October is a month of beauty, saving remnants of summer charms while teasing with the winds of change.  October sunshine has a softer warmth,  a  bit of protection from winter to come.

On a particular October day a woman stood before a judge.  On her right was the lawyer.  After a few questions, the judge reached for a pen and granted the request.

Numb with fear, regret, sorrow, shame the woman stood on the court-house steps doubled over and choking.  October’s beauty could not reach through her tears.

Her children.  Her home.  Her love.  Her work.  Her life.  Her trust in her vows.  All these poured over her as she struggled with sickness, tears and realization of what she had done.  The marriage was over.  The judge’s pen sealed the divorce.

This woman had no memory of anyone passing, of any offer of help, of any look of concern.  October beauty was the darkest night.  Light was gone.

Divorce has no real definition.  Legally it is the end of a contract.  Religiously it is the breaking of a vow.  For children , it is a hollow place in their security.  In the  scope of consequences, there is no honest way to sort responsibilities.  Everything gets lost in the whirlpool of debilitating pain.

Statistically, at least half of all marriages end in divorce.  Contracts broken, vows discredited, children damaged and lives tossed into turmoil.  If it were not for a sense of hope, the heart would dissolve in tears.  Finding that hope is the challenge.

We live in a time of just enlightenment when considering medical help for the depression that can destroy.  The situation will eventually change, though it feels like the sun is a black hole.  The woman on the court-house steps struggled with grief and guilt, as do most who experience divorce.  All her self promises of protecting the children seemed lost in the depression that  muted rational thought.

Eventually, the woman of this story cried enough to wash her spirit.  She looked at the faces of her children, saw the pain in their eyes.  She made her decision.   She had to live with this.  It was not going away.

Letting go of things that cannot be changed is something we label “not easy but very simple’.  I am reminded of a favorite anonymous quotation.  “The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.”


Wonders To Behold

A ramble, Gentle Reader,  but one that just might find a way home.

Ken Burns made the film about our country’s  National Parks as shown on  Public Television.  Without opening any dictionary, I know I will be a beggar for words to describe the beauty, the  ‘eye has not seen’ depth of beauty, shown through Ken Burns’ camera perceptions.  Exquisite is uncommon when describing narrative, but the  beauty of this  narrative requires exquisite.

During the film, we hear John Muir’s words  as we visit his beloved Yosemite.  Mr. Muir was a kind of mystic, revealing his soul as he walked the temples of his sacred park.   He met and talked with flowers, boulders, bears and trees finding the spirit of God in every part of nature.

Mr. Muir spent his early life with a harsh fundamentalist preacher who required that John memorize the Bible.  By age eleven, John mastered 3/4 of the Old Testament and all the New Testament.  This rote compliance did not mean acceptance.  John Muir found his church, his temple, his beloved God in the wonders of creation.

Over and over, Ken Burns’ film addresses the wonder of nature in Yosemite, Yellowstone and the other National Parks.  Over and over, the narration talks about the power and majesty of creation, of finding God in the wonders of this country.

I watched silent and still, occasionally gasping with the joy of seeing such beauty.  As always,  captured sunsets, waterfalls, all of magnificence of nature wield the power to mesmerize.

And, as always, I return  to my conclusion that this majestic beauty, this incredible and breathtaking beauty, stands dwarfed by the complexity and beauty of people–men, women and children.  With all our faults plaguing the human search for authenticity, we still remain the most beautiful of creation.  The power for goodness, the depth of courage, the will to persevere–these are the beauties of  the temple  called human nature.

We Have Not Walked Alone

In June, 2009, Patti and I experienced a new sort of elation with the publication of Four Ordinary Women.   Those of you who read and respond to our blog know that the publisher closed the doors in August, 2009, leaving us without marketing, publicity, support.

There is a beautiful song, “When you walk through a storm, keep your head up high and don’t be afraid….You’ll never walk alone.”

Patti and I have not walked alone.  You, Gentle Readers, have matched our steps.  You, and other family and friends, have stayed with support that has not wavered.  Some of you are known to us by your given name, others by email name and some as simply Gentle Reader.

To each of you…Please know how much we appreciate your hand-holding in this journey.  You have kept these fingers typing when discouragement tugged at the delete button.   By reading the blog, you helped keep book hopes alive.  You believe in our dream.   How wonderful is that!   Thank you.

Valentine Day

Snap shot.  Standing at the card rack looking for non-smarmy sentiments for husband, adult children and grandchildren.   Gentlemen standing a bit to my left. Moving a bit closer, he asked,  “What cards are you looking for?  Husband?  Grandchildren?  There are some good .99 cards here.”

When my non-committal answer did not end the query, he said, “Want to know what I am looking for?”

OK, my conscience pricked.  Maybe he is lonely and just wants to talk about someone special.  He was grandparent category.  So I smiled and waited.

“A dog.  I am looking for a card to send to my daughter’s dog.  Want to help me look?”

Not especially.  Again, I tried that non-committal smile coupled with, “Good Luck”.

An extra doggy treat, a longer walk in the park, more affectionate petting would seem a nice choice, but a greeting card?

WebMD…I Disagree

” …eye-rolling, sarcasm, and know-it-all attitude might be rude, but it’s absolutely normal for this stage…preteens.”   This quote is from the Nov./Dec., 2009 issue of WebMD.

With due respect to the authorities responding to the parent questioning her 12-year-old with attitude, I disagree.  Labeling attitude as normal, gives it credibility that is not healthy or justified.

Attitude might look normal when observing pre-teen/young teen behavior.    We might see attitude as common simply because we have allowed it to develop to this overwhelming degree.  But common is not the same as acceptable.

Kids are definitely forming a new identity, testing as they learn and grow.  Their attempts at independence are often awkward.  Pushing parents away  rarely happens with finesse.

In fairness, the WebMD articles suggests that parents remain loving and set boundaries for the household.   To be effective those boundaries should not allow the disrespectful demonstrations of attitude. Eye-rolling, sarcasm and overt disrespect are so far outside the boundaries that once would definitely be enough.   If disrespect happens even one time without consequences, it will happen again.  If we allow attitude to continue because we believe it to be normal, we will live with attitude.

You Can’t Push A Rope

My friend, Tim, used that expression in today’s email.  We had type/chatted about a 55th high school reunion and he used his wordsmith ways to temper  enthusiasm.  “Many have never attended…  You can’t push a rope.”   Isn’t that perfect!  Go for the visual…it IS perfect.

No matter how much we want an outcome, how many hours we work towards an end, that rope won’t push, especially up hill.

Class reunions are not for everyone.  I have  friends who would never consider attending.  High school was not a happy memory so why revisit.  For others, life is rich enough.  Why reach back that many years trying to recapture faded memories.   During the ‘striving’ years, some classmates had no interest because comparisons of success can never be right for everyone.  Aren’t we past that now?

At 50 plus years after graduation, it might be time to go for it.  We are all at least 70 years old with that golden wisdom promised through aging.    Gray hair (or lack of), wrinkles, creaky joints and memory flaws belong to all of us.   We are leveled, like it or not.  So why not gather again, discovering gentle folks that we missed along the way?  Find a friend that physically moved away, but stayed close to the heart.  Get to know someone who stayed at the edge during those four years so long ago.   Think about the possibilities to fix anything that shouldn’t have happen…missed opportunities to smile, to reach out, to take the right step.

Granted, I cannot push this rope but I am working up to giving it a tug or two.

“There Will Be Blood”, Daniel Day-Lewis

Do you ever  want to step away from who or what you are?   I do.  I want that.  At least sometimes I do.  Sometimes I don’t like  being the person that I am.  Sometimes.

What is none of my business?  Anything and everything that isn’t directly spoken to me, right?   I am responsible for my actions, my decisions, my consequences.  That is clear.  That is good.  That draws a well-defined line.  I accept that.

Now find the line between helping and enabling.  When is the response to a request accepted as loving, helpful and needed?  When does that response slip over into enabling?  Who gets to decide?

This is a strange blog to write.  So far it sounds like some whine…some lament, but it is actually a testament to freedom.  And it started with a comic strip, filtered through a phone conversation and ended with a movie.

In the comic strip, the grandmother goes to Thailand, helping to build houses.  Her daughters and granddaughters wonder why.   Their conclusion,  “The same reason kids go away to college–freedom from too many family expectations.”

Next came the phone call that dismissed me as unimportant.  My Utility Ability was not needed and there was no time for me.  I was annoying.  A pinch of the heart, a sob or two and I moved on.

Finally, There Will Be Blood, connected this trilogy.  Daniel Day-Lewis and Paul Dano are hard-core….actors who become.  After I view the movie a second, I might sort though all the messages.   For now I am absorbing the intensity and the pain these two men forced through the screen.  Day-Lewis’ character enabled nothing, forgave nothing, tolerated nothing (outside his value system).  He alienated the few who loved him.  And he completely accepted who and what he was–right up to speaking the words, “I am finished”.