Thursday, February 28, 2013

An Adventure

Tomorrow I am heading out to the Dominican Republic joining a group of 13 women to visit a school in Jarabacoa for a week. It is called a mission project, but with all the reading I am doing, I think it might better be called pilgrimage - having an opportunity to spend a week in an unfamiliar country where we will be allowed to mingle with the children attending the school. How lucky are we!

At this point, I am encouraging myself to be open to the possibilities of what might happen - attempting to leave expectations out of the scenario and go with the flow. For me that needs to be a conscious decision, otherwise I will have preconceived notions on how to fill the days rather than relax into the rhythm and flow of the culture and the school. I am willing and ready to do what is asked  - whatever that might be. Stay with me as this story unfolds.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Hometown Heroes

Some thirteen years ago, our local paper began a monthly feature called Hometown Heroes. The intention is to  tell about individuals who have made a difference in our community and share their philosophy of life, so that the rest of of us can be inspired . So often we think of heroes as folks who we see on the news and in major magazines, yet in our midst are people who quietly contribute to the well being of local area.

Susan Knickerbocker came up with this idea. She had a dream one night describing in detail the format and what needed to be in the column. She contacted the paper and met with the editor, who ultimately accepted the idea. Susan hadn't necessarily thought that she would be writing it, but that's how it has turned out.  

This is my favorite part of our paper - focusing on the good in people who are like the rest of us. My soul needs good news and it needs knowing that there are people close at hand doing the work of supporting our community in countless ways.

Even if you don't have a monthly feature in your local paper, think about who you might consider as a hometown hero. When you look around your community and family with this in mind, you may be surprised at what you find.

Friday, February 22, 2013


In our small town of Langley in the 70's, there lived among us an amazing artist called John Braun - also known as the Magic Man. He lived on the island until he died in the early 2000's. I loved visiting his studio to see what new creations he would be making with feathers, beads, parts of nature he found around the town, coins, discarded items - all found their way into his necklaces, sculptures and wall hangings.

The degrumper is one of my all time favorites. The sketch shows an actual degrumper made of some sort of pod that still has the peas in it, so that when you shake it, it makes noise. He adds feathers and beads as a handle and off you go - ready to get rid of your grumps.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Grandpa's Throw

Jim and I were visiting our friend, Beth, in Tucson. Her husband's dad had recently passed away and the usual clean out of the house needed to be addressed. While working in the closet, Beth decided to keep all of Grandpa's shirts. She decided to cut them up and make throws (small quilts that you keep on your sofa). She then decided that it would be even better if she could find photos of family members with Grandpa, transfer the picture to fabric and include them in the quilt.

Beth made five of them - for her two children, one for herself and husband, and a niece and nephew. All the pictures were different as she found photos of Grandpa with each of the recipients. She even color coded the shirts - trying to match enough shirt colors to have some artistic flow to the throws. There are even some button flaps included.

This is a major labor of love, yet also allows Beth a positive way to process Grandpa's passing - using her talent to bring together elements of the man and share him in a unique  way with  his grandchildren. The family will constaqntly feel his warm and loving presence with them when they snuggle into this quilt of love and family history.

Friday, February 15, 2013


As my husband and I continue with our adventures in the Tucson area, we were invited to dinner with some friends at their house on a Wednesday, which is Betsy's day to meet with her friends at 4:30. My sister-in-law and I were invited to this neighborhood group called the Whiners, or maybe it is the Winers. The 5 to 6 women gather weekly at one of their homes to have a glass of wine and some goodies and to share their lives. One has her invalid dad at home. One is having personal health issues. One has a tough teaching job. Betsy started the group several years ago when she realized that some of her neighbors were struggling with life issues. If they could share the challenges, would it help each of them move through the situations with more understanding and not feel alone? It seems like it has worked as they are still meeting and it is a priority for all of them.

At the time we were there, they were discussing the results of the meeting with their neighborhood development regarding covenants. This wasn't the usual sharing from the hears, but it seemed reasonable to me that they might not be ready to move into expressing their deepest selves with 2 guests. Betsy says their meetings have served as an important outlet for feelings that might not otherwise have a place for expression. Betsy doesn't tell her husband what happens when they meet. The confidentiality and trust that they have established allows them to vent their frustrations and fears, as well as triumphs. They are not interested in fixing problems or judging each other, rather in witnessing and being there for each other.

I love this story of a woman who has seen a need among her friends (and for herself) and set up a space for them to connect at a heart level. This may not seem like a big deal, yet it is huge for those who are participating and helps them get through some the rough spots.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Valentine's gift suggestion

As the Big Day approaches for you to show extra love to your loved one (s), are you starting to panic? It's an emotional expectation day! What to do?

I do have one small suggestion that might encourage you. It is lovely to receive flowers, chocolate, and material gifts. They are always an option, but not too original. Take some time to think about your loved one. In this case I am thinking about what she does for you to make your life easier. Does he do daily chores? Does she make dinner? Does he wash the cars? Does she clean the house? Does he walk the dog? Does she take the kids to ballet lessons? In most relationship there is a division of labor and sometimes the jobs get to be a chore. I am suggesting that you might want to surprise your person and do the chores for her. Clean that house or hire someone to do it. Wash and detail that car or have it done. Lift the load  for just one may realize how much your person does for you to make your life more pleasant. You are giving the gift of appreciation - and that goes a long way.

Friday, February 8, 2013

This story is about Sunny, a 64 year old woman who was declining into Alzheimer's. For 15 years she had been a part of a group of women who called themselves the Women of Ancient Wisdom. Through the years as they met monthly, they built a sense of love, trust and connection. When the group started to notice that Sunny was becoming unable to host her meeting and less able to participate, the gals took notice and moved into action.

The group met and talked about how they could help her, as they didn't want to lose her and they wanted to keep her as a part of their lives. Friendships often collapse at the point when their friend is longer who she was. Family is expected to step up, but friends can slip away.

It takes some trial and error to find what will work to be with Sunny. What might work for a few weeks needs to be changed as she changes. The group would evaluate what they could do at any given time, then tweak their plans. One thing for sure at this point is that each friend takes one day a week to stop by to see Sunny. The friend decides what her activity will be and shares her experience with the others in the group and Sunny's husband so that everyone knows what is going on. One will take her on a walk, to the nail salon, plan a theme lunch keeping her comfort level in mind, or read her a book.

These friends are not just marking a moment in time, but keeping the moments going to be with Sunny and keeping her connected with them and the world. They are also taking this process one step further by telling their story to whoever will listen - hoping that as the word gets out people may rethink how they respond to Alzheimer's. This project is a work in progress. There will be a time when Sunny won't know them. My guess is that this creative group will figure out a way to support her and stay connected to Sunny's journey in all its stages.

This is an amazing and courageous group of women who are stepping up to the plate, facing new territory, and allowing whatever needs to happen to unfold - taking mark the moment to a new level.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Prayer Flags

I am heading off to the Dominican Republic in a month to work at a school which is sponsored by a Lutheran Church in the States. As part of a team of 12 women from all over the US, we have been asked to bring Spanish books to  leave in the school's library, read about poverty, and each take a turn doing devotions in preparation for our trip. The devotions part made me think hard about what I wanted to offer the school and my fellow travelers. That's when the idea of the prayer flags came to me.

The plan is to take fabric squares along with Sharpie permanent colored pens (comes in 12 colors). At the beginning of our week I'll pass out the fabric and pens, with the direction of being aware of what each woman wants to offer in terms of prayer for the school. By the end of the week they can put that thought on the flag in the form of words or pictures or poems - or whatever comes into their  hearts. At our devotion time each person is invited to show her flag and tell about it. We'll put them onto a rope and hang them somewhere at the school.

I also want to leave the pens and extra squares so that students can make their own flags and add them to ours.

Since this hasn't happened yet, I am hoping that I can take a real time picture of what we do and share that when I get back.

It is interesting to write about this plan before it takes place. I can get excited about an idea before it ever happens. It gives me pleasure just thinking about it. I work at putting out the offering without too much expectation, but let the heart of the project unfold. It seems like most things take on a life of their own when they are presented - and I imagine that will happen in this case as well. Stay in touch for the rest of the story!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Chain messages

As a Christmas present this year for my 95 year old mom, our daughter gave her a fairly good sized, light weight box. In it was a long chain - like the ones kids make out of construction paper for the Christmas tree. Instead of ordinary solid colored paper, Katie, our daughter, had collected at least 60 kinds of wonderful artsy papers - some wrapping paper, some handmade, some cut from a magazine. On each of them she wrote my mom a little message: a thought, a remembrance, a wish. There were about 2 to 3 a week until mom's birthday at the end of May. Where she would have Scotch taped the chain together, she put a little sticky white paper with the date on it. Mom looks each day to see if she has a message for that day, then reads it, smiles and thinks of Katie.

What an amazing, thoughtful  labor of love. When you have a grandma as old as my mom, you sometimes wonder what it is that a person can do for her. Katie thought about her grandma and what might make her happy, connect the two of them and came up with this delightful idea. I think implementing the idea got to be more than she planned, but she followed through. Each day I watch the delight mom has as she reads her message. She then puts it back into the lovely box.

Katie is an inspiration for thinking carefully about a loved one - in this case specifically for a Christmas present. It didn't take a lot of money, because she kept her eyes open for the small papers, which would show up here and there unexpectedly, then spent the time to think of all the messages. Truly an amazing gift from the heart.