Hello

we took a one day vacation early in Sept. It was wonderful. It wasn’t enough.

Hello.

Back in July, with a diagnosis of a cancer reoccurrence, I wrote in my last blog post I wasn’t sure if I would be writing on my blog any more – if, when, or about what.

I still wonder.

But I did write a page, which you can chose to read or not, which is why it is not a post. I do not want this blog to become yet another  “cancer blog”. The page is me mulling over my observations of how others respond when they learn I have cancer. Maybe you will find it helpful, not for me necessarily, but for anyone you may know who has cancer or any other serious health challenge, or is going through another type of life trauma.

It is a long piece and includes my “cancer story”. Hopefully it has a bit of wry humor.

Here is the link to the page: Mulling Over Life With Cancer

It begins with me staring out the window at a flicker. I hope if I do write again I get back to my ‘roots’ here on my blog and write about Nature. In the meantime, as I wrote below, you are invited to explore the menu on the right to read past posts – 8 years of – wanderings, stories, thoughts, my “mullings” over life, and my love of Nature.  Some are informative, some entertaining,  I hope you find a few of interest to you.  There are also pages to be checked out, see the menu at the top.

Love to you.

Penney

Rose therapy

 

Been six weeks since I broke my wrist. I lost some opportunities for harvesting certain medicinal plants I like to use that peaked during that time period, but today I celebrated new hand movement by harvesting roses for drying and making rose petal infused honey.

Yesterday I got the last of the three pins out that held the bone together while it started to heal. There’s still swelling, pain and a recovery road ahead to regain use of my wrist and strengthen my hand, but the surgeon was impressed. I was ahead of schedule on bone regeneration.

He’s a cool doc, he knows nutritional supplements help, but he doesn’t know the effects plant medicine has on bone healing and tissue recover. The first major task for the fingers on my weaken right hand today was pulling the silky smooth petals off while I inhaled the strong rose fragrance. Excellent rehab therapy!🌹

Wish I could post here the heady intoxication of sitting with a basket  full of scented roses! If you harvest your own, find full body scented ones, old bush roses are often the best, that are free of all sprays, road pollution etc, and harvest in the morning, choosing the ones freshly opened.

The Doctrine of Signatures states plants resembling certain body parts can be used to heal those body parts. What do you think? Can roses, the flower of love, with its heart shaped petals, heal hearts? Roses, which are astringent, do have medicinal properties, but I’d say it’s the aromatherapy that gladdens a sad heart!

So what is good for bone building?

Many vitamins and minerals are needed for bone growth.  Calcium, magnesium, boron, vitamin D 2, folate, zinc, selenium, copper, manganese, vitamin K and vitamins B2 and B6, are primary ones.

A number of herbs help with bone growth. Good ones are stinging nettle, horsetail, oatstraw, and Solomon’s Seal.  Because I want to take a lot and know they  are high quality herbs, I take the herbs in capsule form from a company that makes excellent products and drink a cold infusion tea of Solomon’s Seal daily.  I also used a comfrey and plantain salve on my arm above and below the brace for several weeks, and consulted with a traditional homeopathic practitioner for the right homeopathic remedies for my healing. Comfrey, called knit bone, will heal bones very well, there is some concern of it’s affect on liver so using topically is safest.

More about roses:

Rose Survivors

 

Spring cleaning our Mother Earth

“We have met the enemy and he is us.” Pogo

Living in Eugene, Oregon, in the early 70s, while attending the University of Oregon, I volunteered at the first Lane County recycling center, housed in an old warehouse. People dropped off bags and boxes of glass bottles outside the warehouse all hours of the day and night.  Boxes and bags of bottles piled up.  My volunteer shifts were spent hoisting cardboard boxes of glass bottles over my head, dumping them down a chute into a huge, noisy, glass-crushing contraption. Crushed glass was literally everywhere. It was unsafe to say the least! But those of us who volunteered were dedicated to recycling.

Cartoonist Walt Kelly drew this cartoon for the first Earth Day in 1970. He first used the quote in his book, the “Pogo Papers” in 1953. It is a parody of  “We have met the enemy, and they are ours”,  sent in 1813 from U.S. Navy Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry to Army General William Henry Harrison after his victory in the Battle of Lake Erie.

On the first Earth day in 1970 I was living and going to college in Washington DC where the event gathered a large crowd to hear inspiring speeches. I remember the educational booths of various environmental organizations and early “green” businesses. When I attended this event I didn’t know Earth Day had been proposed by Senator Gaylord Nelson, a Democrat from Wisconsin  determined to convince the government the planet was at risk. It was a bipartisan supported campaign that resulted in the establishment of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts being passed later in 1970. Nelson had announced his Earth Day idea in the fall of 1969 at a conference in Seattle, the city of my birth.

Washington state, where I live, is my “homeland”. Most of my relatives live here, my parents grew up here. Northwest roots shape my values and attitudes about Nature and the planet.  My dad, an active member of the Sierra Club later in life, had backpacked in the Cascade and Olympic mountains in his youth and from infancy until we moved from Washington when I was 4, our family spent summer vacations and weekends at a family owned cabin on Dabob Bay on the beautiful Olympic Peninsula. When we moved to the east coast we continued to camp weekends and summer vacations from Canada to the Carolinas.  My parent’s love of the outdoors was instilled in my brothers and I early in life. Also instilled in us were their depression-era values and the values they both inherited coming from farm based families (dad grew up on a small chicken farm, mother’s mother grew up on a dairy farm). Those values include reuse. Don’t create waste. Keep and fix what you have. Be frugal.

How do you instill these values in people who missed that early “programming” to appreciate Nature and to not be wasteful? Because in the decades since that first Earth Day, in spite of large municipal recycling programs, in spite of environmental education taught in schools, in spite of a multitude of public awareness campaigns, and in spite of science based warnings that go back further than Earth Day, we as a society continue to destroy resources (our own and those of “developing” nations), to litter, to pollute our waters, to make and consume cheap goods that eventually break, become unused and are tossed into landfills. (Landfills! What a term, fill the land, the earth, the planet we live on with our garbage. What were we thinking!) How do you teach people who never have felt connected to Nature that everything they do, every choice they make, impacts the planet they and all future life is dependent on?

Like the people leaving those bags and boxes of bottles outside that early recycling center, people feel good recycling but do not stop and think – what happens to all this stuff. Nor do they change their consumption practices. They think they are doing good because they recycle. And they are, sort of.  Recycling is not enough, it never was and now recycling itself has become an international waste disaster.

My commitment to living a planet-friendly life sometimes gets eroded with a sense of “what difference does my small effort make”, an unfortunate attitude shared by many people.  As aging and health challenges drain my energy I often let things slip, making decisions based on what’s “easy” but not necessarily the best for the planet, and thus, ultimately for myself. There is stress when our actions do not reflect our values, and I feel that stress.

What we need to remember is communal and global shifts occur when many people do small things.  Positive action, repeated every day by millions of people, creates the energy of change.

So here are the 5 Rs, popular guidelines for making personal decisions that make a difference and help focus on values important to all of us who care about the Earth:

Refuse…..Consume less, don’t buy things you don’t need, don’t take freebies just because they’re free, say no to single use items, i.e. plastic utensils in the deli or plastic produce or grocery bags. Purchase and use reusable items. Say no to plastic packaging. When possible, purchase items with the least packaging. Buying local eliminates added packaging when items are shipped, as well as the energy used to transport it.  Tip: A great place to say no – don’t upgrade your cell phone just because there’s a new model, they consume huge amounts of valuable, some rare, resources.

Repair……Fix or have fixed what you can – clothes, furniture, appliances, etc. Buy quality, the best you can afford (buying less overall allows you to purchase better quality items you need to buy). If something is made better it lasts longer and is more likely to be fixable.

Reuse……..Up-cycle clothes, building materials, containers, etc. If you can’t reuse it, someone else might, so give it away and look for used items yourself rather than always buying new. But only give away what is truly reusable, a lot of charitable “donations” end up in landfills.

Recycle……A last resort, because there isn’t much true recycling going on. Currently most plastic is not being recycling. Find places that truly recycle before thinking you are doing good when you might just be passing on to someone else the act of tossing it in a landfill.

Rot…….Compost everything you can, which is most kitchen scraps and even some paper. Choose products that say they are biodegradable, and be sure they are. If you doubt it (like something plastic that says “biodegradable”) it probably isn’t. Get a worm bin (there are kits designed for people in small living spaces). Employee these tiny recyclers!

I add to this list Recreate, in Nature, because I believe we care for and feel more connected to that which we are familiar with. Connect to the Earth, then remember her when you make decisions.

If this list represents the values of our parents and/or grandparents, how did so many people in the “baby boom” generation turn away and exploit Nature, ignoring the consequences of their actions?  It can be attributed to self-centeredness, greed, and campaigns to encourage consumerism, such as one that was implemented following WWII to boost the economy and create jobs.

At its core it is a disconnect from our spiritual selves, the part of us that knows we are interconnected to a bigger web of life and need to, want to, care for it. Reconnecting to Nature helps establish a relationship which, like all relationships, we need to nurture.

A few daily choices I make:

Using cloth bags for small produce items that need bagging, i.e. peas, green beans, etc., bulk grains and nuts eliminates plastic bags. I make bags from fabric I have (including vintage cloth rice bags).  If you want to buy bags and can’t find bags locally, you can buy cloth bags on line, if you like cute home made ones check out Etsy, there are a lot!

Buying bulk household items, i.e. dish soap, using the same container over and over (which is an old plastic dish soap bottle, but a glass pump bottle, like we use in bathroom, works too) reduces plastic bottles. Next on my list is to make dish soap and cleansers, a relatively easy process. We also purchase sponges made from nature materials, like walnut husks, that are biodegradable.

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this simple body and face cream is yellow from calendula infused oil and beeswax, it does not color the skin.

Making simple personal care products, i.e. healing and moisturizing salves. It really is simple, if you want to try find a recipe using basic ingredients – a good quality oil such as coconut and/or olive and a little beeswax. I use herb infused oils for salves, but plain oils work fine for moisturizing lotions. In fact plain coconut oil works well as is! Many recipes include essential oils for fragrance, but some skin can be sensitive to essential oils so I don’t use them. (You can usually buy chemical free products made locally by small businesses who package them in glass jars.)

I’ve suggested to an herbal supplement company we buy many products from that they consider switching to glass bottles. Whenever possible we buy glass or cardboard containers. We have found a rice pasta we love that comes in a box, no plastic.  (Glass “recycling” isn’t as determental to the environment as plastic, but the production of glass is not chemical free so reuse when you can.)

These are just a few ways we try to live our values.  We are not ‘zero waste’, but our efforts not only contribute to the whole, but feel good to us and simplify life.  I have a list of steps yet to take, i.e. making shampoo or finding a bar shampoo I like and making laundry soap, also relatively easy.

Share your suggestions and ‘action steps’ in comments below. There are many resources on-line for “zero waste” living, for following the 5 Rs (sometimes it’s the 4 Rs), for making simple home products, many similar to those previous generations used.  You can find blogs by younger people who will still be here when I and my generation are long gone, who understand the crisis and are working against time to clean up the planet by changing values. I find their passion inspirational and it helps me remember my own passion….the one that made me crush glass when I was 22….. for earth friendly living.

Happy Spring cleaning as we clean up this planet together!

 

International Women’s Day

Last year on International Women’s Day I wrote of women older and younger than myself who I admire and feel inspired by. The year before I wrote of the women I know best, my peers and friends whose lives I have witnessed, women I love deeply and have the greatest admiration for.

What about “famous” women in history whose lives, at least the bits we know of them through media, might inspire us. Honestly, for me there were few in my younger years, though no doubt I’ve forgotten, and will think of others later. They are the same ones that inspired many of my peers.  I think I found more inspiration in the lives of women around me, women I knew as friends, teachers, those in the community. (Edited: I did remember later Annie Oakley, my first grade heroine)

What did those well-known women I recall admiring have in common? Their independence, their boldness, seemingly living their lives outside conventional roles expected of women in their time and place. They were women living as they chose. I would later learn each had paths that were greatly influenced by outer circumstances they adapted to. Yet within those adaptations they maintained an independence and individuality by which they became known.

An early heroine in my life was Amelia Earhart, a mythical figure, a woman of firsts, a woman who flew away, never to return. As a real, yet mythical woman, she grew to represent the independent woman, willing to take risks, be daring, seek adventure.

 

Then there was Katherine Hepburn, the woman who wore pants, looked beautiful, spoke her mind, and was a great actor. She also became a symbol of independence and individuality, if for no other reason than her clothes and the fact she never married or had children

 

In my 20s I was impressed by Simone de Beauvoir’s writings. The socialist who became a feminist role model due mostly to her writings, wrote that women had for too long been seen as the “other”, defined by and in relationship to men. She had a lot more to say, but that theme of her thinking and writing influenced feminist thinking, though she herself did not identify with feminism, being a strong socialist, until later in life when she decide socialism as she knew it was not going to give women the rights and recognition she felt they needed. 

Emily Carr, an eccentric, creative woman who patched together a life filled with animals, and a few people, was someone I learned about in my 30s.  As a woman, she was not recognized in her early life as the great painter she is, though some recognition came later. She was well-known for her quirky books, telling enhanced stories of the people in her boarding house and neighborhood, as well as stories of her beloved animals. She began writing late in life when painting became physically difficult. I identified with her aloneness and her passion for Nature in the Pacific Coastal forests and beaches on Vancouver Island where she lived.  

These women, I learned when reading their life stories, had contradictions and incongruences in their lives. They did not necessarily live according to the perceived and legendary roles in which others placed them. 

Later I learned of women mystics and saints, who lived remarkable lives not just from a spiritual or religious point of view, but from the perspective of women not following conventional lifestyles. 

Women like Mirabai, the 16th century saint of India who defied the traditional role of women of her time in order to worship as she chose. There is more myth than fact known of her life, but it is clear she was a strong, self-determined woman not easily threatened, for example, refusing to perform Sati, (burning herself alive) as was expected, at the time, of a Hindu wife when her husband died. She worshipped God in the form of Krishna and is best known for her beautiful devotional poetry.

Reaching further back in time is Hildegard of Bingen, born at the end of the 9th century. A devout Catholic, her visions early in life resulted in her parents sending her to a cloister. There she wrote volumes on her spiritual experiences as well as on her practices and insights into plants, the healing arts, and her other scientific discoveries about the human body and nature. She also wrote music. No other woman of her time wrote as much about so many topics. Most women then didn’t even write.

These women are superstars in our current awareness of women’s history. But they did not know that about themselves, they did not make life choices to become historical superstars, but rather they were trying their best to honor their own interests and passions, to learn and do what they were drawn to regardless of their life circumstances. That may be the lesson to learn from their lives.

I read of women today living remarkable lives, doing remarkable things in all areas of life. Women changing the lives of others and changing the world. Most are unknown except for those who may be a news story on a back page. Many live in countries or cultures whose attitudes toward women have not changed much since the times of the women mentioned above. Some have become famous and been recognized.

I believe all women are strong, are healers, inventors, writers, artists, leaders, teachers, discoverers, adventurers, role models, and always have been, regardless of the times they lived in. Like many women in history, we do not always define ourselves with all the labels that represent who we are, we do not always see who we are. Today, to celebrate you, a woman, write boldly a list of words that describe all of who you are in the world.  Share it, tell someone who you are as defined by your interests, passions, actions. 

And always remember – you are fabulous! Happy International Women’s Day!

Other posts about women:

International Women’s Day

Celebrating Friendship

You Are Remarkable! International Women’s Day

Women, Bugs and Storytelling

International Women’s Day 2008

Emma Jo

This is Emma Josephine Penney, my maternal grandmother. In this HS graduation picture I think she is beautiful and I want to believe she had hope and optimism for her future. But her life was difficult. As a child growing up on a dairy farm in Sagus, MA, the second to last child in a family that had more than one death of a child, her father was a strict patriarch. As a grown woman, she faced single parenting during the depression when she and my grandfather parted ways under unpleasant circumstances.

Born February 15, 1893 (later in life she insisted her birthday was really Valentine’s Day), she rarely used her first name, always went by Jo Penney (where my name Penney Jo came from. Born on my paternal grandmother’s birthday, I was named after my maternal grandmother). She lived to be 105, dementia making her last decade unpleasant. She hated, and rarely went to, doctors. She grew roses, veggies and everything, and when she turned 100 Boeing Aircraft Company sent a representative to her party to present her with a t-shirt and pin because she had worked there for decades. She saw women get the vote and volunteered at the voting polls until she couldn’t.

As a child I didn’t know her well, but as an adult, I admire her stamina and intelligence. I think of her as Febuary draws to a close, it was “her” month. And as March, Women’s History month, begins, I think of many of the women in my family lineage and wonder who, what, she, they, would be if they lived in today’s world.

Just a little ring story

Wedding rings have been around a long time. Credit for the first ones goes to the Egyptians, but archeological evidence has shown Neanderthals and cave dwelling people wore rings made of plant material. Some say they were exchanged, as in a wedding ceremony, but I’m not sure how finding evidence of rings being worn would tell the story of why. Certainly the rings found among the remains of ancient people hold stories lost to time.

It has, however, been well documented ancient Egyptians exchanged wedding rings of woven reeds, bone, leather and ivory. The Romans were the first to make rings of metal. The tradition of wearing a wedding ring on the third finger also dates to the Egyptians who believed one of the energy meridians in the body ran from the third finger to the heart. Chinese medicine and other traditions also speak of that meridian.

It’s impressive a tradition can be traced back to antiquity and is still honored and meaningful today.

In the healing tradition of Ayurveda  certain metals and gemstones are worn to bring health and balance to a person. Different stones and metals are recommended for different people’s innate constitution (or dosha in Ayurveda) or what is needed to bring healing to a person. Being formed over long periods of time in the earth, metals and gemstones are thought to hold high energetic vibrations.

One guideline for healthy living in Ayurveda is to be cautious about wearing or using something another person has worn or used. This applies to clothes and other personal items, but especially to jewelry, which is often worn by the original owner all the time.  As the vitality of food can be affected by the health and emotional state of the person preparing it, a piece of jewelry can also contain the ‘energies’ of the person who made it as well as the vibrations of the original owner. This understanding goes back thousands of years, but recent science as shown that indeed we are all made of energy and the energy fields of one being can impact another, as shown through plant and animal studies.

Given all this information, as well as my intuition, I stopped wearing the wedding ring that was made for me when Mike and I got married (Mike lost his a few weeks after our wedding under a house, but that’s another story! It was replaced). It never really fit me, and felt too ‘clunky” to wear, and I no longer felt comfortable about the person who made it.

I went back to wearing a ring made for me before we were married that had deep significance to me. It felt like “the right” ring to wear, even as a wedding ring.

My mom gifted me several rings when she began to clear out her jewelry. I received several of her rings and a few that had belonged to my maternal grandmother. It was interesting how some of these rings felt comfortable to wear, and others not. Of course several of them did not fit me, either too tight on my ‘ring fingers’ or too loose on my little fingers. I knew the stories behind some of the rings, but not all. A little ring came into my possession that felt ‘just right’, like Goldilocks finding the right chair and bed! I began to wear it on my third finger as a wedding ring, but still had a desire for that special ring that represented our relationship, our marriage.

That’s when I found Stephanie Selle. Stephanie, with her husband Brandt, is in the business of love. She is a local jeweler who offers couples the opportunity to make rings for each other with her there to guide and teach them. Her business is called “With These Rings”.  People of all ages, sizes, colors and lifestyles come from all over the country, from other countries, and from the local community, to have the special experience of making each other’s wedding rings.  What they all have in common is the love they share with their partner and the desire to have rings to symbolize that love. Stephanie is dedicated and passionate about what she does and has a deep appreciation for the unique experience and rings made by each couple. She teaches them about the metals they can use in their rings (this information is also on her web site) and helps them make choices for creating their own designs. Written comments indicate making rings with her is often as important to a couple as the wedding itself.

I read everything she wrote on her web site and called her. Would she make me a ring?

At first she said I could find a ready made ring elsewhere, but I knew this was the person I wanted to make that special ring. She also suggested I take a workshop with her and make my own ring. Mike and I talked about him making the ring. He was concerned about this arthritic thumbs and I was concerned about how my challenged body, with pain and stiffness, could sit through the process. No, we really wanted Stephanie to make the ring, especially after meeting her and talking with her for several hours!

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photo by Stephanie

So she did. A simple yellow gold band with a tiny accent band of rose gold (you have to look close to see it). It may look like any other gold ring, but to me it is the ‘right’ ring, the wedding ring I’ve waited 29 years (this October) to wear, made by the right person!

Of course I had to honor it, and the person who made it, with a mandala!

Thank you Stephanie!

Stephanie’s web site is fun to explore, even if you aren’t in the market for a ring: With These Rings

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To see other recently made mandala’s check out my second page of mandalas: Mandalas II or my mandala home page at: Floral Mandalas

 

 

 

 

Finding Hope

31 years ago I visited a German friend who lives in Nurnberg, a beautiful medieval town heavily bombed by allied forces in WWII. It had been targeted because Hitler had made it the home of his Nazi Party. The bombing had been called a “near perfect bombing”. The casualties were over 6,000 dead, 90% of the ancient city destroyed, the few historic buildings that remained heavily damaged.

After seeing evidence of the damage even decades later, and attending a Good Friday service in a famous church where art had been hurriedly stored away before the church was bombed (it was later rebuilt, as was most the city), I asked an older couple, friends of my friend, who were young folks during the war, if they were angry at Americans and others for the bombing and damage done to the city. Surprised by the question they answered no, they were embarrassed, and felt a sense of responsibility for what happened in their country, that Hitler came to power. They thought many, if not most, Germans felt that embarrassment.

Will there be a collective sense of responsibility in the United States by any group of citizens, or all of us, if our country continues on the racist, white supremacy, isolationist agenda of the current administration and those who support it? Those were my thoughts following recent Supreme Court rulings; the latest news on the detention camps; and so much more that is in the headlines.

Then I scrolled through my Facebook & Instagram feeds and saw photos of and read stories about ordinary people doing extraordinary and kind actions to help those who are impacted by government actions and the values that are currently sanctioned by the administration. I read of organizations whose activities and goals represent the values I have of honoring all who want to live their lives in safety, raise their children where they can grow, thrive, have meaningful lives and contribute to wherever they call home.

I have hope we will not be embarrassed, we will each say we did the best we could in resisting the destruction of those values. And I hope we do so in positive ways, with positive actions that do not mirror or in any way ‘feed’ the hatred.

May the activists “in the field” have strength and stamina in the elections and courts of law. May the angels volunteering and working to help families on the borders and in the detention camps be blessed. May we all help, however we can, those in communities impacted by economic devastation as government policies attempting to isolate and alienate us from the rest of the world through economic channels hurt those in this country. Also needing help are those whose health care, education, and jobs are taken from them due to funds being cut and channeled elsewhere. Those in our elected government who are resisting this agenda need our support and our votes. To those whose offering is prayers….may those prayers have power.

Where to you find hope? What actions can you take?

Happy Birthday Mom

Picking a bouquet of wintered over pansies yesterday, I thought of my mom, whose birthday is today. She was born 4/3/21, a date easy to remember!  Pansies were the first of many shared favorites. With her encouragement, I planted them as my first childhood gardening experience. I’ve written of mom and her love of growing flowers before, it’s a memory that makes me smile. It was a part of her that lasted until almost the end of her life, as other parts of her fell away.

I got out these favorite photos of her. One, which I never saw until I cleaned out my folks house, is her as a young, confident woman in 1942, post engagement, but two years before marrying my dad.

The other is us at Rialto Beach just after her 90th birthday. When I realized Alzheimer’s was going to take away her enjoyment of things she loved, I asked where she’d like to take a trip. She loved to travel, and traveled both internationally and throughout the U.S. with my dad and on her own after his death. Without hesitation she said “the seashore”. We made two trips to the ocean, one to Mt Rainer, and one to Anacortes.

The first trip was so much fun, she had not been to the ocean in years. She sat pointing to rocks on the beach with her cane for Mike to pick up. The three of us watched the most spectacular sunset I’ve ever seen at the coast.

I’ve written several times about my mom lately. After she died I was so worn out from the challenges of her care the last years of her life, and I had to immediately face my own challenges with breast cancer, a mastectomy, and so on. I felt little grief, just a sadness and relief.  Over the years I occasionally sort through remaining photos and memorabilia from her life and, as I mentioned in my last post, it has both brought alive a woman I did not know, pre-motherhood, as well as reminding me of who she was pre-dementia. These are not sad memories. On the contrary, they give me back my mom, the fullness of her life, the multi-faceted person she was.

My heart goes out to anyone witnessing a loved one going through any form of dementia. Keep alive memories of who they were/are regardless of how the disease is changing them. Remember always the person you’ve loved and shared life with as you adjust to this new person they are becoming, the changes that are happening, too often too fast.  I felt I was constantly establishing a relationship with someone new, yet I’d see my mom’s spirit shine through in little glimmers.

Here’s some pansies for you mom.

(header photo: Mom at LaPush, ocean trip #2, waving to us on the beach. She was soooo happy sitting and watching the ocean.)

 

International Women’s Day

A powerful experience for me of shifting perspective has been reading my mother’s letters and diaries as well as going through piles of old photos. Old photos are not just pictures of old people, old photos are, for the most part, pictures of young, vibrant people who were our parents, aunts and uncles, grandparents, great grandparents, other relatives, and their friends. Though I might have known them (some I didn’t) and/or heard their stories, when I see the stories the pictures tell, or read my mother’s writings, I meet young people, especially young women, who I did not know because who they were then is not necessarily who they were during my time with them. In other words, before our parents became parents, they had lives! And even after they became parents, how many of us, as young children, were that observant of our parents and other “older” relatives to see who they truly were…complex, amazing people who had more going on than their relationship with us.  My parents told us stories of their lives when they were younger, but to read those stories not from the perspective of a parent recalling and telling a story, but in the present, in the first person, is a very different perspective.

Two of the ‘next generations’ of women in my family, my niece Kira & her daughter Natalia. They are as awesome as their foremothers!

On this International Women’s Day I think of all the amazing women in my life, my heart is especially touched by the young women I know – raising families, farming, teaching, going to school, following their dreams in a world that too often feels hostile and unsupportive. And I am reminded of the generations that came before my own, the young women a century ago, more or less, who were also following dreams, or perhaps NOT following their dreams because there was no support for them to do so in a crazy world where women’s status was much different than today. (yes, I know women’s status in so many places and in so many ways has not changed). They too were living in a world that seemed to be falling apart with economic decline and war, whether WWI or WWII.  There was racism, bigotry, drugs, the whole package, the same though different.

The economic depression and her parents eventual divorce was hard on my mom and her family, there were days food was scarce. She would tell us these stories, but the letters and diaries, written at the time, never mention it, they are the writings of a young woman, they sound like a teenager of any era, (except perhaps for the phrases and expressions used!) and later, like a woman in love and planning her future with her best friend and husband.

mom on the beach with her 3 ‘kids’.

Women in their 20s and 30s today are not likely thinking about their great grandparents stories, for my peers and I are the grandparents, great Aunts, ‘older’ women of their world, and we have our own stories! I hope we will also share the stories of those who came before us not as stories of ‘old people’ but stories of young women who thrived, worked hard, grew strong and laid the trails that became the roads, that still need to be made into super highways for women going forward. My mother worked full time while raising three children, and in spite of the term “latch-key” kid that was used at the time for children of working moms, I never felt neglected or alone because of her work life.  Her mother had worked, especially when left to be a single mom during the depression.  I did not have a concept of women not working and always knew life was about finding meaning work (mom, who told me stories of them, liked her jobs, most of which were office jobs). Looking back I think she was quite the super woman!  But of course I didn’t think in those terms at the time.  Her work paid for the ‘extras’ in our lives – music lessons, dance lessons, scout camps, and for me, her income and my own paid for my college education. (I was not daddy’s little girl!).

Happy International Women’s Day to all women and the men who love, honor, cherish and respect them.

To those who don’t…….be scared, be very scared! There is a league of women backed by the spirits of those who walked before them just ready to change the world as you think it is!

(just had to add that!)

 

“The day of days”

November 25th is the 74th Anniversary of my parent’s marriage, an event that took place during WWII the day after Harry, my dad, graduated from US Navy Reserve Midshipman’s School at Columbia University.

Ruth, my mom, traveled from Seattle to Boston on a train that also carried sailors heading home on leave from Pearl Harbor. She met and stayed with relatives she’d never met, planned her wedding to her high school sweetheart, and began a new and unknown life.

They thought Harry might have a few days off, but he was granted a few weeks, giving them a New York City honeymoon. The 7-page letter Ruth wrote to friends and family back in Seattle (using carbon paper to make several copies), chronicling this time of her life is a time capsule.  It is both a personal journal and a story of the time period.

If you enjoy the 1940s, a bit of history through personal story, and life in the Big Apple, when you could see Frank Sinatra sing on a radio show and dance to the music of Guy Lombardo, you will enjoy the chatty account of Mom’s great adventure east to get married.

A bit longer than my usual posts, I posted this as a separate web page which can be found here:  A Wedding Story

Wedding Day