Floating on the Waves from Japan

Japanese float

Japanese float

I recently read Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s book, Gift from the Sea.  If you haven’t read it, she goes to her sister’s  beach home and writes about life’s transitions.  I am not longer part of the sandwich generations.  My aging parents and in-laws have died, the estates are settled.  My well educated and accomplished offspring have found positions in their careers and have or will be establishing their own households.   Ironically the household items that have been moved across states  that were part of their inheritance, have no place in the current new domiciles.  Neither do childhood beanie babies, troll dolls or prom dresses.

I  have a strong need to organize and clean my environment which finds me moving items to locate others, groaning inward when something needed is lost in the detritus of my life.

I long to be free, bouncing across oceans like a float no longer tethered to a Japanese fishing net coming to rest in the cold sands of the Pacific Northwest.   I can live for weeks out of a small suitcase when exploring new countries but anchored at home.  A thoughtful gift last Christmas was the best seller, “The Art of Tidying Up” which I will revisit soon. The cooler and shorter days arrive with the heaven sent rains, extinguishing the fires of late summer. I will organize both my inner and outer environment to be able to float on the waves of life.

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Hear the bells ringing, they’re singing… Keith Green Easter Song

Nun behind the walls of the Carmel of the Holy Trinity Covent

Nun behind the walls of the Carmel of the Holy Trinity Convent

Last night I heard the bells loudly ringing from the Carmelite Convent. The Order moved from New Jersey to build a convent in Spokane Valley. They ring their bell softly for call to prayer because of the neighbors surrounding the convent.  I  sometimes hear the bell on a summer morning when my bedroom window is open.   The community is still slowing rising.  Normally they are drowned out by the diesel truck warming up, dogs barking at people walking dogs before work, and high school students talking on their way to school. I am transported to being in a small town in the Tuscan hills.

Last night, just before 10 P.M.  they were raucous.  I thought at first, “Were the sisters in danger and trying to alert the community?”  But then I thought, “Even if they don’t have a cell phone, they must have a way to summon help if someone was invading their privacy or safety.”

I read this morning the Raul Castro met with Pope Francis yesterday and was so impressed that he said, “The Pope and I are both Jesuits.  I will start going back to church.”  After 50 years of Communist persecution of Catholics,  I understand why the sisters were ringing their bell with joy last night to share  the news with the community, the only way available for a community of cloistered sisters!

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“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning, stays young.” ― Henry Ford

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    My daughter enjoying playing Christmas music at the piano.

    I have resumed my piano lessons.  My eldest daughter shared at my mother’s funeral, that the reason she can play for enjoyment today is “Grandma made me practice day after day, year after year and didn’t mind listening to me practicing.”

    I don’t know if she came to the realization that listening to someone practice like her mother, slowly, section about section, wrong note by wrong note, legato and then staccato, accidental sharps and flats,  isn’t enjoyable as a mastered piece.

    Practicing yoga and practicing the piano as an adult are very Zen like.  I have to go slow to go fast.   Breaking the practice of each into small steps helps.  In yoga, I may just work on breathing through my nose the entire class because when exercise because more challenging,  everyone takes in more air through the mouth.

    With piano, my note reading is very strong.  I listened to my daughter’s teacher, Joyce, when she said that she wanted the girls to see a note and think, “That’s a C and be able to play it without going through the entire scale.”  I see the note on the keyboard.  My mom said that piano is so much harder than typing because fingers hit different notes in pieces and you only hit one key on the keyboard at a time.    I would add that you don’t have to master crazy rhythms either where it is hands together, left, right, together like in the piece, Largo and the Can Can but once you get that down, gorgeous music awaits.   The book, Outliers,is helpful because I need to know that if I want to be successful I have to put in hour after hour. So time to practice and practice and practice…

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Riding the Waves

IMG_2802I learned to body surf very young growing up  Southern California.   I would swim out with a very tall father or cousins and dive under the approaching waves.   Sometimes you would rise up and float over in position to ride the next break into the shore.  Other times caught in the surf, tumbling end over end , doing a face plant in the sand.   I recently did a face plant on the beach with my mother’s death.   I have started out again, diving under the waves to catch one to ride back in.  While I am going out to sea,  other friends are being battering by the surf.   I think that is why we relish the times we all can ride the wave to shore because we know the next wipe out is coming.   Life still is better experienced in the unpredictability of the sea than the safety of the sand.

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Storms in Paradise

IMG_3356 Christ said, ” I have come to give your life abundantly.”  What is life?  Life is warm tropical breezes, the salt air from waves breaking on the reef, an intimate dinner with a your life partner, the birth of a healthy child, a warm home on a cold day, wonderful friends, the opportunity to travel and explore new places and try new things.  Life is also the bad lab test, the doctor telling you that your beautiful newborn has health challenges and may not live, the love of your life doesn’t recognize you anymore, that things you took for granted like seeing, hearing, moving and helping yourself and others are becoming memories.  Less faces are around the holiday table.  And we are promised Life in Abundance!  How do we hang on during the storm when we are swept with waves of grief, despair, and pain?   Christ also said, “I will not leave you life orphans in the storm.”

I am now an orphan.  My mother died on February 4, 2015.  I knew that her time on earth was fleeting.  She had multiple health issues but never talked about them unless they were something she worked around.  She would sometimes annoy me as I do my daughters BUT she was always a source of help and love.  My dear husband has been very patient with me with my bouts of grief.  Something my mom said will come back to me like, ” I put gloves in all my coats so I never have cold hands.”  I put my gloves in my jacket when I got to Kauai because I wanted to find them when I got home.  I was packing to return home today and couldn’t find my gloves.  I checked my jacket and then remembered thinking, ” I should stick these in my pockets like my mom always did.”

A new friend at church told me before I left for Kauai that I am experiencing a sudden death like a car accident or heart attack.  My dad died over Labor Day Weekend.  Hjs last words were for a kiss at the ER and then he went into a coma.  I talked to him and played music that he liked.  He died when I went home for dinner.  I had said my good byes and he knew I loved him.  I spent 8 hours with my mom in the ER and wouldn’t leave her side until she was admitted for the night and out of pain.  I thought she would recover and be coming home in a few days like she did this summer.    Instead I was met by the chaplain at the elevator and  saw my mom peacefully leave the planet.

My mom wanted her ashes to be spread in the Pacific Ocean.  She didn’t want to be in the garage or on the mantel  and she told me, “It will give you an reason to go the Pacific, to think of me.”

As I look out at the beautiful ocean tonight Mom, I am thinking of you.  I also know that I will be comforted for your not being in my life anymore.  I am blessed by the lives you impacted and the people that loved you and love me.

As the 23rd Psalms states so poetically, “He leads me besides still waters, he restores my soul.”  Even though the waters tonight are not still, they are restoring my soul.

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Two Mantras for the Rest of my Life…

People want sympathy, not Solutions

I was sharing thoughts with a friend over dinner.  We talked about how sometimes we get frustrated in a conversation that is trapped in an endless loop.  Our first impulse is offer help–“I will go with you to …” or “Have you thought of doing….?”    We have to catch ourselves because the speaker doesn’t want our solution to the problem, they want our sympathy. We aren’t always sympathetic because we don’t want to be an enabler or foster co-dependence.  But if their actions and emotions don’t have a negative impact on my life,  I can offer the mummer of acceptance, and comment like, “It does seem like that situation is still difficult for you. ”  Rather than coming up with a solution, I may ask, “Is there anything today or this week that has brought you a moment of delight to help with the darkness/sorrow/pain that you are struggling with?”   Life is abundant with both the joys and sorrows but it easy to focus on one end of the spectrum or the other.

You Don’t Have to Prove that You are the Smartest Person in the Room

When someone shares an idea which I don’t agree and I can shred their statement to ribbons because it is ludicrous,  I don’t.  I have come to the realization that I will only win points in a debate class or journal club –not with others in my life.  The 3 basic human needs are: A sense of belonging, a sense of accomplishment, and a sense of enjoyment.  Debating with logic and facts doesn’t enhance any of these needs.  Will the world come to an end if  I DON’T  share the difference between a viral and bacterial infection, in great depth with scientific references,  when someone complains that the doctor didn’t give them an antibiotic for their viral cold?  Probably not.  Better to say, “Gee I hope you feel better soon.  I hate the symptoms that you are experiencing  too.”

As the Hebrew writer, Paul, almost 2000 years ago to the Roman Christians in a letter-Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud.    Sailing off Manuel Antonio State Park

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

“Simplicity, patience, compassion.
These three are your greatest treasures.
Simple in actions and thoughts, you return to the source of being.
Patient with both friends and enemies,
you accord with the way things are.
Compassionate toward yourself,
you reconcile all beings in the world.”
Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching

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Never leave that till tomorrow which you can do today. Benjamin Franklin

Spokane in Autumn

I live in a climate of  distinct seasons and seasonal responsibilities if you want a pleasant life throughout the year.  Clean out the flower beds before the ground freezes.  Put away the flower pots before they are covered with snow.  Take out the snow shovel and put it in the garage.  Check that the snow blower starts before you need to clear the driveway and go somewhere.  Borrow the neighbors compressor and blow the water from the sprinkler lines. Drain the gas from the lawnmower.  Doing these things brings another saying by Benjamin Franklin to life- “A Penny Saved is a Penny Earned.”  Repairing a broken sprinkler system is expensive.

The Italians have geraniums in pots on steps and on patios to soften the stones.

As I was moving my geraniums inside my pool house/guest cottage for protection from the snow, I thought of my grandmother and her amazement of geraniums in pots when she visited Europe. My grandmother grew geraniums like weeds in Southern California.  She would break off a branch, stick it in the ground, and water the plant. A new bush would develop. Geraniums were the plant of no thought or pot.   For residents of the Northern climates, geraniums are the plant of perservance, hope, reward and surprise. If the plant is nurtured just a bit throughout the dark, cold winter; it will flourish in the heat of summer.   Geraniums on a stairway or window box bring nature’s beauty to the starkest urban home.  Salmon pink, coral, burgundy, lavender color radiates all late spring, summer and early fall.

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