Christmas Touchstones

“We’re so caught up in our everyday lives that events of the past, like ancient stars that have burned out, are no longer in orbit around our minds. There are just too many things we have to think about every day, too many new things we have to learn. New styles, new information, new technology, new terminology … But still, no matter how much time passes, no matter what takes place in the interim, there are some things we can never assign to oblivion, memories we can never rub away. They remain with us forever, like a touchstone.” 

Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore

Memories of Christmas past find their way into my head this time of year.

I bet you have some of the same ones crowding into your mind these days–

  • Growing up in Iowa, every year we prayed for a white Christmas. One of my favorite memories is the year the forecast called for no snow. As I walked into Midnight Mass late that night, I prayed for snow. As we turned to leave the church that very early Christmas morning, the doors opened onto a scene of white. Snow had been steadily fallen for some time, covering the trees and the ground with snow that looked like crushed diamonds. The air was quiet and calm–the silence enveloped us all in a blanket of peace. This is my favorite Christmas moment.
  • Today was the last day of school here in our neighborhood. I had to laugh, remember leaving school for Christmas break and telling everyone we’d see each other next year.
  • Getting ready for our school Christmas program and getting to wear my Mom’s red lipstick. I felt absolutely beautiful.
  • Going to Midnight Mass with my family and resting my head on my Mom’s shoulder as we sang Silent Night together.
  • The year my mom died, we went to Midnight Mass, came home to eat chili and open presents. This year when we woke up Christmas morning, we discovered we all had new gifts under the tree. I still don’t know where all these gifts came from but they were an extra special boost to three kids spirits that year.
  • As a young adult, singing Silent Night with my friends and co-workers before we left our neighborhood bar and headed home for the holiday. Because of the memories I have about this song, Silent Night always makes me cry.
  • Remembering that first Christmas with family and friends after moving far from home. That first Christmas back home taught me the true meaning of Christmas joy.

As Christmas draws near, set aside a little extra time to be with those you love. When I look at my list of remembered things, I don’t see any gifts mentioned. All those special memories revolve around time spent with people–people I’d give anything to have the chance to spend time with today.

As some of us still search for that perfect gift, stop all the rushing. Pack away your phone and give those you love those extra moments of your undivided attention.

That is the gift that will be remembered–always–and most likely get better with age.

“When we recall Christmas past, we usually find that the simplest things – not the great occasions – give off the greatest glow of happiness.” 

Bob Hope

I am…

B…simply being…

~Peace~

 

The Sorcery of a Name

“A name can’t begin to encompass the sum of all her parts. But that’s the magic of names, isn’t it? That the complex, contradictory individuals we are can be called up complete and whole in another mind through the simple sorcery of a name.” 

Charles de Lint, Dreams Underfoot

This is such a tricky time of the year.

So many emotions come bubbling up to the surface when we are least expecting them and least prepared.

What I once called the season of magic is now a little more haunting.

Memories steal into my mind when my guard is down–before I’ve had the chance to reinforced all my weakest check-points.

I know I am not alone.

I’m thinking one of the most beautiful gifts we could give each other right now is the gift of time. The gift of an evening filled with conversations about those we are missing this holiday season–whether this is the first or the sixtieth. A time filled with names that are rarely–if ever–heard these days. An evening where names and stories are shared without the guilt often associated with those things judged to be well past the appropriate time frame of grieving.

The worst part of holding the memories is not the pain. It’s the loneliness of it. Memories need to be shared.” 

Lois Lowry, The Giver

I am…

B…simple being…

~Peace~

“Names are a way to keep people in your mind” 

Maggie Stiefvater, Lament: The Faerie Queen’s Deception  

 

 

 

Yesterdays

“My yesterdays walk with me. They keep step, they are gray faces that peer over my shoulder.” 

William Golding

The thoughts that came into my head this past week surprised me.

Most of them spurred on by a collection of odd dreams that weaved in and out of my rather drugged state. Others came all by themselves, unbidden, following the breadcrumbs left by their predecessors.

Most of the faces I saw were from my very early career in radiology and their visits left me feeling all kinds of emotions.

I couldn’t help wondering what it’d be like if we could all work together again as the more adult, more mature versions of our younger selves? It makes me shake my head and slowly smile.

We were such an interesting collection of people–some very young, eyes wide open as they saw the unexpected and learned, others a little older, pushing to establish themselves in a small but demanding department, and the older, established few who saw the world of medicine changing all around them, unsure where they would fit in.

I was one fighting for my spot. As I bounced around in my search for new territory, I was not always very kind nor was I anywhere near as smart as I thought I was. I know–all surprising, right?

Many of the old familiar faces visited me this week–thank you. It was haunting and blearily lovely.

 “When we are tired, we are attacked by ideas we conquered long ago.” 

Friedrich Nietzsche

I am…

B…simply being…

~Peace~

Shorthand

“They talked in the shorthand of old friends and shared memories.” 

Dee Henderson, Before I Wake

This summer has been special because I’ve had the chance to reconnect with old friends. It has been wonderful.

Friendships are interesting and sometimes complicated. My friend, Mary, had to talk with her grand-daughter, Charlotte, this past week because Charlotte’s friend next door was not being very nice. Those early childhood friendships can be hard for young minds and tender hearts to understand. Thank heavens Charlotte had Grandma Mary to help her understand how friends treat each other. Lucky me for being part of the friendship example Mary used in her story. Charlotte was so surprised to hear we had been friends for over 40 years and had text conversations every morning.

Looking back on my life, I have memories of many different friendships. Some were brief and superficial–like those summer time friends I met on vacation or at the pool. As summer ended that connection faded as the new school year began. Other friends I met along the way became part of my life for a year or two. We shared common interests and goals–as those interests changed so did my circle of friends. It wasn’t always easy but it was all part of growing up. I was lucky, though. There were friends I met along the way who became part of my life. Many became my family of choice–there beside me when I needed that level of support. I cannot imagine where I would be today if they had not been there for me. As we grew up and started our adult lives, it didn’t matter how much time passed or where we lived–we knew we would always be there for each other.

Thanks, Jodi, for letting me use your photo in my story today. I Wish I could have been there with you guys–next time. By the way, you all look marvelous. I love you.

“While they talked they remembered the years of their youth, and each thought of the other as he had been at another time.” 

John Williams, Stoner

I am…

B…simply being…

God bless.

~Peace~

 

Sunday Dinner

“You can kiss your family and friends good-bye and put miles between you, but at the same time you carry them with you in your heart, your mind, your stomach, because you do not just live in a world but a world lives in you.” 

Frederick Buechner

I’ve been thinking about family lately.

I think turning 65 is pulling at some heart-strings.

For many years every Sunday my sisters and I would get together for family dinner. I’d cook and we’d sit around. We’d share our stories of what happened to us that week, play cards, and drink some beer.

It was, by far, the most under appreciated time of my life.

As we begin our weekend, let’s all make a conscious choice to take time to appreciate those you love. Absorb every single moment, tucking those irreplaceable times safely away in that place you put all those special memories. One day these every day occurrences will give you comfort beyond measure.

“I may not always be with you 

But when we’re far apart

Remember you will be with me

Right inside my heart” 

Marc Wambolt, Poems from the Heart

I am…

B…simply being…

~Peace~

 

 

 

The Reflection in the Mirror

“A woman or man of value doesn’t love you because of what he or she wants you to be or do for them. He or she loves you because your combined souls understand one another, complements each other, and make sense above any other person in this world. You each share a part of their soul’s mirror and see each other’s light reflected in it clearly. You can easily speak from the heart and feel safe doing so. Both of you have been traveling a parallel road your entire life. Without each other’s presence, you feel like an old friend or family member was lost. It bothers you, not because you have given it too much meaning, but because God did. This is the type of person you don’t have to fight for because you can’t get rid of them and your heart doesn’t want them to leave anyways.” 

Shannon L. Alder

I have been home from Colorado for a few days now and I have some incredible memories.

I was welcomed into my friends’ homes where we talked for hours. The years evaporated as we all remembered old times while sharing our latest adventures and hopes for our futures.

One visit was especially special. It is the picture highlighting my story today.

Not only did I get to see my dear friend, Paula, she set time aside to cut my hair. Now–this probably seems like no big deal.

It was a very big deal–let me tell you why.

I met Paula in 1985–she was just out of cosmetology school and I’d just moved to Denver. We were both searching for people we could relate to–not an easy assignment for anyone back in the 80’s. We sat together through many stages of each others lives. I followed her around to various locations, sitting in her chair as she stood behind me–both literally and figuratively. We supported each other through the big hair days, perms, perm re-dos and more perm re-dos, highlights, blind dates, engagements, marriage plans, marriages, births, deaths, and dozens of other assorted stories we have both sworn to take with us to our graves.

She has been my professional confidant for decades. I had no idea just how much I’d missed her.

It’d been well over three years since I’d been in her chair. To have the opportunity to plop my rear into this spot once again was both powerful and healing. In a manner of minutes, I saw my old self emerge.

My haircut was the immediate visual part of our visit. It was during the quiet moments that followed as I made my way across town I realized my soul was once again rejoicing in another much needed Denver re-connection.

Thank you, Paula. I love and treasure you.

“While they talked they remembered the years of their youth, and each thought of the other as he had been at another time.” 

John Williams, Stoner

I am…

B…simply being…

I am blessed and I am grateful.

~Peace be with you, my dear friends~

 

 

 

The Flip Side

Affirmations are our mental vitamins, providing the supplementary positive thoughts we need to balance the barrage of negative events and thoughts we experience daily.” 

Tia Walker, The Inspired Caregiver: Finding Joy While Caring for Those You Love

I talked about the power of words yesterday, giving examples from my life. Bringing these stories back is difficult at times–

We all have stories in our past that caused us pain. I’ve worked hard to dodge my stories for most of my life. I buried them, thinking they’d dissolve over time and just fade away. For me, once my mind was free to focus on me instead of my career, those memories stirred. I no longer had my work buffers in place. The rumblings of those long dormant memories grew stronger, bolder, and more persistent. They’ve refused to quiet.

My heart told me I was ready to search for the real me. My teachers began to appear in forms of old friends, articles, and books. I knew it was time for me to share the more difficult stories. I needed to do that so I could let them go–flip things around so I was using them to move forward instead of them using me to pull me back.

I share to give hope to those who are experiencing or have had similar struggles. I hope my words give insight to those who recognize some of their own behaviors. We are here on this journey together to support each other–easing the rough spots while sharing our experiences and knowledge.

“You are here, alive and awake and for whatever reasons you have fought your battles, it’s time to start focusing on what strengths pulled you up when the entire world had knocked you down. 

That’s where the virtue in self grows.” 

Nikki Rowe

I am…

B…simply being…

God bless.

~Peace~

Again, I am privileged to have another amazing photographer willing to share his talent with me. Thank you, Brian Gustafson, for allowing me to use your photo with my blog post today. It is a visual image of what my inner turmoil feels like at times. You can view more of Brian’s work by following the link below: https://fineartamerica.com/profiles/briangustafson.html

 Please note, no re-use of this photo without permission from the photographer.

 

 

Merle

Re-sharing my Father’s Day post from last year.

Daddy,” I whispered, feeling my own breath hitch in my throat. “I love you.”

Just when I was sure he was asleep, the one corner of his mouth lifted in a smile. “I knew that,” he murmured. “Always knew that.” 

Morgan Matson, Second Chance Summer

I was never good at writing about my Dad. It seemed like many of the kids at school had adventure stories to tell about their Dads–places they went or things they did together. I didn’t have those experiences. My story was always short. My Dad worked. The end.

He was the manager of the lumbar yard in the little Iowa town where I grew up. I did not really know exactly what that meant–but I was proud of him and that he was the BOSS–cool.

I’m not sure why, but I spent a lot of time there. I loved hanging out with him. I met a lot of the people who came in to ask him how much lumber they would need for this or what type of wood they should use for that. Some came by just to visit and share stories. I was very young–probably seven or eight years old. He would take a minute to introduce me to his customers. If he was out of the office, his bookkeeper, Delta, would do the same.I felt like just another one of the guys–and I liked that.

My favorite thing to do was clean his desk. It was a collection of catalogs, papers, and a gigantic business ledger. Now, as I look around at my own desk, it looks very much like the desk I used to “clean up” for him. He was a stacker. I did not realize until now that I’d inherited that trait. Gotta love those things that pop into your mind, onto the page, and into reality! I would dust and clean and re-arrange the stacks, all while listening to him order supplies or talk to customers on the phone or in person. He would tell those visiting that I was there to help him work and I was doing such a good job it would take him weeks to find things again.

What is so amazing to me now is how tolerant he was of me being in his work space.

I met most of the sales people who called on him. My favorite sales person, and a friend of Dad’s, was a man named, Royal. I think he was my first crush. He drove a huge, shiny, black car. (A car that would come into play later in my childhood.) Royal was very tall, tan, had thick very dark, slicked back hair, and he always smelled good, like my Grandpa. Regardless of the weather, he wore a suit with a tie. Dad would tell him to loosen up his tie and relax for a bit. I am sure I just sat and stared at him. He would take Dad over to the pool hall and buy coffee and pie–I was always invited and I had my choice of ice cream or a malt. One of my most vivid memories is Royal giving me a wooden nickel–remember those? Each time he was scheduled to visited, Dad would tell me so I could join them for coffee and I’d get my nickel and ice cream. I absolutely worshipped Royal. He made me feel special and he would sit with Dad, have coffee, and make us both laugh. I didn’t always understand what they were talking about but I knew he made Dad happy. Of all the things I did understand, even as a little kid, was that making Dad laugh was no small task.

Dad was not the typical Dad nor were we the typical family. He expected a lot from his oldest daughter–the daughter that he really wanted to be a boy. We all did our best, as strong and stubborn individuals and as an embattled family unit. We certainly faced some extreme situations. I am sure there were times when things were not handled very well but we somehow found ways to stay together. What I have come to understand is we all did the best we knew how to do with what we knew at the time.

I wish I had taken the time to really talk to him. I was so busy working at being the woman who could do it all and learn it all. I was fully aware that time was racing by but I felt I’d have that next visit to sit down and talk. That’s the cruelest of tricks, though. You always think you will have more time. Don’t fall for it, my friends.

Interesting, isn’t it,  for someone with no story to tell about their Dad, I seem to have stumbled upon some wonderful memories.

Take some time today to talk with your Dad–listen to him and tell him how important he is to you and that you love him. Next Father’s Day may be too late.

Give yourself the gift of making a memory today.

I am…

B…simply being…

Love and Peace, y’all

My Little Sister

This is my story from a year ago–edited so I can share today.

“The reality is that you will grieve forever. You will not ‘get over’ the loss of a loved one; you will learn to live with it. You will heal and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered. You will be whole again but you will never be the same. Nor should you be the same nor would you want to.” 

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

I lost my little sister eleven years ago today.

Beth Ann Burton was the best person I ever knew. She loved me and most people she met unconditionally.

I love you, Beth Anna, with all my heart. One of the clearest memories I have is hearing her tell me she loved me bunches and bunches.

I miss her every day–Sundays are, by far, the worst–even after all these years. I still find myself looking at the clock around five thinking it’s time to call her. Those Sunday calls began when she moved to Des Moines from Waterloo–I’d call to see how she was doing with her new job in a new city. The calls continued after I moved to Denver. Both our lives were busy–she worked two jobs and my job demanded a lot of my time. Regardless of what was going on in our lives, I don’t think we missed a Sunday call.

“Childhood memories were like airplane luggage; no matter how far you were traveling or how long you needed them to last, you were only ever allowed two bags. And while those bags might hold a few hazy recollections—a diner with a jukebox at the table, being pushed on a swing set, the way it felt to be picked up and spun around—it didn’t seem enough to last a whole lifetime.” 

Jennifer E. Smith, This Is What Happy Looks Like

I am…

B…simply being…

I love and miss you, Bethie.

~Peace~

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jesus Christ Superstar

Mercy, peace, and love. May the grace and Lord surround and be with you on Good Friday.

 

Good Friday has always been a special day for me. I love the ritual of The Mass celebrated today. Everything about it–the smell of the incense, the number of celebrants, the length and the drama of the readings–it left me with a feeling of anticipation.

The Church tested me as a young woman growing up in the 60’s–it is an ongoing challenge.

Then Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice wrote the rock opera, “Jesus Christ Superstar.”

It captured my soul then as it does today.

As so often happens, music transcends time and space.

Whenever I hear any part of any song from this work, I am transported back to the early 70’s. I am sitting in front of a console stereo system in the dining room of my friend, Pam.

I can hear the first album of the two album set drop onto the play table. I see the collection of friends gathered to hear and share the new album slide closer together, huddling around the lyric sheet, reading, and singing.

Remember those album sleeves with song lyrics?

This is a powerful memory, burned into my mind because of its magical simplicity and clarity.

I will be listening to the live televised presentation of “Jesus Christ Superstar” this Easter Sunday.

I’ll probably cry.

Pam was another friend I lost this past year.

But I’ll be smiling, too.

I’m thinking Pam will be singing along with all of us who are now scattered across the country. I’m wondering how many of those who used to gather at her house and select the different stacks of albums we’d pile onto her stereo system will be seeing and experiencing this same memory?

I’m betting I won’t be the only one with a tear in my eye.

I wish you all a blessed Easter and remind you to treasure those you love and keep them close.

I am…

B…simply being…

God bless.

~Peace~

My thanks to Jeff Durst for allowing me to use his photo of the Catholic Church in Mason, Texas, published in the Backroads of Texas Facebook page. Please do not re-publish this photo without written permission for Mr. Durst. I am blessed to have so many wonderful and generous photographers in my Facebook community. Thank you, Jeff.