifteen. Nolan made three and informed me that he was done. It is a time of thinking of others and not just the presents we will buy and the celebrations lining up on the calendar. It is a time to think outside the family and to embrace a world needing to be uplifted. Please remember that those children in your lives learn by your example, the very person you show them every day. They think, they understand, they have their own thoughts that are shaped by the experiences that surround them.  Forget the presents. Forget the parties. Forget the bah-humbugs. This is indeed a season of goodwill. A time to set in motion actions that are not just for the holiday.

On Facebook I posted a story that I think is a good lesson in looking for the positive when there seems to be so much negative. It is a story about you and me and the world we can create together. It is about changing from black/white into a world of color.

The bus driver was a tired school bus driver. He didn't pay much attention to the kids. They got on, they got off. He looked straight ahead until he was rid of his load of noisy children. The last day of school before break, when I picked up the twins, Nolan bounded off the bus yelling "Happy Thanksgiving!" We got over to the car where the kids wait to wave at the bus driver as we always did. He stopped, opened his door and motioned to me. "What's the name of that boy with glasses?" he asked. I told him. "He is a great kid. He is something else. You've got a good one there." From the very beginning, Nolan always said good-bye when he exited the bus. Gradually, over the next couple months, the bus driver started nodding when Nolan pursued his exit conversation. Now when the bus pulled away, the driver waved back at the waiting twins. I am thankful that we can change the world with kindness one person at a time. Even if we are only five.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

All hands on deck

Hands. The one appendage that is used the most and gets the least amount of recognition. Today I present to you HANDS. Well, I'm sure that got your attention. You see, these words are appearing because my hands are busy doing what they enjoy. Type away, Pam!

Yes, I have had a fascination with hands since childhood. One of the first things my mother did to entertain me was to draw around my hands. Once the imprint was on paper, she would put little faces on each fingernail. It was a way to keep her little one quiet during church, but unbeknownst to her, it was by her hands that I learned. At this time of the year, our imprinted hands with faces took on a new look. My little hands became turkey feathers.

If I sat next to Dad, my hands turned into a church with and without people. He also played the game of pointing to one of my fingers in my clasped hands asking me to move it. Being poorly coordinated and lacking in concentration, I struggled. He was also pretty good at the game of alternating hands in a pile then pulling the bottom hand out to place on top. His hands were about twice the size of mine, and he showed no mercy.

When I had children, I was captivated by their small hands. First, a hand wrapped around my finger. Then a child eager to walk beside me reaching for my hand. Watching those hands grow till one day hold their own children. And now, my grandchildren reach for my hands, and I am doubly blessed. I am still in awe when I look down and see our hands together. My heart swells with love, knowing that each time is a gift to savor. Hands that will grow and grow away. Hands that reached for me when they were babies, hands that pulled my hair and grabbed my nose. Hands that held the hands of the other twin. Precious.

Years ago I found in the family Bible outlines of my grandmother's hands along with those of my mother at various ages. I hardly knew my grandmother, but seeing these hand prints gave me a little insight into the woman who took time to play with her daughter. Her large hands are now closer to the size of mine. In some strange way, I feel connected.

Our hands are full of memories. They are full of love. They are full of talent. They are helping hands and sometimes hands that need help. We clasp them in prayer, and wipe away tears. They welcome old and new friends and help those who need a hand. They applaud excellence and sometimes save a life. They throw a ball and play the piano. We can hand on goodwill and aid because our hands are indeed hand-y. With all of this to contemplate, I will wave farewell. I hope this has been a hands-on column.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Out the front door

A friend once told me that she loved living in her area, because it was away from crime and the cities. It is a quiet community that hasn't changed that much for generations. The people live in the same neighborhoods where their ancestors resided. They marry local people. Their children go to the same schools. Nothing changes but the clothing with the seasons and the babies replacing those who have passed.

Well, as we all know, that is not reality. It certainly is not part of our religious background that tells us to go out into the world and to love all people regardless of their color, their beliefs, their lifestyles. We are told not to judge and to be lights unto the world. It isn't just about prayers. It is about us as God's hands. Seems to me that we all are failing on that topic.

This isn't just about the shooting in Texas but much more. It is about the people who criticize, who are close-minded and who allow their religion, party affiliations, and families to dictate what they believe. We have come through this last year with hate being allowed to have a voice. A time when being mean to someone is accepted and our values lowered to accept things we never would under different circumstances. We joke about harassment saying women are just pushing the issue. We ignore when one more African American or Hispanic person is brutalized. We ignore pleas from other countries for help. We have an ego that just doesn't stop! Where is the heart, the love, the compassion and understanding that we all know we are supposed to have? Yet, we believe lies and ignore injustice, because it happens elsewhere.

Please, I implore you to become part of the system and not just an audience member. Vote, vote, vote. Don't vote party.  Vote for the welfare of ALL people. Call your people in congress and let a voice be heard. Support organizations for peace and equality. Support mental illness agencies. Embrace and understand those outside of your community. Don't support an issue if you do not know all sides of it. Don't believe what you read unless you check out all sides of the issue by doing your own research. Rethink what a gun can do and the necessity of it. Don't be a pawn. Be a player.

When I grew up, no one talked seriously about family problems and how to help loved ones in need to find their own help. I know in our house Mom tried to solve problems; however, I learned from working with kids at risk that we are to help them help themselves by finding resources for them to pursue and encouraging them along the way. We can't just shut out problems. Be active. Not passive.

A small community not so unlike where I grew up lost 26 people in just a few minutes. As many are in the hospital. We are not communities separated by state or country or religion or sex or belief or color. We are a united world. Americans are no better than those in other countries. We have a right to protest when we are hurt and no one seems to listen. We need to listen, folks. We need to stop judging. We need to look out the front door and see the bigger world. Please.