Friday, December 31, 2010

Equal Time

Well, I really must tell some stories of my little mama, equal time and all of that.

Talking about Mother is totally different than talking about Papa. I occasionally called her little Mama, especially if I was talking about her, but usually I called her Mother.Her grandchildren called her Mom-she didn't like to be called grandma. Mother was a lot more complex person than my father. Not as easy to get a handle on most days. She would look you in the eye and truthfully tell you her age, or her weight. But she would lie about her height. Mother was probably just a tad less than 5 foot tall. As she aged she shrunk down to about 4'10". But all of her adult life, she would tell people she was 5' 3". Now, everyone knew that wasn't true, but you did not contradict my little Mama. So, even though I was taller than her by the time I started kindergarten, Mother continued to claim that she was 5' 3". I asked her once, when I was a brash young teen, why she told people she was taller than she really was. She looked up at me as if I were an alien from outer space, calmly said "I am 5' 3" tall, I always have been." That was the last time I brought up the subject.

I was 6' tall by the time I was a teen, and 6' 1" before I stopped growing taller. People would look at us when we were together, of course, commenting on my size, and Mother would tell them "Shoot, she'd be 7' tall if she didn't have so much tucked under for feet." or "I grew her that tall on purpose. The man who built my kitchen cabinets was 7 foot tall, I wanted to find out what he might have left on the top shelf."

Mother was sometimes a difficult woman. She raised 6 children, and as we grew older there may never have been a time when she was speaking to all 6 of us at once. She had a bit of a mean streak sometimes, and she seemed happiest when she was surrounded by drama. Now this doesn't mean she wasn't the best parent she knew how to be. I think in those days most parents were doing the best they knew how. They were so wrong sometimes, but I honestly believe it was because of the times we grew up in, and not necessarily maliciousness on the part of our parents. My Mother may have been a strict disciplinarian at home, she may have exerted total control, but do not let a teacher or other adult pick on or treat one of her children unfairly. Little mama became a giant in those situations.

One of my favorite stories is told from her perspective and mine. My 1st grade teacher was not the best teacher in the world. I was a complication for her, and she would write notes home to my mother. Mother told everyone that she thinks I was born knowing how to read and write, because she certainly didn't remember teaching me and according to her I was reading at age 2. I think she probably wasn't exaggerating too much, because I do not remember when I didn't know how. Well, my kindergarten teacher thought I was a bit of a problem, probably because I would get bored and rather than napping preferred to spend time reading. In first grade, we started learning to print our letters. The issues arose because I already could write, in cursive, and except for the printing lessons, would write that way. So a letter from my teacher would go home with me, and Mother would respond with a lengthy letter back. I suppose it would have been too easy to call each other.

The teacher wanted Mother to tell me that I wasn't allowed to write in cursive. It seems it caused a problem for the teacher because the other students saw me do it. Mother apparently wrote back that the teacher should not be showing my work to the other students and that I was to be allowed to carry on. Well, that letter must have amused my teacher, because I was on the playground during recess when my teacher and another teacher called me over and asked me in not kid friendly terms who my Mother thought she was. In the middle is not a comfortable place for a 6 year old to be. Mother ended up in the Principal's office, and according to her the principal, Mr. Johnson, started explaining that first grade children could not be allowed to write in cursive because, as told by Mother, "We use slim pencils when we teach children to write in cursive, Mrs. Jones, and at 6 years old the muscles in their little hands aren't strong enough to hold a slim pencil." The next thing my mother said was a question, "You don't have any idea which child is mine, do you Mr. Johnson?" He admitted as much and mother told him to call me to the office and that the conversation would not continue until I got there.

Now I knew my mother had planned to speak to the principal that day, and so when the call came to my teacher and she sent me to the principal with a smirk on her face I was a bit anxious by the time I was ushered through the swinging gate into the inner offices. I was escorted into the Principal's office by the school secretary, and my little mama came and stood shoulder to shoulder with me.I was about 1-2 inches taller than her. Then she said "Tell me again, Mr. Johnson,  about the muscles in her little hands." Mother grabbed my 'little hand' and said we were leaving. She asked me where my class was, we marched down the hall, she went in the classroom, the teacher sputtering that she was disrupting the class. Mother told her not to worry, it wouldn't happen again. Mother cleaned out my desk, and we went home. I was transferred to a different school a couple of days and some phone calls to the school board later. My Mother may have had issues with her children, but she was always our staunchest supporter when it came to others having issues with us.I still miss my mother, especially when my son does something amazing. I will think, I should call my little mama. I learned a lot about advocating for my very special child from my mother advocating for me.

I also learned to say I love you to the people I love. It was something I never heard growing up.It was a different time. My parents didn't say it to each other or to us children. I think it would have made quite a difference if I had known how much they loved each other when I was young. I know how much of a difference it would have made if I had known if they loved me.I was blessed that both of my parents died at home in my arms. It may not have felt like a blessing at the time, but as I look back it was. I was able to say good bye to them, knowing that I had forgiven them, and hoping that they had forgiven me. But, no matter, I know that they were loved, and surrounded by love as they crossed over. I wish my husband had not died alone in a car on a freeway. But I know he knew he was loved, and I knew he loved me. We had the opportunity to say that to each other a couple of hours before he was killed by a young woman with almost twice the legal limit  blood alcohol count.My husband and I told each other that we loved each other dozens of times a day. William would turn around, and roll his eyes when would 'make out' in the kitchen. But he knew his parents loved each other, and he knew he was loved, because we told him every day. I still do, I always will.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Some of my favorite stories of my father

Even though my father was very stern and reserved with me, I do still have some very good memories of him.

This one starts out hard, but ends up with a great line...
I had to pretty much run away from home to go to college. My father forbid me going, and I ended up living at home a couple of years until I turned 18 and could leave on my own.My mother understood it was something I had to do, and I think that is because she couldn't afford to go to college when she graduated from high school in 1930. So, I turn 18, and I am on my way to the bus station to head to college. The last thing I hear my father say to my mother is that "Nothing good will come of this, she'll go off and come back pregnant." He had such faith in me! So of I went to college, majored in theatre, ended up working in theatre and radio, won awards in both careers. My father saw me on stage one time, and heard me on the radio once. A few years later, when their health was failing, Papa had congestive heart failure, emphysema,and Alzheimer's. Hard to believe, this was a man who retired from a roofing company at 65, and went back to work at the roofing company at 67, and the young guys couldn't keep up with him. He fell off a roof when he was 73, around Halloween. He broke his hip and had surgery to implant screws and a rod the first of November. Doctors said he would take 8 months to a year to walk again. On January 1st, we were watching the news and there was a fire at the company where he had worked for 50 years. He said "They're going to need everyone and went back to work on January 2nd. He worked for several more years, until the Alzheimer's got bad enough that he couldn't work anymore.But I digress...when his health was getting worse and he and mother couldn't manage on their own anymore, I left my career in radio and back to California to take care of them. I did not know at that time that I was pregnant. After I had been there a couple of months it became obvious I should see a doctor, and I was shocked to learn that I was expecting. Remember what my father said when I left for college? Well here it was decades later,I was an award winning actress, designer,and broadcast news director, afraid to tell my father that I was pregnant because I was his old maid daughter. So, I call my little sister (two years younger than me) who was a married mother of two. My sister tells my mother, and my mother goes in to tell my father while I sit on the porch. It is late summer, and the windows are open and I can hear my mother telling my father what the doctor had said and the next thing I hear is my father's voice..."I told you if we let her go off to college this would happen, she came home pregnant."

Did you notice that I was his old maid daughter? This is one of my favorite stories. I was working at a theatre on my 25th birthday. We didn't have a phone back in the costume shop, so if there was a call someone would have to come get us. So it is the afternoon of my 25th birthday, here comes the office girl who says "You have a phone call, it's you're father." My father? My father never calls. He always has my mother call, even his favorite sister. He will talk on the phone  but he never makes the call. Assuming the worst, that something is wrong with Mother I run to the office to answer. I pick up the phone and say hello. My father says hello, and I ask him if everything is OK. Is something wrong with mother? Here is the rest of the conversation...

"No, your mother is fine, I wanted to talk to you."

"Is everything OK?"

"Do you know what today is?" 

"Yes, sir, it's my birthday."

"Do you know how old you are?"

"Yes, sir, I am 25."

"What did you do last night?"

"We had a show, I worked."

"What are you doing tonight?"

"We have a  show Papa, I am working."

"Did you get married since the last time we talked to you?"

"No, sir, you know I didn't."

"Are you sure? Do you have plans to get married tonight?"

"Yes, sir.I am sure.No, sir, no plans to get married.""

"Do you know what it means when a  girl turns 25 and she's not married?"

"No, sir, I don't."

"It means you are an old maid.If you turn 25 and you're not married you are an old maid. there has never been an old maid in my family.I'll be the first one to have an old maid daughter.Do you know what happens when you turn 35 and you're not married?"

[By this time I am laughing]
 "No, sir, I don't know."

"If you turn 35 and you're not married,and it doesn't look like you're going to be,at 35 you become the little old lady who lives on the corner."

[I am really laughing now]
"Papa, I am 6'1" and weigh over 300 pounds, I hardly think I will be a LITTLE old lady."

"It doesn't matter, at 35 you become the little old lady who lives on the corner. I won't be able to hold my head in my family."

And then he hung up. I am not sure to this day whether he was serious, but once again I did not disappoint my father. I was 47 when I married. I wish he had still been alive to come!

Here's the last one I will share today. I only talked back to my father twice in my life. The first time was when I was 13, and it was the last time he whooped me with the leather strap. It had to do with me sassing my mom, and that was NOT allowed. The second time, I was 22. It was the night before my sister's wedding. For reasons that don't really matter anymore, my father had decided he was not going to the wedding. My sister was hurt. Some in the family thought he didn't want to get dressed up. He wore bib overalls every day of his life. I only saw him dressed up in slacks and jacket one time. But my sister didn't care if he came in his overalls, she just wanted him to come. One of our older brothers would be walking her down the aisle because of my father's stubborn stand.So, since we are all busy getting ready for the wedding, it is decided that we would go pick up some take-out food. I ask my father to go with me, and he does. While waiting I get my nerve up and I say to him "I am going to say this and you can whip me if you want, but you are going to that wedding." "No, I'm not," he answers. "Yes, old man," I say, "you are going to that wedding if I have to knock you out and take you there myself." Nothing more was said, the food came and we took it home. We all went to the wedding the next day, and left him at home. We got dressed, and the music started.As the maid of honor I start down the aisle just before my sister, and there in the last pew, sitting on the aisle, was an old man in bib overalls. I looked him in the eye and smiled. He did not smile back. My sister, who had not cried yet that day started crying when she saw him. So, later as I drove him and mother home from the reception,a reception where he had a great time and maybe got a little tipsy, he said to me "you were right, but don't you ever talk to me that way again."  I never spoke back to him again.

The morning he died, his mind was amazingly clear. I had him up and bathed and dressed in his beloved overalls. he was playing with my son, who was about a year old. Papa told my son he loved him, then looked at me and said "He's going to grow up to be a fine young man, I wish I was going to be around to see it."

I treasure those words, and I miss my father, and I wish he were here to see that his words are true. My son is an amazing young man, and I tell him the stories of my father.

More Remembering

My father has been on my mind lately. Maybe it's because of the holidays, or that December is his birthday month. Whatever the reason I have been remembering him. If he were alive he would have turned 107 years old a couple of weeks ago. He was a simple man, born in a different time. He did the best he knew how to do when he was raising us. Many things he did were wrong, but he thought he was doing the right thing, doing the best he could, and so as I matured it was easy to forgive him.

Forgiveness is a gift we give ourselves. When we forgive someone we give up that need to have someone acknowledge that we were right and they were wrong. But, as you grow and mature you come to that place where you know that you do not need that acknowledgement because being right is good enough. So you let go of the need, and the power it held over you, and you are liberated.

I forgave my parents, and then when they grew older, I took great care of them. I loved my father.He was a good man and many people admired and cared about him. He would say he was a simple farmboy from Missouri, but he was more than that.He had been a muleskinner before he joined the army. Here in Kansas City he would shoe horses and mules, and he kept that occupation in the army. He had a long ugly scar on his shin that he got when a mule that he was putting ice shoes on kicked him. The ice shoes were for working the mules on the frozen Missouri river. He had left school after 8th grade to help support his family. He was the oldest of 8 children, and he took his role as oldest seriously. When my grandfather became ill my father helped take care of them by going to work.He had an amazing, strong work ethic. When work became hard to find in the 1920's he joined the army.

Towards the end of his stint in the army he was based in Southern California. A few months before his discharge he met my mother. He always told the story of how they met and why they married. My mother was a waitress in a diner that was owned by a married couple. My father was a bit of a rogue, a rake in those days and had been seeing the married woman. Then he met my mother and asked her out and she said no. So, he stopped seeing the married woman and asked my m other out again. She went out with him, to the car races on a Sunday afternoon. The next day, when her married boss found out that she had gone out with my father, my mother was fired.My father always said he married her because he had made her lose her job.

That was part of the story. When my grandfather found out why my mother lost her job, she was locked in her room. Locked in her room, at 20 years old because she had gone out with a 28 year old man who had been fooling around with a married woman. While she was locked in her room, my father wrote her beautiful love letters, smuggled in to her by her old maid aunt who helped raise her after her mother died. Eventually, my grandfather relented,and my mother and father married. Of course, we never knew about the love or the love letters growing up.I wish we had known about that side of him. We found those after we lost our parents. My father passed first, a month before their 54th wedding anniversary. I was blessed that he passed in my arms at home. He would have hated being in a nursing home. At home I could help him go outside and to his workshop.

My mother passed 18 months later, also at home in my arms. We say she passed from a broken heart. She saw no reason to remain on the earth without my father.Her children were grown, and she needed him. It took her 18 months, because I was doing my best to take good care of her. But, she sat on her couch and grieved herself to death, where I am sure she was met by my father.

At first I was angry with her. I was taking really good care of her. How dare she will herself to die. But, I have forgiven her, and asked her forgiveness. As a recent widow, I get it. I get how you can be so in love, and loved so deeply that you want to be with him, even if that means you have to be with him on the other side.

I hope that my husband has met my father on the other side. I always thought that my father would have been great friends with my husband. I believe that I shall see them all again some day. But as much as I miss my husband, and I now know what a broken heart truly feels like, I have work to do here. I didn't get 54 years, I only got 11. But, my son still needs me, and so I will take good care of myself as I take care of him.

I will honor them by telling their stories, our stories. I will honor them by making sure that my son saw how much his parents loved each other, and that he knew he was loved.I will honor them and forgive myself and them by remembering. My faith keeps me strong, and yet I feel so weak. Grief is the hardest thing I have ever done.

Please, if you know someone who is grieving, let them honor their loved ones by telling the stories. I believe you will be blessed.

Friday, December 24, 2010


Today is Christmas Eve. In our family that means that my son is in charge of the kitchen. Not a bad tradition! I can hear the dishwasher going as I type. We came up with this tradition because I was a working mother- well we all are, but I went back to work full time outside the home when my son started middle school.We were attempting to establish new traditions for our new family. The first couple of years, I would get home from work on Xmas Eve, tired, but I would fix dinner and attempt to go to the movies with my husband and my son. We had the beginnings of a lovely tradition, but as most traditions do, it needed some tweaking to become just right for us.

 I worked in a huge grocery store. I would finish the midnight shift on the 23rd, and then go back in and work the day shift on the 24th. By the time we closed the store at 6:00 pm, took care of all the customers, and allowed the teammates a few minutes to grab that last item, it was often close to7:00 by the time I got to my car.I would drive home, tired. So, the next year we decided that we would just have pizza for dinner, and if I called home just before I headed to the car, it could go in the oven. We also decided that Xmas day was a good time for a movie if I wanted to stay awake. My son had begun  the habit of baking cookies while I was at work, and so that grew to include the pizza, and then to include his being in charge of the kitchen. He would wait for me to call, and by the time I got home, changed my clothes, and sat down in my recliner to put my feet up dinner would be ready and he would serve Mom and Dad. Then he would finish his cookie baking, while Mom and Dad wrapped presents in their room. It became a lovely way to spend the evening.About the time the gifts were wrapped, the cookies were done, and the three of us would have time together enjoying warm cookies and cold milk. The dishwasher would run again as the plate for Santa was prepared, and then our family would be snuggled in our beds.

We are, once again, in the process of allowing our traditions to evolve to fit our circumstances. This year it is just the two of us once again. This year Mom is again an at home Mom. Because of my health, I am no longer able to stand on my feet and check out hundreds of customers a day, in fact I am no longer able to work outside the home. Because of financial problems this year, there won't be any gift wrapping. But, we will be able to share our kitchen traditions. Today, my son is in charge of the kitchen, and our house is filled with the wonderful aromas of years gone by mixed with a new aroma. My cookie baker makes 2 different recipes every year. He makes the original recipe that he brought home from school all those years ago, and then he bakes a new recipe-either a recipe he has created, or one that caught his eye in a magazine or on the back of the packaging from one of his ingredients. This year the new recipe involves cinnamon chips, and we are eagerly looking forward to trying them.

I hope that you and those you care about have traditions.Traditions are an important way to bridge the gap between generations, to enlarge your tent and bring new people into the circle of your hearts.Traditions are an important way to share memories, to make memories, and to anticipate new memories the next time you act upon the tradition.Tradition is a way that our families, our friends,our communities can stay connected one to another.Tradition can be the way that we remember what it is to love and to be loved. In our house, a boy who was born blessed by autism did not have the ability to tell us with words that he loved us, so he learned to bake cookies.

Peace and Blessings,

Monday, December 20, 2010


In the rising of the sun and in its going down, we remember them.

In the blowing of the wind and in the chill of winter, we remember them.

In the opening of the buds and in the rebirth of spring, we remember them.

In the blueness of the sky and in the warmth of summer, we remember them.

In the rustling of the leaves and in the beauty of autumn, we remember them.

In the beginning of the year and when it ends, we remember them.

When we are weary and in need of strength, we remember them.

When we are lost and sick at heart, we remember them.

When we have joys we yearn to share, we remember them.

So long as we live, they too shall live, for they are now a part of us, as we remember them.
Today I just want to talk about my husband.It's really difficult some days, and talking about him sometimes makes me sad, but usually makes me feel very happy. One of the most difficult parts of being a widow, is that there is no one to talk to in the middle of the night. Mr. Bill and used to talk to each other for hours at a time. We were very much blessed by being very much in love, but we also genuinely liked each other. Not only is your best friend not here to talk to, but people you know don't talk about your deceased spouse. No one wants to make you sad, but sometimes you just want to talk and remember.

Sometimes,I still wake up in the morning shaking and crying and automatically reaching for my husband whose strong arms have been my place of refuge and safety for over 13 years. As I roll towards his side of the bed to be held and comforted because I have just had the most horrific nightmare that he was killed by a drunk driver, the terror strikes me as I realize that I didn't dream it, he was killed by a drunk driver, and I will never have a place of security in his arms again. I will never again feel safe and loved and protected. I will wake up screaming from the nightmares that are the legacy of  a childhood of abuse  and there will be no strong arms to hold me, no fingers to wipe away the tears, no chest to lay my head upon and listen to the heartbeat of the only person who ever loved me, the only person who ever took care of me. I  am alone in our bed, and I will be alone through the rest of the day trying to figure out how to take care of the things that Bill always took care of.
My most serious health concern is a rare neurological disease-reflex sympathetic dystrophy. The nerves of my sympathetic nervous system have gone crazy and I have the excruciating nerve pain that makes this disease the most painful disease known to man. I am more and more disabled every day, and Bill took care of most of the physical tasks around the house. He cleaned the bathrooms, did vacuuming, the laundry, all of the housework except cooking (my only chore) and taking out the trash(one of our sons chores). He helped me with personal care, clipping my toenails, shaving my legs, shampooing my hair. He got very good at combing and brushing my verylong hair.He loved brushing my hair. Bill took care of the yard, raking, mowing, edging. He took such good care of the yard that our neighborhood association called it "one of the best maintained yards in the neighborhood." He took great pride in our home, and in us.

This time of year is a natural time for remembering, the winter season is a time for reflection and renewal. Today, with the solstice upon us, we are reminded that there is a reason why most cultures, from our prehistoric ancestors until the present time have holy days and ceremonies at this time of year. The nights are long, and life has slowed down as the earth sleeps and rests for the growing that will come. We as human beings have always seemed to be more spiritual at this time of year. We have time to reflect, and time to share the stories of our lives and the lives of those who have come before us.We have time to be social, and so we honor this season with ritual, tradition, and ceremony.We have time to tell our stories.

As you go through this season, no matter your traditions, I hope that you will find time to share someone's stories. Take a few minutes to connect with a friend who is grieving, or an older relative, and just give them to opportunity to remember.If they cry, all that is needed is your hand on theirs. If they laugh, your laughter will naturally come to mingle.It may be the greatest gift they receive this year.

Peace and Blessings, and thank you for sharing my remembering today,

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Well, it's been 10 days!

Wow, when i started this blogging, i thouhgt i would be able to post every day or two. But then, stresses and some kind of flu bug attacked my house. And here it is 10 days later.

I think I am finally feeling a bit better, and hope to get back to regularly posting.

This time of year is getting too hard!!!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Just a Little Effort

 My son and I were in the kitchen a few minutes ago. As he went to put something in the trash he got too close to the orange tree and got poked by a 4 inch thorn.He said he was OK, and then remarked that not everyone has an 8 foot tall orange tree in their kitchen.Had to agree with him there! So how does a family living in the midwest end up with an orange tree in the kitchen? Well, orange trees don't do well in cold weather, so while the tree lives on the deck most of the year, it comes inside for the winter.

In about 4th grade,my son stuck a seed from an orange he was eating in a pot of dirt. Wasn't even good dirt, but it was sitting there, an empty pot of dirt, because the plant had died.So this young boy, whom Most High had blessed with autism, stuck an orange seed in a pot of dirt, and Mom did not have the strength to tell him it wouldn't grow.Of course this leads me to the quote for the day...
No man ever wetted clay and then left it, as if there would be bricks by chance and fortune.
My son  put that seed in that little pot of dirt, because we had recently had a lesson on growing things. In his 'Sesame Street Treasury' books, there was a hands on lesson about growing things, so we had suspended the avocado seed in the jar with the toothpicks, we had planted the sweet potato, and then he took the orange seed and put it in the little pot of dirt. Now he did not leave it at that. NO, he faithfully watered and tended his little garden, and I'll be darned if something didn't sprout up. He nurtured it through the winter, and by spring, there was a little orange tree about 4 inches tall sitting on my desk.
Now, by this time my son had grown weary of growing things. Not much attraction there for an instant gratification kind of kid. Growing things takes patience and nurturing and effort that doesn't always show results for months. Kind of like the habits we are building for our road to healthier selves. Those habits don't miraculously appear. As our quote for the day says, we can't just wet the clay and think that bricks will form themselves. No we have to mold that clay, and we have to form those bricks, and then we have to provide a safe place for those bricks to cure and harden before we can use them to build a road. Wet clay does not become a brick by merely wishing it so. I remember when I first started going to Weight Watcher meetings. There was a woman in my meetings who showed up every week, got on the scale, had a gain, and then whined for the rest of the meeting. Finally I asked her if she had talked to the leader and shown her journals to find out what she could change. OH no,she said, she didn't journal. I asked her how many days she went for a walk or got some exercise. Oh no, she said, she couldn't exercise.Well, do you drink your water? Oh no, she hates the taste of water. Finally I asked her what she was doing to try to lose weight, and she answered, well I joined Weight Watchers, isn't that enough. I hear you chuckling, it would be funny if it wasn't a true story. I guess no one had ever told this woman that you have to build your own bricks. I tried to share with her some of the things I do, and of course she had a reason, an excuse really, why she couldn't do any of those things. Of course, you know the rest of the story, in a few short weeks we didn't see her at meetings any more. It is sad, because with just a little brick building effort, we can see great results. It's not like we wet the clay and then have to be great sculptors. No, bricks are square, or rectangular, pretty basic shapes. So with a little effort we can build our bricks. That is our lesson for today...effort...a little boy whose mind works differently than ours, put an orange seed in a pot of dirt, and with a little effort on his part, watering, making sure it was getting the sun through the window, etc. I have an eight foot tall orange tree on my deck that I have to bring in for the winter.Just a little effort, that's all you need today. Not super human strength, not miraculous powers, just a little effort. Journal, or exercise, or pay attention to portion size, following the  healthy guidelines, drinking your water, finding time for yourself. Any one of those things requires just a little effort on your part, but that little effort will reap an eight foot tall tree in your future.It's worth the effort! YOU are worth the effort!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

This is the Season of Light!

The quote for today is...
At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.~~Albert Schweitzer~~
 This is why we must all learn that we are valuable, worthy individuals, women of immeasurable beauty. I am reminded of something that happened when I was still working at the grocery store. I had a young woman and her daughter, about 5 years old, come through my line. I was commenting on the fact that I saw kid food, and then I said I see healthy food, I bet Mom is eating healthy things. The little girl said "That's because she's fat." I looked at the little girl and said, "Mom's not fat, Mom is very beautiful, and you look a lot like her." The little girl said "Except I'm not fat." Even though we were very busy, I took a moment to look in the eyes of the mom, and said "You know that when you say things about your body, you are building your daughter's body image. Please know that you are a beautiful young woman, and if you choose to believe otherwise, you are wrong." I could see in the eyes of the Mom that she did not know that,that this beautiful woman who was not overweight, did not know that she was beautiful.I hope that she took in what I was trying to tell her. I hope that somehow she would learn that she has beauty and value so that she won't pass on the wrong message to her daughter. 
We all know people, women especially whose light has gone out. We may indeed be one of those who is in need of rekindling. We may have let someone teach us that we are not beautiful because they did not realize their own beauty.So today, choose your words carefully, speak aloud your beauty and worth. Speak it even if you don't believe it yet. Speak it until you believe it.The next generation of woman is listening and learning from you. When I was the same age as that little girl, I was blessed to have a teacher who taught me the truth, and who chose to kindle the flame in me. I am deeply grateful every day for that. I choose to keep my flame burning so that I may kindle another flame. This is how I honor the one who taught me.
Today I leave you with a traditional Navajo prayer...I open my meditations with this...
As I walk, as I walk
The universe is walking with me
In beauty it walks before me
In beauty it walks behind me
In beauty it walks below me
In beauty it walks above me
Beauty is on every side
As I walk, I walk with Beauty.

Peace and Blessings,

Esther Belle

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


The quote for today...

Become so wrapped up in something that you forget to be afraid.~~Lady Bird Johnson~~

Fear can be our best friend or our worst enemy. There is a natural fear that keeps us safe in dangerous situations. It served our ancestors well. Big ugly animal looks our way, fear kicks in, our adrenal gland goes into action and we have the speed of an Olympic sprinter removing ourself from the danger zone. The fear response is a natural and necessary thing for our survival. However, for too many of us, fear has taken a place in our lives that it doesn't deserve, so that instead of that fear response kicking into action and giving us the strength to take action, we become paralyzed, and trapped in a place of inaction.We let fear become something that imprisons us, rather than help us. How many of us have allowed our weight issues to keep us from growing and maturing and reaching out for new opportunities. How many times have we stopped ourselves from trying something because we just "know" that we will be judged because of our size. How many of us settle for less in our lives because we think that our weight issues make us some type of second class citizen, undeserving of the best that life has to offer.

 None of those things are true. Overeating is not a character flaw, it is just overeating.
Are you staying in a bad job because you think it would be hard to find a better job, after all, you are overweight. Are you staying in a bad relationship because a bad relationship is better than no relationship and after all who would want you, you are overweight. None of these things are true, none of them. Weight issues should not keep you living in fear of trying for, reaching for the best life has to offer. Now, that is not to say that we shouldn't be learning to deal with our weight issues, but we must not put living on hold until we are some magical mythical size. If I had done that I would never have accomplished anything. Anything is possible. A 6 foot tall 300 pound 11 year old girl who is called a freak by the mothers of the other children in the neighborhood can dream of going to college, of becoming an actress,and can grow up to have a  career in the theatre and radio. These things, and a thousand other fabulous things were at my fingertips because I knew the difference between good natural fear and fear that is created by untruth.

Fear is the mind killer, so goes the mantra of the strong women in my favorite science fiction series.Do not let the dreams of your mind die because of fear. Get so wrapped up in taking care of you that you forget to be afraid.Get so wrapped up in learning to make the best choice you can in any situation that you forget to be afraid. Get so wrapped up in learning to forgive yourself when you make a less than great choice that your forget to be afraid. Fear that moves you to action is good, fear that keeps you from stepping out, is not good. Letting go of the fear is the best choice you can make today.

Peace and Blessings,

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Angel in the Marble

Several years ago I started a daily thread on the Weight Watchers message boards. About that time, sitting on my desk was a daily quote calendar. So, I began a habit of using the quote as a springboard for a daily essay relating to life's struggles. My husband, Mr. Bill, began encouraging me to put my thoughts together in a book. When he was killed I had about half a book written. I started this blog, in part, to get back into the habit of writing so that I might be able to finish the book. Along the way,I will write new things, as well as share excerpts from the things I wrote before I lost Mr. Bill. This was his favorite piece...
I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.~~Michelangelo~~
Sometimes I see a quote and I know it has to do with the journey that we are all on. That journey towards being healthier in body, mind and spirit. I saw this quote this morning and passed it by, then  Spirit told me to go back.So as I looked at these words I saw that this is exactly what our journey is all about. Just as Michelangelo could look at a hunk of marble and see the angel inside, we must learn to look at ourselves and see the incredible, beautiful, capable woman inside and care and chip away at all of the untruths and detritus that keeps her from being free. There is much to chip away. We can't learn to be our authentic selves until we learn that who we are has nothing to do with who we think others expect us to be. We must learn to recognize the 'angel' in our block of marble, and sometimes it takes us a while to recognize her, because she doesn't look like who society, or our parents, or our husbands, or our friends expect. She doesn't look like who we expect because we have gotten our truths all mixed up with the untruths that we need to chip away.  So as we travel this journey, we must learn to chip away at the expectations of others. We must learn to carve our truth out no matter what untruths we have to toss into the trash bin. Sometimes it will seem easier to leave our 'angel' in the block of marble. After all, chipping away the detritus we have learned may cause us pain, it may cause others pain as we move away from their picture of what we should be. But take my word for it, life is not pain free, and the pain of leaving her locked inside the block of marble is worse than any pain you can imagine. So today I ask you to choose to learn to see the 'angel' in your marble. Choose to starting carving and chipping away at the things that imprison her there, the things that imprison your spirit, the things that have held you captive all too long. Choose today to start or continue the process of setting you free.You are worth the effort it will take, you deserve to find the work of art that you truly are.
Peace and Blessings,

Saturday, December 4, 2010


As we move from summer into fall, we are moving into a different rhythm of life. Those with school age children are getting into the juggling of schedules for school and homework and activities. It seems that life revolves around the children's world, and we just don't have enough hours in the day to get everyone where they need to be. Dance, tumbling, sports, parent teacher meetings, open houses take up our evenings. The mornings are a rush of getting everyone up and out the door, decent and fed and ready for the day. Those who work outside the home are off to the job, stay-at-home moms are working too.Now we add the holiday season! Seems as if the to-do list just grew exponentially, and the time, well that shrunk exponentially. It all revolves around the family. That family may be mom and dad and one or more children, or may be just mom and a child or two. No matter what the family looks like it is a family, and it is the sun that our planets revolve around.

So, there we are juggling as fast as we can to keep all of the balls in the air. Oh, wait, there is a ball sitting on the floor, not being tossed in the mix. Which ball is that? Oh, yeah, it's the ball that represents the time to care for ourselves. Well, that's just not as important, we think, all these other balls are higher priority. We're wrong of course. That ball sitting there on the floor should be our highest priority. Taking care of ourselves should be job one. BUT, we start, The kids, the husband, they have all of these needs. I just don't have time.

So, we keep juggling, and we get so tired, and we get kind of frustrated and resentful, and we get burned out. Oh, we sigh, what is the answer? The answer is that we need to pick up that ball from the floor first. We need to find time to take care of our needs, and as my son so eloquently says "Time to refresh your soul". But how? Well, just like every part of our journeys, it starts with one step. The first step is to find time to just breathe.Time to find a few minutes to sit still, and fill our lungs with the gift of the wind. It is time to find a place that is just for us. Doesn't have to be a big space, can be just a chair in the corner of the bedroom, or a place on the deck. Any place that we can claim for our needs. It needs to be quiet and comfortable. Place an item or two that please you next to the chair. I have a knick-knack that represents a mother sitting in a rocker. It was a gift from our son and Mr. Bill about 10 years ago. I have a worry stone that Mr. Bill bought me on our family honeymoon trip to the Black Hills. 

So, once we have claimed our space all we need is a bit of time. If we are claiming a few minutes at the end of the day, we might start by making a cup of tea. Use the time while heating the water and brewing the tea to start claiming the time as your own. Telling yourself that this time is sacred. This time is for you! Now you have your cup of tea, my favorite is chamomile, since it helps me relax and sleep better. I sit down with my cup of tea, and breathe. In through the nose, out through the mouth. As I breathe in slowly, deeply, I draw in strength. As I breathe out slowly and fully I let go of the stresses and tensions of the day. Breathe in strength, breathe out the toxins of stress. Now I can sip my tea for a moment and pay attention to my breathing again. Breathe in, breathe out. Each inhalation and exhalation can become a prayer. This is why I say for me to breathe is to pray. As I take a long slow deep breath, I breath in the wind, which is the Spirit, and allow Spirit to bless me and refresh my body and soul. As I breathe in I express my gratitude for the day. As I breathe out I pray a blessing for someone I love. All of this in a few minutes at the end of the day. A perfect building block, a brick to build on as you start to take care of you. Taking care of you is the most unselfish act you will perform because as you take care of you, you become more able to take care of the others who depend on you. You become a better wife, mother, daughter, friend, and you have placed a brick on the pathway for your journey.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Just because you know the truth does not mean you don't believe. At first glance that doesn't sound like an affirmation of faith, but that is exactly what it is. My son is blessed with autism. He was in middle school and still believed in Santa. After all, he knew that every year the things on his Christmas list appeared under the tree. He knew that his single Mom couldn't afford those things, so he knew that there was a Santa Claus. He was now being teased at school because he was excited that he was going to visit Santa at the mall. So sometime during the following summer Mom told him about Santa. I told him that the gifts really came from God's, sometimes miraculous, provision. He was a boy with a strong faith, and he knew that we trusted God to provide for us, so he understood about Santa Claus.
We talked about it a couple of times that summer, each time he seemed to understand. Then, months later as the holidays approached he became concerned about going to visit Santa Claus. I reminded him about our conversations, and told him that I didn't think he would want to visit Santa this year. "MOM" he said, "Just because you know the truth does not mean you don't believe." Turns out, he is right. We kept believing in a God that provides. That summer  Mom got a better job, we met the man who would become my husband and the only dad my son has ever known.
Thirteen years later, I look at the our circumstances and I see the truth of how dire things are right now. I see the less than $100 dollars in our bank account, and I know that is the truth. I look at the empty side of the bed where my husband used to sleep and I know the truth. The autumn before last he was killed by a drunk driver on his way home from work. His way home from his first night on a new job. I look at hard times we have gone through since he was killed and I see the truth. In the year after my husband was killed we went from crisis to crisis. My son could not articulate his grief and stress and so he internalized it all and became seriously ill with an intestinal obstruction.  The holidays slipped past us quietly that winter. My son said it best when I asked him about one of our traditions and he said "No, we're just not feeling festive this year." By the end of January his health was improved, and we were struggling with being a single income family with a two income mortgage. I missed a payment. Then in February I fell at work and tore my biceps tendon and rotator cuff. I ended up having to have surgery to repair the rotator cuff and reattach the biceps tendon. While I was struggling with that our house went into foreclosure. Scheduled to be sold on the courthouse steps on June 12. I FINALLY got things straightened out on June 10. Then on June 14th, the day before I would start physical therapy for my shoulder I slipped in my kitchen and broke my knee. I was in hospital for 4 days, then sent to a "Rehabilitation Center". The only one my insurance would pay for. Trouble was I have had a rare neurological disease since 2001. The pain is excruciating, but with my doctors I can manage it with the appropriate meds. BUT my meds were not on the list of meds the rehab center uses, so I could not get them. My disease flared, then went into full body crisis, and still they would not give me the medication. I had to check myself out and come home  with my leg in an immobilizer from hip to toes. I was released by the shoulder surgeon to go back to work, of course I couldn't and had to take medical leave. My knee healed extremely well, but extremely slowly. I was terminated from my job. Seems you only get 6 months to heal.
But, in all of this my faith is strong. Most High has continued to bless us, and we are continuing to trust for that provision. Right now I am waiting for the Workers Comp insurance company to release the funds they owe me. It is taking longer than promised, so we are penniless for the moment. But, we have the promises of God to sustain us, and I have my prayer times to keep me balanced and thankful. See, just because you know the truth-even when that truth looks pretty scary-does not mean you don't believe.

I started using Centering prayer almost 20 years ago. I was having trouble finding a church home for my son and myself. Yes, my son could be difficult. As a result, we were asked to leave several churches. Sometimes after we had gotten comfortable and made friends there. I started feeling like the church was rejecting us, but I knew that God was always there and that if I can be quiet I can hear the Voice that I have known since I was a small child. The Voice that comforts me, that sends me out into the world, that keeps me sane. I use Centering prayer  as a means to be quiet. I am so thankful that as I have spent more and more time in prayer it has become true for me that to breathe is to pray. I can pray with every inhale and exhale, every breath can be a prayer. Every prayer teaches me more about my Creator.
So, I listen and hope and rejoice  with that Voice. I know the promises and I am thankful that "Blessed are they who mourn" because my grief is deep. There are no words to tell you the hurt of losing my husband. Widow is a hard word to hear-even harder to type. There are those who do not understand that I was able to forgive the young woman who drove drunk that night. In my life I have come to understand that unforgiveness is about wanting to be right, and to forgive means that you let go of the need to be right and let God have that honor. Unforgiveness is tantamount to telling God that I am not grateful for the forgiveness that I receive on a daily basis. So I forgive and move forward without the burden of bitterness. Grief is hard enough without that! So, even though I know the truth-my husband will not be coming home from work-it does not mean that I don't believe.
I believe in a God that  I can  trust  will provide. Now, I am not sitting around doing nothing. I am working on the book that I started before my husband was killed. He was so proud of me. He had pushed me to write about my faith and my life for years, and then it seemed as if the words just begged to be written. I was about half way through when he was killed. The grief meant I couldn't hear those words anymore. But, I keep centering myself and listening and recently I have started hearing those words again, faintly now, but growing stronger every day. So, I try to work on the book every morning. That is part of what this blog is about, learning to write again.
 I have  a lawyer helping me with the Worker's Comp situation. My hands don't work well, it takes me a very long time to type anything as I am back to one finger typing.  I no longer walk unassisted as I deal with the neurological disease!. But I am becoming more mobile every day thanks to my purple walker. My purple walker and I can make it around our neighborhood  praying as I breathe.
There is my son, who matures a little more every day as he strives to learn the lessons that his dad left him with.  With the lessons he has from Dad and the lessons he learns from his obsession with NASCAR and the St. Louis Blues hockey team he is becoming a fine young man. We have every hope that he will be able to live independently and earn a living some day. I have swallowed my pride and we are applying for disability for the both of us. I will try to keep my house. My husband wanted to have a house for Our son. He wanted to be able to leave him someplace to live. Of course, that was when we thought we would grow old together and have the mortgage paid off.
We had hopes and dreams like every couple. In fact, the morning before he was killed, my husband and I talked about our dreams for the future. We knew that my health issues would someday keep me from working on my feet. So we had a plan for me to take classes and build a business as a life coach before that happened. With the writing and the classes we felt confident that I could transition to a wheelchair more easily. Our dreams have been on hold, but I will find a way to pay for the classes and I will continue to write. Just because I know the truth does not mean I do not still believe in those dreams. Those dreams aren't gone, they have only been deferred a bit.
Faith is how I get through every day. I know that My Creator has a plan for me. I may not be privy to all of the details, but I know there is a plan. I know that there is a plan for my son, and I see him moving forward  a little bit more every day. We were blessed with the opportunity to take a vacation a few months ago. It felt like a sign that we were moving into a new place, that the grief was becoming lighter. We will never be able to get back to normal, but we will be able to create a new normal. I know this is true. My faith and my knowledge and trust in my God all tell me that. When it all comes down to it, may faith and my integrity are all I own. That's the truth. and I still believe!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Choose to Hope

The quote for today is...
There are no hopeless situations; there are only men who have grown hopeless about them.~~Clare Booth Luce

Now, the definition of hope as a noun includes-desire accompanied by expectation of or belief in fulfillment, but turn hope into a verb, an action word and  that definition becomes-to cherish a desire with anticipation. So when do we slip from having hope, having a desire that we believe will be fulfilled, from cherishing that desire, to a place of hopelessness,having no expectation of good or success,incapable of solution, management, or accomplishment? I think we slip into that place when we forget that hope is an action word. When we forget that to have hope should include cherishing that desire enough to do the things that we need to do to bring about the outcomes that we are desiring. We let go of hoping when we start to believe the untrue things we hear from people around us, or replaying the old tapes in our heads that tell us we are not good enough, or worthy of accomplishing our dreams and desires. As Ms. Luce reminds us, there are no hopeless situations, only those of us who have given away our hopefulness.
Whatever you are dreaming of, be that working towards a healthier lifestyle, or going back to school, or letting go of a destructive habit, there is always hope. But you have to remember that hope is an action word, and that if you perform the action of hope, you will be taking the steps toward reaching the desires of your heart. Doesn't matter how big or small those steps are, it only matters that you continue to take those steps.Now some of those steps you will have to take over and over, but that's OK. Every step you take is a step away from where you used to be. If you have to take a step over, you are never taking that step from the same place you took it the first time. So, for today have hope. Have hope and take a step, any step toward making that hope a reality. The first step is to stop listening to anyone who tells you that you can't achieve the things you are hoping for. Stop believing that you do not deserve to hope for success. Stop believing that, especially if you are the one telling yourself that. Have hope, take a step, you deserve to cherish your desires, and if you don't no one else will.


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Feed the Hunger

Today's quote...
There is a terrible hunger for love. We all experience that in our lives--the pain, the loneliness. We must have the courage to recognize it. The poor you may have right in your own family. Find them. Love them.
~~Mother Teresa~~

It is the day before Thanksgiving. Many of my friends are also members of Weight Watchers. In fact the WW message boards is where I met most of my closest friends.As we come up against the dreaded holiday season I want to talk about hunger.
Sounds a little crazy to address hunger the day before the biggest eating holiday of the year. In fact for many, food and football are all that count tomorrow. But it is a minefield for those of us with eating/weight issues. We can learn to deal with tomorrow in a healthy sensible way,planning ahead, making the best choices we can- or we can let tomorrow happen and start down a slippery slope that only ends in January with shame and guilt.
It is always about choices. I am a strange creature. When my life is stressful and i am dealing with so many crisis situations, it is sometimes easier for me to be in control of my eating. It feels very good to be in control of something.
I love the Mother Teresa quote. I find in my life the times I am most hungry, the hunger is very rarely for food. Have you identified what you are hungry for? It may very well not be food. Those of us with weight issues have long confused the hunger we feel, trying day after day to satisfy the hunger gnawing at us with food, and more food, and we are not successful because food is not the hunger we need to learn to deal with. Perhaps we need to learn to discern between the types of hunger that we are prone to feel. Is there a hunger for love? Is it learning to love and value our self that is creating the emptiness?
Is the lesson we need to learn about loving our selves, valuing our self, taking care of our body, our minds and our spirits so that the correct hunger is being fed in our lives with the correct nourishment? If we are confusing hunger for love and validation with hunger for food, no amount of overfeeding will assuage the hunger.

Learn to listen to your body, and your spirit. Discern what hunger needs fed. Are you physically hungry? Choose healthy, nutritious food to nourish your body. Make the best choices you can make. Is it emotional hunger? Choose to nourish your emotions by seeking out those who will love you enough to tell you how worthy you are. Is it spiritual hunger? Seek times to spend in prayer, meditation, praise and worship of your Higher Power.

Feed the hunger, but make sure you are feeding the right hunger with the right type of nourishment!!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

First post

First, before I get any flack about the title of my blog. The sayings "church ain't out till the fat lady sings..." or "the opera ain't over till the fat lady sings" are not negative sayings. They are popular colloquialisms that are used when a team is down by a lot and looks to be destined to lose or when it seems that a situation is destined to end badly. The sayings are used to say Hey, wait, this could turn around and you would hate it if you missed the ending.

I chose it as the title for my blog because it has always seemed to be appropriate to my life. Also, I just love the sound. I am using Thinks instead of sings. With all honor and respect to the late Dr. John Mizell (voice teacher extraordinaire) no one wants to hear me sing. But i think a lot about a lot of things. My late husband, Mr. Bill, used to laugh (yes, I know some men who are alive) at me. I thought a boutique geared toward items for women of size was a possible business idea. I wanted to name it "The Fat Lady's Things" because i thought it would be a great advertising slogan to have ads that said "The shopping ain't over until...The Fat Lady's Things". Mr. Bill didn't think it was clever.

Yes, I consider myself the fat lady. Yes, i know that sounds negative. But, to me it makes me think of the fat ladies in the opera, most famously Brunhilde from Gotterdammerung. The soprano singing the part is usually a strong, buxom, woman of size because they need the lungs to sing a 20 minute aria. In Norse mythology the Valkyries were a band of beautiful women warriors sent from Odin. The rode on winged horses, and they came to the battlefield to claim the bravest of the dead soldiers to become warriors for Odin.

So, yes, I am the Fat Lady, always have been. My situation seems to be desperate right now, but It ain't over til the fat lady thinks...