Moving On…

This blog was a wonderful place for me to look back, look around, and look forward as I headed toward my 50th birthday (on May 27, 2012). I declared a Personal Year of Jubilee (see tab above for more information). I tried new things, looked at who I am becoming, and celebrated a new phase of life.

A self-portrait as part of an art-journal project

A self-portrait as part of an art-journal project

I’ve pondered long and hard on what to do next. For those of you who have been following this blog, you are probably aware that I’ve done very little posting for the past year. I’m finally realizing that this blog served its purpose…and it’s time to move on.

Perhaps others will stumble across this blog as they are headed toward their own milestone birthday. Perhaps it will be an encouragement, or will push them to start their OWN blog–following a chain from the Wartime Housewife to Project 50 to me and hopefully on and on it will go.

Because of some of the dabbling I did during my Year of Jubilee, I have added art-making into my weekly routines. Gradually, I have been doing more and more art and have started blogging about all things creative in my life today. Please check out my newer blog HERE. I would love to have you join me over there while I “Live Loud, Live Colorful, and Live with HeART!” Grab an RSS feed or sign up for email updates on that blog site to see where I’m headed next in my second half of life!

It’s a BROKEN World…

This post was written as part of “Five Minute Friday” where bloggers write for 5 minutes on a given topic, without editing or revising their work. You can see the link-up hosted by Lisa-Jo Baker HERE.

A few years ago we were working with at-risk young people in a remote area of Navajoland. Far too many children were raising themselves, or were taking responsibility for younger siblings, while the adults around them were constantly drunk, on drugs, or were out gambling and fighting. Some folks have accused me of being racist, or of being judgmental. I think the truth lies closer to being, at times, completely and totally overwhelmed by the broken world we found around us.

One day the world came crashing down around the teachers and administration at the local all-Navajo-student K-8 school. One of the younger boys, “S,” winced when his teacher put a hand on his shoulder to redirect his attention to his workbook. After proper procedures were followed to investigate what had happened, the student was taken into custody by the State Highway Patrol and a Social Worker, kicking and screaming the entire time; wailing that he loved his mother and his mother loved him.

When my husband and I got to the school a little later that afternoon for our tutoring/teaching responsibilities, we found the adults still in a state of shock. This precious fellow had wounds and deep bruising from his head to his lower legs and down his arms as far as his elbows. “S” had been beaten with a wire by his mother the night before. It must have taken hours for her to do that much damage to him…

A Mini-Art Project I recently made with longing for the day that Jesus brings healing to S.

A Mini-Art Project I recently made with longing for the day that Jesus brings healing to S.

Don’t talk to me of racism. Don’t talk to me of judgmentalism. Let me tell you about a broken, broken world. Especially when I tell you the end of the story: he was back with his mother within days and was moved to another school so none of us could be so “abusive” as to call authorities again.

I still get a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach when I think of “S.” And I was reminded of him just the other day during a women’s bible study I am attending. The focus was on Christ’s redeeming us from slavery. In Gal 3:13, it says that Christ became a curse for us. The teacher went on to describe the traditional beating by Jewish tradition: 39 lashes which left wounds and bruising from head to toe and half way down the arms. She made it clear that Christ took that beating for us; He took the curse intended for us; He paid the price in his own body for our wrong-doing.

All of a sudden it came crashing in on me. Young “S” was beaten. He was cursed with a twisted “love” from his mother. His life was, at least at times, a living hell. And yet…and yet…in the middle of that broken world, Jesus has already come to redeem that in “S’s” young life. I began weeping when I realized that someday “S” might learn that Jesus wants to replace those wounds and that curse with His own payment. Jesus wants to redeem and heal those wounds and make “S’s” life whole again.

Hurry, Lord Jesus. Rescue “S” (and other innocent young Navajo children) from this broken, broken world…

me…art collector?!

I am now officially an art collector. Oh, I have bought prints and posters over the years. And I confess to owning a Thomas Kincade painting of Venice’s Grand Canal (same light, no flower gardens or english cottages in sight). But I’ve moved up a level now. I have a painting commissioned specifically for me by a professional artist! (I still can’t believe that’s true…)

My new painting by Greg Gutierrez

My new painting by Greg Gutierrez

I participate in a number of on-line artist forums. It is invigorating to see what other artists are doing–whether something I love or things I don’t enjoy, all of it sparks my own creativity. Sometimes I join art swaps or on-going projects. Other times I merely enjoy what others are doing and posting.

A few months ago a bright, cheerful painting was posted. It was from this artist’s “Ward Series.” I was fascinated by the painting…and I was intrigued by the series name. (My mother-in-law’s maiden name was Ward.) I contacted the artist to ask more questions. And I kept looking back at that painting over and over. Every time it made me smile. It made my heart sing!

Eventually, since I had some birthday gift money, I got brave enough to contact Greg Gutierrez and ask how much it would cost for me to buy one of his Ward Series paintings. I was sure it would be far above my means…but was quite excited to find out I was wrong. It took every penny of my birthday money, but, oh how it was worth it!

After receiving my money, Greg bought supplies and started the layers and layers of paint. Color is added even on the sides of the canvas. It takes a few weeks for him to finish these paintings. Greg kept me posted on the process. And finally at the beginning of this week I was told that the package was in the mail.

Detail of Painting--notice it wraps all the way around the sides of the canvas

Detail of Painting–notice it wraps all the way around the sides of the canvas

YAY! I was so excited to rip open the envelope when it arrived this morning. After unwrapping layer after layer of protection, I finally saw the painting made especially for me.

I am now the proud owner of Ward Series #60, by Greg Gutierrez. It hangs right above my desk, where I can look up and enjoy it over and over. Thanks, Greg!

My painting's new home--right above my desk so I see it often!

My painting’s new home–right above my desk so I see it often!

Hmmm…I wonder how long it would take me to save for another painting in the series?!

Take a look HERE at Greg’s on-line gallery and enjoy his colorful, eclectic paintings!

Recipes from Life

I just finished reading “Recipes from the Dump” by Abigail Stone. Written in stream-of-consciousness form, it parodies cooking novels. I’m really not sure why I kept reading about the every day ponderings of a fictional single mom. Her fixation on catching a man got old after a while. The book did, however, challenge me to write a few “recipes” of my own.

For a taste of my life recently, try a few of the following dishes:

This first recipe comes from the first few months of living in a new location, with husband busy at a new job and teenage son far away as a volunteer camp counselor for the summer. Two extremely extroverted people (mother and daughter) who can’t figure out where and how to find new friends resulted in this stew.

LONELINESS STEW

(best made on a gray, rainy day, a week of rain is even better)

2 large onions, chopped

3 cups root vegetables, chopped

3 cups sorrel leaves

6 cups chicken broth

3 Tbsp hot sauce

2 cups, coarsely ripped chunks of stale bread

Lightly sauté vegetables in a large kettle: onions to make you cry and root vegetables to remind you of your life having been pulled up by the roots. Stir in sorrel leaves to add bitterness and sorrow to the soup. Pour chicken broth into the kettle and bring to a simmer, letting your fears and doubts seep into all crevices of the soup. Add a burning taste with the hot sauce, enough to bring more tears to your eyes.

Serve in a shallow bowl over chunks of stale bread, memories left over from better days.

Chop Salad

Overgrown Chop Salad

This next recipe is a necessary dish to prepare when you buy a house that has not been well maintained due to degenerative health problems of the previous owner.

OVERGROWN CHOP SALAD

2 lines of overgrown hedgerows along the lot lines

1 semi-circle of bushes overwhelming a brick wall

5 trees, out of control

3 predatory woody vines, woven throughout other bushes

House Gutters full of tree seedlings

Spend hours and hours over a number of weeks, chopping out overgrown branches, hedges, brush, and trees. Make a huge pile in the driveway, larger than your vehicles and higher than the eaves on the garage. Scoop handfuls of tree seedlings out of the gutters and toss onto the pile for extra spice. Let rest for a few more days for all the flavors to blend.

Rent a wood chipper and run all the woody branches through the grinder. Don’t forget to wear gloves to protect your hands!

Carefully shovel chopped bits onto exposed dirt areas under the hedgerows to prevent weed growth. Come back inside and enjoy a tall, cold one after all your labors.

Color Crunch (main dish)

Color Crunch (main dish)

Color Crunch (main dish)

As a main course, consider fixing the following recipe. It can be altered as needed, based on ingredients you have on hand.

COLOR CRUNCH WITH A SIDE OF CHAOS

1 brick wall (can substitute a sidewalk or driveway)

1 package of new sidewalk chalk in a wide variety of colors

                (my daughter informed me the 4 pack would never do)

2-5 noisy preteen neighbor girls

2-3 bicycles

Wait for sunny weather. This dish doesn’t work well on gray, rainy days.

Mix noisy girls with colorful chalk. Allow them to smear the chalk all over the bricks, making interesting patterns and color mixes. Step back from time to time to enjoy the mess. Add in dancing and MP3 music if desired.

If the mixing process is too noisy for you, consider wearing earplugs or hiding inside. (Pre-teen laughter CAN be loud and rambunctious!)

Add a side of bicycles thrown in the yard where they came to a screeching stop as the gathering started.

Enjoy!

Principle Ingredient of Nostalgia Pie

Principle Ingredient of Nostalgia Pie

As you start to make friends and feel more “at home” in your new neighborhood, you might still find some of the following dessert in the back of your frig.

NOSTALGIA PIE

1 crust made of photos, cards, and scrapbook pages

Several text conversations between old friends

2-3 invitations to parties being held in your old stomping grounds on the other side of the country

1-2 phone conversations with old friends

Tears, to bring out the flavors

Dig through packed boxes to uncover mementoes from previous location. Mix together photos, cards and scrapbook pages into a thick crust to hold the pie filling.

Use your phone for text and voice conversations with old friends. Listen to activities you are missing and reminisce about past fun had together.

Receive invitations for events you can not possibly attend, some with expressed regrets for your absence.

Mix filling. Layer on top of crust. Sprinkle with tears. Set aside for flavors to blend. (Warning: gray, rainy days deepen the bitterness and strong flavors of this pie, especially when previous home was in a bright, sunny desert location!)

When you think all traces of this pie are finished, you might well find more pieces buried in the back of your frig…

Finally, as you begin to adjust to your new life in your new home in your new location, consider finishing this meal with a cup of coffee, best shared with a new friend.

AFTER-DINNER COFFEE

Take time to check out the various gathering places in your new town. Share a cup of coffee with the people you find there. Suggested places to visit: local church, home group for said church, women’s group, local swimming pool, variety of neighborhood coffee shops, home-town library branch, and more. In addition to a cup of coffee, share pastries or other treats for extra sweetness.

Hopefully you enjoyed reading these recipes I have been cooking for the past few months. What’s cooking in your life right now?

In My Own Little Corner…

A month ago, we bought a house. At first I struggled: why Ohio? why this very traditional neighborhood? why such a traditional house? why not rent (so we could wander away again)? Gradually I have added layers of color in accessories, rugs, furniture, and decorations. I still struggle with why the job came up here rather than somewhere out West, but the house is beginning to feel more like “me.” It is starting to feel comfortable and nest-like.

Our New Home

Our New Home

In the process of major life changes, I have gone through a number of purge cycles—getting rid of massive amounts of “stuff.” Unlike times in the past when I tried to sort through things because I “should” or because others wanted me to do so, this came from deep inside. I was finally ready to let go of so many things I was holding on to.

An extra benefit of the purging is that I now have empty shelves on my bookcases, empty corners on top of desks and cabinets, empty places on my walls. This has given me the freedom to add color and memory-keepers in the form of little vignettes. At first I wondered if this was inappropriately making “altars.” But since each little scene makes me smile and brings me joy, I’ve decided to keep these mini collections, changing them as the whim occurs.

My Own Little Corner

My Own Little Corner

Today I decided to share details of my desk corner. It sits at the end of the living room, next to a big bow window, looking out toward a lake. It is beside the doorway to the kitchen, in view of the timer on the oven, so it is convenient to keep track of baking or dinner-making. This is where my computer sits so it is both a private place and a place for me to connect to the bigger on-line world.

The desk itself used to belong to our son James. The collection gathered on the corner of the desk is things that remind me of James. I love the pop of color and the mix of textures. I smile every time I notice the stool, covered with cheetah spots and with big red accent buttons. There is a blank wall in front of the desk—soon to have my first-ever custom art by an artist whose colorful work I love!

Reminders of James...

Reminders of James…

The candle is one that we light each at 7pm each 2nd Sunday in December–a worldwide remembrance of children gone too soon. (You can read more about that HERE.) The rock is one we gathered from Honolulu Creek in Alaska. The photo was a trick photo I surprised James with for Christmas one year. He liked to joke that he had a twin brother, John, who was a surfer from Honolulu Alaska. John always seemed to eat James’ favorite desserts before James got to them. And John was the one who always got into mischief! The box holds James’ treasured hard-bound collection of Calvin & Hobbes comics.

Walking Sticks

Walking Sticks

Tucked into the corner behind the desk is a collection of walking sticks. The middle one was given to us in memory of James. This beautiful cedar stick was hand smoothed and etched by a cousin. The outer sticks are both diamond willow from Alaska–one finished and one still in progress. This distinctive pattern is from brushy willow found along stream beds. The “diamonds” are scars formed when the branches are injured or broken off. I love the reminder that our wounds can become a beautiful part of us as we move forward in the healing process!

Storytellers and more...

Storytellers and more…

The final detail of my little desk corner sits on top of the box of Calvin & Hobbes books. The rock is another one gathered from Honolulu Creek in Alaska. I love the mottled green color. The little white spots are remnants of cockatiel droppings–reminders of James’ precious birds who wandered his room at will. And the Storyteller figures remind me of the joy I find in being entrusted with the stories of others and the responsibility I take in sharing stories with the world. (I wrote blog posts about this HERE  and HERE.)

When you read something from me on the internet, you now know where I was writing from. Most likely I was enjoying a little time in My Own Little Corner, In My Own Little Chair.

 

Another Piece of the (grieving) Puzzle

I woke up crying today. And raindrop tears were falling outside.

raindrop tears falling in Timberlake

raindrop tears falling in Timberlake

This is a holiday; a day to celebrate time with family. This is my birthday; a day to celebrate ME. But instead, I’ve been crying for the past few days. I’ve wished this day could be skipped and we could just move on to Tuesday. All of which makes me angry…

This day is also my son’s birthday. He should have been 21 today. But he died five years ago and the picture of my expectations was broken into a million pieces. My bright and colorful life became a puzzle that had to be put back together again.

The first year was hard. The pieces of life were scattered and there was no picture to guide me in reassembling the puzzle. Even the bright, colorful shards were little help. They were hard to recognize in the gray fog of grief. Gradually the outlines were rebuilt that first year; with a piece here and a piece there fitting together. We rebuilt mother’s day and his birthday…click. We survived family gatherings…click. We tried new ways of doing Thanksgiving and Christmas…click. We got through the anniversary of his death…click. The corners and frame for “Life Without James” came together and the first year was finished.

The second year was a little easier. Putting together a puzzle always goes more quickly once the outer edges are clear. It even seemed, at times, like we had glimpses of the guide picture. It felt like we had some clue of what on-going life was going to be like. And it would be okay…

In the years since then, we keep working at the puzzle. I am less afraid of the holes, knowing that a new picture will fill in the empty places. When I find myself sobbing (or angry), I’ve learned to twist the pieces this way and that, looking at the situation from different perspectives. Eventually, I find the missing piece and one more bit of the puzzle comes together and fills the hole. The grief is still there, but it is less fearsome when fitted into a larger picture.

I woke up crying today. And it took a while to figure out why. This hole is bigger than a shared birthday. It is larger than a gray, rainy day. This is a jagged edged gap that threatens to swallow me in to nothingness. Until another piece of the puzzle fell into place this morning…click.

"Grieving Jesus" at OKC Memorial

“Grieving Jesus” at OKC Memorial

Since James died, we have lived in temporary settings. We wandered the West in an RV. We lived with family while we went back to school. We worked with at-risk youth in Navajoland. We lived with family again through five months of unemployment. All of these things were safe. The bits of the puzzle put together in those areas felt secure. A picture of what life might be like was coming together. And it would be okay…

Then my husband started a new job…back in Ohio. We bought a house…back in Ohio. Life is moving forward…back in Ohio. And that makes me angry. I don’t WANT to be in Ohio. I want my temporary living back. I want the guide picture back. Living in Ohio has too many holes. James is missing wherever I turn. Life is turning back to what it was before he died, but he is no longer here to live it with us. Family and friends who never visited us in our temporary settings are already planning to visit us here. Here in this place and in this home that James will never be part of. Ahhh…another piece of the (grieving) puzzle is coming together…click.

There is comfort in seeing the shape of this little piece. There is comfort in knowing the puzzle will continue to be put back together. There is even comfort in understanding this hole. But comfort still doesn’t feel good. My life shattered into a million pieces five years ago. And sometimes I just want the old picture back.

raindrop tears and an empty bench at Timberlake

raindrop tears and an empty bench at Timberlake

I woke up crying today. And raindrop tears were falling outside.

Seeing More

You know the phenomenon—once you notice something, you suddenly see it everywhere you look. Buy a new (to you) car and the parking lots and roads are filled with that model. See a fashion you would like to try and a zillion others are wearing similar things. Appreciate a certain breed of dog, and that type of dog is frisking along everywhere you go.

In the past few weeks, I have realized anew some fundamentals that affect what I notice in the world around me. Years ago, our middle daughter became interested in raptors (hawks, falcons, eagles, owls, etc.) She has volunteered in a variety of settings to gain experience working with these birds. Because of her interest and because of what we learned from her along the way, our family now notices raptors along the roadways everywhere we travel. We might not know the specific species names, but we enjoy the wonder of seeing the birds perched in trees or on fence posts, or soaring in the air. And the excitement of seeing a hawk swoop to the ground to catch dinner is amazing!

Daughter with a Hawk--at a falconry centre in Yorkshire England

Daughter with a Hawk–at a falconry centre in Yorkshire England

My husband has a private pilot’s license. So for the past 10 years, all of us suddenly notice small planes flying cross country. We see the little green signs with a white airplane on road posts, indicating a nearby airport. We notice runways, even long grassy strips with just a windsock at one end. With a new interest comes new eyes.

Finally, today marks 5 years since the unexpected death of one of our sons. We have become members of a club that no one ever wants to join—parents who walk through the death of a child. Obviously, that has changed us in profound ways. That experience has also given us new eyes. At first, we felt totally alone. We only knew a handful of people who had walked this path before us. Gradually, we realized that there are similarly grieving parents everywhere we go. They are all around us. Unfortunately, we are NOT alone in this journey.

...missing Smiley James...

…missing Smiley James…

Some things that we see more of—new cars or fashions, for example—don’t really need a response. Other things seem to  invite involvement or ask for a response. As we continue to rebuild life without our son, we wonder if and when there might be a role for us to play in reaching out to the “more” that we see in the grieving world.

What things do you see “more” of in your life? Which of these things are just for your enjoyment and which might be inviting a response on your part?

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