On Remarkable Children…

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I didn’t get to be a mother in my life.  Frankly, God knew what He was doing with that plan.  He did, however put some pretty remarkable children in my life in a variety of ways, so that I could still have those blessings.

I have the most wonderful brothers and sisters that any person could ever have.  Of course, none of them are children any longer.  My oldest brother  takes  care of people’s bodies.  My second brother takes care of horse’s bodies.  My third brother takes care of people’s minds.  My youngest brother takes care people’s food sources.  Then there are my incredible sisters, two of which heal people, and the third of which protects animals.  I know.  It takes my breath away.

I taught a thousand children who are now screenwriters, astro-physicists, opera and nightclub singers, teachers, undergrad and doctoral students, and self-made business owners.  They are entrepreneurs, musicians, technicians, trauma nurses, wives and husbands, mothers and fathers.  From teaching comes all professions, don’t you know.

I have step-grandchildren and great-grandchildren that pray for me, send me their Flat Stanleys to joy-ride around the world, write me letters, and make me laugh, when I have the rare opportunity to spend time with them.

I have nieces and nephews that grew up way too fast for me to process, and who are now having their own children.  One of which is my great-nephew, who came to spend a week at my house just a month ago.

Kids are fickle.  He loved me when he was one, shunned me when he was eighteen months old, and then, age 22 months, gave me the exceptional gift of sharing his blanket (which I made for him, and he hardly let others even touch).  The day he leaned into me, brought me his book and blanket, and crawled up on my lap, my heart nearly burst.  It was practically the highlight of my entire year.

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Yep.  Children are pretty remarkable.  The people that make them are even more so.  Then the ones that share them are the most blessed of all.

 

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Being a Pilgrim…

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No, not the kind that wears buckles on the hat and shoes.  The religious kind.  Hoo-boy.  Never thought that would be me, but I guess God had a different plan.  Imagine that.

So what is a modern-day pilgrim?  My treasured, brown Webster’s New World Dictionary defines a pilgrim as one who makes “a journey, especially to a shrine or holy place.” Somehow, that doesn’t quite capture it.  I think a pilgrimage is a journey made with an open mind and heart to the experience of said visit to the holy place.  At least that’s how I began my pilgrimage.

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I just returned from Medjugorje, Bosnia-Herzegovina.  It is a small, fairly obscure village in former Communist Yugoslavia.  In that village, since June of 1981, the Blessed Mother has appeared to six visionaries, who started out as young people, ages 16 down to 10, who have grown to be mostly middle-aged joyful, prayerful, normal, kind, men and women.  Not that I personally met any of them, but I did see and hear a couple of them speak.  By the way, they have been medically certified as normal and sane.  I can’t say that I have that piece of paper.

It was a long and arduous post 9/11 journey, from Charlotte to Toronto to Munich to Split.  I had never even heard of Split.  Then a three hour bus ride to Medjugorje.  The village is dominated by a very large, double-spired church, with Cross Mountain and Apparition Hill at points equidistant to each other.  We spent nine days climbing the Hill, going to Mass twice a day, praying the rosary twice or three times a day, climbing the Mountain, hearing talks and testimonials, and well, I’m not proud of this, but shopping.  At least the shopping was for sacramentals and blessed items to bring back, I tell myself.

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This place is what the rest of the world should be like…accepting of differences.  The Italians are pushy.  So what!  That’s just them.  They are loving and faithful people.  The Americans talk too much and say little.  So what!  They are generous.  The Protestants don’t pray The Way of the Cross.  So what!  They respect Christ’s Passion and suffer for Him the same as Catholics.

The experiences I had do not center around the visions of the Blessed Mother.  I haven’t had any of those.  My experiences and impressions center on what the Blessed Mother calls us to do.  Love.  That’s it.

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I am working very, very hard to keep that message in my heart and at the center of my life.  And with prayer, it’s possible.

 

Being Lucky…

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Four years ago, I wrote a post called “Adult (or almost) students, a teacher’s gift.’  In that blog, I wrote about the joy of connecting with my former students, and discovering the wonderful human beings they have grown to be, as if there were doubts!  Say what you will, but if it weren’t for Facebook, I would not have the contact.  It’s a gift.

Recently, I received another “gift” from a former student.  I taught Logan Sparks in first grade, the class of 1982-83.  It was a darling class, and I could probably tell you a story about each one of those kids in that class.  We had some interesting adventures, including Paddington Bear coming to visit us, and the day of the field trip, when the bus forgot us, and instead of going out in the world in excitement, we were left at school (with no lesson plans), to make the best of it, and we did.

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Back to my “gift.”  Logan co-wrote a screenplay for Harry Dean Stanton, who just passed away last week.  AND, Logan named one of the characters in the movie after ME!  This afternoon, I saw his movie, Lucky.  My bestest neighbor friends went with me, and I had a “past-meets-the-present” moment.  Nearly seven years ago, when I first came to Winston-Salem, I knew only 8 people, and 4 of them were under the age of 11.  Today, I was mentioned in an anecdote in the newspaper, and I saw the movie with 10 of my neighbors and friends, who came along to share the experience with me.   (There were other people in the audience, too, by the way.)

I saw a film that was funny-in-places, thought provoking and poignant, written by one of my long-ago first graders, who gave me “Special Thanks” in the credits of his movie.  It was a quirky, heart-wrenching tribute to Mr. Stanton and quite good.  Some of us wept.

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So, 35 years isn’t too long to wait for such a gift, now, is it?  As my friend told the audience, before the movie began, “if you love the Arts, thank a teacher.”  I know Logan had a lot of good teachers.  We were all truly thanked.

At Grandma’s…

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Beginning when I was four years old, my mother would put me on the Greyhound bus, right behind the driver, and I would ride to Ft. Wayne, Indiana from Indianapolis.  The driver wouldn’t allow anyone to sit in the seat next to me, and Mom rented me a pillow.  It was a two-and-a-half hour car ride in those days, but on the bus, I am sure it was much longer.  I loved it. 

I probably I dozed, but that was the beginning of my people-watching.  I remember the bus stopping, the sound of the doors opening, and people getting off and on at the towns on the way…Marion, Huntington, and then, the bus would pull into the big station in Ft. Wayne, and there would be Grandma and Grampy waiting for me!  Grampy would collect my bag from under the bus, and we’d go to the car, and I would sit on Grandma’s lap all the way to their house. 

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As I got older and bigger, Grandma would say, “Debby, how long are you going to sit on my lap?”

I would answer, “Until I’m twenty-two, Grandma!”  And I did.

Grandma and Grampy moved into their house on Forest Avenue in 1949, the year after I was born.  It was a two story house with a porch all the way across the front.  She would bring me upstairs to “my” bedroom, and to help me go to sleep, she would lie down with me, and let me hold her braid, until I fell asleep.  I had measles in the room, and I memorized the Welcome Guest poem that hung on the wall.  When Grandma sold that house in the 80’s, she gave me the very poem.

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The house had a full basement, part of which was storage, a laundry area, and a play area.  My great-grandmother lived with Grandma and Grampy until she passed away, when I was in the sixth grade.  The two of them would let me feed the clothes through the wringer of the old-fashioned washer, help hang out the clothes on the line, and that is where I learned to iron, beginning with handkerchiefs.

These experiences…riding the bus alone at such a young age, sitting on Grandma’s lap in the car, using a wringer washing machine, and ironing…are ones that are gone forever for children nowadays.  And hey!  I survived!

I’ve been thinking about my grandmother lately.  She’s been gone nearly twenty years this week, and I know I was fortunate to have my grandma in my life for so long.   She loved me unconditionally, she took care of me, she spoiled me, and she made a difference in my life. 

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I know, it’s kind of selfish, but twenty-two years wasn’t nearly long enough to be able to sit on her lap.

Waiting for the Storm…

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It is September 11 (pause for a moment of silence…seriously), and we here, in the Piedmont of North Carolina, are waiting for the storm of Irma to hit us.

Backing up,  Hurricane Irma was a Category 5 storm that hit in the Caribbean and Florida.  She twirled inland, slowed to a Cat 1, and is moving north as a Tropical Storm.  Hurricane Irma came on the heels of the Gulf Coast devastation of Hurricane Harvey.  Neither are a joke, and just like I did, millions (I hope) of people are sending financial and physical donations to the people affected.

We have been following the storms for days on the news, and since last Thursday, folks in my area have been encouraged to be in a state of readiness.  What is “readiness” for this approaching storm, you ask?  Not sure for the ones who are or were truly in the path, but for us it is this: have water available; have flashlights and plenty of batteries at the ready; fill your car up with gas and keep your phone charged;  and have non-perishable food in your cupboards.  I think that is it.  That’s what I have, anyway.

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So for five days, people around here have been busy collecting the above, and warning others to do the same.  I’m not sure why it has taken five days for this.  I did it all in about half-an-hour, just now, for the picture including the gas.  Hoo-boy.

All day long, the weather forecast has been for rain and wind in the afternoon.  Well, it did sprinkle a little around noon-thirty.  The sky has been gloomily dark all day and it’s been breezy, but I’m tellin’ you, other than that…nothin’

It’s always better to be ready, than to be taken by surprise.  We can’t always, and don’t always know.  Meanwhile, the kids next door are playing football in their bare feet, some of my neighbors mowed grass today.  I’m fixing dog and kitty dinners.  Life goes on, even in a time of waiting for storms.  I know.  That’s how I got by.  Think about it.

On Retreat, And Other Thoughts on a Meaningful Life…

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A Retreat is the removal of one’s self from the day-to-day doings, and to enter into a sequestered environment for contemplation and prayer and sometimes…work.  I just made up that definition, because that is what it is for me.

In 2012, I learned of a women’s retreat, where others came together, and contemplated, prayed, and bonded.  I wanted that.  I needed that.  And I was able to make my own Retreat in 2014.  It was everything I thought it would be, and even more.

I loved it so much, I went back again in 2015, this time as a Team Member, because this type of retreat, a person can only make once.  I worked in the kitchen, after saying, “I’ll do anything, but kitchen duty.”  (I’m great with that sort of thing.  Saying no to what I most need to have or be.  I need to wise up, and quit that.)

Of course, that was where I was needed, and I’m glad I didn’t let pride get in the way, but said, “Yes.”  The work that weekend was so exhausting, physically, that I cried the last day from it.  It was a good cry, though, and I loved it so much, I went back again last week.

This time, I wasn’t asked to work in the kitchen.  I was asked to help set up, be on call, and break down the facilities.  I can truly say, without any hesitation or  exaggeration (something I am prone toward), that I was just a exhausted and wiped out as I was from kitchen duty.  I didn’t cry, though.  When I got home, I took a long, hot, epsom salt bath, with a refreshing glass of wine, and basked in the release of pain from my feet, legs, and body.  I loved this past weekend so much, I’ve had dreams of it in some form every night since, and the “theme” song from the weekend is a constant ear-worm.

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And about the prayer, you may ask…well, that’s the whole thing, isn’t it?  Praying for the Weekend, the Team, the Candidates, and the Sponsors;  praying for individuals, for three months prior was a commitment.  Serving the women there, during the weekend. That was a commitment.  Praying during the weekend for individuals, and for my own stamina, was a commitment.  Prayer takes me away from my Self.

And thoughts on a meaningful life?  I have a quote by David Ellis on a slate, in my own tiny-house-kitchen which reads, “What is the best use of a lifetime, given this much good fortune?”  That quote reminds me daily that I have everything, and I have a lot of lifetime left for good use, and that I need to keep using my life well with all my plentiful good fortune.

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My heart is in a very different place now, than it was six years ago, and it is, indeed, a life full of meaning.                 And so, Amen.

Making Stuff…

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Two years ago, two of my neighbors and I got together to create Vision Boards.   A Vision Board is a way put forward the setting of goals and to visualize one’s Ideal. 

My “board” morphed into a book that I called My Life’s Intentions.  I ended up with about 23 pages.  Some were esoteric goals like: be a friend; live my faith; pursue peace; and be joyful,  Others were more concrete like:  write, write, write; live my faith; keep family close; and care for my pets.

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Many were day-to-day intentions, and others were long-term goals.

Long-term goals were to travel to Australia.  Tick.  Exercise.  Tick.  Dress nicely.  Tick, I hope.

And the one to which I dedicated this weekend was:  Make Stuff.

I have been making stuff since I was a kid.  Mostly, as an adult, I have paper crafted and sewed.  My high school friend/college roommate taught me to sew, so that I could have more clothes.  (See Dress nicely.) 

In sewing, I found my niche by repurposing already existing items.  I’ve made aprons from skirts and shirts.  I’ve made smocks from shirts, purses and bags from upholstery material and old wool coats and sweaters.  I’ve made pillows, quilts, and more.

Enter Pinterest.  I saw a dress I liked from repurposed men’s shirts.  I was motivated and inspired.  I went to Goodwill, and I got going.  It was a great afternoon, and I ended up with a dress. 

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Making stuff.  Never completely a tick, but a start.