My friend and mentor, Elaine Ambrose, has recently returned from a writing retreat in Ireland. A post she wrote resonated with me, and reminded me of conversations shared with locals on our trip to Italy.
“Why are all the Americans mad as a box of frogs?” David asked as he drove from the Dublin International Airport to my hotel. “I don’t understand all the vitriol. The waste of time is biscuits to a bear.” – Elaine Ambrose, “The Wisdom of Irish Taxi Drivers and Bartenders
We encountered similar questions. I’ve often wondered what people from across the globe think of the constant arguing and nastiness and judgmental tones.
Elaine had re-posted her article, just as I was hunting for the one I had written almost two years ago! Criminy, folks! Not much has changed in that time, at all. In fact, it might be worse.
“Art used to be made in the name of faith. We made cathedrals, we made stained-glass windows, we made murals.” – Julia Cameron
It was Lent when we visited Italy.
Perusing through my travel journal on the anniversary of our trip, I realized I hadn’t written about the beautiful cathedral we toured. So, I am sharing these photos during Holy Week. Not only do they remind me of our travels, but seeing, breathing and touching some of the history of Christianity has helped me in my own spiritual journey.
Sharon, if I had some crazy socks, I’d wear them. I promise you, I’ll find some to silly socks to celebrate World Down Syndrome Day.
Back in 1970, when my youngest sister was born, the term used to describe her condition was “retarded.” I still bristle when I hear that word. My ten-year-old self was horrified to think people would call my sister – or anyone else – that.
“Where were the parents?” is a question that I have read and heard countless times, especially since the victims of Dr. Nassar, the former US Gymnastics team doctor, have taken the stand to face their attacker. The video of this distraught father brings it all home for me – click HERE to watch it.
Anxiety and depression have plagued me off and on for years. The recent news coverage of Dr. Nassar has brought my experience up again. It happens – it is a form of PTSD. Though this essay easily flowed from my heart through my fingertips, it was the decision of whether or not to publish it that has brought me the most angst. For years I have felt that God has called me to discuss this. And for years, I couldn’t bring myself to do so. The fear of sharing this story is real. How will people react? My children, grandchildren, family, friends, co-workers, readers. But I feel that I have been repeatedly nudged by the Holy Spirit the past few weeks. Maybe my experience will help someone. Maybe that someone is you.
It seems to be a logical question. How could hundreds of victims have been sexually assaulted by one man, and the parents seemingly be clueless?
“I could give you some medication for him. It would alleviate some of the pain, but…”
I knew when I hugged him that it would be for the last time. Cradled in my oldest son’s arms, I bid farewell to our family’s dog.
He had a wonderful life. He lived better than some humans, as he never wanted for a meal or a warm place to lay his head.
Apparently, I slept through what my husband said was Jack’s very labored breathing. Our dear old dog made some very odd sounds, jarring my husband awake. And since I woke at my usual time, I let Jack outside while I filled his dish with his breakfast, not knowing what had transpired through the night.
This morning I had the privilege of watching my granddaughters before school started. It was a “late start day,” which used to cause me some angst in the mornings. I know it messes up the routine for many working parents, since an hour of childcare is needed at an awkward time, causing a disruption in the usual hurried morning.
But these days, since I don’t have to corral sleeping kids off to school in the morning, I enjoy helping out by having the girls over for breakfast – even if they ended up eating the pumpkin muffins their mom sent over for me.
We had a little silly time, a little talk time, and a few rounds of playing “Go Fish.” I laughed when one of the girls said, “You go first because you are the oldest,” which I thought sounded much better than, “Because you are old.” A little before nine, we headed outside. A neighbor was going to drop them off at school, so I walked them down the sidewalk adjacent to our yard, which is now sporting a beautiful blanket of colorful leaves – a season of change.
“Everything has seasons, and we have to be able to recognize when something’s time has passed and be able to move into the next season. Everything that is alive requires pruning as well, which is a great metaphor for endings.” – Henry Cloud
Just a moment ago, it was summer, and they were running around in the yard catching fireflies in jars or doing cartwheels or playing basketball. Now, they will be excited to come over and rake all the leaves into a huge pile and jump into it.
As they made their way into our neighbor’s car, I turned around and looked at the yard. Other than the leaves and my trusty dog, it was completely empty and quiet.
Though it seems like yesterday, it was almost ten years ago that our yard had a completely different look. It was a hot summer day, and it was early morning when my husband, kids and a few other relatives were moving around under the huge canopies set up for our oldest daughter’s wedding. My husband made a wedding trellis; tables and chairs were decorated; a dance floor was set up, and we were ready to welcome more than 100 family and friends to celebrate.
Sometimes when I look into the yard, I can’t believe how it had held so many people, and how beautiful it looked with tulle along the fence line and pots of flowers scattered throughout. So many people pitched in to help. So many people attended and shared a special day.
I thought of all the people that filled our yard that summer day.
For a moment, I let myself have a cry. In less than a decade, both sides of the family have lost dear loved ones: my dad, my grandfather, my great-aunt, my husband’s cousin; the groom’s grandmother, and, sadly, this year within ten months, we lost the groom’s parents. I was kind of taken aback, because I didn’t expect to look at my quiet yard and feel so moved. Just standing on the sidewalk, I looked over the fence and saw where everyone was sitting, smiling and talking.
Grief doesn’t really know a time frame. Some days you smile at memories, and sometimes you weep. There isn’t a right way to grieve, or a wrong way. You never know which way a memory will take you, so you just go through the moment.
Maybe today’s memory happened because the leaves on the grass reminded me of my dad and his vigilant effort to get them out of his yard. Maybe it happened because the quiet was a little too quiet once the girls left for school. Maybe it was because of hormones. Or maybe it is because midlife is like fall – a beautiful, colorful season of change – a time of enormous transformation, yet a time to reflect and perhaps even mourn.
Watching the next generation skip down the side walk heading to the neighbor’s and ultimately to school, the grief lifted momentarily. How could I not smile as they waved and yelled, “Bye, Mema!” They are so full of life and wonder and growth – like spring.
Back in the house, I allowed myself to mourn a bit more. I realized that like summer, life seems short. I took a few minutes to remember the loved ones my granddaughters are probably too young to remember. I thanked God for the people that are in my life, and those who no longer are – physically, anyway – because they will always be alive in my heart.
And I promised those we’ve lost that we will keep them alive in my granddaughters’ hearts, too. They loved those little girls, just as we do. So, we will make great memories and tell the girls stories about the ones we loved and lost – the ones who shared a special wedding day with us – the day that was the beginning of their little family, and a day I cried happy tears when I looked into the yard.
“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; …” Ecclesiastes 3: 1-22
Apparently, it is. Our youngest was in preschool; now, she’s in her second year of college. Our granddaughters are older than our two youngest were the day of the attacks.
Fifteen years – a blink of an eye for some of us; an eternity for those who lost loved ones.
Most of my peers can recall that day like it happened yesterday. Our children and now grandchildren heard – or will hear of – the stories and learn about this event in history class.
The attacks of September 11, 2001, were referred to as the “Pearl Harbor” of our day.
Remembering September 11, I recall the fear and the sadness of that day. Our children talk about how eerily quiet it was. Such a pretty day, yet no one was outside playing. The skies were quiet as all aircraft was grounded. Towards evening, our neighbors gathered somberly. I remember how the stages of grief began to unfold: specifically shock, sadness and anger. I couldn’t tear myself away from the images on TV, and yet I couldn’t bear to watch. I recall how sleep wasn’t an escape, and morning came with the wonder of whether the attacks happened or it was all a bad dream.
It’s hard not to remember the day our world changed. Some changes for the worse, and some for the better. We saw horrific images and mourned the loss of thousands. But we also saw humanity and bravery at its best – strangers helping strangers. We witnessed selfless acts.
“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:” Ecclesiastes 3:1 KJV
Sadly, it seems we have forgotten what it is like to put our differences aside for the common good of all. Once, though we stood on opposite sides of politics, religion and countless other opinions, we were able to push that aside and embrace our common humanity. Today, we let those differences define us and stand toe to toe, trying to come out on top of our arguments.
I have written about military life, patriotism and September 11, 2001, countless times. Last fall, my husband and I had the opportunity to stop at the Flight 93 National Memorial, a site so humble and haunting. A site where heroes stopped a planned attack on the nation’s capital, where we had also spent some time visiting that same weekend.
“A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;” Ecclesiastes 3:4 KJV
It is my hope, that as we recall the events of the terror attacks, we recall the humanitarian acts in the days that followed. By remembering the good, we would find our common ground again. Instead of bickering, we would be compassionate. That we stop a moment and remember the lives that were lost and the life that we continue to live.
“I know that there is no good in them, but for a man to rejoice, and to do good in his life.” Ecclesiastes 3:12 KJV
I hope that we remember that evil doesn’t triumph. I hope we remember that even though tragedies make the headlines, that there is still good in the world. That even during tumultuous times, there are still people willing to put on a uniform every day – be it military members, police officers, firefighters or EMTs – to make sure that our little corner of the world is safe. That in an emergency, these brave souls will risk their own lives for the good of a stranger.
“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13 KJV
On this day, we are remembering September 11, 2001. May we #NeverForget
“This year, I am going to blog a funny story for Thanksgiving instead of the usual “I am grateful for…” I told my husband. And I got busy typing and editing a memorable family story. To share a funny accident.
But then life happened, and I wasn’t in a laughing mood.
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” To this day, especially in times of “disaster,” I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.” – Fred Rogers
It’s hard to believe that yesterday at this time, sleet, rain and snow flurries were taking turns smacking against the windows. It was gray, cold and dreary – a typical November day in our area of the world. Twenty-four hours later, the sun is streaming through the windows of a pretty late-fall day, and as I had let the dog back in the house, I could hear the comforting bells chiming at the church a block away.
As I sit here remembering where I was on September 11, 2001, it is hard to even fathom how something so horrific happened in our nation. Like so many others, I replay the awful, tragic events of the day.
I remember sitting outside on our porch the evening of the attacks, trying to wrap my brain around what I saw that morning. Our children were close by – we weren’t letting them out of our sight. The sky was calm and blue, and pastel hues began to emerge as the sun was setting. It was eerily quiet with no aircraft flying overhead. Neighbors were coming over, and a large gathering of stunned and somber people filled our yard. Folks that would normally just nod hello actually stopped to chat longer, as everyone needed to be surrounded by someone.
The next morning, people were lined up outside a flag store in our town, and by mid-day, America flags were swaying gently in the breeze on almost every house. News stories talked about long lines for giving blood donations; doctors and others were jumping in their cars and heading to New York to lend assistance; bottled water, clothing and non-perishables were collected. Churches opened their doors for prayer. People were kinder to each other and helping each other – looking out for their neighbors. September 12 brought about a change of heart and spirit. Police, firefighters and military members were thanked and honored. Somehow, as awful as September 11 was, September 12 began anew. Patriotism was sincere. People were changed.
So now, 14 years later, I have to ask, what the heck happened? How on earth did we forget what it was like to be bonded together and act civil towards one another?
Just this past week, a firefighter lost his life to an angry hit-and-run driver. Police officers are under attack, and I stopped counting how many we lost last week. Military members and their families are threatened. There have been instances where first responders have been refused service just because they are police officers or service members.
I’m not delusional – I know that there are a few rogue cops and soldiers amongst the ranks. But the majority of our first responders are honorable people. These are the folks that not only protect us, they serve us. They go into burning buildings; they perform first aid and CPR; they extract people from twisted wreckage; they deliver babies who are born en route to the hospital; they put a uniform on every day, and every day wonder if they will come home to their families.
And the discord doesn’t stop there. It runs so deep that it is oozing all over social media. If you have an opinion that is different from someone else’s, you are chastised and humiliated for speaking your mind. Bad manners and rudeness runs rampant.
Why don’t we care about each other anymore? Everything is a shouting match, a protest, or angry sparring online. There is little civility, and there is little to no respect for authority or anyone else. Sanctity of life seems to be out the window. People have died due to beatings at sports events. Spirits get crushed by betrayals made public.
“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten we belong to each other.” Mother Teresa
We are divided and fragmented, hateful and opinionated instead of being united as one, like we were on September 12, 2001.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t like who we have become. Reading or watching the news is difficult. Just when you think you’ve heard it all, another sick and demented story airs on the crimes committed against other human beings.
“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” Mother Teresa
It’s true. I can’t change the world, but I can change for the people in my world, starting with:
Thanking our family, friends, neighbors and all others who are police officers, firefighters and military members. I don’t think any of these folks know how much they are loved and appreciated for what they do, every single day. And a huge shout-out to the first-responder families for their support.
Acknowledging people with a greeting, a nod or a smile.
Appreciating all forms of labor and the workers that make my life easier.
Trying harder to be patient with people in general, acknowledging that they may be having the worst day of their life.
Being kinder to others, especially when I am having a rough day.
Treating others as I want to be treated.
Being grateful for what I have.
Smiling more; frowning less.
Praying more; complaining less.
“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” Mother Teresa
My faith leads me to know that out of evil, God brings good. The good that came from the evil of September 11 were the positive changes we made on September 12. I pray that we won’t wait for another horrible act to bring us together. We can bring good from evil again.