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Finding My Soul In an Angry World

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Such an angry world we live in. I’m sorry to say that I can’t live that way. It’s robbing me of my soul. I’m well aware that there is injustice in the world. I’m well aware that some people feel the need to take a stand when others feel the need to take a knee. We no longer talk. We yell because somehow along the path to adulthood, we were told that only our opinion counts. We are a society of egoists. Our balance is off; we are top heavy with alpha dogs. Why? Because we’ve forgotten or have never been taught how to engage in civilized discourse without baring our teeth. Instead, we step into the dog fighting ring willingly and focus our anger on others and bite when we disagree. Are we that afraid of not being heard that we can’t listen to others? Be outspoken. Care about your cause. Do something about it if you can. But for the sake of civility, peace and hope for the future, stop the name calling, let go of the anger. Be willing to listen, be willing to bend, be willing to sacrifice a little of yourself for others. Do something about your beliefs if you can. But whatever you do, be it a grand gesture or as simple as a smile, do it with a listening heart so that others can respond in kind.That’s true reforming power. I’m tired. I don’t have the energy or the desire to fight, but I will make an extra effort to focus on kindness in my little corner of the world. Naive, maybe, but maybe I’ll find my soul again somewhere along the journey. Peace.

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Tell Me More

I wrote this piece several days ago. Most of this lament came out in one sitting as it appears here. The formal tone in this seemed fitting for the mood that I was in, even though I had a very warm and loving relationship with both my mum and dad. I had found out that my dear aunt will be celebrating her 90th birthday(!). I was in a reflective mood, thinking about mothers, mine in particular, and age and the thought that I would love to talk to her again. If I could place a phone call to Heaven, what would I tell her? What would she tell me? We get so caught up in the stories of our lives that we forget that the older generation that raised us has their own stories to tell. We think we know our parents, until they are gone and we can’t ask them questions any more. I thought I had listened to my mother’s stories, but I realized, as I was going through her possessions after she died, that I didn’t know much about many of them. Who gave her the hand-made metal ring with the X’s and O’s on it? Which of her older brothers gave her the bracelet from France during WWII? Why did she keep that particular ribbon that I found in her hope chest? I can no longer ask her, but how I wish she could tell me more.

Dear Mother, tell me more about your mud pies, your broken arm, your quarantine for measles in those Depression days. Tell me more about where you were raised, and your mother and coal miner father. About those irascible brothers of yours, my uncles who loved you and have been loved by me: The one who raised you, the one who teased you, the one who caught hell from your father for not protecting you. The one who left to go to war. The others who followed.

Tell me more about moving when the mine went dark. About leaving your best friend behind, finding new ones in your new school, and how you found the love of your life on the roller rink. Tell me more about these rings that I cherish, that I remember resting gracefully on your hand even after he passed into the arms of Jesus.

Tell me more about your life as a young newlywed couple, the lack of money, the abundance of love. About my brother, about me. Tell me how you rejoiced at his birth and cried because of me. Help me remember your nurturing hands and loving arms, your pride in all we did. Tell me. How did you feel? I want to know more.

Tell me about my wedding. Tell me about your happy tears as I walked down the aisle on the arm of your man and into the arms of mine. Tell me about the sad tears that fell as we moved across the country, away from you. Tell me how one survives the cleaving. As a parent, I need to know.

We kept you waiting, so tell me about your elation to hear of your new grandchild. Tell me. Tell me once again how happy you were to hear. I could see it. You love was visible, but I want you to tell me more. Tell me about that love that is so much more than a parent knows. Tell me about being a grandparent. I’m not sure that I will become one, so I need you to tell me more. Just in case.

Tell me about your last trip with him to where the country began, searching for family history, for roots. What did you find there? Tell me more about your thrill of discovery. A new ancestor. A new connection from long ago. Now that you know who we were, who are we now? I can only pick up the thread you left and hope that it leads me down the same path. We are family, but you are no more. Am I still a daughter without you? Tell me.

I desperately want you to tell me more. But you cannot; you are not here. You are my past, but such an ever-present notion in my head reminding me of the future you wanted for me. Telling me that there are more days to come. That I have more to live. You are no longer here, but you still exist in love, in my heart, in who I am. Even so, how I wish you could tell me more.  I would listen closer.

And remember it all.

Because I still have a lot of things I want to know.

How I wish I had asked you more.

A Year of Thanks

I believe that being thankful for the good things in my life is a given. My husband, my daughter, my family, my friends, my home and my memories of a happy childhood are all gifts from God. I also believe that being thankful for the hard things, the bad things, the things that hurt, eases that hurt. I have tried to live in gratitude this year since Mum passed away. It hasn’t always been easy, but it has taught me that my God is ever-present and sends reminders when I need them most. The delays that drove me crazy. The weight on my shoulders that threatened to pull me under at times. The exhaustion. All of it served its purpose. Had they not occurred, had I plunged ahead and not listened to the God-speak in my heart that said “just wait awhile” more times than I wanted to hear it, I believe that my brother would not be in the good place that he is. The timing of everything this year has truly been God at work. We would not have met the earthly angels that continue to bless us. Andy and I are sharing Thanksgiving at the home of some of these angels who knew that it would be too much for me after these last 5+ weeks of moving Howard and closing up the family home in Pennsylvania. I am blessed, I am thankful. These simple words are simply inadequate! My prayer is that I have given back at least a portion of what I have received. Have a blessed thanksgiving every day of the year, my friends.

The Answer

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Some days, I pray for peace

And I end up with war.

Some days, I pray for understanding

But I get confused.

Some days, I pray for patience

Then I have to wait.

Someday, someday, someday,

The Answer will return.


Until then, I will always pray.

Present

Through my tears, I see your gentle face,
I feel your tender arms, your loving heart,
In the middle of the night,
As my heart breaks once again.

Confessions of a Button Freak

Yes, I confess. I love buttons.

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I’m a sucker for buttons, especially if they’re in mason jars or tin boxes. If I see a jar of buttons at a garage sale, I’ll pick them up (assuming they’re reasonably priced, that is). You see, I don’t display buttons in massive collages or have drawers set up like a true collector might, but I love the feel of buttons. I’m happy to run my fingers through a button tin and examine the different styles. I’m constantly on the lookout for older buttons, made of ivory, nacre or celluloid. I look for different shapes and colors. My love of buttons makes me dig for the small ones, set aside the biggest ones that usually have the fewest matches, rejoice at the discovery of an older metal one embossed with a fancy design. A military button is the crowning jewel to me.

Imagine my delight when I found my late mother’s button tin while cleaning out her house. Ah, the memories!

I grew up in an era well before the iPhone. Portable phones were the size of cereal boxes, 8 track tapes and CB radios were must haves. If your family had a color TV, it meant your dad had a good job and you were rich. We played with dolls, outside, in the sun, rode our bikes without helmets or knee pads. We were daring and I have the scar to prove it.

In our house, we had a black and white TV until after I entered college. We weren’t the rich folks of the town. My dad worked three shifts at the plant. When he was on night shift, we were expected to stay quiet so that he could sleep during the day. No TV. No portable radios. No loud voices. Answer the party line on the first ring and hope the other people on the party line got to it fast, too.

As a child, one of my favorite ways to occupy my time quietly was to play with my mother’s button collection: Button tiddly winks, separating out the different colors of buttons into matching piles. (I wonder if that’s why I separate M&Ms into colors now.) I could play and examine buttons for hours on end.

Finding Mum’s button box today took me back to those days. This morning, I sat at the kitchen table and sorted out the buttons for over an hour. I have a nifty little pile setting there. I found three large buttons, all the same size, but not matching. They are perfect for a scarf project that I have in mind. I grabbed up some small white shirt buttons. I’m a little low at home for my husband’s dress shirts. I found some lovely older buttons that I’m pretty sure came from my great aunt’s house. Score! They hold a special fascination for me. Some still have bits of cotton fabric attached to them, some of the more numerous are strung together with string tied into button bracelets. I’ve found a metal one with U.S.A. embossed on it, a few other metals with fancy designs engraved. One or two are old wooden ones, more are shell or celluloid. I’m so happy right now with my mother’s button collection. Utilitarian in purpose, but a world of delight for a young girl, and now a woman trying to hold onto the memories of the woman who raised me.

But there’s just one problem with my desire to abscond with her button tin. Sometime, in the future, my brother, who shared her home and thus her sewing equipment including the button box, might pop a button from a shirt. If I could just figure out a way to keep that from happening, I could take the whole box with me. Super glue? No, the answer is obvious. I just have to find her Ronco Buttoneer. I’ll plastic tab all of those suckers onto his clothes so he’ll never lose another button, and I get to keep the button tin. I say it’s win win, don’t you?

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Relief Comes at a Steep Price

I wrote this by hand as I sat by my mother’s bed on July 31st, 2014, watching her labored breathing as she slept, one day before she passed away. I make no apologies for the content. It is unedited. I stand by what I wrote on one of the most difficult days of my life.

By way of explanation, my family and I live a full day’s drive away from either of our families. We had just started our annual vacation back in our home state when my brother, our mother’s primary care giver, wound up in the hospital and Mum was placed in respite care until he returned to good health. Two days later, she came down with a fever of 103.5 axillary and passed away the next day. My brother remained in the hospital for one day shy of a month, unable to even attend her funeral. He told me later that he didn’t think he could have made the same decision as I did. For what it’s worth, I have no regrets even now two months later.

I’m publishing this because I need it to be out in the world rather than stuck on my computer. I keep obsessing over the things that I’ve written, both in pain and frustration, and it’s not healthy for me, so I’m letting them go. Where they end up is up to God for He is my hope in my mourning.

 

Relief comes in many different ways to those in the midst of pain. Mental realizations. Physical changes. The circumventing of certain circumstances. For me, relief has come through some hard decisions made from the heart.

 
I signed a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) order for my beloved mother this morning. I don’t know if she is on her deathbed or not. There’s a possibility that she will recover.

 
I hope not.

 
Why would I say such a thing? More importantly, how can I say that and feel relieved? As I sit here, watching her labored breathing, I feel pain – heartache. This once vital woman is a skeleton, a shell of her former self. Is this living?

 
I wish the heavens would open up and God’s mighty hands would reach for her. I wish that she would reach back, knowing that my daddy is waiting for her.

 
It’s not easy to entertain the thoughts that someone I love is better off dead. Yet, I know it’s true. It was when I realized that very fact that I felt my first fluttering of relief. It absolved me from guilt; I struggle with guilt, but not in this case. As much as I love my mother, I hurt to see her in a quality of life that puts a lie on the rest of her life. This is the lie – this “life” that has her bed-bound, befuddled and emaciated. I’m angry at that lie.

 
It’s making me a warrior for her. I’m fighting for her dignity, for her peace, for her history. Her past. Her.

 
I would give the world if this were not our reality right now. But it is. I made the decision to sign the DNR papers on my own. It was a good, caring decision. I’m relieved that she will not be manhandled and resuscitated, only to come back to a life no longer worth living. It was a good decision. It was a painful decision and a right one. It brought relief.

 
It’s the little things that relief relies on. The realizations that my brother, her main caregiver, would have had to make this decision instead of me. I’m glad it was me.

 
The primary caregiver position comes to me as my brother, my only sibling, also needs to be hospitalized. So my only two blood relatives, my family, both need me since both are hospitalized. Brother has POA (Power of Attorney), but due to these circumstances, under PA law, it’s fallen to me. I’m ready for this. It’s hard to be thrown into it without appropriate knowledge, but I’m okay.

 
I’m relieved that this happened during our vacation when I could be with them.
Never in a million years would I say this to my mom. I love her. I want her around, but she’s also not healthy. I want what’s best for her, even if it’s what’s most painful for me. It will bring her relief, this death of hers. She needs relief. I need her to be relieved, so I will sign every DNR paper they put in front of me.

 
Nothing will be the same without her, but there’s nothing worse than this hanging around. Praying for relief and if that’s selfish of me, then so be it. I’ll be selfish if it helps her. Daddy’s waiting, Mum.