Friday, September 7, 2012

Thank God for Speeding Tickets

Last year I was running errands, a couple of blocks from my home. I was driving the speed limit,  (30mph). I came around a curve, when suddenly, a toddler appeared right in front of my car!

 I hit the brakes, and a very young girl, (she looked about 3 years old), came out from the hedges, and ran out into the street to get her baby brother. Both of them could have easily been killed. Lots of people tear around that corner at 45 mph, and would not have been able to stop in time.

 I don't want to judge people. Whoever's children those were, may not have been able to care for them. They live in an apartment complex with no fenced areas to play. I don't know their circumstances.

Should the parents keep them in the dark apartment all day? Probably not. Perhaps the mother is single and has to work for food and rent, and there's no one to watch them, but a careless teenaged sibling. I'll never know.

 But, I thank God that I was the one on the road that day, when that baby toddled out into the road, and that I was paying attention to the speed limit. Why did I obey the sign?  Because I got a speeding ticket on that road about a year before.

I thank God for that ticket, that sent me to traffic school, that cost me money, so that I'd take my speed seriously.

Now, I take it seriously not only to avoid the money and hassle of a ticket, but because the look I saw in the eyes of that little girl is seared into my consciousness. But it was the ticket that fueled a new habit that slowed my speed,  kept my mind on the posted speed limits,  that later turned that moment of potential tragedy into one of gratitude.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Most Important Lessons

No matter how hard a parent tries to teach their children Life's important lessons, the core values that you hope will stick, and carry them through, it seems like the mundane, repetitive stuff won't even get in there.  "Look both ways!"..."Wash your hands!"... "If it's not a toothbrush or food, DON'T PUT IT IN YOUR MOUTH!"..."Don't yell."... "What do you say? Excuse me. Thank you."

Then, sometimes, without any sort of prompting, they just blow you away with what they know.

My daughter and I went out to do some Back To School shopping. She's going into third grade.  Long ago I learned to just buy the PTA packet, rather than spend many stressful hours running all over town to get the best deals, or find that elusive drawing paper the art teacher wants. Plus our school always pools supplies, so it's just heart breaking for them to pick out special stuff they like, only to have it confiscated and put in the supply closet.  But we always go find a brand new backpack, and lunch box to start the new year. Any special supplies get kept on her homework desk at home.

Well, she picks out a backpack.  Yay! Her favorite was only $10. Matching lunchbox. Check. Cute pencils. Check. Then we spot some pretty pink calculators, and some erasers. Check. Check. We load all this up into the backpack, because we forgot to get a basket.  We go check out. I pay. The cashier puts everything in a sack and hands her the backpack.

She stops me and says, "Mom, this is still in here." The pink calculator. We turn back and I get out some cash to pay for the dollar item.  As we are walking away, she says, "I know that it would have cost us less money not to say anything, but it's worth it, because I want to feel that feeling in my heart, being close to God."

Uh, yeah. What she said. I don't know when or where she learned that, because I don't recall giving her a specific lesson about it, but I know plenty of grownups who don't get that.

I'm also going to sleep a little more soundly, knowing that my girl is going to be okay in her life. She's got "that feeling in her heart", and that can teach her better than I can, any day!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Dad's Home

We took Dad's ashes to New Mexico, to be interred at the Santa Fe National Cemetery. It was a clear day, blue sky, puffy white clouds, and just enough breeze to keep us from noticing the unusually high temperature. In attendance: His wife, two of my Dad's sisters, myself, my husband and two kids. The Honor Guard stood on either side of him and after we had spoken some words, they opened the flag and then folded it again, in a triangle and presented it to his wife. She then gave it to me. I put a photograph of my Dad, in his military uniform, into the box that held his ashes.

We went to lunch to wait for them to finish the burial and then visited the site. My daughter gathered some wildflowers to place on the grave. He would have liked that so much more than a florist arrangement.

Dad wanted to be buried in Santa Fe, because he lived there a long time, and from the moment he arrived there, he'd felt it was the home of his heart. He traveled extensively throughout the world, and lived in many places, but no place did he feel more "at home" than New Mexico.  I love New Mexico too, and will probably visit this gravesite many times, when we travel there. I know he's with God, but am comforted to know that his remains are exactly where he asked for them to be, now.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Hello...elllo.....ello....ello. Is there anybody out there?

I have been blogging now for a little more than a year.  I didn't embark with a need to connect with anyone, or bare my soul. Frankly, I just wanted to get extra entries in various online contests. But that got my feet wet, and the lure of the deep, finally drew me in.

I started writing poetry at age 10, and was keeping diaries by age 12. Most people give that up by the time they are out of high school, but I kept it up, creating volumes of paper books and journals well into middle age. Poetry flowed forth rather freely, as I rarely showed them to anyone. So, no fear.

Eventually, I ended up dating a guy who invited me to go to a poetry reading.  The jerk stood me up. But, it opened my ears to the spoken poem, and I was hooked. I went to more readings. The "jerk" turned out to be having a case of debilitating shyness, which he eventually overcame, and as "friends" we went to poetry readings together.

 Within months we were married. We have two children and have been married now for 20 years. I overcame my shyness too, and managed to get up on stage and read some poems, with shaky voice, at first. But, soon the trueness of my words quieted my fear, and I was able to be at peace when speaking my truth to strangers.

So, fast forward though the years, journaling, writing poems, some songs, painting a bit, and then I had children. No one can ever prepare anyone for how all consuming it is, to give your everything, to another human being, who absolutely has no choice, but to need you completely, 24 hours a day.

The writing stopped. I did manage to grab a pen, now and then, to scribble something cute my baby said, knowing full well, my leaky memory wouldn't hold such detail for long. I treasure those quotes, like nothing that ever came from my own mind. They are the address, where that moment resides in my heart, the key that opens the door, to the image of my little, soft-skinned baby, so full of wonder at life.

But that's all she wrote. For years. No more me having a relationship with myself, no more time to hear my own thoughts. The belly button I gazed upon was my child's, and then the next child's. So, when I "accidentally" ended up starting a blog, I quite naturally was drawn to stay up late, after the kids were off to bed, and the writing poured out of me.

It was no coincidence that I would soon be faced with the most difficult experience of my life. I do believe in God, and that there is a Plan for each of us, that we can use our free will to either participate or reject at any given time.  I needed to write through the illness and eventual death of my father. There was no one, but the Self that I had set aside so many years ago, that could possibly understand what I was going through. This blog helped me so much.

 My Dad had always been so healthy it was ridiculous. The man ate a vegetarian macrobiotic diet for 30 years, and exercised every day. At every check up, the doctors would tell him, " Just keep doing what you're doing".  So, his diagnosis, of an aggressive brain tumor, and his subsequent frailty, was a complete shock to everyone.

They originally predicted he would last 3 months. We got 7 months. Time we all needed to go though the process of hope, and then letting go of hope. Time to adjust and say our goodbyes.  I am so grateful, for my Mom and step mother, my aunts and my uncle for caring for my Dad in his last days. I would never have been able to do that without her. She was amazing.

So, though all this, I wrote, and pondered, and healed. Then the other day, it was pointed out to me that only a handful of people ever saw my blog, and why didn't I try and share it with others who might relate to what I'd been though. Hmmm, novel concept. See, to a diary keeper, an online blog seemed rather public, but then again, who'd ever even find it? In the internet realm, it's like I'd kept it tucked under my mattress all this time.

 But, I had to admit, that there wasn't anything about what I've experience that needs to be hidden. In fact, I could see how the things I went through could be of help to someone else.

I am also going to commit to digging out some old poetry or writing some new poems, since it's kind of my thing.......More to be revealed.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Life Goes On...

It's been a few months since Dad's passing,
but it's still hard to go over to his house. My
Step Mom and I were avoiding each other.

It's such a double edged sword. We both loved
my Dad so much, that seeing each other brings
it all back up. But it's comforting too, knowing
that someone in the world knows your pain
so intimately.

We talked about it. I'm grateful she's such
an honest person. I like keeping it real.

I want to be there, to be in the place he called
home.  I want to nurture this relationship, to
the woman he loved, and who made him as
happy as I have ever known him to be.

We still have stuff to handle. Someone
hacked his email account and started sending
trojans to his contacts. That stirred up pain
and anger. We had to deal with closing those

I went over there this weekend, and brought
the kids, to make a pie with her,
and she took out a box full of my Dad's
diaries, photos, and treasures.

He traveled all over the world, so he kept
his possessions to a minimum. Anything
he kept, you knew it meant a lot to him.

We found a father's day card I had sent to
him back in 1998, two years before my son
was born. He's twelve now, so 14 years ago.

I read it and cried. We had time to say things
that were meaningful to each other, before he
passed, but finding that card, meant a lot,
because it showed me that I really had
expressed my love to him, and that he
treasured it.

Here's what I had written on the card:


From you I Learned
Honor and Integrity,
Patience and Kindness,
Love of Art, Song, and Stories,
Travel and Adventure,
 Family and Friendship,
 and the joy of routine.
To be Open-Minded,
and slow to judge others harshly, 
To look for the good in people,
To look for God, 
and to find Peace,
To enjoy serving my fellow man,
To be perceptive of my impact on people,
the ability to connect with all kinds
of different people and places,
To stand bravely for what I believe,
To respect other's opinions,
even when they differ from my own,
To become a person I respect, 
that both out us can be proud of.
I am so very grateful,
 that of all the men on earth, 
that you were my father. 
I've never wished for another.

Love always and forever, Jeanne

Friday, June 8, 2012

Ashes to Ashes

The research hospital called to say that they were done
 with my father's body, and his ashes were ready
for us to pick up. I was surprised it was so quick,
 (only 2 months), because they had said it could be
 up to 18 months. My step Mom picked them up
 and I got them from her yesterday.

She said the lady there told her that my Dad's body
 was used in research, not an actual transplant,
but study about face transplantation.

I recalled in the news recently, there had been a story
about a man who had been electrocuted and had lost
his face to burns. He had a face transplant, (one of the
first successful ones), and was then able to feel his
daughter kiss him on the cheek.

When I first heard about it on the news, I had thought
the idea "creepy", but when I heard the part about the
kiss, my heart melted. Then it sounded more like a "miracle."

 I remember so clearly how it felt to kiss my Dad's cheek...

Tears still come so easily....

He was in the VA Hospice. We kept him home as long as
possible, but finally he needed round the clock nursing.

We had been making sure someone from our family was
with him round the clock, except in the deep night. His
bed was on an alarm, so a nurse would come to his side if
needed it.

Even my Mom, (his ex-wife) was part of the team,
because they had always remained friends, even after they
divorced, when I was 10 years old.

They met teaching Bible school, their mutual
love of God, and me (their only daughter), and their
deep respect for each other, kept them from ever becoming
petty, or hateful toward each other.

This last day, I had been supposed to stay home, because his
two sisters were in town, giving us a break. But that day, I
couldn't stay away. I felt a really strong pull to be at his side,
so I grabbed some food to eat on the road, and went to him.

Since I told them I was coming, his sisters and my step-mom,
decided to go out to lunch together. So, when I arrived, we
were alone,  just the two of us, next to his sunny window.

He was already non-communicative, but the nurses told us
that he may still be able to understand us. So, we kept talking
to him. His eyes shut, the only sound he made was raspy,
heavy breathing.

I told him what was going on with the kids, and then
for some reason, (probably because we were alone),
I sang out loud, the song that popped into my head.

"You take the high road,
and I'll take the low road,
and I'll be in Scotland before you.
For I and my true love
will never meet again,
on the bonnie, bonnie banks
of Loch Lomond."

(Later, that song would prove prophetic, since I did not
ever see him again.)

I noticed that shiny grey stubble had grown out on his chin,
so I got out the razor and cream, and shaved him, telling
him I was making his face smooth for when his wife
would be back soon to give him a kiss.
When I was done, I kissed him, and pronounced it smooth.

Later, when they were back, I kissed him again.
My last kiss, my last contact, that I will never forget.

When I learned about the research they did, I thought of
that kiss, and how I made his cheeks smooth, and of the
other kiss, that the other father was now able to feel. It all
feels so meant-to-be.

 It's, just another wonderful way
that he was heroic, and a blessing to his fellow man,
even after his death, but in such a personal way, that
really has meaning for me.

I will keep his ashes until we can go to the Veteran's Memorial
for internment. He was a hero, not just to me, but during the
Vietnam war. I have his silver star and purple heart, and the
flag they gave my Step Mom at the hospital after they took
his body away.

Those things will have sentimental value, but it's the kiss
that lives in my heart, that really means the most.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Willed Body Donation

Sent to UT Southwestern Medical Center
Willed Body Donation Dept.
For my Dad


Handle With Care!

This is the body 
that shielded
wounded soldiers
under fire.

These are the arms
that carried them 
through the jungle,
to safety.

These very arms 
held me warmly,
when I cried,
and worked to provide
food and shelter.

These are  hands 
that carved sculptures,
beautiful landscapes
and portraits.

These are the feet
I stood upon,
that taught me
how to dance.

This is the back 
I slept against,
in safety
from the storms.

These are the lips
that kissed my cheek,
sang songs,
and told  stories.

This is the heart
that beat for us,
with steady,
unwavering love.

These are the eyes
that saw the world
as it really was,
but reflected back
what it could be.

These are the eyes
that saw injustice,
and the mouth 
that spoke out
against it.

This is the head
that thought things through,
and guided so many
with wisdom.

This is the cancer
that took him from us.
Hate it
as we do,
and let that passion
fuel your work. 

Here is the body
he decided to donate
some thirty years ago,
and now we also
let go.

Draw knowledge from it.
Teach with it,
Gain skill from it.
But above all,
Respect it.

Make this gift
worth all that we still suffer
from the loss
of his warmth
in this world.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Peace for Everyone

It's a day past Memorial Day, but I just read something that has a lot of meaning for me, regarding war, and veterans.

My father was a veteran of Korea and Vietnam. He was awarded a silver star and a purple heart, and medical disability retirement after being wounded in Vietnam in 1965.

I'll tell more about that later, in another post, but for now, I will just say, that he worked for Peace for the entire rest of his life.

Robert Perry became one of his close friends, and it is his blog that I now refer you to. I think the idea expressed there, is one my father would like to have shared.

A Future Without War

Also want to add this wonderful TED talk:

Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day 2012

Honoring those who served, telling the stories of their
lives and sacrifice, planting the seeds of gratitude in
hearts yet too young to understand their meaning.
Praying for families who's loved ones still serve.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Our Ancestors were "Mom Enough"

In the very unlikely event that you missed the Time magazine cover with the title, "Are You Mom Enough?" I'll just ask you to google it.  The link to the cover itself, will be at the top, followed by Lord knows how many pages of commentary about the controversy it stirred.

Never one to miss a party, I'll throw my comments into the pot, for your stirring pleasure!

I nursed my kids for 3.5 years each. That's right. Well past the "asking for it" stage.

Our pediatrician told me to start on cow milk at 1 year, and it made my baby get hives all over his face and tummy, (anywhere the cow milk had touched his skin), and I was terrified of what it was doing to his insides! We wouldn't be trying that again!

  I learned about extended nursing, which I now call "full term nursing" online from a breastfeeding support board, and found Katherine Dettwyler's study, The Natural Age of Weaning.

That study convinced me that it was not only "okay" to nurse a long time, but that it was the more natural thing to do.

Both my kids have tested "gifted" so I guess  the "promotes brain development" thing, worked out well.  Wait. Doesn't that actually mean,  instead of my kids being "special" that if all kids were being breast fed full term (years) that all kids might be that smart? Perhaps all kids are "gifted" and society just got brainwashed into thinking they didn't need that gift, and formula was fine.

 Furthermore, I can attest to the fact, that breastfeeding continued to support their immunity, because both my kids get over any bug faster than anyone else I know.

Once, when my son was 3 years old, there was a particularly nasty virus going around, that was putting quite a few kids in the hospital with dehydration. My poor baby spiked a scarily high fever, and began throwing up repeatedly for hours. I called the after hours emergency number that our pediatrician used.

The nurse told me not to let him have anything by mouth, not even water, until we could get the vomiting stopped. When I asked if he could still nurse, she was delighted!

She said that breast milk was actually easier to digest than water, and it was the very best thing for him. He kept the breast milk down and did not have to go to the hospital. In fact, he got over it faster than most.

It's also really cool that both my kids remember nursing, because now they talk about the day when their children will get to nurse. This is exactly the way it should be. Breasts, to them, are about nurturing a baby. They won't escape the media, so they'll learn otherwise, but nothing can take this early association away from them.

I think another reason I was so easily convinced to nurse full term, is that when I was in the 5th grade, I attended a wonderful Montessori school. My Spanish teacher nursed her 2.5 year old in class, while she was teaching.  I'd never seen nursing before, so of course I was curious.

She answered my questions in a matter-of-fact way and everyone there treated it as completely normal. This exposure was one of the few times I ever saw nursing, yet it profoundly influenced my parenting choices, some 30 years later.

I think people's discomfort in seeing a child breastfeeding, stems from the fact, that in this society, breast have only been seen in the context of sexualized ads or porn. Then, when they see something as pure and innocent as a child, placed into that perceived "sexual" context, they feel repulsed, and alarmed.

They mistakenly believe that the nursing is perverted, when in fact, it is their own associations and feelings that have been perverted, by a culture that has only recently, (in terms of human history), abandoned the natural method of nourishing and nurturing their young.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Gifts from the Heart

Mother's Day!

My first gift for Mother's Day, was being allowed
to sleep in.

 Then my husband made a lovely breakfast, while my
daughter presented me with all the lovely cards and
 pictures she had made for me, both in school, and at
home. She's a crafty girl!

Later, my son woke up and informed me, that my gift
from him, was his promise to try and not argue with
his sister for one week. (Hey, at least he thought of

"Not, for the rest of your life?", I asked.
"Don't push it, Mom.", he said.

Happy Mother's Day!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

My Step Dad Super Hero

This is my Step Dad.

He has always been such an awesome
Grandfather to my children. He shows up for them, emotionally
in ways my own father wasn't able to, for a long time,
because of living so far away.

My Step Dad and my Mom hadn't been married long, when
he offered to let my husband and I, move in with them, so
I could stay off my feet for the last three months of my
pregnancy. I'd had multiple miscarriages by that time,
and the doctor wanted me on bed rest. We had a son,
and he had his first Grandson.

The arrangement was supposed to be temporary, but it
turned out that we all got along really well together. So,
we all decided to just kept living together, nearly four
more years, until I got pregnant with my daughter.

Then, he let my Mom and I pick out a new, bigger house,
while he was away working on a contract job, out of
state!    Yeah. He's a freakin' Saint!

I'm an artist, but I've never had a dedicated painting
studio of my own.  (Picture just getting going on a
project, then having to clean up quick, because the
family has to eat dinner at this table in 10 minutes.)

Just last month, my Super Hero Step Dad, had a
man come install glass across our back porch, and a
sliding glass door, to make the dream of having my
own art studio, a reality for me.

Then he went out there for days on a ladder, smoothing
 out the ceiling texture, and painting the walls and trim.
Then he painted the trim on the whole house and the
front door, as well!     Yeah. He's a keeper!

He's also five years past his prostate cancer treatment,
with a clean bill of health, and remains active in support
groups for survivors.

I'm super proud of him as well, for losing an incredible
35 pounds in only 3 months! He drank Boresha fat burning coffee
each  morning, which gave him lots of energy to go out walking,
 morning, go off to work, and then walk again in the  evening,
sometimes four and a half miles per day!

Here's his Before & After shots.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Swimming in Pudding

My Dad passed away on March 8th. We had the miracle of getting to be with him for 7 months, instead of the 3 months the doctors had predicted. There was time to say the things that needed saying to all his living brothers and sisters, grandkids, nieces, nephews, cousins, students and friends.

There was one last good Christmas together. Even in December he was healthy enough to still be walking 3 miles a day. He was making plans to go on a trip in March, but sadly, he took a turn for the worse after Christmas.

Thanks to his dear brother, wonderful wife, friends, and hospice nurses, he was able to be at home most of that time. In his last week, he had to be transferred to the VA Hospice wing. They took wonderful care of him there, and he had family and friends around him every day.

Two of his sisters and his wife, were with him praying over him, when he took his last breath and went out of this world to meet his Savior.

Since then, I have cried so many times. I've also thrown myself into massive home improvement projects. Clearly I am out of my mind to tackle such a thing at this time, but there you go. Everyone grieves in their own way. I renovate.

Honestly, it feels like self care. I have been raising kids and taking care of my aunt, and then my Dad during his illness, and I'm worn out. But these are things that I've put off for so long, because there's never enough time and every other need always trumps my needs. Right now, I'm just saying yes to all those projects I put on the back burner for so many years.

I'm sure I'm pushing my feelings aside some as I do this, but not altogether. I cry in small doses, because I couldn't handle more than that at a time. I'm doing this so I don't get depressed. When I see the improvements, it lifts my spirits, and gives me hope for a new life. I need that, because picturing a life without my Dad seems impossible right now. Yet, here it is, another day that calls to me to live it fully, and without regrets.

Dad's untimely death from brain cancer, gave me the message loud and clear. "Death will come. You do not have forever to put things off! Do what you must do, now! Cast off the frivolous and mundane! There's no time for that!"

So, the whole house is getting an overhaul. I'm finally getting that painting studio I've always wanted. We put a wall of glass across the back porch. I can go paint anytime I get the urge, and I don't have to clean it up, if I'm not done yet.

I got a new bed. (We spend a lot of life on our beds.) I'm cleaning and throwing out loads of junk. I refuse to be buried under the weight of stuff I don't have time to deal with, nor do I want to burden some other poor soul with throwing out my junk after I die.

My father, (bless him), knew how to cast off the superfluous, each day. So, I have next to nothing of stuff, that he hadn't already offered to me as gifts. I treasure his paintings the most. They hang all over my house. I already had his medals, (a silver star and purple heart), because he thought my son might want them one day.

Today, I was feeling particularly down. I was making my bed, and every movement took so much effort, it felt like I was swimming through pudding. I thought, "The world keeps moving at it's normal speed, but I'm stuck in slow motion." I know it's grief and that it takes time, but it's lonely.

Just then, a woman called, whom I've never met, but is distantly related to me through my great aunt. Her name is Susan Lana Hafner. She was letting me know that my aunt had made a donation in my father's name to send a prayer pillow to a soldier. They are prayed over, like prayer cloths and are intended to be used for private prayer time with God.

She also told me that she and her husband wanted to send each of my children a prayer pillow in their grandfather's memory. I was so touched! I'd never even spoken to this woman before, but I ended up bawling like a baby and telling her all about my Dad. She was so kind, and her timing was so perfect. It felt like God was telling me that He knows what I'm going through, and didn't want me to feel lonely.

I feel lighter now, at least lighter that when I was barely keeping my head above pudding.