Wednesday, February 29, 2012

On Wearing Black while Grieving

A friend’s mother has recently died. My friend has struggled with how to honor her mother and her own grief. She has chosen to wear a black arm band embroidered with her mom’s name. She had a hard time finding one though. Black arm bands are not as prevalent as they once were.

In Victorian times, the tradition of wearing black to denote grief and a mourning period was brought to its height. I would guess because of the extreme mourning that Queen Victoria did for Prince Albert. She wore black the rest of her long life and although not requiring it of her subjects, did prefer people to wear black. Women’s mourning attire often included heavy face-covering veils. Jewelry was even made of black stones.

The World Wars changed that as so many people died and so many people were in mourning while having to carry on with their lives that the tradition faded. And it faded so rapidly that by the time my mother died when I was 16 some 14 years after WWII ended, we didn’t even think about the color of our clothes. Oh, the memorial service was filled with people in black or deep blue or purple but that was it.

I did very little grieving at the time. My dad was a believer that God was the God of the living and that my mom wouldn’t have wanted us to be sad so we weren’t. (Said with tongue in cheek.) I did not really grieve for my mom until the night of my oldest daughter’s first wedding. I was alone in the house doing some preparation for the next day and I just started to weep. I went on with what I was doing just crying and crying because my mother had not been with me on my wedding day. Several years later when the same daughter was pregnant she called to talk to her mom because she had had morning sickness and been stung by a bee on the same day. Instead of being with her, I started to cry again because I had not been able to share my pregnancies with my mom.

When my first husband died, I thought again about the wearing of black. Many a time that first year, I wished for some outward sign to say to people in the grocery store, this person is feeling very vulnerable and raw right now. Treat her gently, please. The sadness was so overwhelming sometimes and I didn’t under-stand how they couldn’t tell. I felt like I was wearing it like a swirling cloak. A simple black armband might have helped.

I admire my friend for her persistence. Maybe she will start a trend. No rules for how long or anything. Just the presence of a simple band that tells the world we are honoring someone we are missing very much. Please, be gentle with us for a while.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

7th Birthday Party

This is a second try at this post. I made the mistake of publishing pictures of other people's children without their permission and that my daughter reminds me Just Isn't Done. So with apologies to those parents, here is the party with just the birthday girl and her family.

When you are 7, a snaggled tooth grin is the very best kind!

Cake was individual cake pops in a sheep design. Only one problem: those little sugar balls of "wool" went all over the floor with our first bites.

Oooohs and aaaahhhs and "awesome" when the Mintos dropped into the Diet Coke and bubbles fizzed up everywhere.

Butterfly mask was a fun gift.

Mom held the candle on the sheep cake pop and we all sang Happy Birthday to a delighted girl.

New pink sheets and Princess comforter "lit up the room".

Birthday dinner after the party was chosen by the girl herself as is tradition in the family.

We had chips and dips from the party; cucumbers, carrots, black olives, tomatoes, blueberries, strawberries, apples, ham and cheese. For dessert, more cake pops or red velvet cupcakes with Dad's special cream cheese icing. Oh, and Pickles! Don't forget the pickles - sliced for the family, whole for the celebrant. Happy Birthday, dear granddaughter!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

A Changeless Faith

Pastor Kim posted: “What is the good news for us today in our time? While tradition would have us believe the good news of faith does not change, our relationship to the good news does change throughout our lives.”

That is So True. And so nice to have it affirmed.

In our careers we are rarely stuck in the past. Nurses and Teachers attend in-service training all the time. People in all sorts of professions go back to school for updated information or even another degree. Technology folks are learning all the time as newer, better, more complex or even easier computers are designed and put on the market. Even ordinary folk keep up with the latest developments in cameras, cell phones, laptops and reading pads.

But too often people in the church say, “I learned that about Jesus when I was Three and nobody is going to change my mind!” *sigh* We learn a lot about our faith ~ whatever it is ~ when we are young. And then we grow. We change. We have life experiences that allow us to say, “Oh, That’s what Jesus meant when he said . . .” or “Oh, I never heard that scripture interpreted that way before.” And we can change our relationship to a truth that has not changed but will continue to guide our path if we are diligent and open to listening to what faith is saying to us today.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

A little background: at Christmas I used a 12 days of Christmas meditation practice called Holy Birthings. Thank you, Sue Ellen for posting it on FB. A suggestion was to choose a mentor for this year, read all about the person and reflect on what he or she had to tell me. I chose Hildegard of Bingen. I take a verse of one her songs, put it in my journal and then write about its meaning for me today ~ Hildegard was a 12th century mystic. During Lent I think I will share some of those reflections with you. Hildegard has many names for the Divine. This particular one begins with the traditional Father. This is really unusual for her and I leave it as she wrote it.


Great is our need and we beg,

we beg with a word that was

fullness within us:

look again.

It is fitting - let your word

look again and that we fail not,

that your name be not

darkened within us.

Tell us your name again

lest we forget.

Appropriate I think for the beginning of Lent, a time to slow down, to meditate and contemplate. A time to look again for the divine within us and make sure we have not forgotten that name that called us into being in love.

I know I do not always remember. I go about my daily life, I pray, I live, and the ordinariness is there: dishes, laundry, feed and walk the dog, read, greet, discuss, just doing all those things that make up life. And sometimes I forget that I am divine, made that way by the Divine who called me into being in love. I forget to say Thank You or be in gratitude for all that is and might be and all the Love that continues to surround me and give me grace. Awareness is a good thing ~ and to be aware of my blessings and my blessedness is a good way to move through Lent. Slow down enough to be aware.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Ash Wednesday

Lent begins. It is a time of preparation and release leading up to Easter. It is also a time of slowing down. Lento is the musical term for "slow the tempo here".

The earth has slowed down. Seeds still germinate in the dark richness of soil nourished by slowly melting snow. Animals are still in hibernation. We even tend to go more slowly because of the cold or grey. Sometimes illness slows us down ~ and instead of fighting against it, it can be good to sit for a while. Slow down.

The joy and excitement of spring and Easter will come soon enough. For a while, may we slow down, meditate, ponder and be present in the moment to be and enjoy. ~ blessings

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Teach Your Children to Cook

(Disclaimer: the pictures are old and in no way reflect how any of these people look today.)

Read an article this morning about why you should teach you children to cook. I learned from a cookbook although with some basics absorbed along the way. I am not sure I did much to teach my daughters to cook although both of them have turned out to be really good cooks. The one with children has been great about that though.

Number One grandson was about 14 ~ that age at which a healthy male will eat around the clock. We had a large, nutritious meal and I had cooked for the family and cleaned up. I was finally sitting down and he says, “Mama Susan, may I have a burrito?” With a sigh I say, “of course, honey” and start to get up. He puts a hand out to stop my rising and says, “I can fix it myself.” I sat back down and said, “Oh, ok.” And anything “extra” he has eaten in my kitchen since, he has made or prepared by himself.

Of course if the family comes to a meal, Dean and I are still the primary cooks unless it has been arranged for his parents to cook and for me to enjoy my grandchildren. And he has also experimented in our kitchen with several lovely desserts and muffins.

In January his younger brother, age 9 1/2 now, wanted to come up for my birthday. He couldn’t because of the weather. He told me however that if he had been able to come, he wanted to bake me a cake.

Little sister has been helping in the kitchen since she had to sit on the counter.

Then you get old enough to light the candle!

Dean’s son found himself divorced and living alone knowing nothing about cooking. My daughter gave him a list of basics he would need in the kitchen and taught him some recipes, including how to bake a Thanksgiving turkey. Now it is fun to watch him teach his four children how to cook and clean up. When they come to visit, we can depend on at least one breakfast, lunch and dinner prepared by the family.

Teaching kids to cook not only gives them the life skills but also allows for a fun, enjoyable, unforced time together. And it makes grandparents Very Proud!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Customer Service Professionals

I have never used amazon customer service chat until this morning. And today I used it twice. First time, a simple question answered quickly and easily by Alejandro. Second time, some two hours later, not so simple a question that turned into a problem that turned into some major fix-it adjustments that ended with just plain starting over.

The first two women who came on line were polite, nice, friendly and helpful in that they sent me to the next person. I finally ended up with Christine (and we love Christine just so you know). Christine, where are the two books I ordered this morning for my kindle app? I have emails that say they have been delivered.

And off we went from there. Christine had me try every trick in the book, never losing her patience nor causing me to lose mine. Of course I was trusting that she would eventually find the correct answer. Which she did. I needed to get rid of my kindle app and download a whole new one. I don’t want to buy all those books again, Christine. Not to worry - she would find a way to restore them all.

Whether she did or whether the system just did it, I don’t know and when I downloaded the kindle app, up came all the books including the two ordered this morning that hadn’t appeared before now. Wow!!

I sent all the congratulations her way I could and was grateful when a quick survey popped up in my email. I answered the two applicable questions with 5 stars and then wrote a glowing comment about Christine. It is So Nice when tech professionals are also nice people. I know I have said that here before and I will keep saying it as long as I am fortunate enough to meet people like Christine in the course of trying to solve a rather complicated problem. Thank you!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Amazing Opposable Thumb

I had another one of those cramps in my right thumb this morning which ice and then wet heat helped relieve. I am trying to be careful. And - for a little while it takes away the use of my opposable thumb. So? It’s just a thumb. Wrong! I am not sure we truly appreciate how amazing that small piece of our body is and why it sets us apart from so many other creatures. It was like my entire arm was out of commission. Let’s see: lift dishes from the dish washer ~ nope. Close dish washer door gently ~ nope. Pick up cup of tea ~ nope. Hold book in one hand, tea in the other ~ nope. Pull blanket over lap ~ nope. Move built in curser around on computer ~ nope. Open can of dog food ~ nope.

Now all these things were accomplished of course. Quickly I adjusted doing some things with other fingers, with my left hand, and pushing the dishwasher door closed with my hip. Ice followed by wet heat loosened it enough that I was able to open the can of dog food when the time came. Otherwise that would have been accomplished by calling on Dean. Slowly it is loosening. It has happened before and I know it won’t last long even though it is painful while it does. And debilitating. That’s the thing that is so frustrating. In an instant of time, I am made to Think about the most ordinary of functions.

The Psalmist knew of what he wrote when he said we are “wonderfully and awesomely made” (139). Among the most wonderful and awesome is our incredible opposable thumb.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Oops ~ Face Plant!

Watching Oso run and enjoy the snow, I missed a root sticking up through the snow and down I went. Several layers of gratitude: 1) that snow is soft; 2) that thinking it might snow while we were out I was dressed in water proof gear so stayed dry and warm; 3) for Turtle Fur gloves that Meredith gave me years ago which also kept my hands warm and dry; 4) for gym exercises that are on the floor so I know how to get up easily; and 5) for Dean who kept Oso off me, because guess what? Mom was on the ground, rolling in the snow, and that has to mean she wants to Play!!!

Falls have always scared me and the last one I took banged me up rather badly. This one was easy and although I can feel the muscles reacting to being jerked around, it will be a story to tell with a smile instead of problem. I guess I will have to find a way to roll in the snow with Oso. :)

Monday, February 13, 2012


I am not a skier. Therefore in my world there is nothing quite like a snowshoe hike on fresh powder. No trail to follow ~ making your own, the only path carved out is the one behind you. Nothing disturbing the new snow except where your dog races into the forest and back relishing freedom. Blue sky and looking up you see the bottom of the pine branches, the tops of which are laden with snow. An interesting and different perspective and color change. Across the lake clouds low down the mountains tell that snow is falling there and coming your way. For the moment, however, blue above, white below, muted greens in between and all the clear, clean air you can breathe. Glorious!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

What Does "Aging" Mean?

== Saw an article about talking gently to aging parents about lifestyle changes. I’m thinking, well, we are getting to that point - being aging parents - so I wonder what they suggest the kids talk to us about. Then I read the article. It was talking about people Our age dealing with parents in their late 80s and 90s!

So maybe we aren’t on the aging list yet after all. However, our parents are dead and so we are the older generation in our family. We have also watched our parents make hard decisions about their lives and do it well and with grace. So maybe when the time comes for those conversations in our family, our children will not have such a rough time of it.

We also have our own conversations about what will keep us in our home the longest if we stay healthy and well. People who visit us laugh about the number of stairs we have to climb and they usually say something about those stairs keeping us fit and moving. Dean loves to hike, snowshoe, and ski. I hike, snowshoe and go to the gym. We eat “reasonably” well because we do enjoy our red meat, cheese and ice cream ~ just not as often as we used to. So far so good.

What I would like would be for our children to be able to agree with our decisions about our lives and that we make those with grace and agility while we are able to do so. If I can just remember that wish when I am in my 90s, all will be well.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Look, Ma ~ No Leash!

Hard to wait patiently for humans to get ready. We have to put on boots and coats and gloves. Much simpler to just race out the back door and into the forest.

The sheer exuberance of the run is a delight to behold. Out in front at top speed. Up the hill. Down the hill. Natural mogols are topped by the power of the push of the back legs sending the rest of the dog flying over the bump in joy.

If we walked 3 miles or a little more, he ran 6 or a little more, even taking off for the parking lot when we thought the walk was over. Phew. Great morning!! And once in while when he went a long way and came when called, he got a treat. Thanks, dad! :)

Friday, February 3, 2012

Just One of Those Things

When I first moved to Tahoe, Dean explained why he didn’t have a newspaper delivered to the house. We are a resort area. Any news is really about two days old by the time it reaches us. So he read his “papers” on line. And so I began to do the same. Today I read a lot more news sources on line than I did papers. Not sure I know any more than I did then, but the resources are there.

I also play games ~ most of which I also played when reading papers: crosswords, word games, some number games.

So what is my complaint? Advertisements. Oh, not that the news sources have them. I understand the same financial need is there as with the print media. So having ads is ok with me. What I don’t like is the video ad that runs whether I want to watch it or not. My article, game, whatever will “start in 30 seconds” and so I have to sit there while it plays. It is one thing to have the ads available and read if I want to. It is another to be inundated with no choice.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

== Oso took his first snowshoe hike this morning. As Dean says, he needs “woods training.” So for today he was on a leash and loved it anyway. What Fun he will have when he is able to run free! A couple of things need to happen before then though. He needs to be neutered and that surgery is scheduled for a week from today. That vet visit will also include updating shots and vaccines. Then we need to have a tag with his name and our phone number on it. Just in case the first time off the leash he takes off and disappears. We don’t think he will because he knows “come” and “sit” and other good words. Still, the allure of the forest may be too much the first time freedom beckons.

For now, even on a leash, it has been exciting and tiring. I brought his bed into the living room and he is tucked in beside where I am sitting on the window seat. He would Much Rather be On the window seat with me and we had to stop that behavior when we had three dogs, all of whom were used to sleeping in the bed with one of us. They learned and so will he. I feel like a bit of a heel making him get down or keeping him from getting up. Still, those are the rules. :)

Have no idea what food he is used to and he hasn’t eaten any of what I have put out for him. Oh well ~ he will when he gets hungry enough. At least he is going on his own to his water dish. Very soon the food will tempt as well.

We are adjusting to each other. It is good to have a dog in the house again!