Saturday, December 31, 2011

Stepping into the light

December 31: an auspicious day of reflection; a time of looking back and a grand opportunity to look ahead to new possibilities.

In recent years, I've grown into my life and feel secure in the fit. The choices I make serve me and bring me joy. I choose to be quiet, to settle in to the songs around me and to lean closer to hear strands of the faint music that calls to me. Listen in to your life.

When energy and spirit courses through me and nudges my heart just so, I honor the sacred pause. I am reminded of these words from writer Ann O’Shaughnessy:
"There is potential in that place where art is, and beauty can come, and another human can come and be there in it. I believe a creative life asks that we commit ourselves completely to clearing the conduit so spirit can flow. Our soul is the creative receptacle- the rich dense place where the creative life is born, and born again daily."

May we find the courage to step from darkness into the light.

Thursday, December 29, 2011


You know the drill. You've got a hankering for a photo and you're teetering on that fine line between snapping spontaneously and asking for cooperation. Cousin Faith's method was to get us to pose and then say, "Monkeys fly out of my bum!"

This gem was captured as we overheard Mika conferring with a colleague on the phone. Let's just say the anatomic focus runs in the family. Beyond that, it's best to not ask for details.

Monday, December 26, 2011

"Refreshing" winter waters await

A family tradition for many years, we enjoy a quiet winter getaway to Bowen Island, taking time to celebrate the Christmas season with my in-laws and sharing year-end reflections together. This year we're fortunate to have our beautiful sons joining us. Tomorrow we'll schlep our stuff, including our two eager dogs and their hefty kennels, and make our way north.

If we can muster the courage, we'll do our own private polar bear swim in Bowen Bay. My version, as pictured here in a solo event last December, is to enter with intention, dunk my body a few times, swish my arms and legs in an effort to prevent complete paralysis, and head for land in about 15 seconds.

Mika professes a plan to swim out to the buoy, which, frankly, is akin to a death wish. "If you're gonna do that, let's get your affairs in order today", I suggested. His rapid-fire retort came with nary a thought. "I bequeath my entire tamarind ball collection to Sarah. Where I'm going, there's an endless supply. I hope."

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas blessings

Family at home.
All is well with the world here.
Rich blessings abound.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

An early Christmas gift

Leaning back in the familiar chair, she closed her eyes and offered a small smile. "Thank you for the flowers. Oh, I love them. Blue roses are my favorite."

This brief and reassuring dream was the first thing I recalled upon waking this morning, on Christmas Eve. In the dream, my dear mother speaks and uses her body and facial expression to further express the happiness that is in her.

Did I send her flowers? In my dream, there is no awareness of such. Through the powerful yet gentle medium of the dream, I see that joy is possible; that we can create our own joy and sorrow from the internal landscape of our lives. My mother received a bouquet from me and she loved it! It matters not that I did not literally gift her with flowers. The gift is two-fold: she accessed joy-- Hallelujah to that-- and I learned to simply say, "You're welcome."

Friday, December 23, 2011

Three winter haiku

Winter solitude.
Strands of sunlight slipping through
silhouetted trees.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Cold ribbed spikes of glass
begin to disappear in
drops, returning home.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Against a blue sky
they sing a parting farewell.
Songs of the season.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A well-healed heel!

Any 3-Day walker or attentive crew member will tell you this is a familiar sight: a walker tending to her/his feet with an intense singular focus bordering on reverence.

I'm happy to report that the pesky plantar fasciitis I've been navigating since July is quite well healed and I am now pain-free in the foot department! I attribute this good fortune to excellent care by my foot doc and physical therapist and to the vigilance I've given to the proscribed exercises. In my view, the foot injections were key.

Now it's time to re-direct our focus to the hip once again, working on gait control and toning the adductor muscles on that chronically annoyed left side. Step by step, day by day; whoa girl; easy does it, Bessie!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Stones of remembrance

I took a walk today through Temple Beth Am's Cemetery Gan Shalom at Abby View Memorial Park.

"Even when visiting Jewish graves of someone that the visitor never knew, the custom is to place a small stone on the grave using the left hand. This shows that someone visited the gravesite, and is also a way of participating in the mitzvah of burial." ~ from Wikipedia

Monday, December 19, 2011

What do you see?

I've been thinking about perspective lately. I'm fascinated by the backstory or process by which perspective and perception are formed, given our unique personalities, values, experiences, and influences. How does perspective differ from perception? Does one exist without the other?

Simple guiding definitions:
perspective: view or vista; a mental view or outlook.
perception: the process, act, or faculty of perceiving; recognition and interpretation of sensory stimuli based chiefly on memory.

Look at this photograph. What do you see? Does your relationship with the subject(s) influence your perspective? Your perception? What about the body language? And how does the head position and eye contact of the subjects add to your perception of the moment as it was captured?

I'm interested in your perspective and perception, how you differentiate them, and how they play out for you as you look at the this photograph. Care to share?

Friday, December 16, 2011

And babies three!

2012 may be the Year of the Dragon, but for our clan, it's the Year of the Baby! In January, we'll welcome the first of three new family members.

Our nephew, Matt, recently returned from Afghanistan and living in Tennessee with his Swedish wife, Sara, are thrilled to be expecting a child, their first, as the new year begins. What a beautiful and unexpected outcome of deployment!

Nephew, Michael, pictured below with his wife, Amy, at left, and his sister, Eliza, caressing Michael and Amy's son, are expecting their third child and first daughter in April. Michael and Amy live in a suburb of Chicago with sons Charlie and Henry.

And in May, on the heels of cherry blossom bliss in our nation's capital, our oldest niece, Eliza, and her husband, Adam, both artists and educators living in Washington, DC, will welcome their first child.
Ain't life grand?

Of songs and of trees

I remember.

"Don't turn off your engine. Just wait. I'm afraid when I walk through the gate the guard will say, 'Mr. Hernandez, stop; turn around. We've changed our mind. You aren't being released today.'"

It was early summer 2006 when we drove away from the Monroe Correctional Complex, slowly making our way down the winding drive that led to freedom. Driving in silence along Route 2, all senses fully engaged, his eyes scanning the long-familiar landscape kept from view for 7 years. I remember he opened his window then, leaned his head out and tilted his face toward the late morning sun, eyes closed, his waist-length hair caught by the wind.

"I want to touch a tree." I pulled the van into a county park and we sat for a while. I asked if I could sing to him.

I remember.

Healer of Our Every Ill

Healer of our ev’ry ill,
light of each tomorrow,
give us peace beyond our fear,
and hope beyond our sorrow.

You who know our fears and sadness,
grace us with your peace and gladness,
Spirit of all comfort: fill our hearts.

In the pain and joy beholding
how your grace is still unfolding,
give us all your vision: God of love.

You who know each thought and feeling,
teach us all your way of healing,
Spirit of compassion: fill each heart.

Give us strength to love each other,
ev’ry sister, ev’ry brother,
Spirit of all kindness: be our guide.

We walked a bit and stopped at a towering cedar, stepping close, encircling the trunk with our arms, joining hands. He rested his cheek against its thready bark and drew a deep in-breath.

I remember. Oh, how I remember.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Lessons from the margins

I first discovered the joy of volunteering as a teenager while living in Maryland, cleaning up stream beds with my friend Beth as an alternative to attending school. My delinquency was intermittent, but the pleasure I derived from doing something meaningful and useful without being asked made a lasting impression. It truly was the birth of a lifetime of volunteering, and there isn't much about my teen years that has been nearly as far-reaching and productive!

Since then, my focus in the realm of volunteering has been primarily in health and social services and education, and, like many volunteer opportunities, they've offered deep and lasting reward. One of the current arms of my volunteer work is expressed through my faith community as Donations Coordinator. I am responsible for the ingathering and distribution of non-perishable food, clothing, and household items at Faith Lutheran Church. We collect items on a year 'round basis and make deliveries monthly to several agencies, shelters, and programs that serve those those in need in King and Snohomish counties.

Today's stops included deliveries to a shelter run by the Seattle Union Gospel Mission (SUGM), located in the former Lake City fire station, Immanuel Community Services Hygiene and Recovery Programs downtown, and Tent City 3, currently housed at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church. I was particularly impressed with the organizational structure, community spirit and gracious hospitality at Tent City 3. If one hundred people can live cooperatively within the chain-linked confines of a church parking lot in dozens of tents, sharing space, supplies and resources in all sorts of weather conditions while conducting the fine nuances of their personal lives, we most certainly should be able to get along in the heated, marble-floored spaces of our legislative halls.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Shifting perspectives

Yesterday in our caregivers support group, Christina shared the perspective of her Philippine culture with regard to dementias. "We don't call it that. We call it second childhood." Another group member, Joanne, told a poignant story about her husband who lives with advanced Alzheimer's in a memory care facility. Last week, Santa came to visit the residents and brought a sack of stuffed toys. The residents lit up at the mere sight of him and received their dolls and teddy bears with the unbridled delight of young children. "Don accepted a teddy bear and drew it to his chest with both hands, rubbing his face on it and smiling with joy. We walked down the hall to his room and he lay down on his bed and cuddled it with all his might. It was deeply moving."

Though the notion of viewing Alzheimer's as a second childhood is indeed controversial, there is certainly wisdom in thinking creatively about how to best meet the complex needs of those who live with the disease. As for my mother, she seems to find a measure of joy in a familiar face and in spending time with those who hold her dear. Hair brushing, soothing arm tickling, singing, holding hands, eye contact, offering soft kisses, and drinking a milkshake through a colorful straw- these are the things that seem to bring her joy.

Shared moments of pleasure made manifest through the simple act of slowing down, sharing time together and of bearing witness to the grace that arises. I'd wager it's a tried and true recipe of joy for us all. Milkshake anyone?

Monday, December 12, 2011

The common thread of caregiving

For the past 4 years, I've been attending a caregivers support group at the Northshore Senior's Center. Though I've tried other more homogenous groups, like the one in Ravenna for long-distance caregivers, or another, designed to meet the needs of adult children in caregiving roles, I've found the greatest benefit from this eclectic one. No doubt it has plenty to do with the fact that the group members have become like family to me; we care about each other and know one another's stories intimately. I appreciate the diverse circumstances and perspectives and have especially benefitted from bearing witness to the older men and their coping strategies. It's been a great gift in helping me develop compassion for my stepfather, who, until last December, oversaw the care of my mother.

Here is a list of those in attendance today and a brief mention of the loved one they care for. All of us care for a family member living with some form of dementia.
Henry: spouse at home with Alzheimer's with significant paranoia; needs constant supervision
Frank: wife Grace in care facility; mute; eyes closed for past 2 years
Marion: spouse, Don, a twin whose brother also has Alzheimer's; Don is recently deceased after living 2 years in an adult family home; Marion still attends group for support and "to help others if I can"
Francis: spouse of 16 years; lives at home with her
Arlene: new to group; spouse has dementia secondary to whole brain radiation for non hodgkin's lymphoma
Joanne: husband Don in care facility
Jenny: long-distance caregiver to mother in memory care unit
Bob: wife at home; compliant, soft spoken, "easy"
Lillian: spouse at home; watches TV 24/7
Chris: spouse Karl, 59, in memory care unit for past 1.5 years; wanderer
Christina: mother; full-time caregiver for past 4 years; has 4 siblings in U.S. but does all the caregiving "since I'm the only single one and they all have kids"
Ruby: spouse has early onset Alzheimer's; lives at home with her; Ruby recently diagnosed with breast cancer

Frank, who is soft-spoken and teary-eyed most of the time, stepped out of his shell today and read us a list of silly internet quotes that had us all busting at the seams. Janet, the social worker who facilitates the group, popped in a DVD with an image of a fireplace complete with crackling logs and orange embers. Lillian brought cheesecake, sparkling cider, mixed nuts, and two thermoses of coffee as a special treat. Joanne brought her neighbor, Arlene, who reluctantly placed her husband in an adult family home just 10 days ago. Last night she treated herself to a musical downtown, her first night out in 3 years.

It takes a village. I'm proud to be part of this one!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The body knows what the mind forgot

Body memory. It's a powerful force and it knocked my socks off last weekend when I opened my arms to receive a hug. It's been nearly 41 years since I last felt Karen's embrace, but the body memory of her nurturing hug was so palpable, I could not hold back the tears.

A mere teen when she first came into our lives, Karen served as a babysitter, older sister, mother figure, and steady presence at a time when our family was teetering on the edge. It's safe to say she formed us with an equal measure of influence as our parents. I believe this now after hearing her stories, sharing a few of our own, and re-connecting with body memories that lay dormant for decades.

Separated in the late 60s following life-changing events, my sisters and I reunited with Karen December 3 at the home of Melinda and Art. Concerned about opening Pandora's box and uncertain of what we might find there, Karen, Geo, Melinda and I lifted the lid and looked around. Tears flowed. Realities were checked; suspicions confirmed. It was a messy place to explore, but we had one another, just as we had way back when, in that formative, impressionable time.

We remembered things that had long ago been buried; buried out of necessity when survival was at stake. Despite the pain of looking back on a time that was so very dangerous and destructive for us all, something quite remarkable emerged. We saw how it was then and how it is now. We surmised about how we survived. Apologies were offered; forgiveness explored and extended.

These words, spoken by my friend Rick as part of a eulogy, embody my sentiments of Karen, both then and now:
Gracious space is a space where the other person shines- a place where people are helped to know, deep in their person, that they are unique, important and loved. It is a place where they are free to tell their story without fear of judgment; a place where the most vulnerable feel safe to grieve, to cry, to rant and to laugh out loud.

My body remembered the unconditional love from that long ago time and I rejoice in now knowing it has always been there.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Sharing our abundance

Most of us don't have a hungry young buck at our heels in the kitchen, at least not literally, and my 55 year-old judgement tells me that's a good thing. But in this season of consumer-overload, I think it's wise to take a close look at what we have in our pantry, in our closets, and in the deep recesses of our personal lives, and fling wide the doors. And as we take a look around, may we find we have what we need and create space for sharing our God-given abundance with gratitude and with joy.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Out and about in Clarke County, VA

It didn't take much pursuading to capture this festive moment in downtown Berryville today. We spotted the little Christmas tree adorned with pipe-cleaner spectacles and stepped into the eyewear store to snag a sales clerk to snap our picture. Geo, goofball of a girl that she is, and oh, such a good sport to boot, was more than happy to pose street-side with her equally playful little sister.

What a glorious day we had today from start to finish! Thanks Geo!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Remembering Phil

Dearest Reilly,

As Godparent to you, come to me any time for answers to your questions. I'm not sure I can provide them, but be assured that I'll do my best to give you the best direction. I am limited, as everyone is, but I will not knowingly lead you astray.

My love, Phil.

P.S. Phone me collect. Anytime.

The note above was inscribed on the inside cover of The Bible Story, written by Philip Turner and illustrated by Brian Wildsmith, which Reilly received from Uncle Phil on the occasion of his baptism. Six short months later, Dr. Philip Druvanand Risto Sinanan, fondly known as Uncle Phil, died unexpectedly. It was late autumn; the holiday season was upon us. Our grief was immense. To this day, we still feel the loss of a man we longed to know better and to share the unfolding of our lives with.

On this day, the 21st anniversary of his death, I remember with great fondness my brother-in-law, Phil, and I give thanks to God for the time we had with him, however brief.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Better than a blue ribbon

After my swim today, somewhere between exiting the shower and drying my feet, a woman greeted me with bubbling enthusiasm. I see her often; we frequently exchange a joyful wordless greeting that seems to convey our mutual delight for the swimming pool and what it offers us.

"Excuse me," she began, then switched to her native tongue, her bright eyes revealing heaping praise. I had no idea what she was trying to tell me, but her eagerness and obvious pleasure held my attention. Her daughter soon appeared from the pool deck and stepped in to interpret.

"Mother says she saw you swimming and you are the best! She said you are a beautiful swimmer."

As if the blissful swim itself need be any more divine.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Distractions good and bad

Living near a major suburban shopping destination, it's nearly impossible to run an errand after Halloween without getting stuck in traffic. In addition to the usual vehicles, occasional bicyclist, and always-plugged-in pedestrians, there seems no end to the onslaught of visual distractions.

During election season, there is a veritable sea of signage, not to mention the candidates themselves, waving and smiling through gritted teeth at major intersections. And on the weekends, there are the men rocking large signs back and forth, drawing our attention to the current businesses that are closing up shop and hosting a blowout sale. And the teens dressed as Gumby or any number of costumed creatures. Did I mention car washes and screaming girls in their soccer duds, waving hand-made signs and directing us to pull into the parking lot right here, right now?

On my way home from yoga on Friday, the lack of chaos near Green Lake afforded me the opportunity to read the assortment of bumper stickers in view while I waited for the light to turn. Here they are, in no particular order.
Celebrate Diversity
Dognostics know there is a Dog.
Visualize Ballard
I'd rather be driving a Titleist.
Yea, I'm a bitch, just not your bitch!

Oh, so much to see, whether I'm seeking or not.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

A day of thanks

More than three decades ago when I was not yet a mother, I jumped at the chance to work holidays. The pay was excellent and the sense of satisfaction ran high, especially during the years when I worked in intensive care. I loved the time spent with patients and their families. It seemed we all had gratitude for where we were, whether providing care, receiving it, or supporting a loved one.

At breakfast today, Mika's pager went off and a phone conversation ensued. Though not quite what we had in mind for this day, he left soon after to do three cases, all emergent and not suited to deferral for tomorrow. There was a time when I would have felt short-changed or angry. Today I told him I was proud of him and added, "Isn't it a blessing you have these skills?" Then a hug and a kiss and he was gone.

I later bundled up and headed out with the neighbor's little dog for a rainy Thanksgiving walk. They've gone across the pass today to celebrate the holiday with their young grandchildren. One parent stayed behind; she works as an ICU nurse. I hope she too can feel the blessing of this day, for what she is offering to those in need, and open to the gift that resides there.

Coming out of the woods I ducked under branches heavy with dripping leaves and spotted my foot doctor jogging in the rain. He slowed down, removed his earbuds and came close for a greeting and a hug. His delight in seeing me out walking with no obvious foot pain was not lost on me. In fact, I'd wager he was downright proud and pleased, as am I. Especially on this day of thanksgiving.

To giving and receiving; to service; and to the bountiful blessings in our lives!

Monday, November 21, 2011

La Nina is here!

With plenty of fresh snow in our local mountains and abundant rain falling at sea level, it appears our old friend La Nina is back. Many years ago I traded in my cross-country skis for some versatile swim fins and keep them in my van with my always-ready swim bag. One of these days after weeks of steady rainfall, I plan to don the fins in the parking lot and wear them into the grocery store. In ever-so-tolerant Seattle, I doubt I'll turn a single head, but surely I'll be smiling through the deluge.

Until then, take a gander at my spiffy new silicone bathing cap. Unlike my quick-as-a-whip mother, I didn't win the cap on daytime TV's Beat the Clock. Gotta love those Sheffer-girl genes!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

A grand idea

While perusing an issue of Yes! magazine today, I came across a brainchild of an article about un-cluttering our lives, one drawer at a time. What a simple notion and so very doable! Excuse me while I open drawer #1.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Feet and hips and gait, Oh my!

In my ongoing rehab for plantar fasciitis, I'm proud to announce I've progressed to a new level of therapy called eccentric exercises. I'd been working with my wonderful PT, Dean, of Olympic Physical Therapy, since June on some hip stretching and strengthening exercises when I developed the pesky foot issue a month later. Since that time, we've been trying to keep the hip exercises going while focusing our efforts on the foot, since the pain was quite intense and disabling. The foot injections, anti-inflammatories, laser, ultrasound and exercises have paid off; hallelujah!

I'm grateful to be working with a foot doctor and PT who know what they're doing and communicate with one another! The gait work has long been the missing link in my mobility issues and I am so pleased to finally be working on that with these healers.

Step by step, day by day, with patience, gratitude and faith!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A song of the season

Against the dark stones
waves come, singing a heart song
at the water's edge.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Leashes on, barely!

"How can you be so obtuse?" Andy Dufresne's classic line in Shawshank Redemption came to mind rather quickly today when I foolishly set out around Green Lake with Eli and Maudie. Autumn. Squirrels. Foraging. Nesting. By the dozens.

Sunshine, blue sky, mild temps; so very enticing. And so very obtuse of me.

Monday, November 7, 2011

My main men

By the numbers:
stylish hat
clean-shaven face
pairs of glasses
extraordinary men
kind-hearted, fun-loving relatives of beloved Faith
beacons of light in my life

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Gathering in community

Nearly 30 years in the same community. Assisting with countless births, nurturing enduring relationships, crafting a life for herself and her daughter.

Today we gather in community to remember this remarkable woman and celebrate her rich and blessed life.

Here's to you, Faith: cheers!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Clarity during repose

I awoke in the early hours, called to explore thoughts and ideas mingled with feelings. I turned things over in my head, composed a piece of writing and applied edits with eyes still closed, tossed and tussled with the blankets, rearranged the pillows, gained a different perspective, then found sleep once again.

Oh, sweet slumber, how you serve us through the gift of rest.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Not a date, but jitters none-the-less

It's a sign of sorts, when, in the simple act of doing lunch, the other person calls himself a socio-phobe. What felt slightly awkward for me apparently felt less manageable for him, but we both got through it unscathed; at least I think so.

As for the soup and tiny falafel patty, double thumbs up!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

The blessing of friendship

My dear friend Kathleen and I met for breakfast this morning and shared conversation, poetry and a few tears, all of which we fully embraced. A short walk along a section of the Burke-Gilman took us past waterfront homes with inviting gardens under an ever-changing morning sky.

Ours is a friendship of mutual gratitude and love. Laughter, stories, silence, music, mud antics, water play, disclosure, road trips, picnics, tears, overnight getaways, concurrent massages at NSM, a willingness to listen in; we honor it all.

Life is good.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Heads up!

Spending time outside, especially in wild spaces, has a balancing effect on me and tilts me toward greater equilibrium on all counts. This past week has been a time of grief and reflection, gratitude and solitude, and a time of standing in my body where it is in time and place. I'm more visually acute; the world seems more beautiful than ever: shimmering, fresh, original.

At the kitchen sink today I looked out into the back yard and turned on the faucet, and then I saw it: a great blue heron, flying low, rising up and over the dogwood tree directly over my field of vision and carrying my breath away with it. Leaning in to gaze at the invisible stream of its flight path, a second miracle revealed itself: a lone hummingbird, holding her own high above the bamboo thicket like a hovering helicopter scouting out earthly events.

"Chin up, girl," they called, and then they were gone.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Forgiveness, healing and the passage of time

Or perhaps it's as simple as forgetting. Whatever the case may be, precious feline girl, Delilah, has returned to the master bedroom as of last night, 4 months after fleeing the second floor following the installation of our ceiling fan.

Curled up. Purring. A sentry of sorts, though decidedly carefree. And on her own timeline.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Laundry therapy

Three years into his surgical residency, my sister Geo sent Mika a wacky postcard in sympathy of his chronic state of sleep deprivation. The black and white photos showed a man in a suit lying down in various places, including a well tended vegetable garden and atop a cluttered desk. The caption offered clear succinct advice: "When in doubt, get horizontal."

I tried the horizontal state several times today in an effort to prevent falling over with grief. I also managed to mow the lawn and circle the sparkling waters of Green Lake, but I found the most therapeutic result from two loads of laundry.

Sunday, October 23, 2011


Meet Andy d'Elia. At 94, my stepfather maintains a daily routine that keeps him going from morning til night. He lives alone in a 3-story townhouse and has a lifelong practice of disciplined living. Despite his advanced age and weakened state from chemo for metastatic lung cancer, this 5'3" West Point grad, former pilot and die-hard tennis player continues to surf the web, read email, follow the stock market, oversee his home affairs, manage his personal care with minimal assistance, and make lists of things to do and achieve. And he answers his landline; who does that? Today he mentioned plans for a patio-area garden next spring and admitted somewhat sheepishly that the time has come to purchase an iphone.

Tomorrow he will meet with someone from Home Instead and decide if this is a suitable resource for him. My sisters, Geo and Melinda, and brother-in-law, Art, have assisted, accommodated, and, on a few occasions, rescued Andy for many, many moons. Through regular check-ins, phone calls, home-cooked meals, in-home help and extraordinary patience, they've extended immense grace beyond measure.

It takes a village to live our lives, even when we think we've got it covered all by ourselves.

The sure comfort of poetry

The Peace of Wild Things by Wendell Berry

When despair for the world grows in me 
and I wake in the night at the least sound 
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be, 
I go and lie down where the wood drake 
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.

I come into the peace of wild things 
who do not tax their lives with forethought 
of grief.

I come into the presence of still water.

And I feel above me the day-blind stars 
waiting with their light. For a time 
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The eternal company of music

Dear Mr. Westlund,

Not sure if you had anything to do with the placement of these wind-chimes, but I've got to tell you, I'm inspired! I trust that the sweet music brings you a measure of pleasure year 'round and serves to remind you that you are not forgotten.

Autumn blessings and peace to you,

Thursday, October 20, 2011

A birthday gift in reverse order

Received today, via text message, on the occasion of her 22nd birthday:

"I love you Jenny. Thank you for all the years of love, hugs, laughs, cries, Pam's (roti), support, generosity, and, most of all, thank you for being such a role model for me."

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

With deepest gratitude and a heavy heart

Caroline Faith Sinanan, much loved cousin and soul-mate, found a full measure of peace today after a long course of treatment for breast cancer. On a crisp, sunny autumn day, Faith drew her last breath in the peaceful sanctuary of her cherished home, Whispering Oaks, in Ashland, Oregon. Daughter, sister, mother, cousin, aunt, niece, sister-in-law, nurse, neighbor, friend, landlord, foster-care home owner, employer, Jane-of-all-trades, beloved "mom" to Bindi and Gracie, well-informed patient with metastatic breast cancer, stunning woman, world traveler, roti-loving, woman of joy, and a highly independent spirit, to name a few.

Well-known for her decades of service to countless families in the Rogue Valley area as a compassionate, skilled and highly intuitive OB nurse, Faith had a following of fans that knew no limits. All who knew her loved her; plain and simple. She found great joy in sharing time with family, especially her beautiful daughter, Viyda, and her beloved nieces and nephews: MacKenzie, Quinn, Wyatt, and Maya. A teacher at heart, Faith loved to share her knowledge and understanding of things and how they worked and nudge others to further inquiry. She could fire off a list of questions and cite research studies and statistics like an eager intern, much to the occasional embarrassment of family who often sought the short version.

Since her initial breast cancer diagnosis in 2004, Faith took on the challenge of living life and educating herself about her disease with equal passion. She inspired us, challenged us, and lead the way. I responded by availing myself and, as a result, grew to know and love Faith like a sister, developing an intimate relationship that served us both. Through biopsies, port-placement, blood draws, chemo, more surgery, MRIs, CT-scans, spinal taps, gamma knife procedures and WBRT, there we were. Through water play at Bowen, Maui, Kauai, local lakes in the Ashland area and at the Golding's pool party, there we were. Through the night, on many occasions, awake, talking, holding on to each other, crying, laughing, sharing stories, there we were, together, living our lives.
Unselfishly, Faith offered me the rich blessing of intimacy. She loved that I accepted that gift, and she rewarded me with a deep trust, confiding in me on issues that took great courage for us both.

I shall miss Faith dearly. I give abundant thanks for our time together and for the generosity of spirit she so freely shared. And I vow to do my best to honor her memory through intentional, joyful living. Namaste, Faith.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Holding without holding on

Gracious God,

Thank you for bringing us safely to the beginning of this day. Thank you for our lives and for opportunities to reach beyond our own small sphere into the realm of others' sacred space. Guide us to that still point where grace may flourish like the welcome of dawn's first light. Help us to open our arms in your service, surrounding those in need with comfort and tender love.


Saturday, October 15, 2011

In stillness, listening

Conversations, thoughts, prayer, people: all have passed through today and left me with more to further explore. This morning I unearthed a small collection of artifacts commemorating a dear friend who died in February. Prayer followed.

At midday, two separate conversations an hour apart with Gladys, her voice revealing fear and anxiety and an underlying theme of impending loss. In retrospect, I think I fell woefully short in offering her support. Even a brief window of time allowed me to see that listening and simply honoring her words and feelings is much more vital than espousing my own perspective. More prayers.

Later, I spent time reflecting on my mother's life and our respective places in it. I began working on a book for her, filled with pictures and a few words to serve as a lifeline anchoring her to her life.

Then a blow-through visit from Reilly, always in motion, ready to share ideas, film clips, music, projects, all in an effort to connect, and oh, connect he does!

Sometimes all I need to do is be still and honor what arises from that place.

Friday, October 14, 2011

A shining light

Today I attended the Wyckoff Luncheon & Awards Ceremony, benefiting Provail, a Seattle non-profit organization helping children and adults with disabilities live better lives. I've had the honor of attending this event for several years, thanks to an invitation by my dear friend, Sharon Jodock-King, a past-board member. The fund-raising luncheon is an inspirational community celebration, honoring the many businesses and individuals in our region who volunteer their time and services to support Provail and their programs.

Sharon served as our table captain and was an awards presenter today, which also happens to be her birthday. Her presentation speech, delivered through her communication device, was classic Sharon, infused with poignant facts, eloquent stories and her trademark sense of humor. A sensitive and spiritual woman, Sharon takes great pride and joy in living independently with her husband, Alan, in their Shoreline home. She is a breast cancer survivor and a devoted advocate for those living with disabilities. The DSHS Aging & Disabilities Services website offers this bio:

Born in Washington State, Sharon spent much of her childhood living in a hospital ward for children with disabilities before spending most of the next 30 years living in three different Washington State institutions, including Rainier School, the Interlake Nursing Home in Bellevue, and the United Cerebral Palsy Center in Seattle. She moved from the UCP Center in 1986 and has lived on her own in Seattle with her husband, Alan King, since that time. Sharon was honored as the first ever recipient of the lifetime achievement award from Washington People First, having been active as a founding member since its inception. Among her many other accomplishments, Sharon earned an AA degree in general studies from a Seattle area community college in the 1970s and has served on multiple boards, including Washington Protection & Advocacy, the Developmental Disabilities Planning Council, Provail, the Neglect and Abuse committee, and her local church council. She is also an artist, having sold many paintings over the years.

Thank you, Sharon, for your steadfast advocacy and community service, and for your friendship these many years.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Sweet, tender autumn

The Fall

I love the light of autumn:
the fall from grace
through space and into place,
a season between extremes
when we forgive each other and ourselves
for all we have done and not done,
and prepare together
for the darkness and cold to come.

~ William Chipman

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Taut and tethered

I remember with great fondness an autumn walk with my mother and Andy, many years ago, during a weeklong visit to our home. Descending a steep wooded trail, Andy fumbled with his camera, calling out to his wife as she got dragged down the hill by Maude. "Marianne!", he called, "Wait! I want to take your picture!" It was indeed a lofty wish. My mother, nearly airborne, was already out of sight. When we caught up with her, she shot me a glance and posed a reasonable question. "When are you going to get a dog that isn't intended for hunting?"

Exhibit A: taut leashes, red-alert postures, all canine muscles fully engaged. No wonder my gait is akimbo!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Of bikes and children

It's bike club time at our local elementary school, and this is my 4th year of volunteering. Today was our first ride of the school year and we had 22 student riders, two staff, and three volunteers; that's a lot of adrenaline on wheels.

The route begins at Cedar Way Elementary and winds through Mountlake Terrace, including a lovely section on a wooded trail through Terrace Creek Park, and ends at the library, where students spend time checking out books or working on their homework. I love both the concept and the experience. Combining exercise and literacy excites and delights me, and riding with the students and bringing up the rear gives me a chance to support them in an entirely different realm. And best of all, I get to spend time with students that I've known for nearly 6 years.

Today's ride began during a sun break on a blustery day and ended in a steady rain, adding significant challenge for many. We had a few spills on slippery surfaces, lots of tired riders with varying fitness levels and coping abilities, and one frighteningly close call with an inattentive driver.

Volunteering is one of the bright beacons in my life and I hope to keep at it well into my elder years. For now, the bike club is an especially good fit!