Starting Over

I spent this morning thinking about my Dad. I still miss our phone calls, but I am grateful that there are no unsaid words between us. I think in many ways his passing was easier than our Mother’s. We had no idea just how bad her health was. She chose to keep that to herself. I suppose like so many mothers, myself included, she put herself last. Unexpected complications from unexpected surgery, and she was gone inside three weeks. It was like a blow to the stomach where you find yourself winded and unable to catch your breath. Dad had his first open heart surgery in 1986, and from that day forward he tried to prepare us all for the inevitable. He planned and paid for his own funeral, including asking the undertaker if he could get in the casket and try it on for size. (He had quite a sense of humor, along the lines of a thirteen year old boy) His health had been failing in the last few years. A bout of pneumonia on New Year’s Eve was the final trigger. His health both mentally and physically rapidly declined. Although there were moments where we thought we saw glimmers of hope, the reality was that he was tired, he was lonely, and he was ready to go. My sister Colleen put it best. She said, ” The selfish part of me wants him to still be here, but the other part of me is glad he isn’t in pain anymore.” I feel exactly the same. The strange thing these days is not having parents. It does feel a little like we are orphans. Not in an Oliver Twist kind of way, but more that no matter how old you are, you still look to your parents for comfort and advice. I think we all want our parents to be proud of us. It’s almost as if we never outgrow “show and tell” from kindergarten. We share new jobs, new relationships, our homes and accomplishments, all in hopes of garnering their approval, a smile, or a pat on the back. As I struggle to unpack and move in to my new home, (I know, still at it. That’s a post for another day!) it saddens me to think Dad will never step foot inside these walls. I even miss the idea of him checking my paint job, and believe me he did. I know that both of my parents will always be with me, I need only to see a soccer ball, a yellow rose, to look at my face, or on those of my children, and I see them both. I also know that they will live on in my heart, although right now that hurts. The anniversary of my Mom’s death is in three weeks. It’s been eight years, and for Dad it is not quite two months. Even as I write this a tear falls down my face. I think that my heart broke when my Mother died; a break that I don’t think will ever really heal. Now with Dad’s passing I think the crack has grown a little larger. Time helps, I know that, but I’m in no hurry for time to pass. I will instead continue to try to make them proud.

I titled this post “Starting Over”, and that’s what I need to do. Between the move, and my Dad’s illness, and funeral, I have been feeling a little lost and overwhelmed. I haven’t touched a paint brush in months, (other than the kind used to paint a house.) I have done a little sketching, but I have really nothing to show for it, so it’s time to begin again. I made mention of restarting another 365 day project, and I still like the idea of it, but unpacking takes precedence. My studio is about 80% completed, as for the rest of the house…Yikes! At best I believe I’m looking at another week or two before I can begin. Time to regain control a little, and do what I was meant to do…ART!  There’s a lot of emotion bubbling near the surface these days. I hope I can channel it into some really good work.

I mentioned Dad’s sense of humor. It often showed itself in merciless teasing of Mom. That’s how I want to remember them, the laughter, the good times, and the love they have for each other. I believe it still exists, I believe God has brought them back to each other, the way they are meant to be.Christmas

Bernie's wedding

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Unanswerable Loss

DoubleTwo months. That’s how long it has been since I’ve sat before this computer and shared my thoughts, my life. One month. That’s how long it has been since I lost my Dad. I’ve been busy. We closed on our home the 7th of April, and made two trips to Chicago to see my Dad. Well, one to see him, and one to bury him. The truth is that I’ve been avoiding myself, avoiding this blog, because I wasn’t ready. Grief is a funny thing. It’s never the same for two people. I’ve written a lot about why people are who they are, and how experiences shape them. Grief has a way of pointing out the differences. Some take action and busy themselves to the tasks at hand, while others let grief surround them like a blanket held tight, waiting for comfort, but finding none. There are those who begin the desperate search to find answers, to question God, to layer the guilty “should haves”, “would haves”, and tear themselves apart. For me there is no anger. In our Dad’s final days we were all praying that he be released from his pain, and that he might be able to rejoin our Mother. Her loss was one he had never recovered from. Once those prayers were answered we were all left feeling the pain and emptiness that only death can deliver. For me there was additional sadness. Despite making two trips to Chicago in the weeks prior to his death, I had planned to go and be there for his final days. I had a flight scheduled for a Monday, he died the Friday before. The harsh reality of not living near family is that there are times when the distance causes one to feel like they aren’t quite part of things. Birthdays, graduations, the gradual growth of a child, are all things you witness from afar, and when someone you love falls ill it brings tremendous feelings of helplessness. With my Dad it was complicated further by our move. I wasn’t free to spend as much time with him as I would have liked. When our Mother died (forgive me if I have written of this before), Dad told me he couldn’t go to sleep. For more than fifty years the love of his life had been at his side, and now the bed was empty, there was no one to say goodnight to. My heart broke for him. He had always said that loneliness was the worst disease. I began to call him every night. I spoke about it at his funeral. In almost eight years I missed only a handful of nights, and when I knew in advance that I wouldn’t be able to make that call I asked someone else, usually my daughter, to make the call for me. Eventually those calls increased to every morning, and several throughout the day. I took every call he made. I wanted him to feel secure in knowing that someone would always be there. I would check the television schedule every day looking for his other great love, soccer. I would call with movies, history programs, anything to fill his empty days. There were times when we had great conversation. We would talk politics, religion, family history, and in particular movies. There were also difficult conversations. There were times when I sat here strangling the phone in frustration. Calls when he was angry at his loss, at his loneliness, and his bewilderment at God for taking “his Mary” first, and leaving him lost. Now I am the one feeling a little lost. For nearly eight years the first thing I did every morning was pick up the phone, and again every night, a call so he could hear the voice of someone he loved before he went to sleep. He isn’t lonely anymore, but I am. There is an emptiness in both the beginning and end of my day. I couldn’t call him in the final weeks before his death. I relied on my sisters to put the phone to his ear. On the morning that he died I told him I loved him and that it was time to let go. I told him it was time to go to Mommy and to his Big Mommy (his grandmother whom he adored). I had no way to know that would be our last call. He died about two hours later. Yesterday I called one of my sisters. I was the one feeling lost and lonely; I was the one who needed to hear the voice of someone I love. On the morning that my Dad passed away I was driving to the local mall. I’m sure everyone knows of the horrible drought here in Southern California, but that morning it was raining, raining hard. As I was driving my thoughts were on my Dad. I had only two hours before been telling him to let go. I thought to myself that the way it was raining reminded me of Ireland, and of course that reminded me of my Dad. I pulled into a parking space and said aloud, “These aren’t tears of sorrow; they are tears of joy, a good one is coming home.” I stepped out of my truck and my phone rang. It was my sister calling me to tell me that our father just died. Maybe in some way I knew. Maybe all of those phone calls gave us a connection that transcends this world. Dad if there was a direct line to Heaven I’d call you right now, but I know you are with Mom right where you need to be. I love you both, and I miss the sound of your voice.

It’s Final

I wrote the following a week ago. Too much to do to sit and post, and now the time is here. As of five o’clock yesterday the house officially belongs to another family. We closed on our new home today. It was a bittersweet moment to be sure. When I heard it was official all I could do was cry.
I look to where a clock once hung; I’m reminded that the time has come. The boxes are packed, the echo of hollow walls sounds with each and every step. The day I had hoped would never come is imminent. I look wistfully out my windows to my garden, my sanctuary, and know now it will belong to someone else. The process of moving is never easy. Memories reside within these walls around me, and now they will have to live inside my mind. It has been a long and difficult road filled with job loss, fear, anxiety, and wisps of hope. I recently said to Dan that it has been like have a bandage pulled excruciating slow from a wound. There is a difference in deciding that it is time to leave your home and having to leave your home. We could have hung on, but we are tired of struggle. I remind myself that things will be better once we are settled, but I think that this wound is so deep it may never close. We are lucky, I know that. There are those who didn’t make it, who not only lost the life they were living, but the four walls that contained that life. My heart bleeds for them. We made it. Through the grace of God, through the love and support of family and friends, we had a house to sell. For that I am grateful. I look for the positive in all of this, and there is much good in this move. I, the one so intimately acquainted with orthopedic surgeons, will be moving to a one story house. I will also be moving to a house half the size of this one. Half the house means half the cleaning. There is also the challenge of a new space. I passionately devoted myself to this home for almost twelve years and it shows. I have loved design since childhood, and now I begin again. That has been the saving grace through the last few weeks. I have begun looking at colors, and redesigning spaces in my mind. I am more than anxious to get to work. The next few weeks bring a new life, lots of work, and I’m sure some nostalgic sadness as well. I haven’t been writing much, too much work to be done, and too many tears. I’m ready to go. This place that I have loved so well is no longer my home, without my things around me it has become a house for someone else. They already love the garden, and have chosen not to paint over my mural, that makes me happy. I wish them well, and hope they have as many wonderful memories here as we did.

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Riley is all set to go.

Lost For Words

It’s been awhile since I’ve written. There is an old saying that silence speaks volumes. That and sometimes there are no words to adequately express the pain in your heart. I had written of my desire to have my elderly father come to live with me. To give a little back to someone who gave me so very much. That won’t happen now. My dad’s condition has worsened. My greatest fear at this point is not seeing him before I lose him. I am living in limbo these days. Our home is still on the market, we have yet to find a new one, I need to be here to sell one home and to find another. That means I can’t go home yet. Stress has become a daily habit.

…I began that draft weeks ago. I honestly wasn’t sure if I would ever finish it, or even write on this blog again, but here I am. Another of the little voices that reside inside my head has told me that the time has come. Big changes in the last few weeks. To begin with I finally made it to Chicago to see my dad. He didn’t look as bad as I expected, but my sisters tell me that what I came home to was a vast improvement from the weeks prior. It was hard enough to leave him again, I am grateful that he was on the mend when I saw him. He is slowly recovering, but I think sadly will never really be the same again. Though there were glimpses of him as he danced about in his wheelchair when he saw the Irish cookies I brought with me. There were also still trances of his boyish humor as he poked fun at those around him, and also his soft heart as he was more worried about hurting the nurses than himself as they tried to pick him up and move him. There were dark moments as well. Moments where he seemed to forget that our mother was gone and we cried again together. I cannot express my gratitude enough to my sisters for being there with him, for doing an outstanding job of watching over him, and for continuing to do so. I talked to him yesterday. He knew who I was, and he sounded even better than last week when I was there. I am happy for every good moment.

On the other home front here in Temecula there are also changes afoot. Finally having our friend who is a realtor represent us, we sold our home. We have found our new home. It isn’t miles away as we had planned, but here in this little city we have grown to love. In the end we couldn’t find an affordable safe neighborhood in Los Angeles. I’m sure there must be some, we just didn’t know how to find them. I’ve looked at more than one hundred houses since October. I was exhausted, depressed and feeling hopeless. Dan and I talked and realized that neither of us has ever lived anywhere as long as we’ve lived in this house, and that for us Temecula is home. We began to search here but again we left feeling like we would never find “our house”. We had discussed all along getting something that needed a little fixing, but nothing we looked at was speaking to us. Our friend suggested an older neighborhood, and there it was. From the moment we walked in the door we knew it was ours. We left the house and told her to stop looking. Leaving this home will still be bittersweet, but it is becoming easier by the day as we begin to plan for our life in our new home. We are excited at making that house into something special just as we did here. It is half the size, and there isn’t a single stair in the place, my knees are beyond happy.

Meanwhile my pledge to begin art again will have to wait. I am packing, and planning, and designing in my head! We have also decided that as we move on we will document our progress. More than likely in a sister blog to this. I am a great believer in fate. It has been a long time since we’ve had good news to share. Hopefully this will be the beginning of better things to come.

Questions Without Answers

There has been art this week. I am in the middle of something as I write this, but tonight isn’t a night for sharing art. It is a night about questions. I made a piece of art last week. It was a homemade postcard for my dad. It was a simple watercolor encouraging him to get well enough to come to California. Unfortunately that remains to be seen. If you have followed this blog over the last year and a half you probably surmised that my mother’s death wasn’t an easy one. That’s one of the reasons that I have questions about my dad’s condition now. For my sisters and I our mother’s death was a long three weeks of suffering, both ours, our dad’s, and obviously much more so hers. Now it is my dad who hasn’t been well for weeks. In his case it isn’t that he is even close to dying, but that we are losing him in another way. Again I won’t share details, his privacy, our pain. I can say that I am personally questioning why? Why again must we watch one of our parents suffer so much? I don’t have any answers. I only have bewilderment, pain, fear, and of course prayer.

There was another question in my life this week. Not my question, but one of an innocent eight year old who asked me what prejudice means, what racism means. Tough questions. There are of course definitions to be offered, but really no explanations. This is a child of mixed race. He is a beautiful child, a child who has unfortunately known incredible pain in his life far too soon. He is a child that some people might not like simply because of his beautiful warm brown skin. I explained the best I could, but in the end I offered him only this: We are all the same inside, and that I have no answers to why people are who they are. I wish I did. I wish I could offer him more. I wish that I had some magic that could make the world a better place. Maybe I do, maybe we all do, one child at a time.

 

 

Be Careful What You Wish For

So I dared 2015 to keep me down, and as my title states, be careful what you wish for. 2015 took my dare and ran with it.

I did start a few pieces of art, but nothing to post as of yet. Instead after the New Year’s pat on the back for creating something, I find myself struggling to create. New Year’s Eve my sister had to take our elderly father to the hospital. He has pneumonia, and worse yet has been diagnosed with some severe neurological problems. I won’t go into detail, I respect his privacy, but it is never the less a blow I hadn’t counted on. What is even more difficult is to be so very far away from him. I am not in the financial position to go. I have had some offers from my daughter, and one of my sisters to help, but I am choosing to hope for the best. For me that would mean my dad moving here as soon as he is able. I know it won’t always be easy, but it is the least I can do for him.

My dad worked hard his whole life, and he did it all to give us a better life in this country, his chosen home. I don’t know of anyone who loves Ireland as much as he, but he knew there was a better future somewhere else. He left Ireland for Canada, and Canada for Chicago. When he came to this country he talked his way into a job driving a CTA (Chicago Transit Authority) bus. He had never driven one before, but he had a pregnant wife and two kids, and he needed the work. He always told a hilarious story about driving the bus down an alley in downtown Chicago. He was stopped by a police officer who took one look at my dad, who was clearly very young, heard the brogue, knew he was fresh “off the boat”, laughed and let him go. Later he learned a new trade; he became a painter and wallpaper hanger. He was one of the best. For a number of years he was “the painter in the zoo”, at Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago. I have fond memories of days spent there. When Jessica was a baby, my sister and I would bring Jess and my nephew John to have lunch with Papa at the Children’s Zoo. Just a few years ago while in his seventies, he cut in a portion of a wall for me. His normally shaking hand as steady as a rock while he held that brush. He often worked two jobs to meet the private Catholic school tuition for my sisters and myself. My mother worked as a waitress from four in the afternoon sometimes until two a.m. to help fill the gaps. I don’t know how they did it, but they did. Below is a photo of the First National Bank of Chicago, sixty stories high. My dad painted the outside of it, once dangling from its side from a safety harness when scaffolding broke. He was fearless, strong, and would go to the ends of the earth to take care of us. Now he is old, frail, and lost without my mother. As a friend said, “Sampson is lost without his Delilah.” How true.

1st national bank

So 2015, I offer my deepest apologies. Can we start again? I just want my dad to recover, and to hopefully have him spend some time here with me in sunny Southern California. I have lots of plans to keep him busy, including a few little painting jobs that will hopefully bring back some good memories. I love him dearly, and miss him terribly. For now all I can do is wait and hope, and when the time is right to head to Chicago and bring him back with me.

One more photo from happier times. Dad outside the Lincoln Park Conservatory with Jessica as a baby.

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Get well soon Dad, I love you.

 

A Year Of Possibilities

Happy New Year one and all. Another new year, another new beginning. Another chance to hope for better things ahead. We started out 2014 with Dan still unemployed. We started out worried, yet hopeful, that somehow, someway, better things lay ahead. Not everything came out as well as we hoped. A job that has definitely had its ups and downs, but employment none the less. We started 2014 with no idea of changes coming our way, including our daughter and son-in-law moving to the other side of the country, and our son moving out. To say that 2014 left me adrift is barely hitting the nail on the head. With Jessica and John so far away, Brian gone from home, and from enjoying Dan’s company every day for sixteen months to barely seeing him at all (thanks to a one hundred and ninety-four mile round trip daily commute), I’ve been feeling lost. I miss the kids. I miss Dan, but more so appreciate every day what he does for us. I had hoped by now to be moved somewhere closer, and to be gainfully employed myself, but as we all know life can be the ultimate magic act, taking hopes and dreams and making them disappear right in front of our eyes. I am no longer sure of my place in the world. One thing I have learned in this life of mine is that only I am responsible for my happiness. I think I forgot that for a while. December kept me busy in fairyland, but while my hands were working, my mind was thinking. I don’t want a job. No, that doesn’t mean that I don’t want to work, but rather that I don’t want to work for someone else. I have all the employment that I need in my hands.  I need to begin filling my time, as well as my bank account, with what I do best. The amount of creative things that I can do is quite impressive (if I do say so myself!) So 2015 I dare you to keep me down. Life, I’m old enough to know the secret to a lot of magic acts, I’ve looked behind the curtain. No disappearing acts this year.

Just before I sat down to write I began my first project for the year. A few months ago I stated that I wanted to start a new 365 project, then my engine stalled (I think it was all the glitter), fairies were occupying my every waking moment. New year, and the holiday rush behind me, there are NO more excuses. Commence the creating. Whether I make it back later tonight with something to show remains to be seen, but I will be working, I will no longer be drifting, I will be anchoring myself to my life’s salvation, art. Here’s to a good year ripe with hope and possibility, and making my life better for myself. If things go as planned you might all just be hearing from me a little more often, and in the process have some beautiful work to look at.

Just in case…one of my photographs from here in the hills of Temecula.

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Validation

I didn’t expect to be writing again so soon, but as always I write when I am moved to by the universe, recent events, or sometimes because I need to blow off steam. This morning I write for a different reason. For many years when people asked what I did I would say, “I am an artist”, while the entire time in my heart and mind I felt like a fraud. Last year in one of the earlier posts of this blog I wrote about a woman I met who in a way challenged me on calling myself an artist. She asked if I had sold any work, the implication being that if I hadn’t, that somehow I couldn’t claim the title. I have also heard of others being called “professional artist”, again the implication being that unless one is earning a living by selling their work, they are somehow an amateur. I was angry about it for some time, that is until I came to understand that the proclamations of the judgmental crowd are merely words of jealousy cloaked in self-righteousness. Picasso, Monet, Van Gogh, Wood, O’Keeffe, names sound familiar? There was a time in each of their lives when they didn’t earn a living as artists, they still painted, they were still artists, they just weren’t selling any work yet. I guess if you read my blog you know by now that judgement is a sore issue with me.  I honestly didn’t intend to head down the rabbit hole of defending myself to these people, but I feel my temper rising when I think about being judged as an artist by people who can’t or don’t create…..breathe…breathe…

OK, so now the real reason for my writing this morning. Last night I mentioned my work on etsy. Again, there are not as of yet many offerings in the way of prints of my work. It is at the moment more crafty kind of stuff. One of the things I have listed is a box. It is called the “Key To My Heart” box. It’s a small box made of paper, not quite cardboard, though it is sturdy, and inside this box I made an accordion of paper sentiments about love. A few days ago a young man on the other side of the world reached out to me. He said that he couldn’t think of a better way to express his love for his girl than with my piece of art. We have exchanged a few messages back and forth. My offer on etsy is to create a personalized version for the recipient, including quotes, verses, song lyrics, etc., anything the purchaser wants included. Last night he told me that the reason he wants this box is to use it as a means to propose on New Year’s Eve. There are no words to describe what this means to me as an artist. That someone is so touched by what I have created means everything to me. I have had to deal with more than a few detractors in my life. People who are not supportive of what I do, and have no respect for my talent. On the other side of the world there is a young man who is anxious, excited, and thrilled in anticipation of receiving my work in the mail so that he can give it to his love. The last page will be his proposal. I am hoping she is as moved by it as I am in creating it for her. When you can create something through words, through music, through painting, photography, or even craft that causes someone else to feel, you are successful, you are an artist. I need no more validation than that. I may not be Picasso or O’Keeffe, but I am no less an artist than they are.

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Behind The Mask: Faceless Hatred

So here I go once again, just when I thought my words about words were over and done with. Not so fast. On Sunday in the New York Times magazine there was an article about a case that will be heard by the Supreme Court. It is about the 1st Amendment, and the individual right to free speech. Seems like a clear-cut case right? It isn’t. It seems a marriage dissolved, the male half of the couple went onto social media and posted about wanting to kill his ex-wife, he actually went into some detail, and more than that he made a video. He claims that he was venting anger and frustration, that he never actually intended to follow through on any of what he wrote. Meanwhile, the ex-wife was very frightened, enough to take out an order of protection. She does not feel that he should be able to terrorize her even if it is only through words. He served some jail time, and is now suing for his right to free speech. (This is a very simplified explanation of the case.) The case that will be presented to the Supreme Court is asking this question: What is more important, the right of the individual to express what he feels? Or the rights of the person that those words focus on who lives in fear of the threat?

I don’t think there is one among us who hasn’t said something in anger that we aren’t proud of, or wish we could take back. I’m pretty sure we have all also been rather casual in tossing around the word “hate”, “I hate him.” or “I hate you.” Sometimes in jest, sometimes in reference to an actor in a movie, someone we don’t even know, but for some reason there is something about that person you find distasteful. We don’t really hate them. I think for most people if they really did hate someone they would have a difficult time saying it to the person’s face. This is my issue with what this man did, and for that matter what people in my own life have done. I mentioned the family member in my last two posts who was saying hateful things. Do I really think he hates my husband? No I don’t. Social media have become society’s mask to hide behind. How easy it is to say mean and hateful things when you don’t have to look someone in the face. It makes bullying easier, it makes racism easier, it makes sitting in judgment easier. Think about it. Isn’t that the reason that a particular organization wears white hoods covering their faces? Would you have the nerve to walk up to someone you barely know and call them a coward and a liar? I am asking all of us to remember that behind that screen lies a human heart that can forever hold the scars of what it’s mind sees and reads.

I ask because someone I know has just had such an experience on Facebook. He wrote a remark on someone’s post. He did it because the person was mistaken, it was not his place to do so, and I have told him that. It didn’t end there. Someone else that it had nothing to do with joined in. The person I know sent a  private message that man and questioned why, but told this man he was doing it via private message as to not have a public discourse on a page that belongs to someone else. What he got in return was a message calling him a coward for not posting publicly, and calling him a liar. He is neither. He has not responded, although he wants to, but I have told him to let it go. This person doesn’t know him. I can only assume through connections that he may have heard things that aren’t true, but I can’t be sure. Fueling ignorance gives people more to feed on. Do I want to say something? You bet I do (Obviously I have a lot to say about a lot of things….), but I won’t.

As I said before, I don’t want hatred or anger in my life. I am just deeply disturbed by those who hide behind the mask. Why must people resort to name calling? When my husband was dealing with his family member he asked for facts. He never got any. He got name calling. What is wrong with old-fashioned debate? What happened to, “I believe you are mistaken for these reasons…fact…fact…fact.” In return, “I see your point, but were you aware of…fact…fact…fact.” It worked that way for a long time. I am aware that even facts can be skewed to one’s own perspective, but at least no one was calling anyone else a liar.

There is a loss of decorum in our society, a loss of self-respect, class, and by that I mean to present oneself to the world in our best sense, through the way we act, dress, and speak. It is becoming increasingly easier to spread untruth, to spread vile words, to spew hatred. I’m on the fence with the Supreme Court decision. I do believe in free speech, very much so as I write what I believe here on these pages, but I also feel a duty to not use my words to hurt people. Free speech was meant to make us a better people, a greater Nation, by giving us the right to criticize that Nation.  It was never meant as a blank check to use as a means to bully teenagers into killing themselves, or to cause fear in another because of anger and frustration, it was never intended to be used to dehumanize our fellow citizen. We live in a country that guarantees us the right to speak, but we should also as citizens not just of this Country, but as citizens of the world at large, use our words carefully. I sometimes write of spirituality and love, today I share wise words from some who are far wiser than I:

Matthew 15:10-11

And he called the people to him and said to them, “Hear and understand: it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.”

Sahih Muslim

He who believes in Allah and the Last Day should either utter good words or better keep silence.

Jewish Proverb

A bird that you set free may be caught again, but a word that escapes your lips will not return.

Dalai Lama

“Silence is sometimes the best answer.”

In the end I guess I do have a few more words, and quite possibly some wise ones at that.

Jacqueline Zuckerman

If you could plant a field of seeds would you sow? Roses or weeds? Remember that words are like seeds, once sown they take root in the hearts and minds of others.

And with that, I have no more words, I only offer you something lovely to plant in your mind for today.

Sunset over Temecula on Sunday, just breathtaking.IMG_1053

The Theory Of Three

It seems I am obsessing once again. My last post about a family member is still bugging me. I get obsessed the way some people get fleas, it itches and itches, and never seems to go away, unless of course something new happens for me to obsess over.

My mother always said that everything comes in threes. If there was a plane crash you can bet she was waiting for two more. We are Catholic, and Irish so there is the legend of St. Patrick and the shamrocks that represent the Holy Trinity. There is the rule of thirds in photography and art. If you are a collector then you know that three makes a collection. If you are a driver’s ed student there is of course the dreaded three-point turn. I started thinking about this today as I was driving through a parking lot. What triggered my thoughts were the people crossing through the lot as I stopped to let them pass, and how this can be related to people in our every day lives.

There is the apologetic one. You know, the person who scurries as fast as possible as if apologizing for getting in your way, head down, quick steps, glancing nervously sideways to make sure you haven’t changed your mind and are going to plow them down any moment. Then there are those I consider “normal”. They appreciate that you’ve stopped, they give a quick smile and a wave, and continue on their way. Finally there are those that act superior. They step in front of your vehicle nose in air, refuse to look your way, and stroll leisurely (sometimes on an angle!) in front of your car, as if they are the most important person in the world and you are an inconvenience in their day. I began to think that maybe people come in threes as well. There are of course existing socioeconomic groupings, Rich, middle-class, and poor, but I think in general the rule of thirds can be applied to many of us. There are the life of the party people, friendly, out-going individuals, who seem to fit in everywhere, former cheer leaders, high school quarterback types, they ooze charisma, and when you stand next to the finer examples of them you feel horribly inadequate. (I say finer examples, because aside from the rule of thirds, there also exists a sliding scale, some people are on the bottom of their group, some are on the top.) Then there are what I shall refer to as the “Norms”. Regular people who try to live their best life, they are friendly, nice, will go out of their way to help in any way they can, feel more comfortable in a small group, and don’t enjoy all the attention. Applying my sliding scale once again, there are people in every group that bear traits from another. Finally, there are the people I will refer to as the “Eeyores”, you know Winnie the Pooh’s com padre. Nothing is ever good enough, everyone is out to get them, cheat them, they never get a break, think everyone else has it better, I could go on, but I’m sure you may know an Eeyore, and understand what I’m talking about.

Back to my obsessive point. Religion. It can be a wonderful mysterious loving thing. It can also be an excuse for doing the wrong things. My three people rule again. There are people like me. I have my beliefs, I live what I hope is a life that includes doing good things for others, and caring for others needs. Loving my family, my friends, trying to be a good member of humanity at large, but not feeling the need to shout what I feel and believe off the rooftops, or to force what I believe on others. I am a firm believer in “to each his own.” No one knows what is going on behind the closed doors of another house. No one knows what resides in the hidden parts of the individual hearts and minds of others. I say, “Do not judge, less thee be judged.” Returning to the family member who made the remark about Dan going to hell for not accepting Jesus as his Lord and Savior, I have a question. (Not for him in particular but to the universe at large.) What if say you were born into a family that practices Judaism? Are you wrong for believing what you were taught and raised up in? Are your parents and ancestors liars? The answer is an unequivocal no. What if you were born in one of those South American tribes that are deep within a jungle and never heard of Jesus? Anyone? Locked out of heaven because you didn’t get the memo? My husband asked his brother at the time if a man who harmed a child, someone who did a horrible thing, but who accepted Jesus was going to heaven? He said, “Yes.” ( I say again here, for that man who is guilty of harming a child? Hate what you did, I can be angry, I can have intolerance for the act, but not my place to judge. I don’t know where you came from, I don’t know if you are mentally ill, or if you were a tortured child yourself. God will decide.) But Dan, Dan who stops to help old people in grocery store parking lots, who can’t pass a homeless person without giving them whatever he can, or buying them a sandwich, Dan who is a great and loyal husband, a very loving and giving father, he’s going to hell. That would be my number two kind of religious person. The kind that hold themselves above others because they believe. They wield their faith like a hammer ready to pound it down in judgement against others. I envy the faith that some people have. Mine tends to be a little shaky at times, but what I don’t agree with is the superiority complex that sometimes is part of the package. There are amongst that group some who spit fire about God and the bible, but then would deny aid to those in need. Senator______(fill in the blank). Finally, the worst in my book. (And that would just be in my book, my personal opinion, trying not to judge, but sometimes….) The religious zealot who uses the words of their God, whomever that God should be, to twist them in to a crusade of harming others in God’s name. I’m not judging here, I’m right, you’re wrong. We are all God’s creatures, even the ones who don’t believe exactly like you do. Not your place to decide who gets to stay and who needs to go. Stop hurting people, stop killing children, stop claiming to be acting in the name of God when you do horrendous things. No God, I mean no God at all, wants us to hurt one another. Religion and faith are about peace and love. I have mentioned these wise words before, they come from my dad (and as always must have a soccer reference. I’m paraphrasing here), “It doesn’t matter what color jersey you are wearing, as long as you play the game.” He was talking about faith and spirituality, and I’m with him. I don’t care who you believe in or how, that is up to you. I believe in a loving God, a forgiving God, a God who knows what is in your heart and in mine. What I do care about is when people hurt each other no matter what the weapon of choice, a sharp tongue can make a deeper cut sometimes than a sharp sword, remember that.