The Journey

When we were asked several years ago if we would like a ride to Europe I did not think they were serious even though they are extended family on my husband’s side.  At the time our little one was about a year old and they were inquiring about the following spring.  They kept inviting us until I finally realized they actually meant it.  I allowed myself to entertain the idea but told them I had no clue as to what a toddler would be like and I was worried she might disrupt their peaceful holiday.  They were not concerned so we prayed it would all go smoothly.  I could not believe we were really going to go!  I was not lucky enough to aquire a passport until I was 35; my little one got hers before she was even a year and a half.  I believe this was the largest jet they had at the small, private airport where we went.  We had two pilots and a flight attendant who could not have been nicer; the next thing I knew we were in the air.  No scary safety spiel, no “fasten your seatbelts,” no “bing bong; cross-check, prepare for take off,” and no slow ascent.  It was like a rocket only whisper quiet, seamlessly smooth, and not frightening at all!  Right away I had champagne sparkling in a cut crystal glass pressed into my hands.  As we toasted our trip cool maps appeared on the television screens detailing our flight path.  I got a goodie bag filled with useful and fancy things and I started pulling them out one by one like a kid opening presents on Christmas day.  Among what I can remember, my little black bag contained a personal mirror with magnifier, hand lotion, a small travel perfume, minted rose lip balm and, something I had never seen before, “paper soap.”  Hot towels were presented for our hands before we were served dinner from silver trays on china.  We all got to have our food custom-ordered and it was everything I loved.  Mixed nuts rested in bowls on the sides of the burled walnut lined aircraft.  Our chairs were spacious and comfortable; swiveling and reclining, and we each had our own window.  A couple of sofas flanked the middle of the plane and could be converted into beds.  I think Burk and I were too excited to sleep.  Toward the back they had a table, chairs, and banquette.  Behind that were curtains which took us through a galley complete with a refrigerator, microwave, toaster, coffee maker, and cabinets that I can recall.  And the lavatory!  It was all mirrored and marbled and so spacious it was unbelievable!  I still cannot get over it!  Conservatively I would say it was six times the size of a regular airplane facility.  The American personal trainer Greg Anderson said, “Focus on the journey, not the destination.  Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it.”  The greatest joy for us on this trip was found in the time we spent with family focusing on the journey.

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Cat’s Claws

We only have one sofa in our den.  I try not to buy leather for animal ethics reasons but whatever it is that we have it has gone from smooth to pebbled.  The darn cats keep scratching it.  The onus is on me; I have not kept up with trimming their nails regularly.  So, reluctantly, we had a “salon” day.  I had the hubs help hold them while I methodically snipped their nails.  No one was happy.  Sometimes the claw’s sheath comes off but this time two nails pretty much came out of our 19-year-old Persian Maya in their entirety.  Poor thing!  The color drained from Burk’s face and he said he could not look.  I found them horrifying and fascinating at the same time.  Our little one still wants to be a vet so I waited to show her after she got home from school.  “Mama, that is FASCINATING!” she said as she examined them.  I felt horrible for letting their nails go too long.  “Look at the blood” she said with all the interest of a kid who doesn’t mind a little gore.  Then she immediately asked if she could bring them to show and tell.  “Sure” I said, wondering how well they were going to go over.  So I put them in a little plastic bag to ensure they wouldn’t get lost and off she went to school with her scientific discovery.  I kid you not I once got extra credit in college for bringing in a cat whisker that had been shed naturally.  We used it literally like an antenna and were able to get a low frequency sound with it combined with the aid of a couple of other things which I have now forgotten.  It turns out the claws were a big success.  Personally I thought it was a cool show and tell but then we’re huge animal lovers.  I do not believe Maya minded having her claws passed around on display; I think she was more relieved to be rid of them.  The American novelist Thomas Berger said, “The art and science of asking questions is the source of all knowledge.”  I have always asked questions.  I think it drove my folks crazy when I was little but that is how I learned.  Her father and I both share that love of discovery and it is a lifelong joy.  I am so pleased to see our little one has the same thirst for learning.  Her quest may very well have been started by a pair of cat’s claws.

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My Daddy

I recall mentioning before initially not understanding why Feast Days were designated upon the death of a person, as opposed to their birth.  It was explained to me that it was celebrated then because that was the day they went home to be with the Lord.  Grief is such a morphing beast.  I believe almost everyone has dealt with loss in their lives; some far more than others.  On this day in 1998 part of me died forever.  It was the day I lost my father.  My mother and I were in complete shock and could not believe such a big, strong, vital man was gone at just 66 from a heart attack in his sleep.  I made sure my father had a full military burial, as was his due, after having served eight years in Korea as a sharpshooter in the United States Army.  I was told at his funeral that he never lost a man on night patrol.  A proud American Indian veteran, he always wore a flag pin on his lapel way before it was fashionable to do so.  I did not cry today; I just felt numb.  I also did not mention it to my husband or daughter, as there was no use in making them sad as well.  We rarely rent movies but tonight my daughter came across a movie she really wanted to see called “Kubo and the Two Strings.”  There would have been a time in my life when I would have found it incredibly sad.  My little one has already known the death of my mother and it pains me she experienced her loss at such a tender age.  But as she and I watched the movie together I realized the message was one of happiness.  I could not help but think how very fitting it was watching it on this day of all days.  We always carry our loved ones with us wherever we go and most of us are blessed to have memories of them.  And so, instead of mourning, we celebrate their lives and the precious time we had with them.  The American civil rights activist Rosa Parks said, “Memories of our lives, of our works and our deeds will continue in others.”  I love knowing that all my father instilled in me, which was instilled in him by his grandmother, is now being instilled in my daughter.  The memories, works, and deeds live on.  Chi hullo li na billia chih.  I dedicate this to my daddy.

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Hey Siri

Just when I thought I could not love our new lights any more (scroll down and read “Lit” if you’re interested and missed it,) I have just discovered that I can control the whole house with voice activation that I already have for FREE through my iPhone!  So I can say, “‘Hey Siri, Good morning'” and all the lights in the house (that I have programmed) will come on.  This is why I love Apple so much.  And I am sure it is only the beginning.  I will eventually be able to have my coffee maker start at the same time and who knows what else.  I think in the near future we are looking at everything being automatic based upon predictable behaviors.  I know right now I do not have to manually search for movies on TV; Siri does it.  I already ask Siri what the weather is like rather than checking my app.  I have Siri enter my appointments.  Siri Googles things for me.  Siri sets timers when I’m cooking.  I have had Siri map directions when driving.  Siri makes calls for me and I never even look up my contacts anymore.  Siri has found the closest gas station, calculated currency conversions, and texted for me.  Siri has updated my Facebook posts, reviewed my emails, and plays my music.  The late American CEO of Apple Inc. Steve Jobs said:

“Technology is nothing.  What’s important is that you have a faith in people, that they’re basically good and smart, and if you give them tools, they’ll do wonderful things with them.”

I pray that the good and smart people of the world use technology to find cures for disease, empower the disabled, and improve the lives of people and animals all over the world.  And now I will say good night as I am headed to bed and turning off all the lights.  “Hey Siri …”

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Send, Save, And Spend

Growing up I did not receive an allowance.  I was simply expected to do my chores.  I also did not get paid for getting straight A’s; it was expected of me from my parents that I do my best.  I do remember looking forward to the end of every report card though.  Daddy always took me to get a chocolate dipped ice cream cone as a treat.  When I got married and after we had the baby my husband and I agreed she would not be paid for doing what was expected of her.  I have found though that incentives are a powerful motivator and I do not like always using food.  Burk’s mother was recently in town and was teaching her to read and write different words.  She told her that for every one she got correct she would giver her a quarter.  Pretty soon her four quarters turned into a dollar and it was also a great way for her to get in some math as well.  My little one wound up very proud of her haul, which wound up being three dollars.  “You’re rich!” I told her as we left and she just smiled, clutching the bills in her little hand.  Looking back I realize it would have been beneficial for me to have actually handled some money as a small child before I turned fourteen and started my first real job.  The three bills reminded me of the Holy Trinity and I asked her what she wanted to do with her earnings.  When she shrugged I suggested she could give one dollar to God in church, she could save one, and the last she could just spend and enjoy.  She loved the idea and eagerly awaited putting the first money that she had ever earned into the collection plate.  She was so proud!  I almost caught it too late but I have this picture that captured the moment.  Then I got chided by my five year old as she whispered scoldingly, “Mama you are not supposed to have your iPhone out in church!”  Feeling duly chastised, I put it away.  In 2 Corinthians 9:7 it says:

Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.

My little girl sent her offering to God with a truly cheerful heart.  I am so very proud of her.  I hope she will continue to put God first by tithing to help others in need and showing obedience to the Lord.  I hope she will have the discipline to save for the future.  And I hope she will be fortunate enough to have a little money to splurge with just for her pleasure.  I pray this sets a precedent for her to responsibly send, save, and spend.

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Hot Diggity Dog

I have many fond memories as a kid of being excited to go and get Happy Meals that had a toy with them.  Recently my little one talked about Happy Meals and I realized I had only taken her once; even then I didn’t let her eat there.  Times are different and sadly eating organic is no longer the norm.  Also, she is now gluten intolerant.  Someone told me a fast food chain I’d never been to had gluten free grilled chicken and French fries.  Not knowing what to expect, I was shocked to discover the drink was pure juice and not soda.  I used to suck down Dr. Pepper and it’s a temptation I battle against as an adult.  My little one was so ecstatic!  The more she told me I was the greatest the worse I felt; five years old and she’d never had a kids’ meal.  “What?!  You can even color the sack?” she exclaimed from the back seat.  “Oh Mama this is the best EVER!” she fervently told me as I started wondering what other joys of which I had inadvertently deprived my child.  It wasn’t until we got home that we discovered there was a “prize” which was a game.  “After I eat can we play Mama?!” she asked with such hope there was no way I was going to say no.  “Sure!” I said as I began reading the rules.  I kid you not it is one of the most fun card games I have ever played in my entire life!  It’s called “Diggity Dogs” and whomever adopts the most dogs wins.  It’s like a cross between “Go Fish” and “Animal Rummy.”  Each dog has three different things you must match in order to adopt them.  When you’ve acquired all a dog’s items you say, “Diggity Dog” and you rescue them.  Their necessities include bones, brushes, bowls, beds, and balls.  The dogs all have names and are different breeds.  I won the first round and she won the second.  We decided we liked ending the evening on a tie.  The English writer H. G. Wells said, “In politics, strangely enough, the best way to play your cards is to lay them face upwards on the table.”  Right now that is how my little one plays.  The fact that she wants to play with me … I say hot diggity dog.

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Tea With Jam And Bread

Thanks to having a little one I routinely stumble upon these little vignettes played out all around our house.  I never know what I will find.  On this occasion it was a Siamese and Husky having tea with jam and bread.  I decided to snap a quick picture before I stepped over them, offering my apologies, as I was headed upstairs.  We have a half Blue Point Siamese and wolf/husky hybrids who periodically share a meal together … more often than not purloined from my little one when she is not paying attention.  I love coming across whatever she is doing.  She knows she is supposed to put her toys away before bed and generally she is pretty good about it.  I just do not like stepping on a bunch of tiny things barefoot or stumbling over something in the middle of the floor unexpectedly.  And it seems as if it always happens in the middle of the night when I cannot see.  To avoid getting hurt I have taken to using my iPhone as a flashlight and sweeping the floor with it like a detective investigating suspicious activity.  I have found plastic fish with Native American bears, a wolf enjoying pizza with a lamb, baby dolls with their bottles in her shopping cart, rabbits having vegetables with foxes, and rock collections from our koi pond.  I have seen knights conversing with pink dragons in a castle, rainbow colored ponies, and little rubber turtles in a soap dish.  The wolfies will lay down beside wherever our little one is playing and just listen to her.  It is the sweetest thing.  I have overheard her “in church,” “cooking,” “taking a bath,” and “reading” bedtime stories with her toys.  I notice it is a reflection of her own life and the things we do together.  When I was her age I used to line up all my Fisher Price little people on top of our TV console and play with them for hours.  I also remember having a whole plastic set of tiny babies I played with that had cribs which sort of reminded me of the plastic cartons tomatoes used to come in.  The English singer-songwriter Kate Bush said:

“I had an incredibly full life with my imagination:  I used to have all sorts of trolls and things; I had a wonderful world around my toys and invented people.  I don’t mean I had imaginary friends; I just had this big imagination thing going on.  I didn’t need any imaginary friends, because I had so much other stuff going on.”

That is how my childhood was for me and it seems how my little one’s childhood is shaping up to be as well, which makes me happy.  And now, if you will excuse me, I have a date with a curly-haired little girl who is serving afternoon tea with jam and bread.

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The Fountain

I realized the other day I have been passing this same fountain since I was a child.  I don’t know why it struck me on this particular evening.  It is wild to think of how much has changed since I was a very little girl.  I can still remember cash registers that would “ching” when they popped open, and riding backwards with no seat belt in the station wagon.  I have very vague memories of 8-track tapes and nurses who wore dresses and pointed hats.  I remember when there were no plastic bags, and television only had three major channels.  Washaterias were prevalent, as were phone booths.  I imagine a time lapse film in front of this fountain, with people wearing polyester in the ’70’s, then big hair in the ’80’s, to grunge in the ’90’s.  The new millennium has ushered in all sorts of change, particularly people with their heads looking down at their cell phones, which can do everything from starting cars to ordering food.  My father was a painter and when I was little there was a paint store around here.  I would often accompany him when he picked up custom mixed buckets of color for people’s homes and also churches.  When I was barely a teenager I had to see a foot doctor that was right at the top of the stairs.  And when I was in my early twenties one of my very best dates was at the restaurant you see in the background, only then it was a small European restaurant.  Now there is a grocery store to the right and so we pass the fountain often.  On this night it was raining and my little one marveled at the raindrops she could see falling in it.  We always find ourselves pausing to appreciate something about it.  In the summer the grackles like to bathe in it, much to our delight.  Times have changed but this fountain has remained.  In Spain I loved seeing these types of fountains, only much more grand, in the town squares.  The great American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote, “That which the fountain sends forth returns again to the fountain.”  I wonder what changes this fountain will see as my little one grows.  And I wonder what memories it will carry for her; perhaps buying her school uniforms, picking out Valentines, or eating at our favorite Tex-Mex restaurant.  I just know I look forward to all the times we continue to return to the fountain.

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Ash Wednesday

I don’t know about you, but I love seeing people in the middle of the day going about their regular jobs and routines with a very discernible ash cross that has been marked on their forehead.  I think a lot of Catholics try to celebrate the noon mass, and personally I believe it is the most visible Christian witness made during the entire calendar year.  Christians are sent out into the world marked in such a way that to me supersedes even wearing a cross daily.  It is a seal placed upon their forehead which means they are a follower of Christ.  I have mentioned we are Episcopalian; Roman Catholics are not the only Christian denomination to dispense ashes.  We prefer to attend the evening service so that we can all be together as a family.  The imposition of ashes is such a powerful statement of faith.  I love seeing people from the receptionist at the dentist’s office to the bagger at the grocery store bearing the most recognizable sign of Christianity on their forehead for all to see and without shame.  We are blessed to live in a country where we may do so without fear of reprisal.  I wrote last year about the significance of ashes and quoted the reading from Genesis that reminds us all of our mortality.  You may look for it at the bottom of my blog if you wish by typing, “Dust In The Wind” in the search bar.  This year I wanted to quote Psalm 103:8-14:

The Lord is full of compassion and mercy:  long-suffering, and of great goodness.  He will not alway be chiding:  neither keepeth he his anger forever.  He hath not dealt with us after our sins:  nor rewarded us according to our wickedness.  For look how high the heaven is in comparison of the earth:  so great is his mercy also toward them that fear him.  Look how wide also the east is from the west:  so far hath he set our sins from us.  Yea, like a father pitieth his own children:  even so is the Lord merciful unto them that fear him.  For he knoweth whereof we are made:  he remembereth that we are but dust.

I do not know that anyone likes to think about death.  I choose to focus on the Eternal Salvation we are promised for accepting Jesus Christ as our Savior because of the great sacrifice He made for the sins of us all on the cross.  For those who are practicing, I wish you all a blessed Lenten season, beginning with Ash Wednesday.

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Shrove Tuesday

Growing up I had heard about Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday in French) but I always associated it with wild parades in New Orleans.  Until I became Episcopalian, I had never heard of Shrove Tuesday.  I could not figure out why our church served a pancake dinner.  I have since learned it commemorates the final day before Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the season of Lent.  Traditionally, Christians abstain from rich foods and/or alcohol for the next 40 days leading up to the celebration of Easter.  Since pancakes are comprised of sugar and eggs, these were meant to be used up before Lent began.  Even the ingredients are said to represent important tenets.  Flour represents the staff of life, eggs represent creation, salt symbolizes wholesomeness, and milk represents purity.  The name “shrove” is derived from the word “shriven,” a term used by Anglo-Saxon Christians to describe the event of being absolved of one’s sins.  Lent is a penitential time, as Christians are called to reflect upon Christ’s ultimate sacrifice of having suffered death on the cross for the sins of the world.  I know often people use this as a sort of diet plan to get ready for summer.  But, while the idea of self-sacrifice may not necessarily be helping others, in my opinion it does serve to make us aware of how EVERYTHING we have is thanks to God.  I do believe adding a discipline is a great thing … such as more prayer or helping those in need.  But I do not believe the importance of self-denial should be underplayed.  Self-sacrifice is not as exercised, in my opinion, as it should be.  Heaven knows I have not bothered to curb my eating or my drinking.  So this is an excellent time to make my humble sacrifices to God and truly repent.  The American football coach Lou Holtz said:

“Sacrifice, discipline and prayer are essential.  We gain strength through God’s word.  We receive grace from the sacrament.  And when we fumble due to sin – and it’s gonna happen – confession puts us back on the field.”

The next time I eat pancakes I am going to remember to strive not to fumble and to be a better person.  I pray next year I will not have forgotten this Shrove Tuesday.

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