Criss Cross, Double Cross

“Criss cross, double cross. No one else can play. For if they do I’ll take my shoe and beat them ’til they’re black and blue. Period.”

When I was a young girl we would gather in the neighborhood to play games. Kickball, hide and seek, whiffle ball, wire ball, Lost in Space. (Now I just dated myself!) If we had the right complement of players we would close the game. And usually closing the game was done when I played with just girls. Co-ed games seemed open to stay open for late arrivers to the game.

After the game was closed if someone wanted to join we would say, “No.”

We said, “No.”

We closed the game.

I look back now on this and I wonder how long did the person left out feel terrible. I want to go back to that younger me and shake her. I want to say, “What are you doing? How do you think that little girl feels?”

Thank goodness I grew out of that stage. At least I think I have.

We draw lines in every area of our lives rather than opening the doors to all. Welcoming all. We say, “This belief is the right belief. In order to be a member you have to believe this.” Or at least you have to recite something that attests to the fact that you agree to that belief.

We draw these arbitrary lines that say YOU can come in, but YOU must stay out. You are a member and you aren’t. Country clubs. Sports teams. Country girls. City girls. Jersey girls. New Yorkers. Black. White. Latina. Asian. Mixed race. Democrats. Republicans. Libertarians. Christians. Muslims. Jews. Orthodox. Non-orthodox. Atheists. Agnostics. Straight. Gay. Bi. Transgender. Rich. Poor. Fat. Skinny. Americans. Illegals. Educated. Uneducated. White collar. Blue collar. Pink collar. Workers. Management. Vendor. Customer. Open-minded. Close-minded. Blue eyes. Brown eyes. Northerners. Southerners. It goes on.

Looking back I realize I have never done well with these boundaries. I remember in my second grade catholic classroom asking my teacher what happened to little babies who did not know about Jesus. I don’t remember the answer, but I do remember asking the question.

I never liked hearing that there was only one way to salvation. Honestly, I think God probably laughs at that. I guess we will find out when we pass into the afterlife and meet with whomever greets us. Meantime, I have found my peace with God and the drawing of lines. I like to challenge the lines that stand in my way. But I don’t impose my beliefs on anyone. That is a personal decision for each of us. And if you don’t have a belief, that is cool too. Really, this is a personal decision.

Many years ago, I traveled to Norway for business. I remember hearing that the Finnish people were often the butt of the jokes told by Swedes and Norwegians. Kind of like the ethnic jokes you might hear in your circles. I remember thinking how strange it was because I had no preconceived notion of Finnish people. But I knew someone was closing the game on them.

I lived and worked for many years in New York City. It was a blast, for a time. Lots of excitement, things to do, cultural events, multiple languages being spoken by people passing you on the street. You could wear your hair/clothes any way you liked and no one cared. But when I decided to move out of the City I bumped into all sorts of boundaries from both sides. “Wow! I could never live in the City.” “Why are you moving out into the middle of nowhere?”

Most of my life has been about mixing things up. I taught Sunday school at a Catholic church and offered mandalas for the kids to color and use for quiet meditation. Mandalas are found in Buddhist monasteries and church windows, like the one below that is a replica of the North Rose Window from the Cathedral of Notre Dame.

north-rose-window-cathedral-notre-dame-sees-fr north-rose-window-cathedral-notre-dame-blue

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In that same Sunday school class room, in the bowels of a Catholic church, we signaled the beginning and end of our sessions by ringing a Tibetan singing bowl, the sound deep and resonating. A symbol from another tradition that was enhancing our own.

singing-bowl

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Likewise, I have always been attracted to mezuzahs. It is a beautiful tradition where you have a scroll with the most holy prayer placed inside a decorative case mounted to the doorway in the threshold of your home. You touch it and pray as you cross the threshold, offering blessings and thanks. I have always wanted one. So we made our own version of one. Dennis made a pollinator hotel for native and mason bees and I placed within it scrolls containing prayers from many religions.

I love the mixture of it. The intermingledness (if that is a word).

pollinator-hotel-mezuzah1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And finally, I am grateful to have a son who is also a compilation of multiple worlds. City boy. Country boy. Black and white, with a few more ethnic traces running through his blood. African-American. Cherokee. Irish. English. German. French. Dutch. Scottish.

A pattern is emerging and as I take stock I can see it more clearly. I believe there are no differences in all our differences. We are one.

So why do we draw lines? I guess I am still asking the same questions.

Heading West!

Have you ever felt the universe pulling you along? You state an intention and then the world delivers. Well, this most beautiful place is where we are heading … sooner than we ever expected. Will provide an update after our closing after things slow down a bit. It is all very exciting, but a little nerve wracking too.

Cape Disappointment
Cape Disappointment

“Mary’s Emergence” by Catherine Mitchell

Mary just had to speak to her mother. She had overheard her grandmother talking to her aunt and now knew that only she and Paul would not have to go into the orphanage. Her seven brothers and sisters would have to be sent into St. Mary’s Home if something was not done to straighten out finances.

With lagging footsteps and trance-like walk she trudged the last few blocks to her home. Judith, Mary’s mother, would be waiting with her baby brother Paul when she got there, and there would be no time for sorting out the torments.

Paul, nine months old, was in braces from his waist to his toes because of severely clubbed feet. He was still nursing and he had the loveliest nature for all his suffering. Paul was too young and Mary was too old for the home, or so she had overheard.

Life had dealt so cruelly with Judith, Mary thought. Born of Irish parents (they emigrated from two fighting counties while still in their early teens) who met and married after settling in Philadelphia. Her childhood was her tower of strength. Marriage for Judith was constant strife, with her husband reveling in his role of playboy, with no money coming in for life’s essentials. Mary had seen most of her father’s anger vented on her mother and any of the children who happened to be in his path. But as life might have broken another less sturdy tree, second-generation Irish in the late 1880’s knew that only strength and indomitable will survived. God grant me the strength to help Mom, please, and let me be a comfort to her, please, please, please, Mary silently prayed.

With golden curls flying and blue eyes glistening, Mary raced home. Hope was her companion. A joyous wellspring of peace suffused her whole body.

“Mom, Mom, I’m home. Where are you?” Mary cried.

From the kitchen, wiping her hands on a towel, Judith hurried to into the parlor. Wispy strands of soft brown hair escaped the confines of her plaited bun, and her face had smudges of flour all over it. If you did not look into the depths of her lovely, deep-set blue eyes, you might not guess the torment in her soul.

“Ah, Mary, where have you been? School was over an hour ago, and we worried that harm had come to you.” Judith softly admonished.

All thoughts of conversation with her moth would have to wait. Close upon Judith’s heels, and filling the kitchen doorway, were Margaret and Anne, her younger sisters. Snow White and Rose Red, Mary thought as she watched the inseparable pair bounce into the room. Margaret, dark curls bouncing around her face, and Anne, pale, golden-red curls tangling in her collar, were the pixies of the family.

“Mary, come into the kitchen, and look out the window,” screamed Anne as she whirled her sister. “Two of Gamin’s kittens got out of the bard, and Gamin will just kill them,” she said as she pulled her sister through the doorway. “Oh, Mary, hurry or they will be gone!”

Mary got to the window in time to see the mother cat stalk over to where her children were frolicking in the grass, cuff the one and take the other in her mouth back to the shelter of the barn. Mothers, not strangers, should care for children, thought Mary. Mom needs a breadwinner and there is only me. Tomorrow, I’ll start looking for a job, and then we can stay together. It might be rough but at least the house is ours, since Grand pop died and left it to Mom, alone.

Paul started whimpering in the next room, and Judith started to go to him.

“I’ll change him, Mom, and give him some porridge to hold him until we finish dinner,” said Mary, as she followed her mother.

“Oh, thank you, dear, that would help,” Judith responded as she started back to the kitchen to bustle among her pots and pans.

“Joseph, Michael, Tom and Helen,” Judith called. “Help get the dishes on the table and wash your hands first. It is time to eat.”

Frantic activity filled the room. Each had his assigned task and soon all were quietly around the table. Judith began the Blessing before dinner. As Mary scanned each face, so familiar, yet constantly changing as growth took place, she resolved to keep the “wolf” from the door.

After the meal was over the children began to do that dishes, and Judith quietly slipped into the pantry to feed Paul. Mary softly closed the door separating the rooms so that mother and son might better commune in the ancient ritual.

“Helen, look to Margaret and Anne and I’ll put the boys to bed,” Mary said. “Then, would you please do your homework upstairs, because Mom and I have to talk.”

“Why,” Helen complained, “can I never be with the grownups or be treated like an adult? You always have fun and laugh together when we go to bed.”

“Please, Helen. Tonight is the time for very serious prayer. I need you to be with the children so no one comes down when Mom and I discuss something that involves all of us,” Mary replied. “You are almost thirteen and pretty soon fourteen, like me. Then you can sit with Mom and me, but for now you are needed upstairs.”

As Mary looked around the familiar kitchen she became aware of the enduring love permeating the whole atmosphere. From her mother there had never been a cross word; never any form of extreme anger; always unselfish devotion and guidance for all who needed her. She is our stalwart refuge and will know how to keep us all together. Tomorrow can only be better if we have Mom in our midst.

~ * ~

Note: My mom wrote this story in the 1970’s as part of a writing course. This is the first time the rest of you get to share in her creative expression. Well done, Mom!

Love and hugs from all your offspring! Marian, Nancy, Grace, Janine and Nicki

We Reach the End and Find a New Beginning

“We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” ~ T. S. Eliot

And so here we are on the last day of the year. We await the ringing of the bell (or the dropping of the ball) to signify the end of one year and the beginning of a new one. These markers … these anniversaries, while significant, are arbitrary. Aren’t they? And yet we rally around these markers. We prepare and we re-experience the event we honor (or remember or fear). I am thinking of anniversaries of tragedies (death of a loved one or of attacks on our homeland) and I am also thinking of the celebrations of happy occasions such as birthdays or wedding anniversaries. I have never been very good at honoring these events and I don’t really know why. They feel arbitrary. Like a figment of my imagination.

But here is the wonderful thing about them … they reinforce the notion that out of nothing we can create something. We create an energy around an idea and before we know it, we have created something wonderful … something to share, to touch hearts, to encourage. We are the creators and our moment of power is right here, right now. We decide that we believe something and then suddenly a happening develops. We build something or we destroy something. That is power.

Years ago I discovered mandalas. They suddenly appeared in my life, everywhere, and I was drawn to them. I was not sure at the time what was going on, but I found mandala coloring books, scanned in the pattern and began coloring them. I incorporated them into the Sunday school class I was teaching and the kids seemed to enjoy decorating them too. They became a meditation and an outlet for creativity … and they offer more. Their circular shape and the repeating pattern speaks to something deeper. We return, and we return again. Going deeper each time. Kind of like us with each new year, each reconciliation, each anniversary, each time we try again.

As you peruse a few of the mandalas I colored, you’ll notice that some look like stained glass church windows. When I found the patterns of stained glass windows I knew that the mandala had been a tool for spiritual contemplation for very long time. Maybe that is why I was drawn to them. Maybe in a prior life I made one of those beautiful windows.

Search the internet for mandalas and you find a wealth of writings. You almost don’t know where to begin. Just this morning I found a few more. (You’ll find just a few at the end of these posts.) But don’t stop there. Go deeper.

Mandala - developed based on Saint Hildegard von Bingen's vision
Mandala – developed based on Saint Hildegard von Bingen’s vision
North Rose Window from the Cathedral of Notre Dame (in blue)
North Rose Window from the Cathedral of Notre Dame (in blue)
Sioux Beadwork in Blue
Sioux Beadwork in Blue
Rose Window Sainte Chapelle - Paris
Rose Window Sainte Chapelle – Paris
Bishop's Eye - Lincoln Cathedral - UK (in green)
Bishop’s Eye – Lincoln Cathedral – UK (in green)
Rangoli Design - Feast of Diwali (in blue)
Rangoli Design – Feast of Diwali (in blue)

http://sfmosaic.wordpress.com/2010/11/20/hildegard-von-bingen/

http://www.mandalaproject.org/Index.html

http://www.amazon.com/Monique-Mandali/e/B002KY8ABK/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_pop_1

http://www.amazon.com/Susanne-F.-Fincher/e/B001K8EJGM/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_4?qid=1388483484&sr=1-4

Ah, the Pacific Northwest!

We just spent Christmas week in traveling around Portland Oregon and all through Washington State. In spite of the rain, we are in love. There is just no way around it. The beauty is stunning and we notice that people are out and about every day in spite of the rain. We hear you shouldn’t use an umbrella or you stand out like an outsider. OK, so I won’t have a styled hairdo through the rainy season. I am sure I’ll find something that works. Bald, maybe?

Dennis in silhouette. Lucia Falls, Battle Ground, WA
Dennis in silhouette. Lucia Falls, Battle Ground, WA

The picture above and the next few below were taken just a couple days ago (so by that I mean in the month of December – the rainy season).

Lucia Falls, Battle Ground, WA
Lucia Falls, Battle Ground, WA

I am told, however, that we were lucky to come while there was more sun than normal.

Lucia Falls, Battle Ground, WA
Lucia Falls, Battle Ground, WA

Here is a photo of the falls.

Lucia Falls, Battle Ground, WA
Lucia Falls, Battle Ground, WA

We spent Christmas eve and Christmas day in Portland. Here we are at breakfast.

Dennis and Janine (pardon the glare of the sun, but this is one of our better shots).
Dennis and Janine (pardon the glare of the sun, but this is one of our better shots).

And when we turned our head slightly we saw this view …

View of the Willamette River from Three Degrees Restaurant on the waterfront.
View of the Willamette River from Three Degrees Restaurant on the waterfront.

We went for a hike on Christmas Day near the Pittock Mansion. It is a 5 mile loop, and we probably ended up doing just a little under the full 5 miles.

http://www.portlandhikersfieldguide.org/wiki/Pittock_Mansion_Hike

Pittock Mansion Hike. Portland Oregon. Lower Macleay Park Trailhead.
Pittock Mansion Hike. Portland Oregon. Lower Macleay Park Trailhead.

Here is a lovely shot of my niece Ilene. Dennis is looking on in the far background.

Ilene and Dennis along the trail
Ilene and Dennis along the trail

Just before my camera died, I managed to capture this working shot of two hikers trying to find the way. 🙂

Pittock Mansion Hike. Portland Oregon. Lower Macleay Park Trailhead.
Pittock Mansion Hike. Portland Oregon. Lower Macleay Park Trailhead.
Pittock Mansion Hike - Stone House. Janine and Ilene.
Pittock Mansion Hike – Stone House. Janine and Ilene.

Someone left a treat for the animals on the trail … some seed and fruit ornaments. My kind of decorations!

Homemade bird seed ornament in a tree.
Homemade bird seed ornament in a tree.

This was a very pleasant way to spend Christmas Day. Our gifts were spending time together … outside … until our cheeks were rosy. (That was for you, Mom. xx)

I’ll stop this post here. There is more, but that will have to wait for another day.

Peace and Happy Trails!

Homemade Suet for Wild Birds

When I was a little girl, my parents would put suet out on a platform we had positioned outside the kitchen window. I could wash dishes and see the birds land and eat up. Through my parents, I discovered birds and loved seeing them up close. Lucky for me, I found a partner who shares this passion.

When we first met he shared with me his homemade suet recipe. After Christmas was over we moved the tree out onto the back deck and made suet ornaments for the birds (and the squirrels! You can’t have one without the other!)

Outdoor Christmas Tree with Ornaments for the Birds and Squirrels
Outdoor Christmas Tree with Ornaments for the Birds and Squirrels

Here is a little tutorial on making homemade suet. You almost can’t go wrong.

http://www.almanac.com/content/bird-food-recipe-suet

Suet Cake

  • 2 parts melted fat (bacon fat, suet, or lard)
  • 2 parts yellow cornmeal
  • 1 part peanut butter

We use this as a base and then add from there. We’ve used beef suet and bacon fat. We also add shelled seeds, dried fruit and oatmeal. As I said, you almost can’t go wrong. The main thing is to have enough of a binder that the stuff stays semi-solid enough for the birds to eat. And eat they will.

Pine Cones dipped in Suet and Seeds make great "ornaments."
Pine Cones dipped in Suet and Seeds make great “ornaments.”
More pine cone suet ornaments.
More pine cone suet ornaments.

This weekend we put out our last suet cake and needed to make more. Since we were going to be snow bound anyway, this was the perfect time. Here are some photos to guide you through your own suet making.

Melt down some bacon fat. (Yeah, we save it, just like mom and those who have gone before us did.)
Melt down some bacon fat. (Yeah, we save it, just like mom and those who have gone before us did.)
Then add inexpensive chunky peanut butter. No need to buy the expensive stuff.
Then add inexpensive chunky peanut butter. No need to buy the expensive stuff.
Add the peanut butter to the melted bacon fat.
Add the peanut butter to the melted bacon fat.
Once melted down add the cornmeal and oatmeal, or some combination of binder that you like.
Once melted down add the cornmeal and oatmeal, or some combination of binder that you like.
Add raisins or whatever dried fruit you like.
Add raisins or whatever dried fruit you like.
We add nut mix (shelled seeds and nuts).
We add nut mix (shelled seeds and nuts).
Here is what the seed looks like up close.
Here is what the seed looks like up close.
Mix it all up in the pan.
Mix it all up in the pan.
Then spoon it into plastic containers for freezing.
Then spoon it into plastic containers for freezing.

Then when the weather gets really bad you can put your suet out and watch the birds feast! It just fills my soul.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MQKDNptwcoI&feature=c4-overview&list=UUFe0UhMgJfm8X_lA1k1NlWA

Sage and Smudging

Over the last few years I have heard more and more about smudge sticks. Have you? Well, you probably haven’t. So let me catch you up.

Sage and other herbs have been used to cleanse your space. Some believe it will clear your space of negative energy and invite in the good. Because most of us mere mortals can’t see the effects of this, we have to trust that others know what they are talking about. Or maybe we remain forever a skeptic. I fall somewhere in between.

I love reading about energy healing and intuitively sense that there is something there, but when people describe things too far outside the boundaries, my inner voice chimes in. Hold on there! So, I leave this with you … you decide for yourself. If something feels right then go ahead. If not, let it go. One of my favorite lines from the 12-step communities is, “Take what you like and leave the rest.” That is my motto too.

When Oprah started the OWN Network, one of her first documentaries was entitled, “Wake Up.” http://wakeupthefilm.com/

It was interesting and I think the guy is legitimate. He woke up one day and could see things he couldn’t before. I know for sure there is more than what we can see, and this movie shows one person’s journey. Anyway, back to the smudge sticks. There is a scene in this documentary where he burns sage in his home in order to cleanse it of dark energy. He even says something like, “If I couldn’t see this with my own eyes, I would not believe this works. But it does.” Well, that little scene made a believer out of me.

This weekend we were expecting a big snow storm and I knew I had a lot of left over sage in my hoop house. I needed to cut it back and I did not want to waste it. So we looked up some recipes on the internet and found this one from another blog entitled, “A Natural Nester.”

http://anaturalnester.blogspot.com/2012/08/homemade-smudge-sticks-blessing-kit.html

The author of this blog also called her smudge sticks blessing sticks. I can really get behind that, even in church you have incense. Have you ever wondered why?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religious_use_of_incense

This recipe though called for rosemary and lavender. I had both. Yay! Time to put this all together and make some smudge sticks.

One last resource on smudging before I share my own photos with you  … http://www.aboutholistic.co.za/smudging.html

Here we have more than enough sage!
Here we have more than enough sage!
Plenty of Rosemary
Plenty of Rosemary
Dried lavender too!
Dried lavender too!

So, here is the trio that will go in my first attempt at homemade smudge sticks.

Smudge Stick Trio (from left ... rosemary, lavender and sage)
Smudge Stick Trio (from left … rosemary, lavender and sage)

Now, let me offer up one caveat. This is the first time I have ever made smudge sticks. Like anything it takes practice and my work is still a little rough. But these will do. I hope you like.

My first attempt at homemade smudge sticks. Amen!
My first attempt at homemade smudge sticks. Amen!

The Circle of Life … Tadpoles to Toads

Let me tell you about another “Dennis Adventure” that I have been meaning to document ever since … well, 2005. We (Dennis, Austin and I) were walking in the woods alongside a pond and came upon some toads. Actually, I didn’t even notice the toads until Dennis reached right into the water and grabbed something to show Austin. The toads were attached! The boy toad and the girl toad were, well, occupied. The spawn was coming out of the back of them in a long strand. (Sorry if that is too graphic!)

We found out later that it was toad spawn because it came out in long strips and the eggs were lined up rather than in a mass of eggs like you would find with frog spawn. Cool right? So, what do you think we did with the spawn? What every adventure-loving team would do … we took some home and put it in an aquarium. We set up the aquarium with an air pump to keep the water moving and filled with oxygen.

In this first photo you can still see the spawn and the baby tadpoles. There are a lot of them, and in the later photos you will see fewer. As the experiment went on, Dennis continued to remove the fast-growing tadpoles and returned them to the pond where we found them. That way the our 10-gallon aquarium would not get too over crowded.

American Toad Spawn - May 16, 2005
American Toad Spawn – May 16, 2005

In another week or two you can see the tadpoles are growing quickly and looking beautiful!

Tadpoles - May 22, 2005
Tadpoles – May 22, 2005
American Toad Tadpoles - May 27, 2005
American Toad Tadpoles – May 27, 2005

They were growing quickly and we would feed them lettuce and other seemingly nature stuff. Soon the legs would appear, and in the photo below we put one up against a dime so you can see about how large these little guys are.

Tadpole/Toad next to a dime
Tadpole/Toad next to a dime. June 15, 2005

Right about this time Dennis set up a terrarium-like environment so they could acclimate to the backyard. You can’t really see any toads, but you get the idea.

Helping the toads settle into their new home.
Helping the toads settle into their new home.

In another week they were ready for release. We gathered them up into a see through container and took them outside. Austin did the honors.

Toads on the go.
Toads on the go. June 24, 2005

Now, to take them outside and see them off.

Toad Release June 24, 2005
Toad Release June 24, 2005
Toad Release June 24, 2005
Toad Release June 24, 2005
Toad Release June 24, 2005
Toad Release June 24, 2005

Thanks guys, for spending time with us. It was great watching you grow! See you soon, we hope.

Flying Squirrel!

One of the things I absolutely love about Dennis is his excitement when discovering something new, and it is heightened even more when he can share it with someone he loves. One such day was a few years back when we noticed the front door of the bird house Austin made was slightly ajar. That made Dennis wonder if something was inside.

Image

So, out came the ladder and up he went.

Image

Good thing Dennis was wearing gloves, but they weren’t really very good gloves.

Image

OMG! Do you see those big eyes? A flying squirrel was in the bird house.

Image

The poor little guy is freaking out, and that nice plastic container … well, it has holes in it. I wonder what is going to happen next?

Image

Image

Austin and Dennis get to look at the flying squirrel up close.

I don’t know what we were thinking, but we brought it inside hoping we could observe him for a little while. You can guess what happened next, can’t you? Yep, it found a hole and ran. All the way into Austin’s bed room and into his book case.

Image

Image

Image

We did manage to catch him again, and get him outside. When you have to work quickly you use whatever tools are at your disposal. Here we managed to capture him in the steel bowl and lid.

Image

When we took him outside again, he ran right up the tree where we found him. And then, lo and behold, the squirrel soared from that tree to another. Right in front of our eyes, we got to see a flying squirrel fly! Stunning!

What a gift.