Archive for January, 2014

The Grey Wolf Moon

 

The grey wolf moon hung

Veiled by clouds

That tore at his fur

And made him sing.

The winter wind

Howled its reply

And called me from

My hiding place.

 

The grey wolf moon hung

Shivering

His blood ran cold

And made him cry.

The winter wind

Howled its reply

And sent me trembling

In the night.

 

The grey wolf moon hung

Silently

He saw me watching

Far below

The wild clouds

Rushed to hide

His face

As darkness filled the

Winter sky.

©2014 Pamela Stead Jones

“I think laughter may be a form of courage. As humans we sometimes stand tall and look into the sun and laugh, and I think we are never more brave than when we do that.”

   — Linda Ellerbee

When people see my son, Dan, and his family, they see two young parents with three of the happiest kids you’ll ever meet.  They are sweet, polite, ornery, funny, and captivating as only a six-year-old, five-year-old, and one-year-old can be.  They see hardworking people who married young and planned to wait five years before starting a family.  Three months later, they were surprised to learn that a baby was on the way.  Dan had just celebrated his 20th birthday and Crystal was still 19.  As I thought back to the birth of my first child, just before my twenty-first birthday, I knew they were in for an adventure; but I also knew there would be lots of fun ahead.  We all began to prepare for the arrival of the mystery baby the next summer.

What we were not prepared for was the news halfway through the pregnancy that there were some differences in the way the baby was developing.  Some of her insides were on the outside and there were additional challenges that would mean surgery on the day of her birth — and more than a dozen since then.  And the other thing we were not prepared for was the courage that our kids dug deep to find as the due date for their daughter’s arrival approached.

Now there are many people who have said, “it’s so much to deal with, and they are so young;” but I am here to tell you that there is not a person alive who is old enough to do something courageous.  Courage does not know age limits or experience — although I do think we learn to trust our courage as we are challenged again and again — rather, courage is a decision to have faith that life’s events happen for good purposes, that everything will be okay even when the outcome is not what we planned or expected, and that each new day brings opportunities for us to live, to grow, to love, and to laugh.  And they laugh.

If courage is looking into the sun, in spite of sometimes needing to squint against the discomfort, and still being able to laugh, then I am here to tell you today about the courage I have seen in a little girl, her parents, and her little brother and sister who have been born into a different sort of life.  Especially, today, I want to tell you about the courage of my daughter-in-law, Crystal.

Three days ago, for the umpteenth time, Crys loaded Cheyenne into the minivan and headed out for a day of appointments at the Children’s Hospital where they see the specialists who have monitored Cheyenne and kept her in working order for more than six years.  Every trip for these appointments carries a certain amount of stress, and the treatment ideas of one specialist sometimes conflict with the goals and ideas expressed by another.  To be “just” the mom, who looks at a whole child rather than the parts that make up her body, is a daunting job.  To have the courage to laugh and chat and play music on the way requires a sort of courage that we mere mortals simply do not understand.  Wednesday’s appointment was one that had all the potential to raise unanswerable questions, and the only thing anyone looked forward to that day was having it over.  Instead, we all were surprised by great reports.  Ahhhhhh…the collective sighs of everyone who loves Cheyenne could be heard for miles as they escaped every heart of the people who hold her dear.  For the first time in a very long time, Crystal’s courage could take a small break.

Yesterday, the school called to say that Cheyenne needed to come home.  She was having pain and was in distress.  Two days after the news that all was well.  This is what it is like to live a life that requires courage always to be close by.  When the call came to see whether we were free to watch Harper and Noah, I could hear that Crystal had been crying.  It struck me, as we made arrangements, that in more than six years of being Cheyenne’s mother, I never had heard Crystal cry when a crisis occurred.  How many people can be that challenged, that called to dig deep every single day, and only show the laughter — as they stand tall and look into the sun.

As we played yesterday, Harper — the little chatterbox — told me, “my mommy was crying today when we went to Chey’s school.”  “Really?” I asked, “why do you think she was crying?”  “Because she was sad that Chey’s tummy hurt.”  “I see,” I said.  “You know, everybody cries sometimes.  You cry sometimes, and even I cry sometimes.” “I know,” she answered, “you cry when I go home.”

Yes, I thought.  And if that’s the best example she can find, then the courage of her mom is raising a well-adjusted five-year-old in the midst of all the demands of her older sister’s life.  And she does it with equanimity, steadiness, and love — even when she probably feels like she has none of the above.

When people see my son and his family, they see two young parents with three of the happiest kids you’ll ever meet.  They are sweet, polite, ornery, funny, and captivating as only a six-year-old, five-year-old, and one-year-old can be.  Strangers never would suspect that there could be a need for courage in their life.  When I see them, I see superheroes who daily rescue a life for their children from possible disaster.  But when you’re courageous, there is no room for doubt.  You simply stand tall, stare into the sun, and laugh.

 

 

“Nothing is invented and perfected at the same time.”
     – John Ray

It seems as though we’re always in a hurry.  Between the demands of the many activities we choose to fill our work and leisure time and the instant delivery of information and goods through technology, we sometimes forget that it is all right to slow down.  To think.  To invent.

Our instant lifestyle can trap us in the thought that an idea has failed if we do not perfect it on the first try.  We forget that invention is only the beginning and that perfection is the result of many attempts to bring an idea into physical reality.  We forget that a successful prototype may not completely fulfill the dream we have imagined and bring it to life.  We all have dreams that exist in our minds, our hearts, and our souls.  They wait for us to liberate them, and dreams do not require deadlines.  Sometimes they lurk in the background and cry out to us from time to time to come and revisit them and recreate them in a more complete way.  Sometimes, when we bring a dream to life, another dreamer sees it and delivers a missing piece that makes the dream live.

What is important is that we continue to dream, that we do not abandon an unsuccessful prototype as a failure, that we make notes of how our dreams evolve and change and grow closer and closer to realization with each attempt we make to free them.

Do not be discouraged.  Look at the lessons in the world around us:  seeds grow to become trees, a small trickle of snow that melts high in the mountains feeds the stream that becomes a mighty river, sparks create wisps of smoke that soon spawn flames.  Remember that no dream is realized in the instant it is dreamed.  Tend the seed and love it as much as you love the fruit-bearing tree.  Watch the sparkle of the tiny trail of water and love it as much as you love the mighty river.  Tend the spark and its wisp of smoke, and soon you will be warming yourself by the fire.

Above all, remember to dream as often as it takes to bring that dream to life.

“Will you still need me,will you still feed me..When I’m sixty-four?”
     — Paul McCartney

Well, the cat is out of the bag.  Yesterday I turned 39 for the 25th time.  For those of you who left your calculators at home, that means I’ve reached the ripe old age of sixty-four.  Now I suppose I’ll have to find a new theme song, because Paul McCartney’s question has been answered.  I was both needed and fed on my birthday this year, and it makes the future look more inviting than ever.

“What are you going to do for your birthday?”  When friends and family asked that question, and I told them I was spending the day babysitting Harper and Noah, they seemed to think I was crazy.  “Why would you want to tie yourself down with a couple of little kids on YOUR day?”  Well, first of all, that news was all it took to prompt my sweetheart to take a vacation day and spend the entire day with me.  Second, it answered the first part of Paul’s question — “will you still need me?”

There is no doubt that a day spent on one’s twenty-fifth 39th birthday with a five-year-old and a one-year-old is designed to prove to us that we still are young, still are energetic, and still are able to meet the needs of people we love.  It is good to feel needed as we reach the middle years and be reminded that we may sometimes seem archaic in our views, but we are definitely not obsolete.

As for the second part of the question, “will you still feed me?” I must say that I was abundantly fed.  Seventy of my Facebook friends took the time to wish me a Happy Birthday and five others cut right to the chase and sent e-cards.  My family celebrated my continued existence with a party on the weekend and some thoughtful sentiments and gifts.  I know there are people who think social media does not qualify as friendship, but I think they are wrong.  Where else could I have gathered to celebrate with family I’ve known forever, friends I’ve known since childhood, old friends I haven’t laid eyes on in nearly forty years, and cyber-friends I’ve never actually met but know through our shared interests?  I could picture the face of every single person who wished me another special year, and hearing from them brought our shared stories to mind and made me smile.  All that love certainly feeds me; and for that I am most grateful.

I have been needed, fed, and celebrated; and I think that qualifies as a Happy Birthday.  Thanks to everyone who still celebrates with me, when I’m sixty-four.

Happy Birthday to ME!!!

Enjoying a day off — see you tomorrow!

“Happiness? That’s nothing more than a good health and a poor memory.”
     — Albert Schweitzer

I am feeling happy today.  For the past week, I’ve had a sinus thing that has had me seeking naps rather than excitement, solitude rather than company, and some miraculous way to clearing the fog that has surrounded by brain and made the usual tasks of life seem more difficult than usual.

Today my head feels clear.  I may still seek a nap, but it will be a deposit in my sleep bank that invests in keeping up with future surprises — not an emergency run to the drive-up window that makes up for a deficit.  For the first time in a week, I am not focused on how I feel, except to feel excited about a busy day that begins a couple of weeks with more excitement than downtime.  Already I am forgetting what it felt like yesterday when my planned rest didn’t happen as scheduled.

My memory feels sharper today as well; but I do believe it is possible to cultivate the ability to forget misery and move on to what lies ahead in life rather than to dwell on past disappointments.  I think that is what Schweitzer meant when he said that a poor memory contributes to happiness.

Today I feel happy.  I am enjoying the pleasure of good health; and I am committing this feeling to memory so that the next time illness comes my way, I will remember to look ahead to better days.  I wish you all good health, a poor memory for past sorrow, and a fantastic reminder to keep hope for what lies ahead.

Today is a truly great day!

“Better pass boldly into that other world, in the full glory of some passion, than fade and wither dismally with age.”
     — James Joyce

Today marks the first time that my dad will not get older on his birthday.  He stopped aging on July 10th at the age of 91 years, five months, and twenty-seven days.  When I think of Dad, I think of the many passions he pursued during his time on Earth.  As his daughter, I would like to follow his example and be sure to have something in my life to be passionate about until the time comes that passing into the other world becomes my passion.

When Dad was a young man, he pursued many passions.  He loved to compete and played tennis as well as being a member of the track team in high school and in college.  He was not much for studying simply for the sake of taking in information, but he loved to express himself orally and in writing.  Although he laughed about earning a degree in Philosophy, his experiences in thinking and speaking led him to his passion for sales.  When Dad had a product to sell, his passion for the usefulness it would bring to a customer was contagious; and he enjoyed great success in his work.

As he reached adulthood, he left tennis behind and began learning to play golf.  His love and enjoyment of this self-competitive sport was rivaled only by his love for his sweetheart and their offspring; and he lived passionately, pursuing the things he loved most.  When the time came to retire, Dad had a plan to pursue his love of golf on the courses in Florida; but in fairly short order he began to have trouble with his back that took away the pleasure of swinging his clubs.

We wondered what would happen when Dad no longer had this passion in his life, and I will admit that we sometimes worried that he would lose his joie de vivre without it; but we need not have worried.  When golf went by the wayside, Dad and Mom began to pursue a new passion together as members of the choir.  Their shared love of music soon had them performing with a group of eight who sang their way around the state, even enjoying the excitement of performing for President Bush when he came to town.

When Mom began her descent into the world of dementia, their singing was replaced by a life of holding tight to one another as they navigated this unknown and frightening world.  Dad’s passion became caring for Mom, often at the expense of his own health; but there was no way to convince him to abandon his desire to be there for the woman he loved.

His last year was a difficult one, as his health began to decline; and there were several times when we thought the end might be near.  Still his passion for caring for Mom carried him through.  It was only when he truly believed that the people in their Assisted Living home would be there for his wife and care for her properly that he was able to embrace the thought of moving his passion to the next world.

What Dad taught us is this:  We don’t gain a passion for living by sitting and waiting for something exciting to come our way.  True passion comes from deep inside us; and we can embrace many different passions during the course of our lives.  What is important is to wake every morning with a passion for being alive.  Where to place that passion will come to light if we are ready, willing, and eager to pursue the excitement within us.

Happy Birthday, Dad.  It seems strange to think that as I mark your day this year I will begin to catch up with you.  As much as I hope to reach your final age, I hope to catch up to you in passion for living.  You have left me with a good example.

“All the powers in the universe are already ours. It is we who have put our hands before our eyes and cry that it is dark.”
     — Swami Vivekananda

Are you afraid of the dark?  We tell our children not to worry — not to be afraid of the dark; but are we doing them a disservice by using these words?  If our origins are in the Light, then there should be no darkness to fear — after all, it takes only a tiny speck of light to banish darkness.  It is our natural state to be drawn to light, just as our eye is drawn to the tiniest point of light in a dark room.  So long as we keep our focus on the light, we have no time to be worried or afraid when darkness comes.

If we are made of Light, how can we even perceive the world as a dark place?  Is there really darkness, or is the darkness in our desire to hold back from shining all that is in our souls?

The fact that we are made of light does not necessarily mean that shining light on our humanity is an easy thing.  We may see things about our world that make us uncomfortable.  We may not trust that the Light that is both our origin and our destiny will be strong enough to prevail against the sorrow, the pain, and the heartache that sometimes define the limitations of being human.  When the inevitable pain of being human becomes a part of our existence, do we turn away from the Light and seek a dark corner to hide?  Do we put our own hands over our eyes and cry because we are afraid of the dark, when the truth is that we are afraid of the power that is the very essence of our Light?

We must remember who we are and what we are made of.  We must remember to tell our children to have courage when darkness comes — and not to be afraid of the Light.  It is only in embracing the full power of the Light that we can banish the darkness that creates a shadow and obscures the truth about our existence.  Do not be afraid of the Light.  Take down your hands and let it shine wherever you look; and know that you were made to shine.

“Don’t say you don’t have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michaelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein.”
     — H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

There simply are not enough hours in the day!  I once complained about this to my mother and told her, “I wish someone would invent a 36-hour day.  Then maybe I could get everything done.”  Her reply was to be careful what I wished for — I would have it filled in no time and still forget to get enough sleep.  She probably was right.  I have always felt blessed to have a list of things that stirred my curiosity that simply could not be completed in a 24-hour day; and when I reach bedtime, I simply tell myself, “that’s what tomorrow is for.”  I love my long list because it keeps me engaged in living and excited about the start of a new day.

The funny thing about my endless list is that it require me to create more lists.  With so many interests to pursue, I begin each day with a list of the essential tasks I must complete in order for life to run smoothly.  It is truly amazing how efficient we can be at taking care of business when we know there is a longer list waiting to be explored; and it is truly essential for those of us with long lists not to become so lost in our explorations that we forget to pay the rent.

It is true that each of us gets only twenty-four hours each day.  It is true that each of us must decide how to spend that time.  What set Mother Teresa or Albert Einstein or Michelangelo apart from the crowd is how they chose to spend their hours, their minutes, their seconds each day.  What a wonderful place our world could be if each of us valued our allotted time the way those people did.  What a wonderful place we could create if we stopped complaining that we don’t have enough time and made a commitment to prioritize our hours, our minutes, and our seconds.  What growth we might experience if we stopped making excuses and took the risk of living out loud and pursuing our passion.

Whatever your passion might be today, remember that you have only twenty-four hours allotted to pursue your dream.  So take care of business, keep your list in order, and stop wasting time.  There is greatness of some sort in each of us, just waiting to be liberated.  Let’s choose wisely and live our moments before time slips away.  And don’t forget to get a little sleep.

“How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of the weak and strong. Because someday in your life you will have been all of these.”
     – George Washington Carver

Lending a Hand

 Don’t worry about who is helping whom…just grab a hand and stick together.

I have been told that I’m a member of the Sandwich Generation.  Since I have been raising a grandchild, I sometimes think of it as a club sandwich; but when the humor is done and I come to the end of another day in the middle of my life, I know that I am blessed.  I’ve been thinking quite a bit about life in the middle lately; and although we are taught to dread reaching this point, I’m discovering that it is really a great place to be.  We come to the middle with the perspective of a bit of history and with gained wisdom that can see into the future while savoring every moment we are living in the present.

With little grandchildren in our family, we have times to relive what we have learned about being tender with the young.  Our experimenting with this tenderness, during our early years as parents, has become a natural phenomenon — and now we enjoy the added perspective that we do not need to hurry when presented with tender moments.  We can make them last and savor them in ways we could not when we had all the demands of parenting.  When we think of how quickly our babies became parents themselves, we know with certainty that there is nothing more important than kissing that boo-boo or reading a favorite story three times in a row.

We have seen our elders morph from young, vital parents into great-grandparents.  We have felt the world shift as gradually our roles have reversed and we find ourselves making the decisions, providing the help and encouragement, and offering the solace that once they offered us.  We can see our future in their journey toward the end and learn a new depth of compassion as we realize that one day we will be the ones who long for a bit of tenderness, a hand to hold, and an ear to listen to our stories.

We have lived long enough to know what it is like to struggle, to fall, to stand again, and to persevere.  When we see those things in others, we have the wisdom not to solve their problems, but to encourage them as they find their own answers.  We have learned to celebrate all the wonders of being human and become better friends to the others we meet as we explore the winding road through life.

No matter what stage of life you are experiencing right now, I would like to assure you that being in the middle is a wonderful place to be.  If you already have been here, I know you will agree.  If you are on your way, I encourage you to grab hold of every human experience and tuck the wisdom you gain in your pocket.  You will cherish it when the time comes to take it out and use it.  As I sit here today, in the middle, I celebrate it all:  the compassion, the tenderness, the tolerance, the falling and the standing up again.  There is no escaping our humanity, and that is the good news.  Life is great in the middle of being human.