Musings

The Shepherd and WiFi – A meditation on Psalm 23

It’s 4 a.m. and I’m wide awake. I take several very deep breathes to relax my body and mind, hoping to drift back to sweet slumber. But I can tell I won’t soon be falling asleep. I’m learning to tune in to when He wants a hang out with me. I open the eyes of my heart. I look up and our eyes lock. I smile knowingly. I love these times. I should have known He would be waiting. He wants to take a meditation walk. I choose a familiar passage. Do come with us…

shepherd

The Lord is my shepherd (1) 

One. Not a Lord among many – but THE Lord. Singular. His name in the Hebrew is the formidable Tetragrammaton – YHWH. The name is deemed so sacred it is not to be pronounced. One of its vocalizations is Yahweh. Yahweh was then Latinized and became Jehova, a commonly used proper name of God. Another title used by the Jews is Adonai, my Lord. Yahweh is derived from hayah which simply means to be or to exist. Thus, He calls Himself I Am.

Jesus boldly made this defiant, ground-shaking statement to the established spiritual leaders of His day, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM! (2) ”  In so doing, He signed His own death sentence by declaring Himself God, equal to Jehovah.

“The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created… all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; He is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything He might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through His blood, shed on the cross (3) .”

That one, and not another, is my ra’ah, my shepherd. My personal shepherd. He belongs to me and I to Him. We recognize each other. Call to mind the anxiety of being alone in a crowd and the antipode – the powerful feeling of being in a crowd and sighting someone you recognize! We have a tight bond of belongingness and incredible intimacy. My shepherd and I have fellowship with each other – a symbolic and practical unity that cannot be rent asunder.  We evoke oxytocin release in each other. We are so one that we are identified with each other. We resonate with each other. We understand each other, though He boggles me. He is my guide, my protector, my defender, my provider, my healer, my keeper and sustainer, my owner. He receives me, waits for me, fights for me, tends me, listens to me, nurtures me, comforts me, grooms and enjoys me. I was wired for Him and we are in phase, on the same frequency.

 

To a hostile group of accusing Jews Jesus said, “But you do not believe , because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you.  My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.  And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.  My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand.  I and My Father are one (4) .”

A shepherd is a professional. He knows His job. He is all about sheep. He thinks sheep, eats sheep, sleeps sheep so to speak. I have learned to trust Him. It is like needing a brain surgeon and finding myself in the office of a renowned and experienced one who was confident about taking on my case. I would automatically and gratefully trust him.

Yet what does a sheep know? The shepherd must initiate and sustain this relationship. No matter how smart I am, I am just a sheep. I know not much, just that I am loved and that I belong. I know to follow Him. I must remember every minute that I am not my shepherd nor anyone else’s, other than a young child under my care. I can be a model sheep to other sheep but I am no shepherd. My job is to point all others to Him.

I love the words “Lord, my heart is not haughty, nor my eyes lofty. Neither do I concern myself with great matters, nor with things too profound for me. Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with his mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me (5).

He is no real shepherd who only owns one sheep. Mine owns multitudes and of many shades and stripes. He places me among them for my benefit and that of the fold. I am not an only child. I am not a lone-ranger. I am part of a family. “Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God(6).”

 “The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ(7).” How, you ask? It is nothing short of a mystery! “The mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus(8).” (emphases mine)

“Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit (9).” When I traveled to the United States for college, my wise parents gave me many treasures but one stands out: “Find God’s people!”

I belong as tightly as a building stone in a wall among other stones.” “For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others (10) .”  “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it (11) .” If others are suffering and you aren’t feeling it, come closer to the shepherd. If others are rejoicing and you aren’t feeling it, come closer to the shepherd.

My shepherd is the head of the body, the church – innumerable believers, past, present, and future. Nor is He at risk of fading out like a trend. The irritated Jewish leaders tried to silence the apostles after Christ’s ascension.  “Then one in the council stood up, a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law held in respect by all the people, and commanded them to put the apostles outside for a little while. And he said to them: “Men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what you intend to do regarding these men. For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody. A number of men, about four hundred, joined him. He was slain, and all who obeyed him were scattered and came to nothing. After this man, Judas of Galilee rose up in the days of the census, and drew away many people after him. He also perished, and all who obeyed him were dispersed. And now I say to you, keep away from these men and let them alone; for if this plan or this work is of men, it will come to nothingbut if it is of God, you cannot overthrow it—lest you even be found to fight against God.”

“And they agreed with him, and when they had called for the apostles and flogged them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name. And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ (12).”

This same good news that came to you is going out all over the world. It is bearing fruit everywhere by changing lives, just as it changed your lives from the day you first heard and understood the truth about God’s wonderful grace (13) .

In my meditation, I only got a couple of verses into this amazing Psalm, yet it lasted hours. I’m delighted to bring you along through my writing. I think this part is the longest because He was laying a foundation of understanding in my heart. When I walked into church later this morning, Mike was teaching on fellowship – the unity between God and His church, and between sheep among each other. So bleet little sheep. Relax into your “sheephood” and relish your ra’ah.

References:

Unless otherwise noted, all references are from the NIV

  1. Psalm 23:1a
  2. John 8:58
  3. Colossians 1:15-20
  4. John 10: 26-30
  5. Psalm 131:1-2 (NKJV)
  6. John 1:12
  7. 1 Corinthians 12:12
  8. Ephesians 4:4
  9. Ephesians 2:19-22
  10. Romans 12: 4, 5
  11. 1 Corinthians 12:26
  12. Acts 5: 34-42
  13. Colossians 1: 6 (NLT)

image retrieved from:

https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&source=images&cd=&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwiJy4uzqKjiAhXnxFQKHZOzCS4QMwiLASgxMDE&url=https%3A%2F%2Fbeingfreenow.blog%2F2017%2F08%2F31%2Fdaily-inspiration-august-31st%2F&psig=AOvVaw0RhpWdKvbUkgILeZ0Txsz2&ust=1558380099411747&ictx=3&uact=3

Forgiveness · Maturity · Musings · Personal Growth · Relationships · Silent-Treatment · Vulnerability

Me: The Emotional-Abuser

BATTENING DOWN THE HATCHES

His words and gesture hit a nerve. An internal wound. It’s been replaying in my mind all week – in slow-motion, in fast play, when I’m busy, when I’m quiet. I see it in nauseating detail. I could describe it all pixel by pixel.

I immediately battened down the hatches.

Battening down the hatches means to prepare for trouble. A nautical hatch or hatchway, pictured below, is an opening or doorway in the deck of a ship, covered with a door or wooden grating to allow for access or ventilation to the lower decks.

wooden hatch

Fig. 1 Hatch on old wooden ship (VOC)

“When bad weather was imminent, the hatches were covered with tarpaulin and the covering was edged with wooden strips, known as battens, to prevent it from blowing off. Not surprisingly, sailors called this ‘battening down’.” (Martin, 2019)

I’m pretty good at foretelling a storm and bad weather was certainly imminent last Tuesday night. I swiftly slipped into my deck before he could say “Ahoy mate!”, and securely battened my hatches.

I do regularly-scheduled emergency drills and have gotten pretty good at this. I have done my due diligence and prepared for such events. Down here, it’s cozy, warm, dark, and dry. I have emergency supplies that could last me months. I am in my safe place. I even have a contingency plan for my contingency plan. That’s what it looks like on the inside.

That’s rather different from the outside, where it looks a lot like the ole’ silent-treatment. He hurt me and I shut down. Physically, I am ignoring him. I am avoiding the subject and even eye-contact. When he enters a room, I leave. I use a different tone with him than I do with others.  I withhold attention and affection.

Emotionally and spiritually, I’ve gone from hurt, to sadness, to anger, and entered vengeance-mode. I will have the last word, literally. I think I am better than him. I’m holding him in contempt to make him squirm. I know it bugs him and I hear myself cackling the gleeful anthem of revenge.  I aim to shame him into changing and cooperating with me – or else. I am manipulating. I’m trying to play the parent and make him the naughty kid. I am withholding forgiveness. I’ve locked him out and I’m fondling the key in my pocket. I am punishing him. In my passive-aggressive craze I foolishly think I am winning.

This is emotional abuse!

“They battened the hatches,

But the hatches didn’t hold.”

Bob Dylan, Tempest

I may very well have started off with a good point, but I turned left on Main onto this well-worn back-alley to hell. He hurt me and I had trouble communicating that. I became the victim. I propped up my persona, flipped things on him, and expected him to take full responsibility for the problem that he created.

“Don’t be dramatic, Hannah. You can’t be an abuser,” I hear a well-meaning friend quip, “you’re so sweet.” Wrong!

It’s interesting that this – fundamentally – has little, if anything, to do with him. It’s a lousy coping mechanism I’ve adopted and honed over the years. I’ll save you the details about my adverse childhood experiences and why I am like this. At the end of the day, it’s like hearing from the guy who can’t pay his rent – only the last line matters.

It’s time to call it what it is. I’m unhealthy and immature, even crippled in this area. I have engaged in very pre-adolescent behavior and been driven by fear and shame. In the process, I have hardened my heart.

They say the fish is the last to see the water. Decades ago, he called me out on giving him the silent treatment. I didn’t consciously know I did this. I’d never even heard the term.  After I realized it, I justified it as just a small thing I do.

Recently my friend Patti said the silent-treatment is emotional abuse. Whaaat??!! I was frying other emotional fish at the time so I stuck that one in the freezer. Today, I opened my freezer hatch and it hit me between the eyes like an anchor – this is a HUGE problem I need to be rid of.

I have the resources I need to handle this and need to grow up in this area. I can state I need space. I can process the information and my emotions and come back to it in reasonable time. I may not like how he addressed the problem but it’s on me to respond maturely. For me, this abusive behavior walks hand-in-hand with other avoidant ones such as procrastination and evasiveness, but I’ll stick that in the freezer for now. As Michelle Caswell, of Purely His Inc. states in her book by the same name – which is changing my life – we can choose to have this take 7 minutes, 7 hours, 7 days, 7 weeks, 7 months, or 7 years. I’m going with the 7 second option!

My husband has come a long way in learning how to handle me in this. He no longer stands above and bangs on the hatch to ask if I’m okay or when I’m coming out; or worse, what’s wrong with me and when am I going to learn to communicate. Paradoxically, all this questioning somehow made me rub my hands in satisfaction. He realizes he can’t change me and has chosen to walk the high road. He doesn’t have to play my game. He is the stable one. He continues to say what he needs to and refuses to walk on egg-shells. He finds things to do during times we would be spending together, since I’m not available now. He continues to show affection as I allow.

Today I listened to Dr. Les Carter on his YouTube post “The Silent Treatment” and journaled, “Thank you Lord that he is his own mature adult despite my behavior.” I’m also happy to note that, over the years, I’ve gone from having a massive automatic hatch, pictured below,

massive hatch

Fig. 2 Massive hatch (Folding type, 2017)

To the medium sized hatch pictured below. Note how much muscle it takes to open it. I was willing to do that hard work rather than change.

medium hatch

Fig. 3 Medium-sized hatch also called a dog-hatch

(howlingpixel, 2018)

To this little guy:

small hatch

Fig. 4 Small hatch

I’m done being the hatch queen. The batten queen. It is a fruitless work of darkness, regardless of its size. As I strain towards maturity, I am learning about and living the power of vulnerability; and stripping the false security of shame and fear by unmasking myself. As a powerful healing tool, the Lord gave me a picture of a big red button on my forehead. It says “Expose It”, as driven by the words “Everything exposed by the light becomes visible and everything that is illuminated becomes a light.” (NIV, Eph. 5.13).

red button

The “Expose It” Button

So I just pushed that button. I’m doing the arduous work of stripping my safety cabin of its supplies and charm. I’ve spent too much time making it cozy. I’m packing up the comforts and bringing them on deck. I’m locking that last little hatch and tossing the key overboard into the sea of forgiveness.  I did the best I did with what I had. So long little room. It’s a new day. I’m growing up… I’m going up.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

  1. VOC  ship old hatch cannon port rope wooden http://m.imageafter.com/image.php?image=b3_woods023.jpg
  2. ‘Batten Down the Hatches’ – the Meaning and Origin Of This Phrase
  3. Gary Martin – https://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/batten-down-the-hatches.html

Dylan, Bob. “Tempest.” Tempest, Columbia Records, 2012.

4. osprey-marine.co.uk. “Folding Type” https://www.marineinsight.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/ospera.jpg, Tanumoy Sinha, Naval Architecture, Different Types And Designs of Hatch Covers Used For Ships, 2017.

5. A hatch on USS Blue Ridge with the hatch dogs clearly visible. https://howlingpixel.com/i-en/Dog_(engineering), 2018.

6. “Construction of ship hatches.” http://www.crewtoo.com/crew-life/helpful-info/don’t-play-with-hatches-construction-of-ship-hatches/

7. The Holy Bible: New International Version. Zondervan, 2011.

 

Clutter · Eagles · Gratitude · Meditation · Musings

IT’S INCREDIBLE FROM HERE!

I had an amazing experience at 3 a.m.

I have been a chronic clutterer. My piles drive me crazy. They are everywhere. I desire that the a cure me for that habit. I long for clean uncluttered surfaces. I love it when all my things are well organized.

I sat to meditate. As I breathed very deeply and came into a relaxed state, I entered the shelter of His wing for help in this area. That wing is my favorite happy place. I love the feel of His heartbeat from here. Here, I feel small and warm, nurtured, protected. I am wanted here,  I belong here. Very deeeep breath…

He slowly fluttered then flapped those mighty, giant wings, and mounted steadily, powerfully, magically to the skies on a tour of where I sat.

I sat in my  living room on my comfortable, gray plaid chair. I bought it at Thrift City many years ago. I remember smiling when I saw it. I am grateful that I enjoy thrifting and that I have discretionary funds to do that for pleasure.

From here I can see my wonderful Tiffany-like lamp. It is exquisite and brings me much pleasure. I got it on OfferUp from a precious lady who was happy to discount its price for me. But when I saw it, I was so enthralled that I paid her the full price and more. It reminds me of God’s call to be generous and how he is happy to lavish wonderful gifts on us. Please open my eyes more and more to the rich blessings that are hidden in generosity.

From here I can see my beautiful beige leather furniture. I used my first salary after grad school to buy it. It too is gorgeous. It reminds me that He gifted me with an amazing education in a foreign land. That my parents and family sacrificed so much for me to study back home, and counted it a blessing to sacrifice and send me to school here. It reminds me that He helped me persevere through much hardship. He established me in this astoundingly loving community that has embraced me as its own. Not all have that rich experience.

From here I can see the grand fireplace that is the focal point of this room. It is magnificent in its grandeur. I thank God for the beautiful rough-hewn stonework and  the massive rustic woodwork, complete with the squiggly signature where a playful worm doodled its way along the wood, and the craftsmanship that went into building it. It reminds me can I have a very beautiful roof over my head and a place to call home.

From here I can see my easel. I have several art projects going. Watercolors, acrylics, wood burning, photography. It reminds me that I have been given an incredible gift of creativity that I neither deserved, nor worked for, nor even requested, and that I have the wherewithal to practice and enjoy it.

From here I delight in seeing the gallery that my friend designed for my artwork. It reminds me I have a host friends who greatly enrich my life. It reminds me that I have art work I produce to share as gifts with those that the Lord has gifted me with. I can hear the buzz of numerous conversations from various parties,  as friends and family gather in this room for celebrations or simply to enjoy each other.

From here I can hear busy activity in the room next door as my caregivers and residents interact with each other. I hear the clanging of pans in the kitchen and the laughter as stories are shared. It reminds me that I am blessed to own and run an adult foster home and to have the skills and capacity to care for precious medically fragile seniors. It reminds me that their families have entrusted their treasures to me, an honor I do not take lightly. It reminds me that I have a father, and though I would love to care for him, that is not my blessing today. That honor goes to my sister who has poured her life into his. For that I am very grateful. It reminds me that I have precious family scattered all over the world and that I can see them from time to time. I am grateful that I can speak to them on the phone almost anytime. It reminds me that our bonds are tight, precious, and indestructible despite the miles.

From here I can observe Paul in his school corner working diligently with his two computer screens. It reminds me that I have time and the privilege to home-school my son. It reminds me I have a first born son. It reminds me that for the last year-and-a-half, every night at prayer, he starts by saying “Thank you Lord for letting me home-school, and letting my mom home-school me.” He is technologically savvy and teaches me many technical things. He is a minimalist and uses only a few things in life, unlike his mother. It reminds me that he is growing up too fast when I hear his deep booming voice. He is funny and healthy and intelligent and gentle.  His fat, sassy cat, Rose, sits on his desk or on his lap. I love to see them together. When she was just a kitten, she sat outside the shower stall and curiously watched his blurred form  through the etched glass walls, waiting for him to come out.

From here I can see the pull-up bar that James leaps to before bounding into the room, like a trapeze artist flying into the circus ring from the rafters. It reminds me that he is a cheeky  bundle of gregarious energy who can’t help but burst into every room he enters. It reminds me that he is gifted with agility and remarkable coordination. It reminds me that he always has something exciting or funny to tell me, or a new idea to share. He is very emotional and feels things, happy or sad, very deeply. The commotion reminds me that he is home from school and happy to be here, and that the calm of the day is over.  It reminds me of his teacher, Ms Willms, who is a delightful blessing to our family and who loves him dearly.

From here I can see the sliding glass door through which my husband enters at the end of the day, lunch box in hand. It reminds me that I am blessed with a wonderful, faithful, diligent, funny man. It reminds me that he has desirable and marketable work skills. It reminds me that he is hard-working and rises early to provide for his family in sometimes difficult, and always challenging and dangerous situations. It reminds me that he is happy to be home. That sparks joy in my heart and erupts in a smile at the sight of him. It reminds me that I am happy to see him and to have him home.

My breathing is deep and relaxed even though I have been soaring on Eagle’s Wings. That is another of my happy places. The Eagle rides the wide currents down, down, down. He gently circles for a meticulous landing and berths me delicately on my gray plaid chair.

It’s 4 a.m. now. I am ready to go back to bed. Thank you for this incredible time in your presence my sweet Lord. I look forward to flying again soon.

(Images retrieved 4/3/19 from http://www.quotemaster.org/Eagles+Wings)

Musings · Sleeplessness

Grumpy Snore


image retrieved from cbnbaggage.wordpress.com

Rhythmically,

He growls like a bear,

Snarls like a gorilla.

Then groans like a logging truck,

and rumbles like a grown walrus.

He grunts and whistles,

Puffs, jerks, and snorts.

I stare at the clock,

And sigh,

Wishing the ruckus and the

Passing of time would ease up.

He awakens himself with a start.

And rolls over so we are grill to grill,

And grumbles, irritated, “You’re yawning…”

 

 

Creativity · Dance · Gems · Musings · Poetry

The Dance of the Jewel

You enchantingly craft your words…,

… gems that thrill our hearts.

Rather effortlessly, it seems,

You bend over your tureen,

Humming and thumbing your well-worn needle.

You squint and adjust your focals,

Shake the bowl in unspoken incantation,

You single out this stone, and set it by that one.

You stir the bowl again and pick another, then another,

And time. Stands. Still.

And when your rune finally ends

You tie all lose ends.

Defying all sense – you’ve mothered utter magnificence!


Then you package it like the treasure it is and push send.

My heart leaps at the notification,

Your happy picture lights up my screen.

I know that when I untie that silken ribbon,

Without fail, your words will take my breath away.

I’ll be grabbed by the gleam, the glint, the glimmer;

I’ll follow the flare, the flash, the flicker;

And frolic enraptured in glorious glee.

And my reading them over and over again

Twirls them faster and faster, arcane,

Leading the dizzying dance with abandon,

Prowess, and grace, and magnificent passion!

So write more

And more, my friend. Your gifting is like a whirlwind,

Currently harnessed and only let out a slight whisper at a time.

But when your needle touches a stone,

I espy a tiny spark and hear the howling roar within…

For my dear friend Amanda, who is reluctant to write…

Image retrieved 1/22/19 from https://static8.depositphotos.com/1450715/927/i/450/depositphotos_9275826-stock-photo-collection-of-glass-gems.jpg

Australia · Humor · Musings · Shopping · Short Stories · Short story · Thrift Stores · travel

Why Normal Women Shop at Nordstrom’s

In the US, I call it junking. The Aussies call it up-shopping. I like that term. Other references include thrifting, second-handing, and up-cycling among others. This is a highly skilled operation that few appreciate and even fewer master.

I can’t tell you how many times I get a compliment on an item I’m wearing, then when asked where I got it and answer, “I got that while junking,” I hear, “What?? I can never find good stuff at thrift stores.” I came to learn I had a rare gift – a knack for digging through “crap” and finding treasures. At first, it was much like the confusion a rich kid experiences when he finds out that not all kids get driven to school by a personal chauffeur. Then I came to embrace it.

I was at an up-shop in Rosanna, a suburb of Melbourne, today and had a memory of junking back home. One of my favorite stores, which didn’t last more than a year despite my concerted efforts to keep it in business, was just a few miles from my house. See, each junk shop has its own culture, it might be the smell, the general behavior of the clientele, or any other trade mark.

I would arrive at opening time after dropping the kids off at school and head straight for the women’s clothing section chomping at the bit to peruse the selection. It was the only time kids got dropped off at school early. Any more, whenever we’re early to go someplace, they say, “Mum, are you going junking?”

Here I was in my happy place, smiling to myself contentedly. Without fail, as I was sliding the scritching hangers along the racks, not a minute into my shopping escapade, the janitor would walk up to me with a massive mop, headphones in position, smacking chewing gum, and bobbing away to the music.

I understand and appreciate that the store must be mopped, but this bordered on the ridiculous. I could swear that janitor never saw me, though I was the only customer and he had 1,999 other sq. ft. to mop. He would walk right up to me and get to work. I’d courteously step off to the side, my hand marking my place among the hangers, like a finger in a book page, with the sloshing monster afoot.

“Excuse me,” I said to deaf ears, pushing my torso into the clothes, my head now swaying back precariously. He responded off key by belting the refrain of the Spanish music he was listening to, holding the handle like a mic, then returned to mop when he no longer knew the words. I tried waving him down. I leaned my head this way and that, like an owl, to meet his eyes – to no avail. I sighed heavily, waved again and mustered a brave, “Hola amigo,” and it was time for the refrain again. I could hear the accordion in his headphones and knew I stood no chance of being heard. Oh dear!

He turned his back to me, mopping a different section and I instantly dropped my foot on the floor to save my life, only to have the mop swing around like a mad Brontosaurus grabbing for an elusive meal. I skittered back onto the rack.

Every time I went to put my foot down, like lightning, the evil mop head came at me again and like a flash, I lifted my threatened foot into the air. Then greedy mop swished its gross saliva and lunged at my other foot on the ground. My footwork got fancier and fancier, pulling me further and further away from THE hanger. Determined not to lose my place, I had no choice but to scramble onto the bottom rung of the clothes rack. I had an epiphany and came to fully understand how a drunk falls on his face and busts his teeth without spilling a drop of his booze. I would jump on the very top of this clothes rack if I needed to!

My anxiety mounting, my heart skipped a beat as the round rack heaved towards me. One of its wheels was missing and it certainly wasn’t designed for this task in the first place. It leaned heavily towards me like a sail on a boat and I hung on for dear life. It stopped suddenly, one leg in the air like a dog at a fire hydrant.

It seemed, at the time, that the mop handle was twenty feet long and growing. Even as he moved away from me, the mop head still hurtled at me as he moved it back and forth. Try as I might, I couldn’t get the janitor’s attention. Flinging my purse back up to my shoulder I wiped the sweat off my brow. I hollered and waved frantically with my one available hand. Wide-eyed, I tried to take a deep breath and centered myself. I was now leaning perilously as well as trying to balance the rickety clothes rack. I started to feel dizzy and the room slowly spun a half circle. Then I realized that under my weight and with all the gyrations, the rack had come alive. It groaned and started to roll, squeaking maniacally and limped a wild wobble as it took off for the dishes aisle with all the mismatched glassware!

“Help!” I hollered, catching speed. I fluttered my hands deliriously then clutched back at the rack that now threatened to buck me. Closing my eyes tightly I braced myself for the inevitable crash.

“Are you okay?” asked a worried Aussie lady at the up-shop, peering at me quizzically over her glasses as I hung onto the clothes rack for dear life. I barely heard her above the thunderous drumming of my heart and I opened my eyes. I slowly turned to look at her, my wild eyes darting back and forth in the bright lights. I noticed 2 other women glancing at me cautiously from around the corner. Their heads quickly disappeared when our eyes met.

“Yes. Yes, I’m okay,” I said confused and embarrassed, and peeled my pale knuckles off the rack. Very slowly, I planted my wobbly feet safely on the floor and stood a long minute to catch my bearings.

“I’m good… sorry… thank you,” I muttered foolishly and headed for the door, flushed. I could feel her scratching her head behind me and shrugging her shoulders in bewilderment.

And that, my friends, is why normal women shop at Nordstrom’s!

Image retrieved 5/1/19 from https://pxhere.com/en/photo/992185

Musings · Personal Growth · Thankfulness

A Heart of Gratitude

“Show me an ungrateful person and I’ll you a selfish person.”

Hannah T. K.

It is a staggering thought that if you are not currently or regularly grateful, you are dealing with a case of acute self-absorption and pride. If you have not thought or expressed gratitude within the last couple of hours, you could use a dose of  reflection on what you perceive your role to be in your own universe. Like the proverbial 3 year-old, almost all of us harbor the thought, maybe even sub-consciously, that we are the most important person in our universe. After all, if we didn’t exist, life would be over, right? Wrong!

The reason I don’t notice that someone held a door open for me, or slowed down to let me in in traffic is either because I am distracted or I am entitled. The former is excusable based on circumstances. The latter is abominable. Many of us have worked incredibly hard to get where we are in life but we may forget that there are others who work infinitely harder than we ever will and may never attain to what we have. Let us also not forget that despite our greatest efforts, our successes ride on the shoulders of others, past and current, who poured and continue to pour into our lives. It is a short step from taking things for granted to being entitled.


The benefits of gratitude and boundless to our physical, spiritual, and emotional selves. It infuses life and vitality. The harm done by ingratitude is equally incalculable to the ungrateful person. Those who have to be around that person soon feel drained and sucked dry – physically, spiritually, and emotionally. May we strive to be thankful people and to be reputed as such. May we aspire to be annoyingly thankful. May we be thankful for big things, and for small things, for really, there are no big or small things. Our thanks need to be expressed verbally and in actions.  Aim to make your verbalization of thanks deliberate, heart-felt, a sacred moment; not flippant or glib.

The antithesis of gratefulness is expressed in chronic grumbling, murmuring, complaining, frustration, and, worse, in put-downs and disappointments in others. These can be against ourselves, our loved ones, strangers, the government, and on and on.  These soon become habits, then a way of life that defines us. 


Visualize a gratefulness meter on a continuum – with ungratefulness on the left and gratitude on the right. Make an honest assessment of yourself or ask those who walk life with you where you are on the scale. Make it your goal to slide further and further to the right every day, and so increase your GQ  – your gratitude quotient. Thank God and people for
 for who and what they are, for what they do, and that they are. Thank the same person – your spouse, your kids, –  for the same thing you’ve thanked them for.  Open your eyes to something new to thank them for. Thank a person you’ve never thanked before. If you feel a complaint creeping up, rewire your brain by coming up with something positive to be thankful for. If you can’t think of it, keep your mouth shut, unless you can express the complaint constructively and offer helpful solutions.

A grateful person recognizes that they are the fortunate recipient of innumerable and constant blessings. They live in an incessant state of  awe and awareness of the beauty and the bounty around them, even in hardships, sometimes because of their hardships. They no longer take things for granted, indeed every experience and interaction, even the most mundane, becomes sacrosanct.

Be that person.

“Thankfulness is a habit that will grow us as a human being;       a habit that we can start immediately, and practice for the rest of our lives.”

Hannah Kolehmainen
Africa · Brothers · Dad · Daughters · Memoires · Musings · Relationships · travel

My Brother, The Red-Indian

My father was larger than life.

I was a shrimp of a kid and he, a stately 6’2″. Everything about him was gargantuan: his body, his booming voice, his gigantic spirit… He made his presence known before he was seen. He inspired deep seated anxiety without saying a word. In his presence I averted my eyes automatically and my ears pounded at the thumping of my little heart.  Fear and respect meant the same thing with him – he wielded them as one.

He knew everyone and was known by all in our little town. I never met anyone he was afraid of.  I have memories of him frequently holding court in our living room. Disputing relatives or friends sought him out for mediation. He heard every side fairly and declared swift judgements, his was the final word.

I had an insatiable need to stare at  him. I would hide behind a piece of furniture or person and study him, wide-eyed with awe: his flaring nostrils, the wrinkles on his regal forehead, his perfectly lined ivory teeth, his grand hands that moved with calculated grace and regency. He had a fabulous sense of humor and a cannonade of a laugh. I would lean in when he laughed, and find myself smiling. He spoke his mind with confidence, wisdom, and fantastic wit. He was never afraid to offend.

Now that I’m an adult we have fostered a great friendship. We are separated by thousands of miles and decades now.  About ten years ago, he and mum came to visit me in the States. Before their arrival he repeatedly told me that he had a plan.

“I want to visit the Red Indian.” Not till the day I die will I  ever get used to crazy things he says.

“Dad,” I said. “You can’t say Red Indian. Say Native American or just Indian.”

“Okay,” He would say.

When they arrived after hours of air travel, we hugged and laughed and hugged again. We had an animated chat on the way to the car as he regaled us with accounts of their travels. “They were the skinniest bloody Pakistani man and woman I have ever seen,” he said, describing fellow travelers. “She talked non-stop like a machine and I had to keep getting her luggage. She didn’t eat any of the food in the airplane. Three meals! Can you imagine? She brought their food. And when the air-hostesses brought out our food, I had to get theirs from that dirty green bag in the overhead. There were 8 identical lunch boxes. No sooner would I sit down then she would say, “A thousand apologies, not this one, Bwana, other one!”” He mocked her namaste and bobbing head.

“Here I am folded in my tight seat like a pretzel,” he continued, “and I have to unfold myself, get back into the dirty green bag and find the right lunchbox. Can you imagine? And do you know she had the spiciest curry which she ate talking the whole time. She took a bite and her nose started running. Then she put her spoon in the dish, loaded it with curry and handed it to me to eat. Can you imagine? All I could think was, ‘that’s going to hurt going in and coming out.’ I didn’t touch it.”

“Then the next meal I had to do the same thing, I hand her a lunch box and she says,  “A thousand apologies, not this one Bwana, other one please.” But when she opened it, it was the  bloody same curry.” He threw his hands up in exasperation and we laughed our heads off. We stuffed his luggage in the trunk.

“Next time you must bring a big boot for my bags, Hannah.” He chided as he folded himself into the passenger seat.

“I love Oregon. Now Hannah, you remember I need to go and see the Red Indian.”

I leaned forward from the back seat and grabbed his shoulder. “Dad!” I said sternly, “I told you they are not called Red Indians.”

“Oh,” he said. “A thousand apologies…” namaste and all.

Every morning I awoke and made them breakfast, so grateful for the dream of having them in my home. The days were flying and I was already dreading their departure. Each day we would have some version of, “Is today the day we see the Red Indian?”

“Dad!” I would  glare at him, “First of all, you can’t say that. Second of all you don’t know any. It’s not like you just walk up someplace and find Red Indians waiting for you, sheesh!”

“Oh, sorry,” he would say with exaggerated humility. Everyday for 2 weeks

During their stay, he and mum discovered garage-sales and loved them. He was amazed that individuals just set out tables and their stuff and people came to buy it. He bought loads of stuff at each one and was always very pleased with himself. He would hold up a new-found treasure and say, “Can you believe?” His favorite find was a coon-skin hat that he proceeded to wear everywhere he went. Both he and mum became extremely astute at spotting garage-sale signs. “There, there, garage!” They would say excitedly at the siting of a roadside sign. I started to worry about all the stuff they were collecting and how they were going to get it home.

Regarding the matter of the “Red Indian”, my husband and father-in-law decided that what we needed was a day trip to the Warm Springs Reservation in Oregon to visit Kah-Nee-Tah, an Indian run resort. Dad had a long sleepless night. He was like a kid the night before Christmas.

We left early and had a great trip east towards Mt. Hood. We stopped at Timberline Lodge to show him the magnificent building and area. He didn’t pay much attention. After a few photos and a bathroom break, he was back in the car. “I don’t want to keep them waiting.” We all laughed at him that “they” were waiting for him. He marveled at and kept a running commentary on the change in terrain and climate as we descended on the east side. Dad got quieter when we pointed out the reservation sign and as we drove the last few miles. He stared at the beautiful cliffs and the desert scrub-brush. “Just like in the films,” he said quietly pulling a little plastic comb from his shirt pocket. He combed his hair and readjusted his coon-skin hat. Stroking its tail and studying every bush and rock, he muttered, “Just like in the films.”

When we finally arrived at the resort, he waved enthusiastically at the lady at the pay booth. He noted that she wasn’t very friendly. ‘No matter,’ he thought, ever hopeful. We were tired, cramped, and ready to stretch.

“This is nothing like I remember as a kid,” my husband remarked, worsted, when we got out of the car.

“No,” my father-in-law agreed. “It’s all concrete and metal now.” Even the row of tee-pees were of metal.

We were woebegone. We’d expected to find Indians everywhere,  living their life, but only a handful of regular looking, bored young-adult workers milled around on their cell-phones. We had a quiet disappointing lunch, moped around the dry, dusty property and piled back into the car an hour later, chapfallen.

“Why would they bloody make us come to a place like this?” Dad said, as he shut the car door with more force than was necessary. No one bothered to answer him.

We couldn’t believe we’d driven several hours just for this and would be returning home disappointed. No one said much, each one nursing their own grudge at this plight. All of a sudden, from the back seat, mum erupted, “There, there, garage!”

The car had learned to swerve into garage sales and it did not fail us this time. We turned a tight right onto a gravel road where the red paper plate with shoddy hand-writing directed. Their spirits rose significantly.

“More junk,” I thought to myself, disgusted. “Just great!”

We bumped along and presently came up to a small run-down house beyond a rusty barbed-wire fence on which sat a large blue-jay which scolded us then took wing. We pulled in slowly and gazed at a single plastic folding table with a few items on it. Dad was  out before the car came to a stop. I scrambled out after him to remind him not to the say the darned words.

There were little children everywhere, kicking a ball made of stuffed plastic bags. They came racing to the table at our arrival, yelling, “Customers, customers!”

A very large woman stood promptly behind the table and straightened her ample skirts and long silver hair at the arrival of customers. She reached forward nervously and rearranged items on the table without looking at them. She had large eyes that sparkled and a huge smile that lit up her wrinkled face.

“Hi,” She said and cleared her throat.

I finally caught up to dad and tapped him on the shoulder, he took off the coon-skin hat and held it in deference, bowing his regal head slowly. He was entranced.

“My name is Thuku,” he began, standing so close to the table that he bumped it slightly. The lady rearranged it absently.

He dropped his voice an octave and said, “I have come to see The Red Indian.” He leaned in further, raised his head, and reached out his hand to shake hers.

“Oooooh God,” I groaned. “I don’t want to die like this!”

The rest of our group was just getting to the table. The kids gathered around and circled us curiously, staring from one person to the other then chattering excitedly to each other.

The lady gasped and clutched her bosom, taken aback. Then, absent-mindedly rearranging the table again, she hollered, “Hawk!! Go get your father.” She whisked a fly off her sculpted face with a nervous hand.

How many times had I told him?? This was terrible and about to get worse. I tried to nudge him and make eye-contact but he wouldn’t look at me.

One of the kids darted off like an arrow, flying through the thin door, which slammed and rattled the whole house. It swung freely one way, then made a dull wham as it opened again. “I told you not to slam the…” She yelled but I didn’t hear any more.

The doorway was suddenly darkened by Goliath. He wore a sleeveless undershirt and held a beer can in his hand. He stooped at the doorway to avoid hitting his head and scratched his belly as he took a giant step over the threshold. I became very light-headed  and everything started to happen in slow-motion.

The lady pointed awkwardly at dad, not sure what to say. Before I knew it, dad stood before him, clutching the coon-skin hat to his chest in deference. “My name is Thuku. I came aaaaaaall the way from A-fri-ca to meet my brother – The Red Indian.” He dropped his head in a dramatic reverent bow and reached out his hand. He had said “Africa” as though it had a hundred syllables and was accompanied by  a thousand thundering drums from the motherland.

The man paused and stroked on his long silver braid then got a strange look on his face. He put the beer in his left hand and reached out his massive paw to shake dad’s hand, which was stroking his coon-hat tail.  They shook hands for a long time, eyes locked, then  grabbed each other in an embrace.

“My name is Fire-Maker Wings. I welcome you, my brother.”

I was dumbfounded AND stupefied. Can you believe?

Dad was ushered into the house and the rest of us were invited in. Our eyes took a minute to adjust to the dark room after the bright sun. Fire-Maker turned off a football game he was watching on a wall-sized television and sat next to dad. The rest of us looked around at each other rather dazed and shrugged our shoulders. He turned to introduce his wife Ayita who stood at the doorway, wringing her hands. “It means first to dance,” he added beaming.

He spoke to her in a language I didn’t understand and she hurried out of the room followed by the troop of children. In no time, they returned with glasses, sodas, and a couple of beers; and proceeded to serve us.

The children sat among us and Ayita sat by mum. I looked around as though watching a movie. ‘This is crazy,’ was all I could think. My eyes came to rest on dad. Presently, he and Fire-Maker were leaning forward in their seats talking to each other in hushed tones. They looked intently into each others’ eyes, listening, then speaking, all the while nodding their heads, then listening again. I caught snippets of their conversation and was transported many miles and decades, to being a child, secretly watching dad from behind a piece of furniture, entranced by his large presence, his big spirit. It was a sacred interchange. Their large hands gestured as in a solemn dance. They discussed politics, history, and culture. They talked about reservations and colonialism. They talked about the past and the future.

Time was flying and soon it was time for us to leave.  Fire-Maker sent Hawk to the next room. Hawk returned with a wooden chest from which our host unpacked items wrapped in tissue paper. Indian dolls, miniature totems, pieces of decorated leather, and beads. He showed them to dad then to the rest of us. Then he walked us to a shed outside the house where he opened another chest. He slowly unpacked his porcupine roach head-dress, placed it on dad’s head, and showed him how to dance in it. He unfolded a gorgeous red shawl with an eagle emblem and draped it on mum’s shoulder. It was simply magical!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dad beamed from ear to ear all the way home.

Who knew?

Brothers · Death · Halloween · Musings · Parenting · Pranks

The Ghost of Meadowview Road

Image result for royalty free ghosts

We had waited restlessly from dim dawn to drizzly dark.

It was a brumal October day in Oregon that boded well for a spooky evening of trick or treating. Misty rain and heavy, grey clouds palled over the day like a heavy, wet, grey blanket. It was dismal really. A long crooked line of raked leaves lined Meadowview Road on both sides like two parallel giant snakes that had gorged themselves and couldn’t move. They lay there, trying to slither away but helpless, awaiting the monster that would ramble down the road and suck them up into its bowels.

Four year old Paul wore his ill-fitting Power Rangers costume he’d worn the year before – and all year long. He had found that the new Ninja costume he got this year did not confer the same powers, so he fell back on Old Faithful, which permanently showed off his bright red Lego socks and kept riding up his crotch, the taut row of stitches now stretched menacingly like the teeth of a snarling dog. Oh well, super-heroes have these problems too and he was not to be talked out of it. His large eyes teared up  at the thought of replacing it and big tears fell onto his chubby cheeks and dribbled onto his quaking lips.

“Fine,” Mum had said, “you can wear the darned thing.”

The air was alive with excitement. Not only did he get to wear his costume all day along with other kids, but there were bags of candy to be handed out to fellow goblins and super-heroes at dark. Paramount, was that uncle Matt was coming to the party that night. Paul loved Uncle Matt. He loved to call him Bath Matt at which point Uncle Matt would growl fiercely, attack Paul and rub his pokey stubble on Paul’s little face making him squeal with convulsive delight and wriggle to get free.

As Paul and I were unpacking our costume tote, Paul’s stubby fingers held up a white plastic gadget. It was a half-dome about 4 inches high that had a string attached to it. Draped over the plastic was a white piece of  nylon fabric with a ghost face painted over it. When activated by motion, the battery-operated Cosper would jiggle and dance enthusiastically, produce flashes of bright light, and make a horrific howl. After a fine initial scare, Paul enjoyed turning it on and off and watching it dance. It rattled against the floor which further reverberated and added to the din.

“Let’s use it to scare Uncle Matt,” said a very exhilarated Paul. We skulked around the house looking for a perfect spot. The bright windows were an impediment so we needed to find a dark place to accentuate the flashing lights. We settled for the bathroom which would be dark and enclosed – the perfect set-up. He giggled uncontrollably as he turned it on and off several times with the bathroom lights off and watched the little devil dance.

“Oh man, he’s gonna cry like a little girl!” laughed Paul till his sides ached.

I asked him to come get the table set for dinner. He set the ghost so it was ready to activate,  jumped lithely off the counter, and shut the door gently.

He hopped onto the kitchen counter to get plates then carried them carefully to the table. Dad would be home any time and Paul couldn’t wait to show him the booby trap. He grabbed the silverware and napkins.

“Mum, you’re the oldest, so you sit at number one,” he said to engineer-minded self, hopping onto my dining chair, clumsily placing a plate at my spot, and hopping off. “Dad is next, so he sits at number 2,” and he hopped onto dad’s chair, set dad’s place, then hopped off. “Then me,” he hopped onto his chair, set his place, and hopped off. He scooted brother’s high chair noisily next to my seat. “When brother is older he will sit at number 4.”

“I love it when we have masanya for dinner. Do I have to eat my salad?” he queried hopefully.

“Yes, son.” I answered absently, backing off the opened oven door as the heat rushed out. I took off the bulky silicone oven mitts after I set the lasagna on the stove to cool.

“Go get your brother please.” He tore off to their bedroom to wake his brother up. After a few minutes I heard them chattering away then galloping down the hallway headed my way.

“Wash your hands,” I hollered, and hit send on a text to Justin to get his ETA.

Suddenly, a single ear-splitting scream pierced the house to it’s foundation. My heart stopped and froze in horror. “Oh God,” I thought, aghast, and bolted in their direction in dread. They stood transfixed, screaming at the top of their lungs. Blabbering and bawling they broke out in a crazy dance around each other punctuated by more screaming.

As soon as I got there, they both leaped into my arms in a single choreographed bound and buried their curly heads in my neck, tears and snot mingling freely, little chests heaving in terror. A shaky little finger pointed to the dark bathroom. Over the din and confusion, I heard the tell-tale sound of old Cosper jiggling and bumping the bathroom door ominously his lights flashing like lightning. It must have seemed that the cavernous earth had opened it’s hungry giant bowels to snatch up my boys. They were inconsolable and I couldn’t put them down the rest of the night.

Uncle Matt has never stopped laughing at this and relishes bringing up the ghost of Meadowview Road.