An NPR article this morning with 3 questions; What are your fears? How will you overcome your fears? What will “the unique you” bring to…[family, circle of friends, Peace2classroom, work, world] ? Last night I was thinking about one of my 5 children and that person’s traits; strengths and difficulties, depth of compassion and caring, family ties. I believe this child has fears, has overcome some that I know about, and brings “depth of compassion and caring” to relationships with others. It is this that I most appreciate. Perhaps this grown child and I can talk in the near future and I can express this and listen to the responses.

No political talk here, I’m more interested in what, why, and when people do what they do. The woman who took or was illegally given a baby she’d not birthed, then proceeded to raise for 20 years has now been sentenced to prison for 10 yGiftBookBeLoved2ears. The babe, now grown, expressed strong desire to stay with this “foster” mother. How does love speak? Do we let it speak? Do we value love above all? Sad to say the answers to these questions are as difficult as those in the 1st paragraph, I believe.

“Someday this moment is going to count as the good old days.” This quote by William Irvine from an Atlantic article May 2015; What good is thinking about death? So the question is; “What harm is it, just when you are kissing your little child, to say: Tomorrow you will die?” This takes us back to the question; What do you fear? For me the next question is; Why do people do what they do? This is also in the article. To be aware of the finite quality of all life can lead one to treat all life as precious. I’ve used the quote below which is funny, but resonates for many;

Seize the moment. Remember all those women on the ‘Titanic’ who waved off the dessert cart.    -Erma Bombeck

When I’d been diagnosed with cancer and spoke with a friend who had also had a cancer diagnosis I asked her; How do we maintain the attitude we have now because our Dog Lake Montana 2010lives have been threatened? The desire to live each day as a gift, a blessing, an awareness of the possibility for everything to abruptly end when we’re not ready for it to be over? My very wise friend said we must force ourselves to remember the question: What is most important to us this very moment of our lives? That will help to bring us back to the fear of death and the need to live as vibrantly and with as much awareness as possible.

There are days when you don’t have
a song in your heart. Sing anyway.
-Emory Austin

*Middle picture of original Esther’s Girls: Handmade Journals and Cards artwork. Do not copy. Bottom photo; Dog Lake, Flathead Indian Reservation, Western Montana

 

How do you like the title? Do you agree or disagree? I was going to call this blog post; You are who You Choose to Be. In my opinion both titles start at the same place, with YOU.

It’s the last night of Chanukah. The candles have already burned down and out. Quite soon the days will begin to get longer– though here in the Western mountains of the U.S. we are guaranteed very cold weather, snow, some ice… and some beautiful views of the mountains, trees, night scenes, children sledding… on and on.   I Believe

Personally I’m not too thrilled with cold winters. Perhaps all those years in North Carolina spoiled me. Fairly quickly I remembered how to dress in layers, though my feet get very cold just as I get into bed at night and one day soon I WILL replace the last hot water bottle. What I love are seasonal changes in the environment around me. I’m inspired by nature. This winter I’m going to focus on NOT building up my store of fat, like a hibernating bear,  to stay warm.

I’m wondering if you see a common theme; between the titles and my attitude about the cold season now upon us in North America? I have the ability to think myself out of dislike, out of sleeplessness, out of nasty thinking that will depress me. So for the sleeplessness I turn over in bed, lay my head on the fluffy pillow my grandchild uses when visiting, and tell myself; “go to sleep.” My wonderful grandmother would say; “gey shluffin.” That was one of her Yiddish phrases, she didn’t have many. Same meaning as my English command. And it works for me.

Similarly, I tell myself to stop when I’m letting my mind operate the record player that clicks on and whines with every complaint on a subject that is years old and notGrandM and me-Med worth listening to any more. I really, really believe we can control our thoughts, and by extension our feelings.

And now back to; You are Who you Choose to Be. I loved being a mother with a large brood of children. I still love my kids, but they are all grown up, some having their own kids,  out in the world. I’m actively working on making my life meaningful. It’s a work in progress. As is all of living. Pretty cool, that. We can make it up as we go along. I’ve recently chosen to change friends and change activities. There wasn’t enough compassion in the folks or the circumstances that brought us together.

And so I changed what I was doing; because it’s more important to me than most any other aspect, that the people I spend time with have and show compassion, empathy, caring, and love. Perhaps not directed at me, as long as it is there.  I also believe in peace, and the only road leading to peace, I believe, is carved of compassion, empathy, caring and love. And that’s what I’m choosing to do– to be– to want in the people I spend time with– and in the people I love.

Pick your emotions carefully. Be who you choose to be.

Picture of card with saying: “I believe we are always attracted to what we need most, an instinct leading us toward the persons who are open to new vistas in our lives and fill them with new knowledge.” -Helene Iswolsky. Second is photo of my grandmother and me, Atlantic City Boardwalk, eons ago.

Shared Words, Shared Worlds –by Naomi Shihab Nye, May 03, 2013

After learning my flight was detained 4 hours, I heard the announcement: If anyone in the vicinity of gate 4-A understands any Arabic, Please come to the gate immediately. Well—one pauses these days. Gate 4-A was my own gate. I went there. An older woman in full traditional Palestinian dress, Just like my grandma wore, was crumpled to the floor, wailing loudly. Help, said the flight service person. Talk to her. What is her Problem?

We told her the flight was going to be four hours late and she Did this. I put my arm around her and spoke to her haltingly. Shu dow-a, shu- biduck habibti, stani stani schway, min fadlick, Sho bit se-wee? The minute she heard any words she knew—however poorly used— She stopped crying. She thought our flight had been canceled entirely. She needed to be in El Paso for some major medical treatment the Following day. I said no, no, we’re fine, you’ll get there, just late, Who is picking you up? Let’s call him and tell him.

Peas-2-2014We called her son and I spoke with him in English. I told him I would stay with his mother till we got on the plane and Would ride next to her—Southwest. She talked to him. Then we called her other sons just for the fun of it. Then we called my dad and he and she spoke for a while in Arabic and found out of course they had ten shared friends. Then I thought just for the heck of it why not call some Palestinian Poets I know and let them chat with her. This all took up about 2 hours. She was laughing a lot by then. Telling about her life. Answering Questions.

She had pulled a sack of homemade mamool cookies—little powdered Sugar crumbly mounds stuffed with dates and nuts—out of her bag— And was offering them to all the women at the gate. To my amazement, not a single woman declined one. It was like a Sacrament. The traveler from Argentina, the traveler from California, The lovely woman from Laredo—we were all covered with the same Powdered sugar. And smiling. There are no better cookies. And then the airline broke out the free beverages from huge coolers— Non-alcoholic—and the two little girls for our flight, one African American, one Mexican American—ran around serving us all apple juice. And lemonade and they were covered with powdered sugar too. And I noticed my new best friend—by now we were holding hands— Had a potted plant poking out of her bag, some medicinal thing, With green furry leaves. Such an old country traveling tradition.

Peas2014Always Carry a plant. Always stay rooted to somewhere. And I looked around that gate of late and weary ones and thought, This is the world I want to live in. The shared world. Not a single person in this gate—once the crying of confusion stopped —has seemed apprehensive about any other person. They took the cookies. I wanted to hug all those other women too. This can still happen anywhere.      Not everything is lost.

Readers; I found this lovely story on DailyGood.org, and knew I wanted to share it. If only we could deal with each other  with compassion and empathy– lovingkindness, rather than contempt, dislike and judgment. And in today’s news about the Queen of England’s visit to Northern Ireland, she remarked; “The world yearns for examples of positive transformation and of people overcoming differences.”

The peas are growing in my garden.

Here’s what the good life is for the president of the country of Uruguay, South America. He is paid $12,000 monthly and wears sandals. Drives himself to work in his 1987 VW Beetle. He and his wife were both guerrilla fighters and both have GodBoxLifeMission2been imprisoned while fighting for the rights of their people. They live in the country in a very basic house with lemon trees and his very small 3-legged dog. Oh, and he gives away 90% of his salary to charities, mostly to help with housing for poor folks.

Does he live his good life? I think, Yes. See what the media is calling the “immediately iconic photo” of him at work. Thus reported the Washington Post [.com] yesterday. This quote at the end of article by President José Mujica; “If we lived within our means – by being prudent – the 7 billion people in the world could have everything they needed.”

Three Compassionate Strategies for Living, a post from Inspire Me Today.com which I enjoyed reading, but got stuck. Summary; 1- Always do your best, 2- Treat everyone with the dignity and respect they deserve as human beings, 3- Help others with no strings attached. Now these are very commonsensical [is that a word?]. And I do my best, but I have to fall back on a truism; I can only change myself, I cannot change anyone else. What about when people you’re related to don’t treat you kindly, with respect or dignity? How do you

WondrousLight2live with compassion, which you really want to do, feel called to do, yet you’re only human?!

Then this quote which found me tonight, clarifying the whole thing; “Its a choice. You just have to decide that I’m not going to put my energy there. I’m going to decide to let this go. It’s your choice. You can embrace it, you can become a prisoner of bitterness and resentment, anger and victim city, or you can just say ‘I’m going to live my life and be happy.’”

I’m working on happy and not angry. It’s a difficult task. I’ve made it a priority though, so I’ll let you know how it goes. I intend to win this battle. Just saying.

**Two handmade pieces; first, God Box with quote on side, second, an Affirmation card — I created/gave to a bereaved friend. Do NOT copy my creative work.

We’ve been talking about Compassion this morning. Look at this picture of the Library at Guantanamo (U.S. military) Prison.

I’m glad there are many books written in Arabic, and such a wide variety of books; fiction, nonfiction. But the Ninja Turtles and other children’s books made me very sad. And as of 2 days ago, 100 are on hunger strike, with 20 in the hospital, and forced feedings and other tactics by the authorities in the prison. How can we allow these men to continue to be imprisoned?  Many should have been freed long ago;  their cases were processed and many were granted their  release.

Will Rogers said; Even if you’re on the right track,  you’ll get run over if you just sit there.

2-2-13Card-2
And I’m keeping this post short-ish, but ending with part of a talk by Roger Ebert, the film critic who recently died.

I do not fear death, by Roger Ebert [this is only part of his talk]
O’Rourke’s had a photograph of Brendan Behan on the wall, and under it this quotation, which I memorized:

“I respect kindness in human beings first of all, and kindness to animals. I don’t respect the law; I have a total irreverence for anything connected with society except that which makes the roads safer, the beer stronger, the food cheaper and the old men and old women warmer in the winter and happier in the summer.”

[Ebert] That does a pretty good job of summing it up. “Kindness” covers all of my political beliefs. No need to spell them out. I believe that if, at the end, according to our abilities, we have done something to make others a little happier, and something to make ourselves a little happier, that is about the best we can do. To make others less happy is a crime. To make ourselves unhappy is where all crime starts. We must try to contribute joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances. We must try. I didn’t always know this and am happy I lived long enough to find it out. [Salon.com 4-10-13]

*Card says; “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten we belong to each other.” Quote by Mother Teresa. Card for sale- do not copy!

How do we learn to love? What is it exactly? What comprises love? For me to explain even if only to myself I must start out with an example; I love my children. It is true they are complex beings, and most of them have not lived in my home for a few years to many years, still I know them, I accept them, I respect them. Most of the time I like each of them, and we are stitched together in a fundamental way. I love each and all.
We human beings have our need to form alliances, to join with others of similar purpose, intent, enjoyment. Sports teams, book clubs, knitting groups, foreign film buffs. And parents. Parents of children who’ve died, or who are disabled, or who all play musical instruments or dance. Parents who come together for observance of a religious holiday, or a walk-a-thon, or a parent-child swim class, yoga class, a family get-together or reunion and on and on… [This was fun.]
Most parents want the best for their children. Many lack skills or incentive to learn skills to improve their parenting. Some find books or others (neighbors, cousins, friends, doctors, etc.) to talk with and so enhance their learning. Some parents do what they can and let the rest go. And some are downright dangerous to themselves and/or their children.
In this fundamental relationship of parent and child, the child learns how to parent. And this is such a curious concept, that we would leave an all-important task up to the whims and vagaries of observation – by children no less – of people doing the parenting who are mostly learning as they go along. Those people “learning while doing” are our parents, and later us.
So is there a better method to bring about more informed parents? Parents trained and guided into loving their children unconditionally, treating them with respect and providing for their welfare until they can stand alone?
Here’s another of my circular discussions, but I think the answer comes down to love and all its components; caring, compassion, respect, unconditional engagement, gentleness and acceptance.

**Cards newly made are displayed on this page. All card backgrounds painted by my son whose disability is invisible.