One of my sons was in a city with a few friends a few years ago. They were out socializing and trying new places and it was late and they walked into a bar that was not familiar in a part of the city they were not usually in.
They entered innocently, probably laughing, probably not paying clear attention, went to the bar to order, in their own world. And then. Suddenly he noticed something was off. They were being watched by a few big, scary looking guys.
They were clean cut college boys. The only ones of that type in this bar. And as he turned around, only a few feet away now, there was a group right there. Maybe not wanting their space invaded. Maybe not wanting their "kind" in there. Maybe wanting them to leave.
The biggest guy had many spiked piercings in his face. My son was 6 feet tall and this man was inches taller. His shoulders were almost twice as wide. The tall, pierced man had a leather jacket that was covered with metal studs. He was like a modern day knight, ready for battle, silver glinting from his face and his upper body. I mean, nails and needles and studs all over. Intimidating. Can you see him?
I am not done. He had done something with his eyes. They were coated or covered or tattooed ... I have no idea but they were all white or gray. I cannot remember now, but they were scary and different and monster like. You could not "see" this man.
Now my boy is good with people. And open to difference. But he was nervous. He knew the group right there was not going anywhere. They had positioned themselves to interact.
My son noticed this. He noticed a few things. My son spoke first.
"Hey, man. I love your jacket. Where did you ever get a jacket like that?"
The bar was quiet. Everyone waited. And then.... it had to happen.....bam!
The big, scary, studded guy told him all about his jacket. He had made it himself. He took great pride in it.
My son listened to the history of the jacket's making, for he was interested, he had noticed the patterns in the studding, the artistry, no detail left undone. His comment had been genuine admiration. He was not surprised when he heard of the hours of time that had gone in to getting the jacket "just right."
The studded guy took his jacket off. He never let anyone touch it, he said; and his friends laughed and agreed. But he offered to let my son try it on. And so my son did. He put the scary eyed man's studded, still warm, and maybe even sweaty, jacket ON.... It weighed a ton, he said. It weighed a ton. They took a side-by-side, smiling selfie. He took the jacket back off and gave it back. They all had a beer together. They shook hands goodbye.
I loved this story and I love my son and I learned so much from him when I heard it.
We had our first cup of coffee.
I was thinking I could wish for spring weather but today I choose to love the cold while it is here. This morning I decided to suddenly trim some ivy in the backyard- so I got the kitchen scissors and clipped through it. I was in my bathrobe and had my little old dog with me on his long leash.
Today though, why brace against the cold when we can let it be and feel alive in it? When do we reach for new places and when do we stay put? What gives us clarity and what distracts?
Meanwhile, the little dog grappled with his own worldly perspectives. He sniffed the ground despite his intermittent heart cough. He kept me company. When he had enough he walked as far as he could into the garage and gave his "I have had enough" bark, that remains strong despite his age.
Winter. A season of clarity and quiet to consider clipping away what might entangle us, what we have had enough of. May we consider wisely when we need to change and when spring comes have the energy to reach and grow.
We went in for our second cup of coffee.
The other day I experienced such a spring treat. A young boy in our neighborhood went past the house on roller blades. In his hand he had a yoyo, and he was not just holding it while he skated, he was making it go up and down. Yoyo-ing on rollerblades! What a great celebration of spring.
Today I picked out some chocolate things at Wegman's. The girl who rang my things up looked at each one and announced out loud what it was. "This is a rooster. This is a bunny. This is a different kind of bunny. This is a hen." She did it for all 7 chocolate things, and I appreciated her little girl enthusiasm for the Easter items.
The other day I waited for Johnny K to drive home from work. We sat on the front porch and each had a Fat Tire. Neighbors walked by. The air was almost warm, the sun was out, and we were feeling like we made it through another winter.
The other day my friend Sandy did me a huge favor AND brought me one of her home made peanut butter eggs. I am still reliving how perfect it was to eat. She gave it to me at 9 in the morning and I started eating it at 9 in the morning. Sometimes you just gotta.
Reese's has a new kind of peanut butter egg... Little hard shelled ones. I never had them before. If you loved peanut butter and Fluff as a kid you should get some. OR if you loved peanut butter and Fluff as a kid you better not get any of these. Your pick.
When I was a little girl in Massachusetts Easter would come and sometimes you would have a patch of grass peaking through mostly snow. It would still be winter. And I would make my way with my patent leather shoes somehow to the grass spot, to stand on it and just smell the dirt grass smell.
I loved wearing a straw Easter hat with ribbons that trailed down, a little elastic band under my chin to hold it on.
Today my friends son was in a video reciting Bible Verses on Facebook. He is getting so big and is such a sweet boy. Meanwhile my niece is pregnant with her second baby and we will find out Easter Sunday if it is a boy or girl.
All this is just tiny little moments of life. You have to pay attention to these tiny moments though. I like to count them up, and realize them as they happen, make sure I do not miss them.
As Mandy Hale said,
"Dance. Smile. Giggle. Marvel. TRUST. HOPE. LOVE. WISH. BELIEVE. Most of all, enjoy every moment of the journey, and appreciate where you are at this moment instead of always focusing on how far you have to go."
Lives should not be taken by sudden bullets to the head. And yet they are. I have such love for the mothers left to pick up the pieces.
I sat on the floor of my kitchen yesterday with my little dog. I fed him a clementine. For years he has known when a clementine was being peeled. He would promptly find me and sit reverently at my feet, waiting quietly as I bit the last few sections in half. I would hold out his side of the piece. He would swallow it and then be an alert little sentinel, patiently waiting for the next slice.
He is a smooth black and tan miniature dachshund, who was born in rural Pennsylvania on May 14, 2001. Now he is gray and white and black and tan. You can picture him as an elderly gentleman, winding down from life. If "a dog year equals seven people years" rings true, this May he will be 105.
A few days ago he lost his footing and fell down the stairs, and though he is okay, he has been quiet for the several days since.
One busy morning a few weeks ago I took him out to start his morning, and I was already an hour into mine, important thoughts whirling in my head. He walks slowly with a swaying lilt. I was urging him to be faster about his to do list. I told him I had so many things on mine. I was wanting the walk to be over so I could get on to my next thing.
I remembered why I wanted a dog, why I pushed for a dog, why I looked for a dog, why I found a dog, why I reserved a dog, why I drove hours to Hillside Kennels in rural Pennsylvania to pick up our new dog.
I wanted to have someone who would make me get outside to play. I wanted someone who would take walks with me, and never say no. I wanted someone to listen to me talk about adult things when I was lonely. I wanted someone to be a loyal friend to my boys. I wanted someone to snuggle with.
Oh my little friend, I think. Oh my little friend. You have gifted me with everything I ever asked you for.
So, yesterday I sat and fed him a clementine. Or I should be more clear. Yesterday he was propped in his own bed. I sat reverently at his feet. Waiting quietly, an alert sentinel, I hand fed my honorable little friend his very own clementine, slice by slice.
"Now, before we get too excited, I want to pause for a moment and ask you to consider all the negative conclusions that I could have drawn about this incident, had I been in the mood to ruin my life."
Write to me for the details and to reserve a spot:
Come and play.
I have been curious about making America great again, as in the political slogan “Make America great again!” Who doesn’t want America to be great… again? I am not sure I get what it means.
I looked the words and the punctuation up.
Ok. So we want to cause America to be or become above normal or above average, i.e. prominent, eminent, important, distinguished, illustrious, and celebrated; as America was at sometime previously; and we say this with “strong feelings or high volume (shouting)” which is what the exclamation point adds.
We are those things, now. And we could be better. But does our better come from fear, walls, limiting our tolerance, and buying more killing equipment? Who are we, here?
I found some old greatness in America that inspired me.
Who doesn’t love the forefathers? All of us, right? We argue about so much and at the same time we all claim the forefathers. The forefathers gave us The Constitution; but they also gave us a gift we see so often we have ceased to see it. Gather your children around. Get ready to talk about this over dinner or at the water cooler. Pull your wallet out. I bet you a dollar you will feel even better about those men when you remember this.
We have a symbol of America’s greatness right at hand maybe every day of the year. It grounds us to who we might be as citizens and reminds us of what our country’s visionaries wanted us to be. We hand it over in exchange for a Starbucks coffee and a Dunkin Donut… you know, American things.
Our One Dollar Bill features the front and back of the Great Seal of the United States. Patriots we still honor today, including John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson, were in on designing and approving of this seal, along with other brilliant talents of the time. Congress adopted it in 1782, six years after the Declaration of Independence was signed. Their design embodies guiding principles that were chosen to represent the people of the United States of America. This was a living, breathing, newborn America choosing symbols to guide the new country in to the future.
According to Joseph Campbell in “The Power of Myth," an interview with Bill Moyers, the United States was a model for how the whole world could be.
"Here we had 13 different little colony nations that decided to act in a way that mutually benefitted the interests of all, without disregarding the individual interests of any one of them," Campbell said. Hopefully you have rushed to pull a dollar bill out of your piggy bank. On the back are both sides of the Great Seal. Start to notice everything that is here. Look at the left, the pyramid. How many layers do you see in the pyramid? Thirteen layers, representing the thirteen colonies, which together make up one pyramid for one nation.
Think about this pyramid as a symbol for our birth, labeled with 1776 on the bottom. A pyramid has four sides. I love how Campbell explores the idea of this pyramid; the four sides are the four directions; North, South, East, and West. These are the four points of the compass. There is someone at each point. “When you are down on the lower levels of this pyramid, you will be either on one side or the other. But when you get up to the top, the points all come together, and there the eye of God opens.” Look at that amazing eye at the top, representing reason. The forefathers were not talking of a particular God, but rather a God of Reason, accessible to all. They believed that all men were competent to know the mind of God; that there was no revelation specific to any people.
(If you are not a God believer, do not feel you are lost to the magic of the seal. Maybe see if you can find your own magic, for Campbell claims that in the basic theme of all mythology throughout the history of man “there is an invisible plane supporting the visible one.” Be open to finding your invisible plane.)
At the top of the pyramid there are no sides, there is the eye, the vision, the ability to see in all directions at once. The eye is surrounded by what they called in art, “glory,” which were beams of light radiating in all directions, also known as “divine lustre.” Glory itself is a beautiful word, defined as resplendent beauty or magnificence; a state of absolute happiness, gratification or contentment; or very great praise, honor or distinction bestowed by common consent. The beams of glory are on our seal.
The words Annuit Coeptis can be translated as “favor our undertakings” or “(he) smiles upon our endeavors” and in truth George Washington himself spoke about the many times he felt that providence had intervened to help them achieve independence from Britain.
On the other side of The Great Seal of the United States: an Eagle. The bald eagle, wings out, known for its six to seven foot wingspan; bald coming from the old English word “balde” meaning white headed. This magnificent bird who can see another eagle in flight 50 miles away, the bird who is estimated to dive at 75 mph, the bird that can literally swim with its wings, the bird that mates for life and raises its young in a huge sturdy nest it repairs each year, raises them to be independent and fly away when self sufficient, the bird who can soar effortlessly at 100,000 feet. We are given the gift of this bird on our seal. In one talon it carries arrows. In the other talon is an olive branch representing peaceful conversation. How many arrows are there? How many olive leaves are on the branch? In heraldry, or the making of coats of arms, the most important idea was placed on the right side as you hold your shield; your own right side. Look at the eagles right side, what is in the talon on its right? Which “side” is the eagle looking toward? The choice of item to put on the right, and the eagle looking toward that side is meant to be intentionally directive.
Around its neck is the banner, E PLURIBUS UNUM; out of many, one.
Out of many, one. A model for today.
This seal represents us even now. The “Eagle” side is used to ratify peace, cooperation and trade agreements we make with other nations.
There are many more details that I will leave you to discover on your own. Me? I am going to go wave a flag and sing a few verses of "My Country Tis of Thee" and contemplate how I can be the best I can be in this great land of ours.
It represents us all, this Great Seal of the United States. Let us stand tall.
Yesterday I was in line at the grocery store and I could not help but eye the order of the man behind me. I could see what he had planned for Christmas dinner. It was loaded with delicious potential. Our own order, cockles and mussels and salmon and fresh parsley and basil plants and can after can of San Marzano tomato's... showed that we had lots of entertaining ahead.
"Everyone's choices are so much more interesting this time of year," I said to him as I nodded toward his order.
"I know! I have never bought a pomegranate!" he shared happily.
Even the talking in line is different.
I am thankful for the change in music on the radio and the lights in the windows and the smell of pine and the use of candles and the chance to cook and be cooked for. I am thankful for the Christmas decorations I have now had for years; especially the beautiful wise men and manger that were my Grandmothers. I am thankful for stockings hanging and the anticipation of filling them. I am thankful for the plastic placemats I found that smell the same as every doll I ever got from Santa Claus, for at least a few days out of the package I would smell that smell as I kissed my doll's face.
I am thankful for the memories I have of my older brother waking me up in the dark, and telling me that Santa had come, and then telling me what was in my pile because I was too sleepy to get up yet. Too sleepy because it felt like I lay in bed wide awake for hours trembling with excitement that Santa was coming. I am thankful for my parents who made those Christmas mornings so delightful. I am thankful for the overwhelmingly busy times making Christmas for my own children; even for the wrapping until 3 AM Christmas morning; what a treat it was to deliver the same kind of excitement I had enjoyed as a child. So much work but so much fun!
I am thankful for the memories of my grandparents at their houses, special things they cooked and certain dishes they used, that I now try to use the same way. I remember a pair of little red boots my Grandfather chose for me when I was eight, and then he died suddenly just after Christmas. Within two weeks his mother, my Nana, died of a broken heart. So there are those memories, too.
Yup peeps, my eyes and heart well up with love for family and traditions. We have special friends come for Christmas Eve... A special "Christmas Eve" family that I have celebrated with since I met Johnny K. Things are always changing. We would not appreciate the happy if we did not also experience the sad. Life is rich with feelings, always.
If things are good, this too shall pass. If things are bad, this too shall pass. So just enjoy. Enjoy this minute and what you have right now.
It seems like all religions have a celebration of some sort this time of year.. So whatever yours is, I wish you love and frivolity and depth of feeling and surprise...
I wish you the best of this life.
I wanted to tell you what happened to me last weekend, something very meaningful to me. The last few days when I have shared the story, it seems to stir up a little happiness in people, a little hopefulness. I want to capture it here.
When it happened it made me cry the first few hours on Saturday, made me unable to speak clearly, just ask my husband. I would start to cry again even as we ran our Saturday errands.
“We did not just argue in the car; I promise,” I told the salesperson as we looked at stoves.
"I would hate to think someone would cry about appliances,” she said.
“I just got a message from my Aunt. She died almost two years ago,” I said.
Humor me with my little series of events:
I think of my aunt often. In December, two years ago, she sent me the last Christmas gift she would send me. It looked like a jar of shells, but when you read the label it was chocolate candy made to look like shells. I ate some in December and some in January and when she died that February there were only three shells left.
With love, I put the jar with the three shells in my green wooden pantry cupboard. There it stayed, tucked in the back, a sweet reminder. One year, a year and a half, plus a few more months, it sat.
In September of this year I was walking the dog at night. The streetlights were on, and from prior walks I knew the light by the wooden walking bridge seemed to light randomly. It was houses ahead of me and I noticed it was off. I thought:
Auntie, you might light it for me when I am under it
We walked 10 steps and then the dog sniffed and then we walked 5 steps and he sniffed again and then my monkey mind took over and I had passed under the light without thinking of it. It is so hard to pay attention in this life. I had passed three more houses before I suddenly remembered. As I turned to look at the light I thought:
Auntie you did not turn on the light
… and just as my eyes went to the light, the light went on.
Five seconds later it was off. The precise timing made me smile with teeth showing. I asked the dog if he had seen it. He was not paying attention.
When I got home I told my husband, and he listened carefully. He reminded me that the light does flicker, and I said I know, the timing was just pretty cool. I know the light flickers. Probably it was nothing. Just, the timing was amazing. Just as I looked at the light it went on and then off.
Within the last 5 weeks, one day I was home alone and really wanted chocolate. Craving chocolate, I remembered the jar that contained the 3 shells. I thought of her on my own so often, much more often than I saw this jar in the cabinet. So I ate them.
My loving connection was strong without the reminder.
One day more recently; maybe within the last two weeks of this five weeks; I read that if you want to get an answer from someone who has died just ask, and then stay open to getting an answer. And so I asked to hear from her.
Auntie, I would like to hear from you.
This world has frazzled me a bit, was what I was saying to her.
I need some of your goodness, Auntie.
This brings us to Saturday, December 5th. We were going to do errands. My husband went to get the mail. He brought me back a package. It was a small box that had been covered with brown paper the way we used to, an inside out paper bag cut to size. It was from my uncle, my aunts’ husband. I would not even know his handwriting. He has never mailed me anything.
Inside the box was a jar of chocolate shells.
Yes. Pause here, my lovely friend. Feel the wonder.
And then, after you breathe, see that:
Inside the box there was a note.
Unfold the note with me. Take your time. Read it with me:
"The other day a voice came from somewhere asking me to send you this package. It has been on the sideboard for almost two years. I always knew it was for someone special."
Later, your son notices what was on the used box that was brought up from the empty box collection in uncles basement, because it looked to be just the right size… there are angels on the box.
If my aunt can keep her eye on me, so can yours.
For twelve years I have been working as part of an expert organ donation team. This is the life saving transplant recovery team, the team that works with the families that save the lives of the people you hear about on the news.
Many times I have had the honor of trying to support parents through the loss of their child. On this day and night and morning the doctors had documented with careful tests over time that there was no blood flow to any part of this little baby’s brain. His body was supported by technology only. His chest rose and fell in breaths provided by a machine. Because the oxygen was sent into his lungs through the machine his heart was getting oxygen and would continue to beat. Another machine kept his body warm because there was no life in the brain to control that. Medications ran through his veins because there was no life in the brain to maintain the blood pressure. Once mom and dad understood that he had died the machines would have been turned off. But first we talked to the parents about organ donation. Momma became hopeful that her son could be an organ donor. This baby had a chance to be a donor because he was brain dead. While we coordinate all the details the technology stays in place.
This dear mother and dad were the parents of two children, a 3 year old and their little one who had died that night. They waited for hours, with their 3 year old at the hospital, while tests were run, and then lists of sick children were printed. Midnight came and went. This baby could maybe save the life of another baby through the gift of his liver. The family took turns holding both of their children, the active 3 year old in the waiting room and their little baby's body as we worked. Baby looked like he was asleep, yet they knew he was gone. They were patient. The family does not have to stay at the hospital all this time but some families choose to stay.
Hours went by. Disappointing news. There were no children in the US that were a good match for this precious gift. This little baby liver was showing too many signs of stress, and doctors were afraid it would not function well after transplant. Every possible doctor was asked. Once we exhausted the US list, we called closer areas of Canada, just in case. The parents desire to rescue another child, and save another family from losing a child, was not going to be possible. Sometimes these expert surgeons determine that the gifts offered are not strong enough to survive transplant.
We try to come up with thankful words that capture the hope they gave to everyone waiting, that just the time and the trying was so very meaningful and important.
Mom and dad said good-bye to their little one. Mom held him as the technology was taken away. As she saw him into the world, she saw him out of the world. I hopelessly patted her shoulder during their last minutes together, witnessed the last kisses and the tears. Finality. Meanwhile Dad’s tears ran onto the head of their sleeping three year old in the waiting room.
We are always amazed at the families we meet. So many of them are willing to give the very biggest thing. Life to a stranger. And the moments we share with these families are so deep and pure and holy.
We left the sounds of the ICU behind. We joined dad in the waiting room. Their 3-year-old son was groggy, half sleeping, as dad propped him into sitting upright. Momma and I squatted down in front of them, and the little guy allowed her to put one of his shoes on and me to put on the other. I tied it with double bows. I snuggled him into his little coat, zipping it up for the snow outside. Momma got a knit hat out of her canvas bag. She placed his hat on his head. She pulled his hood up over it. He did not want to stand, so Daddy stood and picked him up.
Mom stood there and seemed to have lost what to do next. I reached for her bag. I packed some stray toys in it. I put in a folder she had received, and a little booklet about grief. Mom still stood like a statue. I held her coat up, helped her into it. I placed her scarf around her neck. I put the bag in her hand, and then actually wrapped her fingers around the handle. I squeezed her hand. I looked into her sad eyes. I held her a minute. Then I took her arm and we left the waiting room. I got the elevator. I rode down to the lobby with them... saw them safely seated. It was 3 AM. They did not have their own car. Grandma was coming to give them a ride home. If she had not answered her phone they would have called a cab.
Yes, really. This heroic couple. They did not have their own car. And yet they gave the gift of this waiting, until the wee hours of the morning. Grandma gave a gift, too. Grandma was coming to give them a ride home. If she had not woken and answered her phone, their plan was to call a cab.
I hope you can feel them. What wonderful people they were.
I think we can all be kinder.
Melissa Regan has approached grieving families about Organ Donation for over 12 years. She is a wife, mother, lifelong learner, and lover of the wonder you can find in a single moment. Recently she changed her life by studying Positive Psychology and Let Your Yoga Dance®. Join her in taking a day to be thoughtful... the rest of your life is here.