As we are packing up to make hopefully the last major move of our lives, I look back and forward at the dilemmas we face in life, sometimes that we have to decide very quickly, And sometimes we have to ponder over whether we are making the right decision or not. Strangely, as many symbolic things have happened in this last month or so, I had an e-mail from the only other man I was ever married to in this lifetime. We were young, and it was during turbulent times in the U.S. People were disgusted with the government, and a branch of people decided to start buying up all the gold silver, something like what is happening now. My husband, who was a practicing architect at the time, got hooked up with some people who were buying and selling gold and silver, along with the Hunt brothers and many others. Worse still, he decided with some other good friends that if he did not pay taxes, it would help to make a difference in the government and perhaps get them to stop their foolishness. How naive people were in those days (unlike people today - really???). I was working at a full-time job and attending my last year in a university. I was not in agreement with this decision. I was going to to continue to pay my taxes. When you play the game of monopoly, you cannot play by the rules of checkers. It became more and more stressful. Our home, which backed up on an alley, and was surrounded by bushes all around, was highly susceptible for someone to come in and rob and perhaps even kill my husband. Plus there was the worry from the government itself. They were locking up protestors everywhere, and the ones they were going after first were those doing it and teaching others how to do it. Finally, under the stress and concern that I would come home and find him gone, and perhaps be taken to jail as an accessory myself, I told him that if he would not quilt doing this, I would have to leave. I simply could not take it any longer. It was a sad day after I had graduated that I packed up what I could of just my own things and drove away to start a new life and perhaps adventure, one what was free of rebellion. I would travel back and forth for the next some years to an anthropological/ archaeological adventure with a well-known anthropologist who had discovered some very talented potters down in the interior who had literally re-invented the craft of creating clay pots from just finding pot-shards. My own degree was in archaeology, so it was right up my alley. I took turns helping with running my friend's economic and free market publishing business and editing a book he was in process of publishing of his grandfather's work and filling book orders, getting the book published majorly old school in hot type, and other aspects of the business while he made trips down and back to Mexico. It was a good adventure, but I never forgot my friendship and love of my former architect friend and husband. Suddenly, just a few days ago, I received a notice from him that he was on his own once again (after what I thought was two additional marriages), but he had called to let me know his last wife, whom he had loved, had died back in January of Huntington's Disease, a horrible inherited disease that affects all the motor parts of the brain, unlike Dementia or Alzheimer's, and may or may not be inherited. It is so strange to look back on all the dilemmas I have dealt with in this life, and the choices I have made related to them. I have a significant other now, some years my junior (yes, I guess I am a cougar, but what is age but numbers?). I took him into my home and heart when he got injured on the job in this senior mobile home park, and have been his caregiver/advocate (unpaid as a volunteer) since perhaps 2016 or 17, and we live a very simple lifestyle. He became my caregiver for a short time when I had breast cancer surgery, so it was a good trade. Today we are in process of moving to another state with less issues or so we think, and hopefully where I can finally get the care he needs so much since he has two failed neck surgeries, and is now partly disabled. Perhaps life is always intended to be full of dilemmas and perhaps that was the symbol of the lives of Adam and Eve. I thought about the man, Jesus, bearing that cross, and how it too represents the life and death dilemmas we will face in our times. What dilemmas do you face today?
Creating a Rainbow
“A hiker captured these magnificent images of a rare weather phenomenon that looks like a “rainbow halo” on top of an English mountain. 39-year-old Adrian Conchie was walking on a fell in the Lake District when he looked down and clocked the spectacular display, known as the Brocken specter. The dad-of-one described the moment, which took place at 11:30AM on New Year’s Eve, as “magical” and “absolutely incredible”. According to the Met Office, the Brocken specter appears when a person stands above the upper surface of a cloud—on a mountain or high ground—with the sun behind them. “When they view their shadow, the light is reflected back in such a way that a spooky circular ‘glory’ appears around the point directly opposite the sun,” the Met Office said.
Conchie, who runs an engraving business in Knutsford, Cheshire, was on an 11-mile hike at Swirl How near Coniston when the Brocken specter appeared to him. “I had always wanted to see one after seeing pictures online and hearing about how amazing they are from friends,” said Conchie. “When we got to the summit I looked down and there it was—it was so vivid. “I thought it would disappear there and then but it stayed for a few minutes, it was a really magical experience.” Miraculously, Conchie and his friend Bryony stumbled upon another Brocken specter later that very same day up a nearby mountain called Wetherlam.”
As I read this account, I thought about how much we depend on our senses to connect us with everything we encounter in the world, and yet, the truth of it all is that our senses can and do lie to us. When we see any rainbow, if we were able to run up to it, we would find nothing there when we got where it appeared to be.
I can remember when I was younger, after I would go to bed, and sometimes in the night I would fly. I am certain I could fly. I could take off straight from the ground, and quickly fly faster and higher than anyone could even get close to me. To this day I have been certain I was really flying, though I know in my everyday mind that flight is not something we could do. Yet when I landed in my other consciousness, I felt a bump as I touched ground each time as surely as if I had come down safely but a little less than smooth, perhaps as I might have with a parachute. But the thing is that I never had wings; I just flew with my arms out and I felt the air against my arms and my body extended gracefully.
Was my ego present when I was flying or seeing things that seem so rare and yet so real? I don’t think so. I don’t think it was dreaming any more than the man was dreaming who saw the Rainbow Halo.
Perhaps we limit our abilities when we stay stuck in our egos. When I am lost there, I can feel measures of negativity and lack of confidence in what I am doing, and I want to escape. But when I let go of ego, but still stay in control of the alchemy of all the parts that make me who I am, there is so much more waiting to be discovered. Perhaps I have the ability to create rainbows.
If all of this is a dream, I don’t want to awaken. There is so much to be discovered, and I must gift myself with time to go flying again.
Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda
It is easy to fill our lives with our “shoulda, coulda, woulda’s. I suspect that most of us do this at some time or other in our lifetimes.
I was born in an era when women were still struggling to be women who had a lot of choices in life. When I was starting high school, my mother took me to register for my classes. There was a choice to choose a college route or the regular route. I wanted to go to college and become a nurse, likely a military nurse since I had grown up in a military family that went way back. My mother said no. She said I needed to become a secretary and find a man and get married. Really! It is hard to imagine, but that is what she believed. She had gotten married and I don’t think my mother or father finished high school. She had some problem with her mastoids when she was about my age, and in those days, was in the hospital for awhile and had surgery for it. So she and my father got married when she got well.
My father had come home from school one day when he was I think 16 or 17, and his family had moved away and abandoned him. He had other brothers and a sister who had killed herself. I really don’t know the whole story, but he lied about his age, because it was during the Great Depression, and he joined the military. He got his room and board, but in order to be able to join, he had to give all his money to a poor family who never ever thanked him.
That is most of what I know about my mother and father. So I did all the things I was supposed to and hated every minute of it. Secretaries in those days took shorthand, typed letters and used carbon to make copies and a machine I can’t remember the name of to make copies. They fetched coffee for their bosses every day and for meetings they fetched it for all the men at the meetings. And once in awhile, men treated women disrespectfully, touching them in ways that were inappropriate, and getting away with it because it was the times.
Then suddenly women’s lib came along, and so did wearing pant suits, and women were threatened with being fired if they wore those in the office. Gee, no more legs to look at or exposed body parts to be touched. But women persevered. I divorced an abusive husband, but I suppose in reality he was no more abusive than most men who believed their women should stay at home and have dinner ready for them when they walked in the door, raise their children and do their washing and ironing, and stay in the home except to take the children to the playground. Money was given to the wife to get the groceries, and sometimes the woman might get money to buy a donut or small toy for the children but there was no money for anything that might have taken care of things she might like to have.
I DID get to go to a University finally. And I DID get a degree in Archaeology. And I did work at interesting related work in Mexico and Arizona until I became ill with Valley Fever and Paratyphoid, and then I decided to do other less physically dangerous work. But I had a lot of fun along the way. One day somewhere along the way I grew up and became a bonafide human being who could buy things for herself, and who could dream of things she wanted to do and to become, and she could actually do them. She could say no to men who did anything inappropriate, and she could be her own person in general. I got married again a couple of times over the years and had some really interesting and accomplished men – an archaeologist and an anthropologist. And I learned more of the world and who I was as a human being. No more Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda. I grew into a woman who had exciting careers and who had her own businesses. And step by step, little by little, I became a fully evolved human being.
It has not been easy along the way, but that is what gives us strength in the end result. I am now 77, and I have a man in my life – my significant other, Richard – and he is none of those men I married before. He is a human being – a simple man with simple tastes and a really big heart. He doesn’t talk a lot, but when he does, what he says is real. And he has shown his goodness in so many ways without even saying anything about it. He is not a Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda man. He lives from day to day, happy with the simplest of things. I am free to be who I am and he is free to be who he is. Sometimes the simplest things are the best things in this lifetime.
I will never live in the Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda world again. I decided to get another degree at 74 and graduated in 2016, the same year I had breast cancer. It was Criminal Justice. I was going to be a mentor/advocate for juvenile delinquents (and I have worked with them before in other ways) but other things changed all that, so instead I am a CASA court-appointed volunteer mentor/advocate for foster children. I don’t have an assignment currently, but when I am not a caregiver for my Richard, I can do that if I choose. I am who I am and I am happy with that now. I don’t need to blame anyone else now for what I did not become. Perhaps that was never meant to be. Perhaps, just perhaps I was meant to be on the course of life I am now. It is all good, even on its worst days. I will look back on them tomorrow and be glad that I have seen many sides of life. I will be glad for the little things – a beautiful sky, a gentle breeze, a hand that reaches out and holds mine . . .
Doing for Others
In the early 70’s, my brother returned from Vietnam. He is five years younger than me, and he was a young kid when he left to be in the Air Force as a Demolition Expert. He spent most of his service time out near the end of the runways, where the planes would come in, sometimes with bombs they did not drop, and one of his jobs was to neutralize and unload them until they were needed again.
When we had the first family reunion after he returned, I could hardly recognize him. He is now considered 100% disabled, though when he returned he was considered 40%. He had a TBI and had multiple surgeries to try to put in a plate, but none of them worked and they made him pass out repeatedly. He also had a spinal surgery that was blotched and so he could not walk well at all, and spent a lot of time sleeping because of pain. And then he had PTSD like so many others, his from having to shoot tiny children who came onto the runway, wired with bombs. It is difficult to imagine how people become so brainwashed or terrorized that they could ever harm their own children and babies.
Seeing him again like that when he had still been a big kid in his mind and spirit when he left, full of mischief and the joy of being young was almost too much. It gave me a heart to work with physically, developmentally and emotionally challenged children and adults, something I have done for the rest of my life.
I first began to work with special needs children in the Torrance and Redondo Beach school districts in California as a substitute, and I worked every single day and absolutely loved it. Many if not most of my children were preschoolers, kinders and middle school aged then, and had multiple challenges. I did this work throughout Southern California for more than 15 years, always as a substitute Paraeducator, Aide, or Teacher (uncertified). I think over the many years, I learned more from my children than they did from me, though I was always an innovator with the ways I did things.
I do not believe that special needs children who are likely to end up living at home or in a group home or other special facility need to be tormented by having them do repetitive work unless they really show an inclination to like that, and yes, some of them are very good and very happy and excellent workers doing repetitive work. My belief is that every child should be given an opportunity to do something that makes them happy, even if it is making beaded necklaces or weaving or whatever else they enjoy.
The book above is the cover of a book by Barbara Williamson and me. Her name, though not on the front of the book, is on the back with the other authors. Besides telling her own story, she made major contributions in the way of decision making and adding creative input through the journey of the creation of the book. Just ahead of the time I was working as a substitute, I decided to start a nonprofit to assist physically challenged fiber artists (art quilters, though many of them work in many mediums besides quilts). Because I too was involved with art quilting, I realized how difficult and expensive it was for them to enter juried shows, often to not get accepted after paying an entry fee that most could little afford. So I wanted to find venues that gave them a lot of excellent exposure and at the same time wanted to teach them professional development. Barbara Williamson and I became excellent friends and she became the Secretary of the nonprofit. We ran it successfully with just her caregiver, Rob as our treasurer, and no money in the kitty, which made running the nonprofit very simple.
The first exhibit we ran was called My World in Black and White, and we had s121 participants from various countries and the United States. The exhibit had some 10 live venues in one year (what we call traveling venues) and the exhibit museums, galleries and quilt shows were only too glad to help us send all the quilts as a group show for free. I only had to get the quilts to the first venue, and from then on, everything went from one venue to the next seamlessly. At the end of the last venue, the quilts were returned to me and I was able to ship them all back home to the ladies. If the venue was local, I was there to help hang the quilts and take care of other chores and greet the visitors as needed.
We ran the nonprofit for some ten more years, with back to back exhibits the entire time, and we did a lot of things besides that, helping after provide school projects and materials for the children of migrant workers, providing donated used sewing machines for other ladies who could not afford to get one on their own, donating quilting materials to the American Indian ladies on Pine Ridge and other things. During this time, Barbara grew her own art and developed her fiber arts as a profession. She is successful in everything she does now even though she is confined to a wheelchair.
We have changed our focus now as we are both older. Barbara lived in Paradise, CA, where the entire town burned down November 2018, causing her to lose basically everything. She has started life all over again and is busy settling into another home in a different city and working on her continuing career. As for me, I am studying a fantastic correspondence and event class called The Silent Eye Mystery School led by Steve Tanham, Sue Vincent and Stuart France. I still tutor special needs children and adults as well as ESL adults, and I will likely be a volunteer in some capacity the remainder of my life. I am currently a volunteer court-appointed volunteer advocate for CASA (a nonprofit located through the U.S.) for foster children. So life is never dull and when not doing these things I am working on more books and caregiving for my significant other, Richard, taking care of my garden and our six chihuahuas, a cat, two huge goldfish and two alien catfish. I am 77 now and intend to stay busy for whatever time is left. Although I have very little in the way of material goods, I have been immensely rich in life experiences and lifelong friends, and for that I am eternally grateful.
My Shoe’s Got Soul . . .
This is who I am. I love to recycle things that have meant something to me. I found these shoes in a thrift store years ago. I fell in love with them because the shoe brand was something like Sam and Jane and they were about the most comfortable shoes I ever had with a soft sole and leather that seemed to breathe. The original shoes were brown, not gold. But one day as I went to get my shoes to go someplace, the sole of one was literally falling off of it. Of course I was heartbroken, but then I had this idea to make a play on words and to give one of the shoes a whole new life, so I came up with this idea.
The “wings” are on a base which is made from the sole of one shoe, and I found the most wonderful colored organiza with a nice stiffness to it that allowed me to cut out the little leaves. The leaves seemed appropriate to me because shoes wouldn’t tend to go up in the air (except for the kids who throw them over the telephone lines). And I remembered in the compass of my soul how much fun it was as a kid (and ok, I confess, as a grownup too) to jump in a pile of leaves). And I had to make her a happy and bright color full of life, for that is how I remembered those old comfy shoes.
It’s so many years later since I made her, “My Shoe’s Got Soul.” She’s still with me, and I imagine that she will still be when I take my last jump into those leaves. And it’s funny because she led me to write a story called “Tenshoes and the Skittyfoot” about ten orphan shoes who live in a trash dump, and every Saturday, the animals up in the meadow above hear “sootspeak” because the dump is putting out ugly smoke and it is mixed with the angry and sad words from the ten orphans arguing because they were just thrown away like they never mattered after living lives with adventure. They were never appreciated for who and what they were, and the dump is a horrible place to live.
The Skittyfoot is a little boy with red (really red) hair who comes to visit the creatures in the meadow every day, and the little boy can talk to them and they to him. They tell him about the Tenshoes, and that they want him to go and rescue the Tenshoes from the ugly dump and bring them up to the meadow where they can live safely. But before they can come up to the meadow, they have to find things and fix themselves up as best as they can. Just because they are orphans doesn’t mean they cannot have pride in themselves.
So the Skittyfoot goes down to the dump, and ultimately gets the tenshoes to clean and fix themselves up, and help each other, which they do. Ultimately they go to the meadow with the Skittyfoot, and the little creatures in the meadow all make them welcome and they will have a forever home where they are loved and treasured.
No, I never published Tenshoes and the Skittyfoot though I guess I could have. Some things just live on in our hearts and in the compass of our souls. I’ve been a sort of orphan too, and it took me awhile, for I didn’t have a Skittyfoot or other orphans like me to help, but I fixed myself up nice and clean (there is not and never has been anything related to drugs or other similar things but a transformation from being a childhood orphan), and now I can make things like “My Shoe’s Got Soul” to help others to feel good about themselves too.
Isn’t it strange how life brings little things into our consciousness to help us learn to grow and to care for ourselves, even if we were a kind of orphan in our younger lives? And using art to fix up an old shoe that brought happiness to a life can be a symbol of that. We don’t have to find fancy things or to do anything special to make it up to the meadow from the dump. The recognition of value in little things is what brings a true transformation to us in our lives. Your life, no matter how small you may think it is, is a miracle. Live it like the true gift it is.
Talking to Rocks
Today after a doctor’s visit, I was sitting out on a little circular border surrounding a large tree. It was just about the right height for a bench so I sat on the concrete flat area that seemed made to sit on. Inside that was a ring of rocks. To look at them at first, they were all about the same size and most were round and there was a bit of change in color. I picked up one and began to study it carefully. This one seemed to have one end cut or broken off, and it revealed a much darker and varied , somewhat smooth surface, as if I were looking into it. Down one side of that top area, extended a crack that seemed as if another part of it might split off. And crossing that seemed to be attempts to cut it with a sharp object diagonally.
Something drew me to pick up other rocks in that circle and to look at them. I guess sometimes it seems that, for example, perhaps all grains or sand, or in this case, all rocks in a group are similar in size, shape, color and texture. But in this case, the more I examined the rocks, I saw how distinctly different each one was. And I began to think about how each rock might have formed and what must have transpired to make it so different from all the rest. In my mind were so many questions coming forth, seemingly spilling out like a dam that was overflowing. How could it be that stones that likely all came from the same source/location could all be so different in texture, colors, shapes and sizes. Where was this magical place and what other surprises did it hold?
As I was pondering all these wonderful mysteries, my Lyft showed up and honked for me. I grabbed the one rock with the top seemingly cut from it and put it carefully into my pocket. I wanted to look at it once again at home and I wanted to ask it questions. One thing I learned today was that we should never even take a tiny grain of sand for granted. There is mystery and magic everywhere in this world.
What’s the Point?
How many of you remember this absolutely delightful and magical story from the early 70’s? I loved it since the beginning and have listened to it over and over and over again. What might it be that makes it so appealing? Well, that would be aside from so many delightful aspects of the story of a little boy, Oblio, born with a round head when everyone else in his village had pointed heads. Can you imagine such a dreadful thing?
Although his mom and dad loved him very much, they felt sorry for him, so his mom made him a cap with a point in it so that he too could have a point and be accepted by the other villagers. He did have a wonderful little dog though, and his dog’s name was Arrow. Now, like most dogs (and other creatures), Arrow was His Owner’s best friend, and they played all the time happily together. Arrow did not care if Oblio had a point or not.
As you can imagine, eventually trouble follows the one little guy who is different from all the other folks, because he has no point. And so of course, an evil Count comes to dislike Oblio because Oblio won a game of Triangles that was only meant for those with points, and the Count’s son just happened to be one of those. Don’t you just feel the chill of what is about to happen?
That’s right – Oblio and Arrow are banished by the Evil Count because, well just because, to the Pointless Forest, the dreaded place where no Point person had ever gone. But sturdy little boy that Oblio is, he and Arrow set off on a journey with a good amount of bravery, or perhaps some kind of adventure to the Pointless Forest. Along the way he meets many characters in the Pointless forest, and one of them is Rockman, who gives him a good life lesson.
Well, there you have it. Oblio and Arrow have a long and exciting adventure with lots of amazing creatures and things in the Pointless Forest, none who have points. He returns to his village and is happily greeted by all the people with points, or so it seems. And he tells all the people with points how everything in the Pointless Forest DID have a point. They all cheer because somehow they all knew that even though they could not see it, that it did exist. Oblio had a point all along! Well, I have to save the rest of this wonderful story for you if you don’t already know it, and so I will leave you with this thought. Even if you have no verifiable proof that something exists does not mean that it doesn’t. Arrow always just knew this.
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