Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Gratitude in November

This year has been full of all good things. So many changes, these last couple of years! Some of the changes were subtle, soft. Some of the changes happened at the speed of light. I am grateful for so much. I don't have time to write it all . . . but here is a list of 57 things. (Not in priority order, just somewhat random.)
  • Finding the love of my life. T was literally a part of my everyday work world 16 years ago. I always knew he was a wonderful person. What I didn't know way back then was what joy and delight the Universe held in store for us!

  • The blessing of being the mother to Derrick. Becoming a mother was the single most defining event of my life. I have often felt, even before his birth, that I was born to be his mother.

  • Sunshine making the world glow here in northern Indiana, even when it is cold outside.
  • Sharing dinner at home in the evenings with T. Once in awhile special friends join us. My preference is always a simple dinner. One of my favorites is winter minestrone soup, field greens, and my own seed bread. I anticipate intelligent conversation, a good share of reminiscing, and plenty of laughter. Love at the table.
  • Kitties curled up in a sunbeam this morning. Absolutely a big pile of love.

  • Trust in the way I have always been provided and cared for. It hasn't been easy, but I know that loving presence has always been there, giving me hope for better days ahead.
  • Having my teaching career to support Derrick and me over the years. Teaching in the inner city was one of the most difficult things I could do. Without that, I couldn't have learned as much about life and children and teaching as I did. The job provided for me in so many ways.
  • My job as preschool director and teacher. It was hard to leave my teaching job in Indy to move here. Teaching was a long fufilled dream. Yet this job is the best of everything! I am surrounded by energetic children, ready to learn, willing to love life every day. As Luke says, "What's next?”

  • T calls at the end of a meeting out of town, saying he’ll pick up lunch and do some grocery shopping while there because he knows my cold has zapped my energy. My love takes good care of me.
  • Watching the deer outside the kitchen window as they graze in the meadow. Alert and watchful, they seem to know I'm not a danger when I step out onto the deck. 

  • Seeing so many birds this morning. Blue birds, yellow finches, wrens, sparrows, juncos, cardinals, and nuthatches. I know they appreciate the feeder I try to keep full. They bring such delight to me as I continue the tradition of my grandparents and parents who always fed the birds in other Midwestern back yards. 

  • Watching Bitty chatter at the same birds. If only she was allowed outside, she knows she could get them!
  • Watching the squirrels scamper and race each other across the meadow and up trees. They enjoy the peanuts they find outside the back door for their morning breakfast. Tommy doesn't care as much about the birds as Bitty, but he thinks the squirrels would be great fun to chase.

  • Working on a knitting project. This year I’ve even made several things for myself! A purple shawl that has quickly become a staple in my wardrobe, a felted black purse, a hat, and a new scarf on the needles now. Not to mention knitting away every day for Christmas gifts. Knitting always makes me feel connected to Grandma.

  • My sister Lori. I simply can't imagine my life without her. We speak nearly every day. And sometimes several times a day! She knows me so well. She always has the best advise. She has helped me maintain my focus throughout everything, always encouraging me on. I can ask her anything; what to have for dinner, how to work out a difficult situation with a friend, what I look good in, and so much more.

  • Having a few calls from Derrick several days in a row. Knowing he is busy and doing well makes me happy. But there is nothing like a phone call!

  • Looking forward to Derrick’s visit home at Christmas time. 
  • The view overlooking the meadow. All year I've taken photos of it from one spot. The changing meadow, the tree line at the river, the gardens are all beautiful.

  • The loving home I share with T. We knew  this was the house for us as soon as we stepped inside. The view of the meadow, the seclusion set right at the edge of town. The look on T’s face as he walks in at the end of the day. Comments people make when they visit us here. Heaven on Earth.
  • The sound of the house. I hear the clocks ticking, chiming when the moment strikes. Those clocks are the heartbeat of the house. 

  • The wind chime outside the family room. Hung just behind the pagoda, the chime feels like Spirit checking in on us. 
  • My computer. I don't mean to be materialistic. But it is such a wondrous machine! It keeps me connected with friends and family far away, helps me research for school, provides inspiration for my creative life. 
  • Looking forward to Thanksgiving. It is a time my entire family gets together. I only wish Derrick could be there with us.

  • Remembering Thanksgiving two years ago when T talked to Daddy, asking his blessing to marry me. The joy I felt when he then announced our plans to the entire family!

  • Recent visits with my brother Eric and his wife Susan as they struggle with family difficulties. Not that I’m grateful for their difficulties. I’m grateful they feel comfortable to come and share with us. Grateful they have a brief respite from their cares as we sit together at the table over a sweet. Grateful they feel that comfortable with both of us.  

  • Watching Eric and Susan find their love, join their families, and grow together gave me such hope during my years alone. It was worth the wait! Their example helped me to hold out for the best. Even if these days are difficult for them, they are making their way through together.
  • Our lake cottage. It is a place I feel more connected to than anywhere else in the world. I am incredibly thankful to have that place together with T. We enjoy it now, look forward to spending all our remaining days there together.

  • The view of the lake on an early morning. It is simply the most beautiful sight in the world.

  • Looking at the coots on a fall day. The way they land and take off, literally running on the water is amazing.
  • Watching the swans on the lake. They stay close together, looking for one another as they wake up in the early morning light.

  • Having good books to read. As soon as I finish one there is another one, waiting for me to read it! For so many years I didn't have time to read novels. I'm trying to make up for that now!
  • My spiritual life. From learning about Love from Grandma's knee to finding my very own spiritual group. Very grateful I am able to continue growing with them, even though it is a bit far to travel!
  • Being able to attend Vince’s fall retreat in Youngstown this year with T. The connection I have with that spiritual group means so much. 
  • The church community I share with T. Even though I was a bit dubious about joining an actual church, it is the right one for me. Welcoming and affirming. In so many ways.
  • The trip my parents will make to visit here over the holidays. It will be good to have them in our home and spend time with them here. Another opportunity for T and them to get to know each other better.
  • Having a new family through T. Such loving people he comes from. I am in awe to be welcomed into the fold.

  • The connections made with students from the University. On Sunday night we hosted a group of honor students in our home for a home cooked meal of stromboli and salad. They were so grateful!
  • Late red roses blooming in the garden. T picked two perfect flowers to enjoy inside.
  • Sharing T’s joy when the Kansas City Royals won the World Series. He had waited so long! Who knew I could be such a baseball fan?
  • Friendships with women in my small town. Walking in the morning or afternoons with one, two, three and sometimes more of them and chatting all the time.
  • The commradare of book club. Sometimes the reading material stretches me way outside my comfort zone. That is the purpose of it.
  • Hosting dinners with T. We work well together. He knows exactly what to do without instructions, does things I don’t think about. The best part is sharing time with friends gathered around a table, enjoying good food, drink, and conversations.
  • Time spent in creative endeavors. I keep my paint table set up most of the time in the living room, ready for me to sit and work as I’m inspired. Sometimes I have just 10 minutes and sometimes I have the entire morning. Pure joy to work on a project and have new things completed!

  • The absolute perfectly happy day last week at the lake. Simple pleasures truly are the best. While T raked, hauled, and burnt leaves, I baked pumpkin cupcakes, basked in the sunshine, read a book, visited with neighbors, and watched the birds on the lake.

  • Watching Hobo wander the meadow and run toward me at the speed of light when he hears/sees me on the deck.

  • Feeding the squirrels peanuts in the morning. Squirrel TV we call it. They even come close to Hobo, as if to say, “Excuse me, but there is a peanut right near your tail.”
  • Visiting with a friend over a cup of tea or coffee in an afternoon. Soul-filled conversations, laughter, all in the comfort of home.

  • Planning ahead for Christmas gatherings with family and friends. What food to share? How to decorate this year? Which traditions to continue? What new traditions to create?

  • Good health in our family. Such a wonderous thing, to be healthy and free from the concerns of sickness. Something so easily taken for granted.
  • Talking with Derrick several times this week. So far away from home, from my daily life. Yet the connection is incredibly deep. So easily understood and picked up to bring great joy. 
  • The support T gives me in all things. The encouragement, affirmation, and unconditional love. Whether it is a meal prepared, a painting done, ironing shirts, or time spent curled up on the sofa reading or knitting. He loves me, whatever I do.
  • Watching movies with T. Sometimes funny with full belly laughter, sometimes with heart wrenching tears. It seems like reading a book together at the same time, these moments shared.
  • Listening to music fill our home. What a treasure it is to find a piece of music that touches my heart.
  • Getting home from a trip to Chicago safely this weekend. A surprise snow storm, a front tire blowout, and the help and kindness of strangers.
  • The smell of coffee first thing in the morning.

  • Watching the fish and frogs in the pond outside the kitchen window. The moments I sit on the step next to the pond bring such peace to me. I love the metaphore of looking deeper to see what is under the surface, what might come close enough to see more clearly. Listening to the waterfall immediately puts me at ease.

  • Realizing the perfect life I live in this very day. Knowing this is exactly where I am meant to be. My heart grows with gratitude and love and light. This is the joy all of us are meant to experience on Earth.
(Please forgive the "1's" below. Formatting problem!)

Friday, September 11, 2015

Misty Mornings on the Meadow

Late summer mornings on the meadow have a beauty all their own. As I listen to somewhat melancholy music on a rainy Friday morning, I treasure these moments before fall arrives. The kitties are all fast asleep; Tommy and Bitty curled up on the sofa nearby; Hobo in his little house on the deck. 

This is the 14th anniversary of 9/11. Such a time to remember. Obviously contributing to my sad and remembering mood. I miss Derrick intensely on this day, remembering his reaction as a third grader. I always wonder if that somehow contributed to his decision to serve as a Marine. To make a difference in the way he thinks best. 

I was working at the college then. Somewhat early in my career there. Sitting in the office as per normal that morning. Lori, my sister called. She was living in Arizona at the time. She told me what had happened, watching the morning news as her family readied for school and work. At nearly the same time, a colleague’s husband called with the same news. The word spread quickly through the office. Some of the team decided to go to one of the classrooms they had heard were watching as the horror unfolded, as part of an unexpected change in the syllabus. 

Thinking it was my obligation to let our supervisor know where the team was, I knocked on his door and went in. He was working on a project with the door closed that morning and I knew he was busy. We had the understanding I would always inform him as I deemed necessary if something came up. Who would ever think it would be something like that? I remember telling him about it, and the look on his face. A peace maker, I wasn’t certain what his reaction would be. Shock, but also an almost disbelief in what I said. Almost a dismissal, something I never saw in him before, or since. 

There were plans for me to leave around lunch that day. I had to take Derrick to a doctor appointment. I was thankful to be able to pick him up, knowing that I would be the one to tell him about the news. In times like that, we all long to be with the ones we love most. He was full of questions. We had left his dad earlier that year and were living on our own in our little town. He was concerned, even at that young age, about where another likely target for terrorists would be. He thought about our county court house, the schools. As any mother would, I assured him I thought we were safe, tucked away in our rural Indiana community. All the while thinking about the mothers unable to assure their children the same. 

The days that week unfolded in a surreal fashion. I couldn’t bear to watch the television as most people did. Still, the visuals are etched into my memory. There was a community gathering in the high school, lead by church leaders in the community. The place was packed. As I went into the building, a formation of F-16s from the local Air National Guard flew overhead, breaking the silence of the sky without any flights allowed that week. There were several gatherings for discussions of the college community, held in various locations on campus. I went to one, lead by some of the professors and administrators, my supervisor being one. A student that worked for me in the office and babysat for Derrick nearly fainted. I helped her out into the cool air outside the meeting place. We held each other, crying. 

Each year on the anniversary, when Derrick was still at home with me, we would light candles in the evening and say a prayer of rememberance. Always, the realization of that morning returned to me as if a movie was playing in my mind, putting me right back to those moments. My heart aches with the feelings stirred by things read on Facebook, seen on the Internet wherever we turn today. 

As T and I have reconnected after all these years, we’ve talked and shared our memories of that fateful day. He says he has always remembered that it was me who told him about the news. Knowing him all the better now, I understand his reaction. Masked pain. It gives me an incredibly poignant feeling that even in all the years between that morning and our present life, our memories of that morning are intertwined. 

The misty mornings of the meadow are part of our joined lives now. Blending our souls in love and joy. The realization that it can all change in a moment. That the only moment we have is the glorious moment of now. 

Thursday, September 10, 2015

The Blessing of the Oak Trees

The sky is whole and clear.
The earth is whole and firm.
The spirit is whole and full.
~ 39th Verse of The Tao

The oak towers above. It stretches into the sky; clear and sunny, dark with the moonlight dancing in its branches, or sheltering us from the storms that pass through. The branches of the tree have no control over the movement of the wind. Yet the tree teaches us that we too have a relationship of soul to spirit. We sway and lift with what sustains us within. 

The oak spreads its roots deep within the soil of the earth. Always reaching to an understanding that can only come from the depths. The tree teaches us to ground ourselves within the solid foundation of our life. The tree teaches us we are all connected on this earth.

The tree is whole and full above us. As the spirit of the wind moves through its leaves, it reminds us to listen, to feel the Spirit. We bless what these trees have given to us. We will remember the spirit of these trees, the shelter, the beauty of their gift as we go on without them overlooking the lake.

As T and I plan to expand our small cottage, it became clear we would have to lose two oaks. I mourned in anticipation of their demise. They have sheltered me through many a personal storm these past years. I have fond memories of Henri, my homing pigeon, flying through the trees. The wonder of watching an owl on early summer nights, perched on the horizontal branches overlooking the deck.

Yet the expansion of the cottage will give us more room when we want to have visitors. Not to mention the fine day we move there upon retirement. 

As the trees came down, it was obvious there were large chunks of them that had died, hollowed out. So even if we weren’t expanding, the trees could have dropped limbs during a storm that could have done substantial damage. Or worse, hurt someone. It is a bit of a relief. 

Still, I am grateful for the shade, shelter, and beautry trees have given us. We’ve had some logs set aside to use as book shelves and perhaps a coffee table to use in the cottage. The oaks will always be with us in spirit.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

A Cabin in the Woods

A sweet friendship refreshes the soul.
~ Proverbs 27:9

It was a spur of the moment trip. The best kind! In fact, as our friends picked us up on Friday afternoon, the most I knew was that we were going to a cabin in the woods in Southern Indiana for the weekend. That was all I needed to know!

We were to bring some snacks, liquid refreshments, and food for lunch on Saturday. Easy enough. I made a batch of oatmeal raisin cookies, T’s favorite, grabbed some fruit, and some cheese with crackers. For lunch, I was able to find some good avacados so T could make his famous guacamole and I made a batch of chicken enchiladas. A bag of chips, and we were good to go!

We ended up in Hoosier National Forest, not far from the Ohio River. We found a lovely little restaurant, nestled on the top of a hill over looking the river. The trip took several hours, stopping a time or two as one of us wanted to stretch our legs or do a bit of exploring. 

Finding the cabin was a bit of an adventure. We had scant directions. GPS wasn't particularly helpful without the exact address. "Turn right at the sawmill" was about as specific as we had in the way of directions. But find it we did!

Two luxurious nights settled deeply in the woods. We sat, the four of us, swinging, sharing, and laughing together. Friendship comfortable and strong. The ability to let all pretense go. No make-up by choice. No phone connection or internet service. Pure bliss!

We were all reminded of sitting on porches with grandparents long ago. 

Seemed one of the most important things to do was to watch the humming birds swarm  the feeders. We were happy to keep the feeders full with fresh sugar water.  

We were as carefree as the clouds floating by. What a perfect weekend!