A mother’s love – Mother’s Day musings

Happy Mother’s Day to all mamas! ūüíú Including mamas to be, grandmas & all women who offer nurturing and mama love to those who may not be their children. ūüíē

I know many remarkable moms of all ages and I am in awe of them all, especially those of my peers who I’ve watched go from young, often bewildered, overwhelmed (and tired!) moms with babes, facing the endless challenges of self-growth while growing children. Whose mothering has been driven by tender hearts and fierce determination to protect, nurture and steer their “kids” down their own unique paths of growth & independence. I’ve watched these women discover who they are as women and mothers as they mastered the most challenging and rewarding calling.

As a social worker I’ve also seen so called “bad” moms, women who could not find in themselves the strength or spirit to fulfill the job. As a counselor, I’ve heard many stories of women whose mothering fell short of what their children, now grown, needed. I’ve heard these stories from their grown children.

Motherhood is not all or nothing, it has many gradients. Some women’s lives take a turn down a different path after they become mothers and they are not able to be the moms they wanted to be.

There are all sorts of studies made and books written about what mothering is, defining motherhood, attempting to answer questions such as: is it learned or instinctual? I recently read some touching articles about women who, due to the circumstances of their lives, gave their new born, or yet to be born, babies up for adoption. In these stories it is clear their decision to do so was a decision of the heart, a decision guided by love.

When I listen to a woman talk with concern about her children, now old enough to make their own life choices, and wonder, as their mother, if she guided them right and taught them all they needed to know, the worry I hear is coming from the heart.

An older friend who has three children, all rather eccentric, with physical or emotional challenges, has said to me “at least none of my kids are in jail or doing drugs.” She had many challenges in her life while trying to be a mom, and wasn’t always “there” for them, but she always cared about them, loved them, and though their lives now are not easy, and this brings her sorrow, they are all good people. No one failed. Love was present.

With his permission I share my husband Mike’s story, at least a summary of it. When he was 9, the oldest of three kids, Mike’s mother was hospitalized for psychiatric reasons. (Given the time period this happened, it is unclear whether her hospitalization was appropriate).¬† Mike and his younger siblings were simply told was she was sick and in the hospital. During this time his father divorced his mom, eventually remarrying. When, after three years, his mom was released from the hospital, she was allowed to spend Sundays with Mike, his brother and sister.¬† These days together often involved time in Nature, perhaps on picnics together.¬† Later, as a young man, Mike lived with his Mom for 6 months when she moved to the east coast for a few years. They talked a lot about that time in her life, her thoughts about motherhood, her concerns for her children during and after her hospitalization. She felt guilt and had concerns about how her children were raised. Mike assured her they were all good people. (I can vouch for that!) As adults, and in time, they each established their own relationship with her. She was a woman whose life took her down an unexpected path, she was not the mother she, or others, expected her to be, but she never stopped caring about, and loving, in her own way, her children.¬† Mike attributes much of his own sensitivities, love and appreciation for Nature to his mom. He remembers the picnics with her and her love of the ocean.¬† Like all moms, she influenced who he became, in spite of her own struggles, of not ‘being there’ for her kids, and perhaps being seen by others as an unfit mother.¬† She loved her children, they all loved her in return. That is motherhood.
I’ve come to believe that unless there is deep mental pathology making mothering impossible due to disconnection and cruelty, most women who become mothers do the best they can, in whatever way they can, to care for their children. For some that may be sacrificing being in their children’s lives, but continuing to love them. Maybe the mind, or the body, does not fully sign up for the job, but the heart is always present.

Love to all mom’s for loving.

Related posts: Moms & herbs, Mother’s Garden, Mother’s Day & Cowbirds

Because my mom was a lover of flowers I chose some quintessential May flowers to post with this. Below is the Japanese Garden in Seattle.  Mom loved everything Japanese, the food, the art, and especially the gardens.

The love story I never knew…..

Dearest Ruth,

For once I ran out of envelopes before I ran out of paper. I guess this box of stationary was properly designed for both to just about come out the same.

Also for once I actually got my arms around you in a dream last night and saw you very plainly too. Mostly you’re just in my dreams and I feel your presence but I never actually am able to stand back and see you. But I must have been thinking of you exceptionally strongly yesterday – even more so than I usually do which is a lot. Because I remember that there was a bombing raid on and I ran into this apartment house to find you and you came out of a door and ran right into my arms. I could almost feel you in my arms and your cheek against mine and you looked very happy to see me too. Just like the first nite we met in New York – remember? Anyway it seemed so real that I woke up and was rather startled – I couldn’t figure out where I was. Next time you leave my dreams take me with you please?

Well a week from today is Valentines Day my darling and if everything goes right we will be able to mail these letters tomorrow and you will get this one not too far after the 14th. In which case will you be my Valentine? I know you will because you always have and it’s lucky I am for your the sweetest Valentine a man could ever hope for. Darling I love you very much, more than I can ever tell you and I can only hope that I can soon be with you so I can demonstrate in various little ways how great is my love for you. This year I haven’t a Valentines Day remembrance to send you. But next year I hope to bring you one personally.

Until that happy day my darling we’ll just wait and be patient. Knowing that our love and life together will be all the sweeter for our separation.

All my love,

P.S. I can’t say where I am of course but to ease your mind I can say that we are proceeding to an area relatively free from dangers. HH


a little locket of mom’s with a picture of dad and herself, likely from before they were married, maybe high school days.

Written February 7, 1945, this letter, written by my father to my mom while he was on a minesweeper in during WWII, was written only weeks after his ship participated in the Invasion of Lingayen Gulf, an allied amphibious operation in the Philippines to retake the bay from the Japanese. It was an operation similar to the more well known invasion of Normandy, with dozens of ship casualties, mostly from kamikaze attacks. He describes the invasion in a letter to his mother written in March of the same year. After describing the line up of ships ready to attack, he writes, “everyone has to wait until the cocky little minesweepers run in by the beaches to sweep for any stray mines before the first waves of landing craft come in. The whole gulf had been previously swept by us and the big minesweepers the 3 days prior to the landings before anyone else was there….”

I try to understand the extremes of emotions one goes through when at war, living in extreme danger, watching those around you get blown up, yet at the same time staying involved with life and loved ones back home. My father wrote my mother nearly every day, as I’m sure many soldiers and sailors did. The letters must of piled up since they were only able to send them periodically. Since their ship’s whereabouts were mostly secretive, letters to men on the ship were often delayed months. Shortly after this letter was written he received, from both grandmas and mom, the news that his first child, a son, was born January 30. Oh how the letters changed! They still began with “dearest Ruth”, or “my dearest”, and he still expressed his love and appreciation for her, but now he spoke of Kenny, or Ken, or K.B. – in every letter. He had the questions first time dads have, he wanted to know everything, he speculated on Ken’s future. He is proud and happy and clearly missed being with his new family. In the first post-birth letter he says he was “floating on the deck” and handed out cigars to all his ship mates. (This is funny because my parents never smoked, but tradition is tradition! The question is, where did he get them?)

From my perspective my father was not an emotionally expressive person, except when anger got the better of him. I never heard him say I love you or even show pride or approval to anything in my life, and I believe my brothers experience of him was similar. He did show his feelings in small ways. There were presents at Christmas that showed personal thoughtfulness. He wanted us to have life experiences, family vacations were important. He took the role of father and provider seriously, but was not emotionally connected to his children. And he always gave gifts and cards to mom for every Valentines Day, birthday, anniversary and Christmas, often very thoughtful, personal ones and always with a loving “Hallmark” type card. I think the feelings were there, but they were turned off.¬† Mom would say “ your father is proud of you” or some such thing, but I never knew if this was true or she was just “covering” for him.

My parents marriage, from my grown up analytical perspective, was not always easy. As a child I never felt I was growing up in a tumultuous home, but there were occasionally scary, volatile arguments behind closed doors. In many ways my parents were equal partners making major decisions together, in other ways it was a patriarchal home.

After reading letters between them before they married, as well as the small spiral notebooks kept in some secret place (a milk box or mail box?) in which they wrote notes to each other when Dad, in college, was working a graveyard shift, and Mom, younger than him, and still in high school was living with her mother, I have come to know how deep their friendship was, the strong values they shared, and the dreams they had and worked toward in their life together. I have learned their’s was a love story I never knew.

I think Dad may well have suffered from some degree of PTSD. The emotional impact of war, though recognized as far back as the Civil war, was not addressed as it is now. During the Korean War it was called “shell shock”, but the term Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a post Vietnam Nam War term. To be in a war zone, to participate in the killing of others and watch others be killed, any sane person would need to turn off the more sensitive parts of themselves. Some people cannot and are emotionally traumatized, others can and successfully turn that part of themselves back on once away from the trauma. Other’s cannot turn their feelings back on.

My dad had resiliency, his letters home to his wife and mom were generally up-beat, though he occasionally wrote of being homesick. He wrote about every day life on board the ship, especially the food, which was scarce in variety at times, then suddenly they’d get a drop off of fresh veggies, fruit, maybe cheese and eggs. Once there was a case of Washington apples, a treat from home for him!¬† He wrote about life at home, asking questions, always responding to things they would write him. Long, chatty, expressive letters, they showed gratitude for little favors done by others, like his mother sending flowers in his name when my brother was born. They also showed the practical pragmatic he was, he carefully asks about the cost of the glorious birth!

There were times I saw this expressive side of my dad, but for the most part he was the practical, the pragmatic. Late in his life, in his 70s and around the time he was first diagnosed with the prostate cancer which would eventually cause his death at 78, he began to draw, to write stories, to write poetry. I knew then there was a side to him he never attended to or nurtured, a side that wrote love letters and was able to show he cared about those he loved. There was a time that side was not turned off.

Dad with the woman of his dreams, his friend, his lover.

Dad’s dream about a bombing raid and looking for my mom in an apartment building may show his worry for those at home and the reality of living in Seattle during the war, when nighttime black-outs and a faux city was built on top of the Boeing plant to disguise it. Seattle was a target city, important to the war due to Boeing and not that far from Pearl Harbor.

The letters, diaries, little notebooks kept by my mother were not kept for others, I knew nothing of them until I cleaned out their house, yet they were preserved through various moves across the country, kept along with the cards, memorabilia and those “important” “dear Mom and Dad” letters from her children. I believe her private keeping of them was her own reserved way of honoring and cherishing the feelings expressed, especially the love. Maybe when the love was hard to see,¬† when their marriage was painful, she would read them.¬† I will never know.

I share this private love story on Valentines Day to show how love can be stifled, locked up and hard to notice.  How it can be injured. Look for it, it may just be scared to come out.

It may be in an old shoe box, hidden in an old letter.


other related stories:

Hearts and Califlower

“The Day of Days”

Natue’s Heart

Valentine’s Day

Animal Love

This is not a love story….

Checking your bags

‚ÄúHatred paralyzes life; love releases it. Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it. Hatred darkens life; love illuminates it.‚ÄĚ ¬†From Strength to Love, a collection of sermons and speeches by Rev. Martin Luther King, 1963.


IMG_5465If I had children, or grandchildren, I would talk to them today and try to explain how we carry inside of ourselves many ‘bags‘ of feelings.¬† One of those bags may contain hatred. I would tell them the hate some people put in that bag is toward themselves, making the bag heavy and hard to bear. I would tell them some people put hate they hear from others in their own bag, making it bigger, and when that bag of hate is too big, there is no room for the bags of love, compassion and joy, and it spills out into words and acts of hatred. I would encourage them to never let their bag of hate get big, to fill the bags of love, compassion and joy so there is no room for hate.¬† And to never, ever, put in their bag hatred spilling out from others.

I do not have children, or grandchildren, so I will pray that children everywhere learn to love, feel loved, learn about compassion and feel joy. I will pray they are protected from the hatred of others.

If I had a neighbor whose skin was darker than mine, I would go and sit with them, I would hold their hand, listen to their concerns, fears and anger. I would not tell them I understand their feelings because I don’t, I can’t. But I can empathize, I can show compassion and love. I can feed them and let them know I care.

I don’t have a neighbor whose skin is darker than mine, so I will pray for dark-skinned people everywhere. Pray they know there are those who care, pray for their safety when they feel unsafe, for their peace of mind when they feel fear and anger.

imageIf I had a neighbor who was a cop, I’d tell that person I appreciate what they do when they act as guardian to the children, to my other neighbors, to our community. I would listen to their concerns, fears and anger. I would ask they always listen to their own heart.

I do not have a neighbor who is a cop, so I will pray for people everywhere who work to protect others. Pray for their safety when they feel unsafe, for their peace of mind when they feel fear and anger.¬† Pray they have big ‘bags‘ of compassion.¬† And if they don’t, to step down from their work, for that quality is needed to protect others, to be a guardian of the lives of the children, of my other neighbors. Of people everywhere.

Perhaps you are feeling helpless, or hopeless, angry, overwhelmed, or detached from the events of violence this week, last week, last month, last year…..everyday. Perhaps you do not believe in the value of prayer. Besides political and social action, you can check your own ‘bags‘, be sure your bags of love, compassion and joy are full and that you are not filling a bag of hatred, which is spilling out from many people right now. You can share that love, compassion and joy wherever and with whomever….with children, with your neighbors.

‚ÄúThe ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.‚Ä̬†¬†From Strength to Love, ¬†Rev. Martin Luther King


Valentine’s Day

Valentine‚Äôs Day, a celebration of love. How controversial can THAT be? It wasn’t invented by Hallmark, as many jaded folks feel about the whole affair. It does support the florist industry, not a bad thing, small flower shops could not thrive without it. And along with Halloween it probably keeps the candy industry afloat too. (There might be some controversy there, but as always, buy local and buy healthy.)


Tin heart from Mexico

The most accepted version of how Valentine’s Day came into being is the story of a priest named Valentine. In the third century Emperor Claudius II decided single men were better soldiers then married men so he outlawed marriage for young men. Valentine felt this was grossly unfair and, defying Claudius, performed marriages in secret. He was caught and sentenced to death. As the story goes, he either struck up a friendship or fell in love with (depending on the version you read) the jailer’s young daughter and wrote his young friend a letter before being executed…. often referred to as the first Valentine.

There’s not a lot of hard evidence for this story, likely passed down originally by oral tradition, but having all the elements of a good story – rebellion in the name of love against an evil emperor, it has stuck.


Paper mache heart decoration

Before the martyrdom of Valentine the feast of Lupercalia was celebrated from February 13 to 15. “Men sacrificed a goat and a dog, then whipped women with the hides of the animals they had just slain…young women would actually line up for the men to hit them. They believed this would make them fertile.” This strange ritual was followed by a matchmaking lottery. Young men drew the names of women from a jar. The couple would then be coupled up for the duration of the festival, or longer. (1)

These two stories, blended together and soften over the centuries, thanks to Shakespeare, Chaucer, and the poets of the world, became today’s Valentine’s Day. Losing the early pagan mating rituals, and rarely seen as a Christian celebration, it became a day for children to hand out funny Valentines to friends and couples to find time to acknowledge and express their love for one another with flowers, candy, dinner out or whatever. Not a bad thing!


A vintage cardboard decoration

Growing up, our family celebrated all the traditional American holidays. Somehow Mom found time between working full-time, raising three kids, and fulfilling the responsibilities of a typical housewife in the 50s and 60s, to do a little decorating, make a special dinner and, always, a special dessert for every holiday from Halloween to St. Patrick’s Day and beyond. Christmas was a grander affair and Easter involved the extra tasks of buying Easter outfits and putting together Easter baskets.

Maybe because it was low-keyed, and definitely a family affair, I’ve always liked Valentine’s Day and never thought of it as a holiday exclusively for couples. ¬†My brothers must have been influenced in the same way, because over the years I occasional receive Valentines from each of them, and I’m guessing not too many men send Valentines to their sisters! (Aren’t I lucky!)

As a single adult I pretty much did what mom did…decorate a little, make a special dinner, send Valentines to friends and family. I still do, most years. Mike greatly appreciates it all and it remains a low-keyed time to simply celebrate love, both within our marriage and beyond.


delicate embroidery on a linen handkerchief

But this celebration of love has deeper meaning to me now than it did growing up. Call it Divine Love, Universal Love, Cosmic Love, or just Love with a capital ‚ÄúL‚ÄĚ, it is a force greater than the lust of the early Roman couples or the amorous feelings of a condemned priest. It is the love felt when a mother looks into the face of her new born, when a friend holds the hand of a dying friend, or a spouse tenderly cares for their mate who does not recognize them any more. It is the warmth one feels with a long-time friend, or a spouse, when you share a moment of laughter at some ‚Äėin joke‚Äô and realize how deep and how lasting your relationship is. It is the compassion of a police officer who buys a homeless person a pair of shoes, or a child who saves her allowance and raises money to help people in a country he or she has never been to. This love is beyond romantic love. It is unconditional, made up of compassion, empathy, appreciation, respect. It is inclusive, accepting another person because you see beyond their actions, or their beliefs. Ignoring the differences that make them “other”, you see them with an understanding heart, not a critical mind. And you care about them.

This love has seemingly gone missing when you read the headlines. But it is alive and well in small compassionate acts of ordinary people who do extraordinary things, as well as every day deeds of kindness. It is alive when people take action from their hearts. It is in the stories that don’t make the headlines.

We can, and need to, nurture it and celebrate this love everyday. It’s what the world needs now, more than ever.

To celebrate it is perhaps an act of rebellion against the hatred being taught and glorified. This celebration of universal love for all, I think, would make the rebellious priest Valentine, who lost his life to help other’s celebrate their love, very happy!

Happy Valentines Day!


(1) National Public Radio story on the origins of Valentine’s Day¬†





This is not a love story, or maybe it is‚Ķ..

Writing about an old boy friend the day before Valentine’s Day may seem strange, and it is, but it’s only the beginning of this tale‚Ķ..so please bear with me‚Ķ‚Ķ..

The theme of the 1986 Vancouver Expo was communication and transportation. In 1986, I was in a relationship doomed to fail for all the usual reasons, including lack of honest communication. The title of the then popular book Smart Women, Foolish Choices was the mantra I ignored playing in the back of my mind throughout the nearly 18 months I tried to help someone with no history of settling anywhere, settle into my life. Mind you, I was not the one who started it all. After a brief encounter over a campfire in a campground, he looked me up, arriving in my front yard unannounced a few months later.  That was early summer 1985.

When my parents gave us tickets to the Expo as a Christmas present in 1985, they apparently had faith in the relationship lasting, at least until the following summer. ¬†Though Gary and I had some good times together, it was a relationship that made me crazy in so many ways. Gary was a hard-working nice guy, with various well hidden addictions, and the unpredictable behavior of walking away from people…..past family, jobs, and a not-so-ex girlfriend. He had already walked away from our fledging relationship when he headed south the day he was to move from eastern Washington to a rental down the road so we could see where our relationship might go if we lived geographically closer. Embarrassing to say, though his behavior and words of explanation at the time couldn’t have been a clearer sign of what was to come if it had in fact been a neon sign, I convinced him to turn around, come back, give it a try. I reminded him he had a rental agreement with my friends who owned the house.

One of the many colorful modes of transportation exhibited at the 1986 world's fair in Vancouver.

One of the many colorful modes of transportation exhibited at the 1986 world’s fair in Vancouver.

We worked at being a couple for months, but by Expo time we’d tried for over a year and knew it was not going to work…..I think we “stayed together for the tickets.” ¬†That September we went to Vancouver and stayed with a kind, witty, elderly couple, aunt and uncle of my mom’s best friend. We mostly went our separate ways at the expo. This was pre-cell phones, and at one point, when he failed to show at an agreed upon rendezvous, I assumed he had split. He hadn’t. I LOVED the exhibits I went to. I finally “saw” the Northwest Territories I’d dreamed of visiting since I was a child, collecting literature for the trip I still had hoped to take. At an African (I can’t remember which country) exhibit, alive with music and color, I¬†bought a little thumb piano made from recycled tin. Gary and I were both enchanted by the brightly painted buses and trucks from Pakistan. When the weekend ended he hitched back to Washington to work, I set off for a solo vacation to the Canadian Rockies.

expo 86032

Which gets me to the reason for this story at this time. Clearly, though it is Valentines Day, Gary was not the love of my life. (I’ll get to him.) No, it’s because this week I am sick with one of those flu viruses that hit ya about once a decade. And in the 80s, it hit me in the Rockies.

Feeling relieved to be away from Gary, I drove northeast toward Banff. This was the year before the opening of the Coquihalia Highway which streamlined the route between Vancouver and Banff. ¬†The older route was longer and I enjoyed the scenery as I looked forward to mountains, camping, and traveling on my own, as I had for 7 years after the amicable end of my previous, one and only, long-term “significant relationship”.

I felt a sore throat the first night I camped. The second day, after a brief stop at Lake Louise Hotel, which was nearly empty (I guess everyone was at the Expo!) for the spectacular lake view, I arrived at a campground outside Banff late in the day. A mixture of rain and snow was just starting to come down. It was cold, and I was hot. I pitched my tent, cooked a meal inside it, and crawled into the back of my Toyota Corona where stormy weather outside reflected the fury raging in my body through a sleepless night.

The next day was one of those blue sky sunshiny days where, at those higher elevations, everything seems crystal clear and so bright there’s a feeling of other-worldliness. I, determined to see something in spite of how I was feeling, rode the gondola for what was indeed a surreal experience given that by then I had a high fever and chills and aches that made dying sound like nirvana and the only possible relief.

I did not have a credit card then. I called my mom, we both consulted the same B.C. guide-book, found an affordable motel just outside the park, heading south. She called, made a reservation, and I left, driving away from my dream vacation of hiking and traveling alone in the Rockies. I was both chilled and feverish, and drove holding to my forehead a wet cloth I would “refresh” from the melting ice in my cooler every 20 minutes. I undoubtedly drove through beautiful scenery, but I was just trying to stay on the road in what was starting to feel like a fever induced delusional state of mind. It was a long drive. I do remember one roadside stop where other cars had stopped to view a mama bear with cubs. When I crossed the park boundary and found the motel, it was evening. I walked into the office, the person at the desk looked up and said “You must be Penney, you look really sick.” They weren’t offering anything more than a room, but after buying night-time NyQuil at the small, and only, nearby store, the room became my sanctuary for five days as I laid in bed, occasionally heating soup or boiling water on my camp stove set up in the shower stall. ¬†Time has not embellished my memory of this story, I was really sick.

I survived. After a few days the fever broke, I gingerly took a few walks nearby. When I thought I could do so safely, I drove home‚Ķ..it took four days. I was weak. ¬†And I was late back to work. It was not a fun trip to the Rockies, but it was a break from a crazy time in a crazy relationship. I don’t remember if at the time I reflected on much, the flu forced me to live in the moment. In a weird way, I enjoyed and appreciated the time away with no expectations of having a great time. I was not having a great time. And though it was scary how sick I was so far from anyone and anything familiar (did I mention the nearest hospital or doctor was along ways away), I was having time away from everything and everyone in my life. In that sense it was a true vacation.

Gary left a few months later. Moving on with life, I visited friends in Sweden and Germany the following March. Gary even sent me a nice travel book as I planned the trip. In the summer of 1987 I began a Masters program in psychiatric rehabilitation. ¬†That winter I did meet the love of my life. And our first “official” date was in fact to the Swan School Valentines Sweetheart Ball in 1988.

PJ & Mike 1987030

Mike, a little self-conscious on our first official date to the Swan School Valentine Ball, wearing a borrowed sport coat, attire no one had ever seen him in before. He turned out to be a pretty good dancer, easy to be with, and we’ve been dancing together through life ever since.

As I lay here sweating, every cell of my body aching, coughing til it hurts, head throbbing, throat feeling like I swallowed crushed glass, voice almost¬†gone, (you get the picture, especially if you’ve been there), I know this is one of those once a decade bugs (I hope, as I do to want to repeat this for a long time). The past two years of my life, with the care of mom as she declined into Alzheimer’s, moving her four times, emptying and selling her house, two bouts with breast cancer, Mike’s health challenges‚Ķ.has been the most crazy time of my life. The past several days I’ve been too sick to reflect on anything‚Ķ.or eat, or sleep. I still feel lousy, but the fever has broken, and as my brain begins to function again I recall this past flu story and wonder‚Ķ… maybe this is a way of “burning up” the past to move on. I hope so.

Though he locked his keys in his truck tonight, my sweetheart did deliver a lovely bouquet!

Though he locked his keys in his truck tonight, my sweetheart did deliver a lovely bouquet!

As for a more seasonally appropriate love story‚Ķ‚Ķ.I left sick bay tonight, albeit grumpily, to drive 23 miles round trip to where Mike locked his keys in his truck. Driving home in the dark I thought about the myriad ways Mike, in his sometimes bumbling, but always heart felt,¬†genuine way,¬†goes out of his way for me. ¬†Every day. The past two nights he’s come home from work and made me miso soup, the only thing I feel like eating. I do not need to tell love stories for Valentine’s Day because I live a love story.

I wish you all a Happy Valentine’s Day and invite you to read previous Valentines posts. And if you’ve had any crud bugs this winter, perhaps this will help you reflect on the experience as a time of transition, a time out.

other February posts:¬†Animal Love,¬†A Love Story,¬†Nature’s Heart

and another love story: Love Child


Life circumstances, mostly my mom’s growing care needs over the past few months, have kept me from even thinking very creatively, let alone finding time to write. ¬†But as with most families, as one generation’s story reaches its final chapter, younger generations are beginning new journeys and creating new stories.

My two oldest nieces, Katina and Kira, both chose this month to marry their sweethearts, and since many of the readers of this blog are family and good friends, this mini post is to share a page of photos from Katina & Daniel’s wedding. If you are so inclined, you may enjoy this joyous occasion through the eyes of one devoted Aunty, me, by clicking the link below.

 Mercandante’s Wedding Celebration.


10446637_10202192226267779_5104555424149590081_nThe next celebration is Kira (pictured here at her cousin’s wedding) and Carlos’s wedding this coming Friday, which, sadly Mike and I will not be attending, but she and her husband will be celebrating again in Washington come September and we look forward to sharing that time with them, their families and friends.

Unabashedly delighted and proud to see the remarkable young women my nieces have grown to become, and like anyone who wants only the best life has to offer the young people they love and care about, I’m overjoyed they each are marrying men who love and respect them and treasure their uniqueness.

I hope to write again soon and share some thoughts inspired by Nature’s beauty as we were able to experience it on our trip to Katina’s wedding, spending time in the Redwoods, and on the Rogue River.

Thank you for indulging my Auntiness.


Animal Love

LoveLove is the word for the week. Ignoring the commercialism, Valentine‚Äôs Day offers a time to pause and think about love. I’ve always enjoyed this holiday, coming when winter’s bleakness is wearing, just before spring, when our souls are hungry for something to brighten our lives and distract us a bit, if only for a day. Love is famously distracting!

For me Valentine’s Day has never been just about couples and romantic love, perhaps because we celebrated it as a family growing up, or perhaps because the first decades of my adult life were spent mostly ‘single’…..yet I enthusiastically celebrated Valentine‚Äôs Day as a time for hearts and flowers, a time to send Valentines to friends and family we often fall short on expressing our love to.

Thinking about my post two years ago on finding heart shapes in Nature, I wondered….what else does Nature have to offer us for Valentine’s Day? Do animals express and feel love? The hotly debated discussion as to whether animals express and feel emotions I leave to others.¬† Animals clearly exhibit loyalty and nurturing, are these not characteristics of love?

My favorite love story from the animal kingdom comes from James Michener in the book Creatures of the Kingdom.¬† Many stories in this book tell of the lives and complexities of animal relationships, but the most romantic, the most touching to me, is a story simply titled “The Beaver”, originally from his novel Centennial.¬† There is no way I can tell you what it is about that would come close to the beautiful way Michener (who after all, is Michener!) tells the story of two beavers.¬† The main character, a young female, at two years of age, finally has to leave her parent’s home. After losing her first potential mate to another female, she finds an older, wiser, though slower with age, male with whom to build her home, her life, and raise a family.¬† Beavers mate for life.¬† They live in extended family groups. Their children stay with them for several years, older siblings help raise young kits. When a mate dies, the remaining mate does not look for another mate, but stays within the extended family and helps raise new generations.¬† Michener tells the story of this female, her mate and their extended family, in a tender, touching way……..how they work together, play together, care for one another, resolve disagreements, mutually nurture their young……how she cares for her elderly mate when he can no longer help, and grieves his death. ¬†Michener wrote novels, but he was known for his careful research into his subject matter. No doubt his description of this beaver couple is based on beaver life observations.¬† And it is as moving a love saga as any human romance. (I highly recommend the book based on this beaver love story alone, yet the rest of the book is full of equally good animal stories.)

This picture of the Klickitat River has nothing to do with this post, other than it is the scene of my own little love affair with a beaver who followed me as I walked the river bank early one morning.

This picture of the Klickitat River has nothing to do with this post, other than it is the scene of my own up close and magical encounter with a beaver who followed me as I walked the river bank early one morning. It’s spring green lushness is a ‘sight for sore’, winter weary eyes!

Some would argue these behaviors are instinctual and based only on survival needs, certainly instinct and survival play a major part of animal (and human!) interactions. Yet the internet and bookstores are flooded with stories, both famous and ordinary, of animals, often of different species, befriending, caring for, and exhibiting nurturing behavior toward one another, often counter to the understood “instincts” of their species. A popular book on this matter is Unlikely Friendships.¬† Author Jennifer Holland “documents one heartwarming tale after another of animals who, with nothing else in common, bond in the most unexpected ways. A cat and a bird. A mare and a fawn. An elephant and a sheep. A snake and a hamster…….predators befriending prey.” (from Amazon’s book description) ¬† What would we call these attachments if not a form of love?

Poets and philosophers, song writers and academics have offered for millennium definitions of love.¬† Maternal love, brotherly love, true love, Divine love, all phrases to differentiate different forms of love. Love is universal, yet how it is expressed can be culturally and personally unique.¬† Most agree, we humans do not fully understand what love is about……perhaps the complex, but uncomplicated behaviors of animals caring for, nurturing, snuggling, playing, and even grieving for one another, is closer to the elusive definition of love, unconditional love, than we imagine. Perhaps there are lessons to learn this Valentine’s Day from animal love.

ValentineHappy Valentine’s Day to you and your animal sweethearts, both wild and domestic!