Friday, October 31, 2014

Mourning

"It's not personal Mom, but it was difficult thinking of seeing you." This in the first few minutes after picking her up from the airport.

"I know," she says, "it was the same for me. Just a little tender."

We both understand and don't understand these strange new emotions.

"It's because when I see you, I see Dad." I continue, "Living in a different city, I'm so removed from the reminder of my father's absence."

It is easy, most of the time, to fold into the busyness and concerns of life.

It's the unexpected moments that are a stab to my heart-- when a daughter puts on a home video so we can watch a favorite Christmas scene. We laugh and laugh. The scene ends and Dad is on the screen. He is young and vibrant, a head full of dark brown hair. I can't control my emotions and the family rushes to turn off the TV. I'm not ready.

Or when my daughter shares the news of a new baby that will come into our family. With our beliefs in primordial life and after life, she mentions that they will pass each other, perhaps have time to spend with one another. I am weepy and long to see my father.

Or when I am sitting alone and I look up because it feels like someone just sat down next to me. And I think it's my father who's come for a chat.

A moment like now, when I write, when I think of my father and I'm unsure when this mourning will end, if it ever ends.

My neighbor's husband had been dead for double digit years when we first met her. In our honest and open conversations, often sitting on her front porch, she would still tear up when she spoke of her husband. She wasn't afraid to admit how much she missed him, how she longed to join him or the period of years when she hoped to die because she missed him so much.

Her longing was so tangible that when she did pass away, it was impossible to be sad. I knew she had joined her husband.  Yet, when I pass her house everyday, I still miss her.

For my sisters and me, losing Dad has meant that we can also lose Mom. That is what logic tells us, but it is still not possible. We cherish every moment and more, and a few days ago, my older sister took Mom to order a new car with every possible safety feature-an armored car for our Mom. In the meantime, we can at least enjoy the illusion that we can keep her safe, and with us forever.



Thursday, October 30, 2014

Plenty of Worthless Money

My daughter lives in a major US city with rough winters, and sometimes, I worry about her family's vulnerability if there were to be a natural or unnatural interruption in the normal way of things.

Time and again, we've seen grocery store shelves empty when a city is threatened by a hurricane or an earthquake or extreme cold.

So I've asked her to please think ahead--just in case.

My concern springs from recently hearing a woman speak about her childhood in occupied WWII Holland. We often believe we are beyond or above a situation so horrible as bombing and starvation, but here, right in front of me was another human who testified of atrocities she too couldn't have imagined. One of her statements keeps ringing in my head, "We had plenty of money, but there was nothing to buy."

No food, no shelter, not a stitch of clothing nor a pair of shoes.

 Mrs. Hornabrook's (our guest speaker) grandfather lived with her family and he insisted on giving his food rations to his grandchildren. One day, they found him dead from starvation.

When the neighbor, an elderly Jewish woman (who hadn't yet been taken by the Nazis), saw Elizabeth and her sister outside in the snow without shoes or socks, she took her one warm sweater, unraveled the yarn, and remade it into thick stockings for the girls.

I keep thinking how much I enjoy building our savings account-- and as important as that is, it's just as important to have a reliable car, a patched roof, a garden, and fuel for the wood burning stove. Solar panels are tempting too.

My last convincing words to my daughter are, We had plenty of money but there was nothing to buy, but I realize, I'm still trying to convince myself.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014


The day after my father's death, I sat at his desk and opened the drawer to find his billfold. I lovingly picked up this so familiar part of my father's life. I saw his billfold often because he was always pulling it out of his front pocket. How many times had I seen my father pull out a twenty or a hundred or a couple of hundred dollar bills? How often was I the recipient? How often were my children the recipients?

My youngest daughter was in Dad's truck one day, when he saw a down-and-out looking guy. Dad motioned to the guy who came over to his window. "Here buddy, get yourself a meal," Dad said as he handed him a twenty.

"Do you need gas money?" Dad would ask one of my children. Out came two twenties.

If someone picked up dinner? Out came that billfold.

Whenever Dad said goodbye to me, and often with tears in his eyes, out came the billfold and at least a hundred dollar bill.

Sitting at his desk, I took the billfold apart and looked at his license, his one remaining credit card, his medicaid card, and even his Golden Age Passport. Dad's billfold was a lifetime treasure that now belonged to Mom...but I wondered if...

Mom and I copied his license and other documents. I rummaged through his desk for business cards important to him. I put three authentic looking billfolds together: one for each of my sisters and one for myself.  Mom supplied the requisite money always found in his billfold.  And then I carefully wrapped each one, just like dad would have done- with two rubber bands.

When I handed my older sister the package, she was surprised, but opened it up. She burst into tears, overwhelmed with all the emotion she held in her hand. The second sister thought she'd gotten the original. I always carry my billfold in my purse. This way, I'll never be broke.

It wasn't until a few weeks later, that I got a glimpse into why Dad always kept plenty of cash in his pocket. I had recently cashed a check and kept most of the money. I wasn't sure why I'd done this, but I had more cash than usual.

I walked into the kitchen and found my in-between-jobs daughter standing by the fridge with darker hair roots than usual. Wow, I thought, she really needs to get her hair done. I resisted making a comment.

As we briefly spoke, I learned she was in fact going to get her hair done.

I cautiously paused and asked, "How are you paying for everything?"

She lowered her head and said, "I'm using my credit card."

My daughter was in a bind and because I had cash on hand, I went to my purse and pulled out the money for her hair. She had a need and I'd not only recognized the need, but because my billfold was fat, I was more eager to share. As I handed her the money, I felt the warm confirmation and connection that I'd had another glimpse of who my father was and who I could become.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Relationships Are a Privilege, Not a Right

Lisa, enlightens her yoga class with this simple phrase: relationships are a privilege, not a right. It resonates with me because I have a lot of relationships and I wonder if I've been considering them my right (hey I gave birth to four of those relationships), or if I treat them like the privilege they are.

How different I might treat those relationships if I always think of them as a privilege and not as my rights-- like voting as an American citizen or driving on a paved road because I've paid my taxes and passed my driver's license. How much richer would those relationships be?

After class, we talk for a few minutes about this possible relationship-paradigm-shift.

One woman comments, "When you've been through a divorce, you can certainly see the reality of that quote."

My own marriage seems ten times more important than it did an hour earlier.

But....because, everyone doesn't always remember that marriage is a priority, including myself, I've included a link to a really good article on marriage priority. Sent by a married daughter in the thick of motherhood: http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/5984366?ncid=fcbklnkushpmg00000037&ir=Parents


Monday, October 27, 2014

My dear friend begins her lesson with a visual image I can relate to and one I will never forget. Her family is boogy boarding at a beach with some pretty gruesome waves. One by one the family takes a beating on one of the waves. Everyone has returned to the beach except one daughter. The family watches her take the curl of a wave too soon and they watch it slam her into the sand. The daughter emerges with sand caked in her hair, her eyes, up her nose, all over her entire face.

This is how my friend feels about the bombardment of the world's distasteful things we are often slammed with: thoughts, language, political dogma and pornography. If you use the internet or have an iphone, or even if you drive down the freeway--you will not, cannot, avoid awful rhetoric and images.

 Even as a child in elementary school, forty years ago, I was walking home and someone had littered the sidewalk with pages torn from an X rated magazine. Even as an adult, on my regular running route, I came upon an open book of pornography.

This same friend was on her way to church, when she found a stop sign plastered with vulgar images. The only way to sensor our lives is to become our own filter and often this is after the fact or the exposure.

The solution is found in the daughter who was slammed into the surf. She pulled herself out and took a shower--washed it off. Let the water squirt in her ears, in her eyes and in her teeth. Days later she was still picking out sand, but eventually--it was gone.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Heavy Suitcase

I am showing my eighth graders a film that supports the text they are supposed to have finished. It is a foreign film so they have to read subtitles and think. There is one part I don't want them to see. Just before the scene, I pull out the connection to the projector and a wail of protest erupts.

"Did you do that on purpose?" students ask.

I just smile.

Oh, they get it and the room fills with whispers. A boy sitting just a desk away says, "The rabbits are breeding."

Yes, the rabbits were breeding and even though it was nature and a pretty innocuous scene, I didn't want to burden them with the image throughout their school day.

In Corrie ten Boom's memoir, The Hiding Place, Corrie writes of a lesson her father taught her while she was still a child. Corrie had heard the word sexsin at school. She was confused by the word and what it possibly meant. While on a train with her father, Corrie asked him the meaning. He didn't immediately answer. The train stopped and her father lifted the heavy suitcase he'd laden with watch parts on his trip to Amsterdam. He set the case on the floor and asked Corrie to pick it up. She tried, but it was much too heavy. Her father then explained that there were things that were like the heavy suitcase: to heavy too lift and tocarry around. When she grew older, she would have the strength and understanding to carry that information. For now, he would carry it for her.

The day came when my own child asked me a difficult question, a question I deemed too heavy for her to carry. I'd been waiting for this moment so I could pull out a suitcase, fill it with weight and ask my child to carry it.  The analogy worked, and my child was satisfied.

The responsibility of teacher is as weighty as the responsibility of parent. In all things, we have to ask ourselves if the suitcases we present, share and require, are the correct weight for students to carry.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

One of Those Blessed Days

We had a guest speaker in my classes today. Elizabeth Hornabrook was four years old when the Germans forced Holland to surrender. She and her family (and all of Holland) had to live through five years of occupation--which meant oppression, starvation, fear and death. Her stories were heartfelt and so real. It is somewhat of a miracle to hear a woman speak of personal WWII atrocities in 2014.

I only knew about Mrs. Hornabrook because I've had three of her grandchildren in my classes. When we started reading The Hiding Place, and her grandson was in one of my classes, I remembered she had a story.

So she came and she changed the hearts and minds of seventh and eighth graders. Corrie ten Boom's story came alive. It was no longer a story that happened 70 years ago but a tragedy felt through this woman's presentation.

In the Hiding Place, Corrie writes of her sister's sons hiding from a German labor round-up.  Mrs. Hornabrook's brother was also rounded up. Though the stories differ, they happened in the same context-in Holland in the  1940's.

Like the ten Boom family, Elisabeth's family also hid and helped Jews. As a testament to the secrecy and the need to let as few people know as possible, young Elisabeth never knew these people were in her home.

Mrs. Hornabrook stayed for two class periods and students gathered in the library. I'd asked her grandson Aaron to introduce her. The first class, he said, "This is my grandma." That was essentially it! As the second class gathered, I entered the circle of him and his grandmother and told him he'd have to step it up a bit. His grandmother expressed surprise that he was going to stay for a repeat of her lecture and then he said words that I will never forget, "I've never heard your story before."

He had been touched by his grandmother's story, by his story, and he wanted to stay and hear it again.

"Aaron, you didn't know?" his grandmother asked.

"Mom's told me some stories, but I've never heard it from you."

And I knew, if for no other reason, Mrs. Hornabrook who came to enlighten our children, had really come to enlighten her own.

Friday, October 24, 2014

A Buddha Quote

The thought manifests as the word; the word manifests as the deed; the deed develops into habit; and habit hardens into character. So watch the thought and its ways with care, and let it spring from love born out of concern for all beings.

Buddha

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Mom Troops

One of my students asks if I saw the Shakespeare showcase last night. Darn-- I didn't. Another missed opportunity that I would have enjoyed. But fortunately, she is proud of her work and she shares the highlights during lunch.
.
The acting was superb, the presentation was fun, and the costumes were the best.  The King Lear monologues had a twist--an Indian setting. The Ali Baba pants were thrilling to wear--she liked hers the best.

 I'm curious about all the costuming as it sounds quite elaborate, so I ask, "Who made the costumes?"

She throws in," The school made them," then hurries on to tell me more.

"But wait. The school couldn't physically make costumes. A person or persons had to do the work. Who was it?" 

She thinks and names a girl and then almost as an afterthought adds, "And all the chaperone Moms."

I can immediately see all those unnamed Moms, working, stitching to make sure the school, their children will have beautiful costuming.

The Mom troops.

My mom was a troop all by herself. She sewed the cheerleading costumes, the pep club costumes, the nightgowns for all the girls at the Christmas party. If she had been involved in drama, she would have been sewing 17th century wear for the Shakespeare plays.

A dear friend who lived down the street  while growing up, who was a recipient of Mom's dedication, now has her own two sons. She's raising them in upper Manhattan and she's found another under staffed, under funded school and the need to make a difference. She let us know that she thinks of Mom and Mom is her inspiration to give it all--little does she know, that she too will be somebody's inspiration. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Hiding Place

I just finished reading The Hiding Place as part of the reading curriculum for seventh graders.  Pretty heavy stuff for the little guys, but the students who take the reading seriously are changed forever. As was I.

We've had two in class reading days and students are starting to finish the book. It's amazing to see them engrossed in this blessed story. It's amazing too see them finish a 239 page book of dense text. As a lover of literature, it is joyful to see their success and hope that a door has opened to compassion, love and even non-fiction literature.

Maybe twenty years ago, I first read  The Hiding Place. Only nine years ago, Tony and I visited the Ten Boom home in Haarlem Holland. But it had been too many years and the story had faded. Faded enough that I was a little impatient when the tour included a required, tutorial to the Ten Boom's religious beliefs. I just wanted to see the house. But as I read the book again, the house, the story, can't exist without the Ten Boom religion. It IS the story of The Hiding Place.

It is a book of faith, hope, charity and ultimately forgiveness. It is a story to be cherished.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

You Go Girl

Our beloved mother, mother-in-law, grandmother, great grandmother, surprised us all by her reaction to a demographic.

A pharmacy school student was a guest in our home and Grandma asked him about the flu shot.

His response was that as a pharmacist, he was required to get flu-vaccinated and then he kindly suggested that as an elderly person,  she too should have a flu shot. She turned to me, deadpan and serious,"I'm not elderly."

And no one was going to tell her differently. A 79 year old woman had just said she was not elderly. And she meant it.

 You go girl. Because over and over again, it's been proven that we are what we think. If Grandma does not see herself as elderly, then she isn't.  She is strong, healthy and takes care of other people.

Her daughter likes to tell stories of her strength, how she helped her in the yard to take down a few trees and was tired out while her mother kept swinging the ax. And that time when she took her kids to a carnival and a cowboy swaggered up to the hammer to hit the bell hard enough to reach the bell--couldn't do it. So Grandma stepped up, swung the hammer and glory hallelujah, she won the prize. And her daughter smiled at the cowboy.

Next time I think I'm middle aged, I'm going to look myself in the mirror and say, "No I'm not. Then I'll pat my back and say, "You go girl."


You may enjoy reading: What If Age Is Nothing But A Mindset?
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/26/magazine/what-if-age-is-nothing-but-a-mind-set.html?action=click&pgtype=Homepage&region=CColumn&module=MostEmailed&version=Full&src=me&WT.nav=MostEmailed&_r=0

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Kind of City, Neighborhood, I Want to Live In


Yes really! Found this on a well traveled bike path above my home

That isn't all: in a neighborhood a mile or so distant, someone built a fruit stand, only it wasn't to sell fruit. The stand is for neighbors to leave extra vegetables and fruit for anyone who happens to drive or walk by.

So simple and so much goodwill.

Contrast this with a neighbor's house I drive by everyday and in her front yard, an apricot tree bulging with fruit. A thousand apricots. In the days before they ripened, the neighbor hung a large sign around the tree: Do not take these apricots. In essence, this woman who lives at the corner of two dead end streets, not a busy street corner, was pre-accusing her neighbors of possibly stealing her apricots. Hmmmm. Sad, but not for the neighbors who never got apricots but for the scarcity this woman felt.

While walking home one day, a friend and I ran into a neighbor with two plum trees in her yard bulging with beautiful purple plums. "Please come and get some plums," she broadcasted with a happy face. A happy face not because of the delicious plums but a chance to share her abundance.

We've all felt and acted on both: scarcity and abundance. We know and remember the one that brought us joy and the one that didn't.

According to Leonard Lauder who just donated 1 billion dollars worth of art to Metropolitan Museum of Art, "“The joy of living is the joy of giving.”


Sunday, October 19, 2014

It's Almost Time To Put the Bees To Bed For Winter

We, (the queen bees and I),  have survived the first season of beekeeping. Phew. No one's bees absconded, no one's hive was vandalized, no one killed their bees.

All of us have enjoyed the learning curve-steeper for some (moi), and this connection to nature. We've learned so much and that includes an important skill.

We've seen the neighborhood vegetation flourish: gardens, fruit trees and flowers. A neighbor called a few days ago to come take anything and everything that was left out of her garden. Apparently they'd had enough and the abundance had worn them down. Excited for a few straggling cucumbers, me the gleaner, was astounded to see a patch with possibly a hundred extra cucumbers they couldn't use. It was cucumber picking heaven. Because my tomatoes were still producing, I couldn't even use all her extra, beautiful, huge, intensely red tomatoes clinging to the vines.
One day pick from the mid October harvest

Even after two stings to my hands yesterday, I'm excited to continue this ancient art. I've already found a local bee source for next year's bees. All three of us queen bees want a local hive that has weathered our climate and the typical threats to bees.

At the beginning of the season, we were all haunted by the possibility that our bees may not survive the winter.  This is a normal and real possibility. Even the best of beekeepers lose bees over the winter-yet it was just unthinkable. We'll do our best, but there are so many uncontrollable variables.

One of the most perplexing concerns is will they have enough honey stores to last?

My hive doesn't. I visited the hive two days ago and found my bees in the midst of being robbed again! I halved the entrance and the misfit band of robbers headed home. How much honey did they manage to take with them? While checking for honey loss, trying to neatly push all the bars back together so no one got squished, I angered two bees to kamikaze suicide. I watched as the angriest bee curled into my glove and gave up her life for revenge! She was successful and I have the sore hand to prove it.

There is humor in this lack of winter honey stores. It turns out I will have to feed my bees through the winter with expensive organic honey. Tony thinks this is hysterical--isn't it supposed to be the other way around?

How much honey to leave them? This is perplexing too. No one knows for sure--how can one predict the hive appetite and whether they will even accept the honey? How best to feed them, how to keep the bowl of honey from freezing...?? How, how, how?

Closing the hive: The real danger to a hive is precipitation. If we put on too heavy of a winter coat and there's a sequence of higher winter temperatures, the hive might sweat and the bees might freeze. And then, what if there's a cold snap and they can't stay warm enough?

We are prepared and have adjusted to the idea that we might lose our bees over winter. Our worries originate from the mothers we are, the nurturers, and to lose life, even insects, is unthinkable. But it is part of the reality of keeping bees and one season down--we are beekeepers.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Fence Sitting

Each morning, Tony laughs at me, because I wake up wondering where ebola has gone in the last 12 hours. Literally, one morning, the first words out of my mouth were: "I'm sort of anxious to get up and see what's happening with ebola."

Such a curious disease. Such a tragedy.

It's a daughter's favorite book: The Hot Zone. I remember being glued to the book until I'd finished the horrifying, chilling story of the first ebola crisis.

I'm trying not to feel the panic, the impending hysteria (or possibly rational), that drives people in hazmat suits to the front of the White House to protest open travel from West Africa. Yet, it makes sense. And it doesn't. How's that for a fence sitter?

Yet fence sitting can be one of the most pernicious un-actions ever. "Bad things happen when good people do nothing." And fence sitting is a do-nothing.

 There are some heartfelt reasons not to close borders. My friend's son, a sorely needed medical doctor, is waiting for his clearance to serve in a West African nation. If the borders close indefinitely, he and other care workers may not go and those who are there may scramble to get out. How important is it to stay and help? And not just for humanitarian reasons, but for protect-the-world reasons?

I read a report last night that the side effects of ebola in Africa will eventually be much worse than ebola, if they aren't already. One health care worker found two children whose parents had died from the infection. They needed food and care and when the health care worker returned two days later with supplies, the children were dead.

There are limited ways I can help: money donations to trusted organizations and prayer for government leaders to have wisdom--because really, there are a lot of opinions and some very tough decisions, and most opinions/decisions will not be validated until after the fact--when we have hindsight. And by then, we'll either be back slapping and grateful, or we'll be a remorseful nation full of pointing fingers and blame--another insidious disease.







Friday, October 17, 2014

French Film

The past many years, I have enjoyed French films.

Recently, Tony and I ventured to the theatre to see L'Amour--a disturbing in your face film about, well, love, death and its mysteries. There were moments in the darkened, almost empty theatre when we would turn to each other and start laughing--not because there was humor, but because the film was so...so...so
French!

How is French cinema so French? It is slow, deliberate, as if there is no time restraint, written and filmed to contrast perhaps a shocking end. Or to give one time to digest a concept that may or may not be obvious. A good comparison may be the difference in the time we spend eating a meal versus the time spent at a French meal. A French dinner may last hours whereas an American sit down dinner may last an hour. We may prep for three hours, but the meal time is a fraction of that. Prep time versus enjoyment time is 3:1. The French ratio would be 3:3.

A French film would be more deliberate--longer pans on scenery, longer exposure to suffering. Less said, more visuals. Longer scenes. The beauty is in the concept of the entire film. There is no rush to what may be a simple ending. The story line may be simple but the journey to the climax is an aesthetic one. Babette's Feast is the perfect example. The film is about a woman who prepares a feast. Yes, that is all, but if the topic was a simple balloon, the preparation for this feast, the emotion for this feast, the love and sacrifice for this feast, would inflate the balloon until it popped.

Last night, Tony and I watched again, Jean de Florette-a film so beautiful and so painful--about greed. It conveys like no other story I know, the blindness and tragedy of greed and sacrifice. There is a sequel: Manon of the Spring. I hope we watch it tonight.

The films are in French with English subtitles. This requires active watching. I love hearing the words and trying to match them with the subtitles--even best when I know what they're saying before I read the subtitles.

There is something about the beauty of the French language. In a Private Lives article in the NY Times on October 16, author Ellen Ann Fentress who teaches French lessons to older women, wrote that it was satisfying enough for one woman to say  un jus d'orange. "She said it over and over. The sensuality of the syllables transported her. She'd throw back her chin as her eyes rolled back in her head, halfway home on the Meg Ryan spectrum of pleasure. French phonetics can do that."

Another favorite is La Gloire do Mon Pere, a 1990 film based on Marcel Pagnol's memoir. The second film is Le Chateau de Ma Mere. In English: My Father's Glory and My Mother's Castle. The films are funny and heart warming-and child friendly.

These films have power and relief from disturbing trends of continually-hightened violence and gore-the previous week, I watched two disturbing television shows: part of The Walking Dead (never again) and an episode of Blacklist (intriguing but often disturbing).

Many French films, especially the old classics I've listed above are an escape, a reprieve from the blaring Transformers 3, The Avengers, the films that entertain. French films are more like art that triggers thoughts, the imagination, and best of all, require us to think.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

A text message to my friend:

Terrible news. I asked a potential (early courting stage) future son -in-saw what his favorite read in high school was. Yes you guessed it. How am I going to get along with him if he marries my daughter? In case you missed it: Catcher in the Rough.

But the real title is: Catcher in the Rye.

My friend loves Catcher in the Rye. So she replies: Ha ha ha--he's a keeper. Better than my son's girlfriend who says she doesn't like to read.

My immediate reply: Banishment to outer darkness! For the greater sin of not reading, of course.

Her reply: Yes!

Is it the worst thing if my sons in law have favorite books that aren't my own? Far from my own favorites? No and it's very far from the worst thing ever,

So what does a mother look for in a potential son in law? One thing only: the kind of person her daughter is or what she is becoming while in the company of  this young man. Her happiness, her confidence, her ambitions and goals. When the young man brings out the best in my daughter, it matters not what might have been his favorite book in high school, or his hair length or home state, or schooling, or...........


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Law of the Fast

One a month, my family fasts from the end of Saturday afternoon/evening to Sunday afternoon/evening. The goal is a 24 hour period without sustenance. It's difficult. I would like to say that it isn't, but it is.

There are several reasons for this sacrifice. The understood main reason is to remember the poor. We donate the proceeds of what the meals missed in this 24 hour period would have cost. But it is more than a literal adding of food items.  It is a time to sacrifice more--a chance to give generously to people who have material needs. I know some of the money stays local. The bishop decides who has a need in my neighborhood.

I recently saw a graph of the United States that showed the states with the highest economic gaps between rich and poor. The state of Utah was among the lowest states gap. This means that there is a poverty/wealth gap but it isn't as much as other states. I'm hoping that monies from the fast help to close this gap.

Yesterday, I found a series of scriptures that gave me more determination to complete a 24 hour fast. They are ancient words from an Old Testament prophet and I so appreciated that the fast is an ancient ritual that we still practice. The scriptures are found in Isaiah 58. Often times these scriptures are hard to understand, but they are so beautifully clear concerning the fast.

It first speaks of the fast for the poor:

Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?
 Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself fromthine own flesh?
After a person cares for the poor, the blessings are incredible:
 ¶Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thinehealth shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the Lord shall be thy rearward.
 Then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am. If thou take away from the midst of thee the yoke, the putting forth of the finger, and speaking vanity;
 10 And if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noonday:
 11 And the Lord shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not.
For those of us who try to fast monthly, these words are better than sustenance--if I didn't already have this practice, I'd think I'd want to try.....think about it.




Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Meet the Mormons

It's a little exciting/nerve wracking when my beloved religion goes out on a limb and releases a movie titled, "Meet the Mormons" into nationwide theaters and the clergy asks the members to support the endeavor. Like a dutiful and committed Mormon, I went to the movie. I was on a weekend getaway with my mom, so the two of us walked to the theater close to our hotel.  The seats were an immediate sell-plush, reclining and reserved the week before.

The movie started and it had a sense of humor! Funny perceptions and misperceptions about Mormons. Always a good way to start a film. But then, the film got serious as it entered into the lives of five or six ordinary, yet extraordinary people. The first story was very focused on a Mormon Bishop, but as each story unfolded, it became less about the Mormon-ness of the individual or family and more about the person's human-ness. The people were more caring and giving than they were Mormon. The common struggle became less of a specific religious struggle but more of a human struggle and by the time the movie ended, I left with a profound connection to  humans, not Mormons.

Hence, that is why I'm writing about the film today and why I tweeted about the film, when normally I am pretty private about my religious leanings and practices. It's a feel-good movie about being a part of the human race.

When the headlines focus on ISIS terrorists with the ultimate goal of destroying America, when a man dying of ebola came to America having lied about his exposure to ebola, when negativity reigns concerning the democrats versus the republicans, a movie about people trying to serve, love and succeed is the remedy for prevailing pessimism.

So....I'm a living, breathing, practicing Mormon and it's always great to see something uplifting, Yes, I am a little biased, but I'm biased towards everything that is honest, true, chaste, benevolent, and virtuous and of good report and yes, I seek after these things. But you do too--regardless of religion and so, if you want to soar with positive feelings about your fellow humans, go and meet the mormons-- just people with struggles, shortcomings and dreams--just like you.

Monday, October 13, 2014

I Feel SAfe

After the warm days of September, a storm blows in bringing rain and a cool breeze. If I open the front door and the back door, it's like a river running through the house. And best of all is the sound of the rain. I soon realize, there is something even better: I feel safe, mid-day, alone in my house.


The safety comes after reading an article on Brownsville, Bronx, New York, a dense area of public housing with the highest crime rate in the state. In the 1960's, the area was dominated by Jewish residents, but in 2014, there are only two Jewish merchants left. One of those merchants survives by locking the door after unlocking it for a patron--and the patron feels safe. An armed guard accompanies the UPS delivery man.

 I so appreciate my safety, my peace. Because of Brownsville and because I know that open doors in quiet neighborhoods are sometimes preyed upon too. But just this day, I feel safe.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Oh My Husband

I'm on a strict diet right now because, hmm, well, no need to explain. 

My husband asks how long the diet lasts. "Three months," I reply.

"Then," he asks, "what are you going to do?"

"I'm going to do just like you. Gain it all back slowly over the next ten years, then go on another strict diet when I hit my highest intolerable point."

We laugh even though it's not that funny.

The problem is that my next highest acceptable weight point keeps growing. Fifteen, maybe twenty years ago, it was 130,  then I somehow hit 140--and this time I reached utter disgust when the scale hit 150 (okay, it really hit 154 at the doctor's office, fully dressed with shoes). I was fed up. Actually it took more than that. It was a photo taken in the following days. Thank goodness that daughter took the photo of me posing in front of the sunflower. And worse she sent it to a friend. 

It makes me thankful that someday I will die so I won't have to keep dieting when I reach my highest threshold of 180 pounds when I'm 80 years old. At that point, I will have to lose 50 pounds. With a metabolism slower than a still rocking chair--that's going to be difficult.

And here's the deal: it will still matter when I'm 80.

 Some years ago, I was sitting on the couch across from my 80 year old grandmother who was reclined on the other couch. She hadn't felt well recently but....at  least she had good news. She'd recently lost five pounds! I looked at her old wrinkled body, her breasts that had long passed her waist and realized: no matter how old I get, I will still worry about my weight. Darnit.

But at least....I'm not my husband who has a systematic clothes system, sorted, labeled and ready for when that darn weight from a month in France or a whole football season of late night ice cream, sneaks up and manifests itself on the scale.

Oh my. I hope you laugh as hard as Paloma and me when we discovered the scene below.





Saturday, October 11, 2014

Real Dreams Or Sleep Dreams? Your Choice

I am sitting in at the lunch table with two favorite colleagues and one of the colleagues comes up with something profound.

"What we dream about, is success without failure"--Tom Bown

This is why some of us are content with our dreams--because trying at any endeavor usually means failing at least once, twice perhaps more times. When we adjust to the idea that success is only a result of failure, we can begin to tackle those dreams.

Why are real life dreams not given their own word? Why is the same word used for what we see in our sleep? Because when we don't go for our awake dreams, it's no different than sleeping through life.

Wake up. Have some failures so you can experience success.

Friday, October 10, 2014

I am in my bee suit in the forest below my house, all alone with the bees--my Zen experience. The house below me, distanced by a steep hill and tree cover, has been empty for awhile. But lately, I've heard the sound of children. I love the sound of children, but I now know the hillside peace and the safety of a beehive are in jeopardy--a family with a half dozen young children has moved in. With the beautiful weather and the curiosity of children, I'm a little concerned about their exploration into my yard. It's a wild area and there is no fence-just pathways made by the deer, the skunks, and the guinea hens.

How interesting that the children's day of exploration coincides with my presence at the beehive. Their voices get closer and closer and I know that soon, a child will wander up the path. I have to admit that I feel a little intruded upon.

Without sound, I look up, and there she is--my first visit from my new neighbors. Standing like a deer who is startled by a human. Her eyes are big and scared. How strange I must look, sitting under the hive in an alien space suit (to her perhaps). She is frozen like a deer in the headlights.

"Hi," I break the ice.

She doesn't move or speak. I ask her a few questions to which she answers like a bank teller who is begin robbed--by me.

"Can you tell your mom about the beehive? I'm a little worried about one of the children getting too close and possibly aggravating the bees," I pause for emphasis, "and getting stung."

She nods her head and starts to back away. I want to make it better so I add, "It's nice to meet you."

No response and she is gone.

The voices continue from a different angle. Minutes later, I look up and above me, stands her brother.

"Hi."

He too is a deer in the headlights unsure whether to stay or run. I ask more questions and give him the same tutorial with the same bee stinging portent. But then, I have a softening, an epiphany: if I truly want them to be safe, want the children to respect the bees, I need to bring them into the bee world.

"Would you like to look at the bees someday?"

He barely nods a yes.

I'm currently reading/teaching The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom. I am again disturbed by the atrocities of that strange time and while pondering the experience of the orthodox Jew whose beard was set on fire by a group of hooligans, I have a new thought. What if, instead of retreating from the world that began to persecute them, what if they'd thrown open the doors of the synagogues, invited the gentiles into their homes, what if they'd shown the world a different, human culture that countered Nazi propoganda?

When the blasphemous, funny, touching, humiliating Broadway musical "The Book of Mormon," came out, the Mormons waited outside the theatre handing out the real book the play had just made fun of. "You've seen the play, now find out what the book is really about," was the counter to the musical propaganda.

It's the same reason Mormons open their temples to the public. Before temples are dedicated to God, everyone is welcome to see, explore, to understand, to break down suspicion and the mystery of a temple.

 Down the street from the LDS temple in New York City, is an elementary school that brought their children to tour the undedicated temple. The children were reverent, respectful and when they reached the end of the tour, which culminated in the "Celestial room," two of the children, threw a wrench in the tour. They laid down on the floor, rolled under the couch and wouldn't let go of the couch legs. They didn't want to leave. The children recognized a feeling and they didn't want to leave.

And so, it is requisite that I hike down the hill and invite the neighbor children to come and experience the fascinating world of a beehive.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Soccer Coaches


When my youngest daughter played soccer, I was most grateful for one thing: the coach. He never yelled or screamed at his players. He'd learned that children don't function well when screamed at. Neither do adults.

I dreaded the games against a rival team and its maniacal soccer coach who screamed his way through the entire match. I wouldn't have allowed my daughter to play for him--and I don't know how those parents could take it. These were young girls in junior high school--not professionals playing for the World Cup.

And that is why, I'm writing about soccer coaches. Bless them. It's often a volunteer position. They are often experienced and know the game well. They appreciate a well placed goal, energetic players, players that don't go off sides. And for the most part, they stay calm for the young minds, bodies, hearts, they serve. It must be difficult to stay calm and in control when the players are acting like....kids.

The scenario: a soccer field at the neighborhood elementary school. Ten year old boys playing ten year old boys. Families line the field watching the game. The side fields are filled with other coaches and their teams in practice. With my three daughters, I am watching a ten year old grandson work hard on the field. It's been a close game and so far, the coach hasn't been noticeable. He's running his team well; things are smooth. Again the game is close.

It's a crispy fall day, a pleasant day until, from deep within this heretofore mild-mannered coach, comes the roar of a lion. The angry, loud roar of a lion.

"DAVEEY DO YOU WANT TO BE IN THE GAME?"

The coach's restraint and composure is blown in a ten second outburst.

Immediately, we are (everyone), uncomfortable. Big time. So much that as I turn my head, I see the adjacent fields laughing and mimicking the lion coach. I'm immediately thankful, my grandson or my son, is not Davey. Poor Davey. And the parents who line the field with so much hope for their soccer kicking sons, go silent. Someone is Davey's parent.

Over the next week, it's a funny line when someone bursts out in a full imitation of the soccer coach, "Davey, do you want to be in the game?"

Yeah, we all laugh. We are incredulous.

But it's not really that funny.

I remember the few times, I lost it with one of my children. They are my least proud moments, and I wish I could take them back. The memory of those moments are what made me better the next time.

Better the next time. It's what coaches expect from their players and what they need to expect for themselves.


Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Reasoning Over Profanity


I am hiking with dear friends when the conversation turns to the subject of profanity in books and movies. Both friends express that they are not bothered by profanity, and for the most part, neither am I--except--I cannot handle the damning of deity. I can't read books with it, can't watch movies with it, can't listen to people say it. It churns at the deepest of my core. I realize I am unique and that's ok--no desire to change myself or anyone else.

I let my friends know that this profane use bothers me. My friend's response is "I don't think God cares."

But I do, so I ask, "Then why is it one of the ten commandments?"

She thinks for a second and then repeats, "I really don't think he cares."

But I still think he does. A little more contemplation and I may know why he does care, and it's not because he is a vain being who would care what people think of him but because in each one of us is God. And when we damn his name casually, we are damning our own divinity. Who would allow their children to curse themselves or their family?

For example, I will use our family name: Martinez. Would we allow our children to walk around and say "Martinez dammit?" As an expression of anger or frustration? No.

We are God's children and using his name profanely, hurts him, but mostly because we are hurting ourselves.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Awareness


My daughter is at the gym waiting for her class to start. Standing next to her, also waiting, is her lifelong friend. A lady, also standing with a group of friends, waiting, points to my daughter and says, "You. You." My daughter is perplexed.

"You are so cute, we all want you to date our sons," the lady says.

My daughter takes the compliment in stride but she's dying because her friend is standing right next to her during the exchange. And no one pointed at her and demanded her to date her son.

Awareness. Lack of awareness. I have no doubt that the lady meant well, but in her forthrightness, she compounded the feelings of a girl my daughter loves and understands. And she understood that the lady's lack of awareness brought pain-which brought pain to her-which negated any compliment. And any chance she would ever date the lady's son.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Generations

I woke up this morning with warm feelings and connections to my grandparents. My thoughts were triggered by a twelve year old boy who is in one of my seventh and eighth grade classes I am teaching for six weeks.

 A year ago, I heard his name paged over the school speaker and jolted at the familiar and unusual name: Zobrist. More than likely, anyone with that name is related--and he is. He is my cousin's grandson which makes him my third cousin.

On my first day of teaching his class, I asked him to come up and tell his family history or more especially the origin of his name. His details were vague, but they were in place. His fellow 8th graders seemed to find it interesting that we were related.

This young man is full of life and vigor. He's joyful, articulate and intelligent. The warm feelings came this morning when I realized that I intimately knew his great-great grandparents. How does this happen? This link between the generations? Someone so far removed by time from grandparents that I grew up with. And the moment of warmth came when I could feel my grandparents love for their great great grandson--so full of life, so young, so theirs and so proud of his joyful mind.

It is a marvel that I am a link between grandparents born in 1892 and 1898 and a boy (who loves wifi), born more than 100 years later.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Energy

I am riding my bicycle intently, eyes focused on the gears and the ground ahead of me, when I have this feeling. It's a kind of energy that brings my focus upward and to the other side of the street.

Strolling on the sidewalk is my friend and neighbor and her smile literally beams across the street--so much that I have a whole new concept of the power of a smile. There is energy coming from her smile and it isn't a traditional measurable kind of energy. It is smile energy and it is real. I didn't see her-- I felt her and I was compelled to look up because of that energy.

We've all been in a room when that certain someone walks in and we either feel the room light up or we feel the room sucked of all its energy--as if a crack in the airplane window has just sucked an empty chair into the stratosphere.

This recent bicycle/smile encounter has me thinking of the kind of energy I might bring to a room of people when I enter. Foremost, I don't think it has much to do with me. I think it's about other people--how I greet them, how I value who they are and if the energy is pure, it sends happy, heart warming vibrations.

And the world changes just a little bit, for the better.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Graffiti


In 2001, I was shocked to see the amazing amounts of graffiti as I traveled by train from Charles de Gaulle airport into Paris. It seemed that every square inch of surface--the backsides of businesses and buildings was graffiti bombed. In a way it ruined the landscape, in a way, it enhanced what was not the most desirable real estate. 

Back home in the US, I'd seen graffiti, mostly in large cities but very little in my town. Most of it was temporary vandalism, removed with time. The Provo River trail for many years was in an undisturbed natural state.

As I rollerbladed the trail the other day, it was the first time I noticed the graffiti shown in the image below. It was obtrusive. How dare someone ruin the natural beauty of the trail.




 But yet, mankind has always left its mark. The earliest known images are found in the south of France in the caves of Lascaux. The time estimate of these paintings is 32,000 years ago. That's some history of women and men wanting to create. Yet I find a difference in the above writing and the beauty of the images below. Would it have been different if they'd had a written language? Would they have bothered with detailed drawings of animals if they could have just written "animal"? Would I be more forgiving of the graffiti if they were images of animals? No.



Images from Chauvet Caves--south of France too. Funny, I just made a connection.
The French are the culture that is know for its love of aesthetics--all things beautiful. Did it start with their prehistoric cave dwellers?

So, I sort of get graffiti--mankind, womankind wants to express themselves. And I understand that to some, graffiti is an art form.

In the midst of the graffiti was at least a somewhat uplifting message-- perhaps? At first I found the suggestion more worthy of space than the traditional graffiti, but the more I looked at it the more I realized it's just vandalism. Of a different kind.


Change Your Future

Graffiti is not going away and I don't want to spend the rest of my life disdaining someone's need for expression. The whole situation reminds me of the question my sister often poses, "Do you want to be right or do you want to be happy?"

I'll choose happiness. 


Friday, October 3, 2014

5 Steps for Creating Healthy Habits by: Deepak Chopra


This is sooooo good. 

5 Steps for Creating Healthy Habits

by: Deepak Chopra
- See more at: http://www.chopra.com/ccl/5-steps-for-creating-healthy-habits?inf_contact_key=81d97e568bdff8015c77cef307ff8fe8051ae7b4921bdf3e1266c2e71fc20f89#sthash.Ue6sRYGM.dpuf
A basic outline for prevention has existed for more than thirty years, but wellness has had a hard time making real headway. Old habits are hard to break. Our society has a magic bullet fixation, waiting for the next miracle drug to cure us of every ill. Doctors receive no economic benefit from pushing prevention over drugs and surgery. For all these reasons, compliance with prevention falls far below what is needed for maximum wellness.
Rather than feeling gloomy, my focus has been on getting the individual to take charge of their own wellness. This can be a considerable challenge, since we are each unique in our bodies but also unique in our pattern of bad habits and poor lifestyle choices. More than 40 percent of American adults make a resolution to live a better life each year, and fewer than half keep their promise to themselves for longer than six months. Conditioning is hard to break, but the key is that the power to break a habit belongs to the same person who made it—the turnaround amounts to giving up unconscious behavior and adopting conscious new patterns.
Once your mind begins to pay attention, your brain can build new neural pathways to reinforce what you learn. Much is made of the brain’s ability to change and adapt—the general term is neuroplasticity—but I think science has been slow to catch up with wise experience. It has always been true that applying awareness in any form, through such things as resolve, discipline, good intentions, and mindfulness, has the power to create change. The practical dilemma is how to use your strengths and motivation to help yourself remain committed to wellness as a lifetime pattern.

Step 1: Set Goals by Baselining Your Health

The first step in taking control of your well-being is to set goals, and a sensible way to do this is to “baseline” your health. Gather some basic facts that realistically inform you about your body: weight, height, family history, exercise habits, general diet, and a self-assessment of your stress levels at work and in your home life.
Some experts would add medical measures that only a doctor can fully determine, such as blood pressure, cholesterol and other lipids levels, and bone density. My difficulty with these tests is that they encourage worry. Being in an anxious state is a bad motivator for most people. It can motivate you for as long as you remember to be afraid, but after that, people tend to give in to impulses, make erratic choices, and increase their own stress levels. With that in mind, I go against the grain of standard medical advice, at least partially, by saying that heeding these medical markers should come second, after you have already set yourself on a good wellness program for at least six months. Give consciousness a chance before you undermine it with potential anxiety.
How do you actually set your goals? Start thinking about the big picture. Changing poor lifestyle habits is rarely easy, especially if they comfort you, as smoking or overeating do for many people. You need a strong vision of what you want to achieve in order to succeed. I’d say the strongest vision comes from knowing about a simple trend: the latest research shows that more and more disorders, including most cancers, are preventable through a good wellness program. The benefits are increasing with every new study.

Step 2: Set Priorities

Making lists of your hot spots and your sweet spots will help you to set your personal priorities. The hot spots are weaknesses, the sweet spots strengths that crop up during an ordinary day. You can’t attack every bad pattern all at once; it’s good to achieve a series of small victories at first.
Hot spots: List the times you feel unhappy or most agitated—fighting a futile battle to get a good night's sleep, perhaps, or recriminating yourself for ordering dessert when you were already full. Identify with clear sights your biggest challenges, such as getting to bed on time, reducing food portions, resisting sweets, choosing the couch over the treadmill, and so on. Doing this will help your mission take shape and direction.
Sweet spots: List the things that give you joy and satisfaction, for instance, spending time with your family or enjoying a favorite hobby. Recapture in your mind what it feels like to resist ordering dessert or to spend half an hour walking outdoors. Appreciating the sweet spots in your life is a source of strength as you embark on your habit-changing mission.

Step 3: Identify Harmful Patterns

To change your negative habits, you have to know what they are. Some bad habits, like smoking and excessive drinking, are obvious, but others may be less so. Sitting all day is damaging to your health, even if you get half an hour of exercise or more before or after work. Depriving yourself of eight hours’ sleep for even a short period is also hard on the body in ways that sleep researchers are just beginning to fully recognize.
Forming a new habit takes repetition and focus, and if your attention is elsewhere you may have a harder time adjusting to new behaviors. For that reason, some experts advise against planning big changes if you are going through a particularly stressful period. I think that reasoning is wrong. Although it’s true that you are likely to have more setbacks at such times, it’s just as true that people change as a result of meeting challenges and crises: “Aha” moments occur quite often when somebody hits bottom.
Visualizing your desired outcome is a useful tool in your journey. “Seeing” yourself as you wish to be has helped smokers quit, obese people lose weight, and sports champions achieve their goals. In order to change the printout of the body, you must learn to rewrite the software of the mind. This truism is reinforced by brain scans that show a decrease in certain higher functions (making good decisions, following reason over impulse, resisting temptation) when a person falls into a pattern of giving in to a wide range of lower impulses, such as fear, anger, or simply physical hunger. You need to implement a healing regimen that encourages and rewards your good choices if you want brain pathways to follow suit.

 Step 4: Make Steady Changes

Even though you are working on the big picture, for psychological reasons a series of small victories is desirable. In essence, you are training your brain to succeed. Most of us, having been defeated by old conditioning, take the course of least resistance, not realizing that we are training our brains into pathways that rob us of free will over time.
So begin with a victory you can define and which means something to you. Skip red meat for a week. Take the stairs, not the elevator. If you’re very out of shape, walk 10 minutes every day and gradually build up your time. Put down your fork halfway through your meal, take a few deep breaths, and ask yourself if you’re still hungry. If you work at a desk, make it a rule to always stand or pace when you’re on the phone. Over time, what seem like baby steps produce new physiological changes in every cell of the body. Trillions of cells are eavesdropping on your every thought and action. Instead of pretending that your body doesn’t know what you’re doing, make yourself the gift of delivering good news to your cells.
In my view, the most important victories occur in awareness, however. If you tend to procrastinate, be aware of the reasons you do it. We get comfortable in our warm, fuzzy old routines, and making changes, even small ones, feels threatening psychologically, as if even a positive change is a risk. Predict when you will procrastinate and invent a strategy to outmaneuver your future self. For example, if you know you’ll be tempted to hit the snooze button instead of getting up for an early morning jog, put your exercise clothes across the room from your bed—with your alarm clock on top.

Step 5: Reinforce Good Decisions

Sometimes brain research underlines the obvious, but it is a breakthrough to observe MRI scans and see for yourself that good decisions “light up the brain in ways that are different from bad decisions. In the larger scheme, when you undertake a wellness program, you will be faced every day with the choice to stay the course or abandon your mission. How does your brain make choices, then?
Executive control, which means choosing a thought or action to meet an internal goal, is managed by the brain’s prefrontal cortex. The orbitofrontal cortex and amygdala play roles in regulating decision-making based on the memory of feelings. Regions of the midbrain in which the neurotransmitter dopamine is predominant also influence decision-making. Some of the choices that trigger dopamine's release: eating sweet foods, taking drugs, having sex.
We may overindulge in chocolate cake because we tend to value the short-term outcome we know (deliciousness) over the long-term outcome we have never experienced (weight loss and increased energy from better nutrition). One way to break that cycle is to reward ourselves in a different way. Instead of eating cake, we can go play a game or listen to music.
How long does it take to form a new habit? An average of 66 days, according to a 2009 study from University College, London. Repetition and giving yourself time to adjust are the main factors in forming a new behavior pattern.
- See more at: http://www.chopra.com/ccl/5-steps-for-creating-healthy-habits?inf_contact_key=81d97e568bdff8015c77cef307ff8fe8051ae7b4921bdf3e1266c2e71fc20f89#sthash.Ue6sRYGM.dpuf