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February 2010

"Thank you for the AOL voice.  Thank you for the Broom household and all the hidden talents within it.  Thank you for angel wings in the sky.  Thank you for great cards.  Thank you for things yet to do."  SAB    2-28-1998

I've heard it said most of my adult life, that no one can make you feel anything.  Maybe that's true, maybe we make ourselves feel a certain way based on another's opinion or action or reaction.  For whatever reason, I have always cared what someone else thinks more than what I think and that has been my undoing. 

Why do we ask for another's opinion.  Why... if I love something I've done, be it art or writing or haircolor, why do I have to ask what someone else thinks?  Why isn't it ever enough to just feel good without someone else's approval?

I'm struggling with the art pieces.  I always do ... but I am enjoying the process more this time.  I am watching the canvas change with each layer of color.  There will always be elements that don't quite satisfy, and I will always want to do better but I don't think I'll ask "What do you think?" 

When we ask that question... if we are honest... we don't want the truth.  We want someone to say "That looks great!"  If we get honesty and it' s not what we were hoping for, we're disappointed and hurt and there is a greater potential to give up, accept no talent defeat and sulk.

To heck with that !!  At 55, I think I've tried as hard as most to please everyone.  Everyone except myself.  I have never been and will never be perfect.  I tried when I was a child when nothing short of straight A's was acknowledged.  I tried with each job, but there was always someone more than willing to point out your mistakes but rarely give a passing wink to accomplishments.  I've tried as a wife, and mother and even there, I wish I had done things different, better.

Now that I'm moving into the "winter of my days"... I'm going to care what the world thinks, attempt to live up to expectations and accept constructive criticism... but not to the extent that I have in the past.  I realized this afternoon, that what I think and feel matters at least as much as everyone else.  I'm thinking that we do need to watch that we don't allow something to deplete or diminish us.  It's not selfish to be careful with our own hearts and spirits and accept no less for ourselves than we accept for those we love.

"Thank you for epiphanies.  Thank you  for Marie Calendar.  Thank you for paintings almost finished.  Thank you for bad days that make the good days so much better.  Thank you for a hint of assertiveness."    JJB   2-28-2010

myangelshannon@aol.com


Happy Birthday Maw Maw

Deskscan 320 
Maw Maw and Jules
"Thank you for Maw Maw.  Thank you for a day with Mom.  Thank you for  my wonderful Leo.  Thank you for the ability to improve health.  Thank you for a smooth doctor's visit."     SAB 2-27-1998
  
 
 
 
"Thank you for Maw Maw.  Thank you for primary colors.  Thank you for last weeks.  Thank you for forgiveness.  Thank you for blue sky days."
JJB 2-27-2010

"Thank you for Gram's recovery.  Thank you for early homecoming.  Thank you for a bed full of puppies.  Thank you for birds singing and Squirrels complaining.  Thank you for bright sunny days."  SAB   2-26-1998

Spent the day with Gram.  We drove to the mountains to take some photos of Flat Stanley on the Blue Ridge.  I'm still amazed at how ridiculous we can be with a colored piece of paper wearing a smiling face.  Ridiculous and silly and it's fun !  So simple.  Then we had lunch and spent hours looking through hundreds of old photos.

I have often tried to remember happy times as a child.  I struggle with that.  My Dad drank, and he was not a happy drunk.  My Mom worked too hard and slept too little.  But we're here and we're okay.  We need each stepping stone.

When I was a young operator I worked with Dorothy.  Dorothy married Pat.  When I worked as an Installer, I worked with Pat.  Pat passed away this week and last night was the family visitation.  I don't insist that Jules go with me, he has a hard time with funerals.  Pat retired the year Shannon returned to Heaven and I hadn't seen him in all those years.  He looked peaceful.  I had never seen him without a hat.  Dorothy was gracious and calm, but stood next to Pat and every now and then gently touched his shoulder.  She worried that he was unhappy that she decided to dress him in a suit instead of Jeans but she wanted him to look his best.  He did...so did she.

We're all older.  We carry the ravages of time and life on our faces.  Some of the scars are visible, one of our old associates is missing part of his face.  I almost didn't recognize him.  The last time I saw him was when my old friend Bob was on his way to Heaven. 

It would be easy to fall into the melancholy that accompanies loss.  Easy to get stuck in longing for the past.  I think maybe it's because the past is known and the future is still tenuous.  It's like walking into a dark room and fumbling for the light switch...we just have to have enough faith and courage and hope for good things to get us through the doorway. 

 Suffering is so hard to watch.  I decided some time ago, that when there is sorrow and tragedy in the world...which there will always be... to whisper to Heaven.  Envision angels surrounding and comforting each and every  person faced with whatever their personal challenge may be... and then fill myself with gratitude for my own blessings.  Of course we send assistance when we can.  A hug, a card, material, financial assistance, but staying frozen in empathy, does them no good...and does us no good.  It's not selfish or insensitive to appreciate where we are...what we have...when we have it.  It's vital, because the next moment might change everything we know and trust and we will have to draw on what we have cherished and built inside.

Some days I can't find the words to close.  I pull a book from the shelf above my desk and open it to a random page, hoping for just the right thought.  The book for today is "You Can Be Happy No Matter What" - Richard Carlson.  I opened the book to page 121 ~ the first page of Chapter 9 ~

"People are just about as happy as they make up their minds to be."- Abraham Lincoln

"Thank you for photographic points of reference.  Thank you for peaceful passing.  Thank you for hot tea on cold blustery days.  Thank you for moonlight on park benches.  Thank you for tissue boxes decorated with water color flower gardens."    JJB    2-26-2010


"Thank you for art that hits home.  Thank you for a free lunch.  Thank you for a beautiful day.  Thank you for A.W.  Thank you for cute puppies."     SAB 2-25-1998

For the last few days, I've thought so much about the friends who were there when Shannon came into our lives, and are still there 35 years later.  We love you.  When I was writing about cars yesterday, I remembered that Donna took Shannon driving in downtown Richmond... in a Mustang... that was not automatic !!  Shannon loved that someone she was not related to...trusted her ! 
Bubnan Friends walk hand in hand through life.  We hold on to one another through bad times and good.  We are there for birthdays, holidays, weddings, Sunday afternoon barbecues, relocations, transfers, funerals, illness and health...it's almost like wedding vows.  Through good times and bad, sickness and health, til death parts us for a little while.

Some of my dearest friends disappeared when Shannon left...it was simply too painful a reminder of life's possibilities.  I have no hard feelings, I know my way of living with Shannon's accident was not easy for many of them. 

What I feel overwhelmed with today, is that friends came into our lives who never met Shannon but loved her anyway.  Friends who have children and parents and siblings and friends who are with Shannon and that connection is amazing.

4path For those of you, family and friends, who celebrated Shannon's birth, who walked the floor so Jules could work on cars, who watched over Shannon while we worked, who met us for little girl's lunches at McDonald's, who made birthday cakes, attended Graduation both from high school and college, made Shannon laugh, bought art work, taught framing, painted faces and ankles, taught Shannon to water ski, made videos, wrote poems, shared secrets, watched blood sugars, sat with us at the hospital, took me to pick strawberries, moved hot water heaters, attended Shannon's memorial, held us in your hearts until we could breathe again, remembered with us at the subsequent Birthday and Heaven day celebrations, brought new babies into our lives, taught us to Skype, Angel Moms, Donor Moms, amazing recipients... I thought my life was empty when Shannon returned to Heaven... I am so grateful to each of you who have helped me to see how wrong I was.   

In the last year, Jules has reconnected with friends from High School.  You make him smile and think and remember.  Thank you. 

We never know what this day will bring.  We are encouraged to live in the moment.  That's easier said than done.  The past calls to us, to revisit without guilt or regret, to heed the call of memories that fill us, but the past should never steal the present.  Equally important is to not get lost in the future.  I am habitually guilty of planning.  Have to have a plan.  Have to stay on schedule.  Have to anticipate any and all possible outcomes.  RIDICULOUS !   As I read through Shannon's journal I realize how important it is to look up.  To see the clouds, the leaves, the sunlight.  We need to inhale deeply and completely and make spring showers and burnt cookies part of our cellular memory.  We need to take our shoes off and feel the Earth between our toes and all of those sensory things are impossible when we are running in front of the train or racing the clock.  We need to listen to each other... embrace each other... say what we feel, when we feel it !!Balloons

I guess in this moment, I just want to be grateful that I can recognize what has value.  Jobs and responsibilities and obligations are necessary but there is so much more.  So much more.   We all have someone who is watching from a distant place...cheering us on to rediscover joy... just for today, let's all make an effort not to disappoint them. 

"Thank you for snow melting.  Thank you for blustery evenings.  Thank you for stained glass dragonflies.  Thank you for free pizza.  Thank you for Fridays with Mom."    JJB    2-25-2010


"Thank you for the ability to fix mistakes.  Thank you for  a good nights sleep.  Thank you for solitary drives.  Thank you for patience not to kill.  Thank you for clouds and sun mixing just right to create the quality of light that makes it look like a silver light bulb in the sky." SAB 2-24-1998

Jules went with Shannon to get her driver's license.  She was prepared for the written test.  She was prepared for the road test.  She did great and became a Virginia licensed driver on her first try.   On the one hand, of course I wanted to celebrate this milestone in growing up, on the other... I worried every time she got behind the wheel. 

Shannon was a safe attentive driver but I was the typical overanxious Mom.  I made her crazy when we went places and she drove. 

"I can see you're going over the speed limit.  Watch Watch you're crossing over the line.  No it's not an optical illusion because I'm in the passenger seat.  Two car lengths between you and the car in front.  Just drive around until you find a 'pull through' parking place.  No we can't turn on the radio, you have to concentrate.  Please roll the window up!"

  Is it any wonder she was grateful for SOLITARY drives?  Bless her precious heart.

One Saturday morning right after she got her license, we needed milk.  Shannon had never driven alone and we only live one mile from the Fas Mart so it seemed perfectly safe and we sent her for the milk.  Of course I was on pins and needles...and it seemed to be taking entirely too long for her get back.  We set the timer on the microwave and decided if she hadn't gotten home by the time it buzzed we would go looking for her.  The buzzer and the phone rang at the same instant.

"Mom... I ran over the Fas Mart!"  Shannon wept into the phone.

"Are you okay?  What do you mean you ran over the Fas Mart?"  I replied making every effort to sound calm despite the fact that my heart was in my throat.

"I don't know what happened.  I thought my foot was on the break but it was on the gas and I ran over the Fas Mart.  Can you come?"

When we pulled into the parking lot at the Fas Mart, we could see that the side of the brick building held the perfect imprint of the front of the van.  No broken glass, no serious damage, no one hurt.  A very young and handsome State Trooper was taking notes, talking with the man whose morning coffee had been abruptly interrupted by the vehicle joining him at his table.  The manager of the store was comforting Shannon and assuring her that "It could happen to anyone!"

Private property.  No charges.  Insurance would cover damage.  Shannon was shaken but fine.  Jules insisted that she drive home, "get back on the horse" kind of thing.  Forgot the milk.  The Fas Mart installed huge concrete upside down U's at the front of the side parking spaces that we always laughed about having been donated by Shannon !

Gtoshannon In 1991,Jules and Bill found a 1966 GTO sprayed with black Rustoleum in a shopping center parking lot with a for sale sign on it.  It had died and the owner needed to get rid of it, so he let it go for $1000.00.  Jules and Bill, Bill's sons Jason and Billy, rebuilt it and made it shine.  Jules said it was for Shannon even though we all knew that it was for Dad as well.  I didn't mind too much because it seemed like a tank and she would be safe.  She had one of the coolest cars in High School.  They weren't allowed to drive until they were seniors and everyone got an assigned parking space.  I can still see my tiny girl in her giant car purring off to school.  Did I mention it was a convertible? 

When she graduated from High School we started looking for a smaller car that would be more appropriate for college.  Freshmen can't leave school for the first couple of weeks and can't bring their cars right away so we had some time to look.  One afternoon after work we went car shopping and found a perfect 1989 Pontiac Grand Am.  It was soft blue, small and looked like Shannon.  I think we made the decision right away and after leaving the dealership drove to Culpeper.  It was late by the time we got there, dark, but as we were about to head home we saw two vehicles parked on the side of Rt. 29.  I'm not sure what made us stop, but we did.  A young woman, Shannon's age, was heading home from college when her car broke down.  She had been unable to get in touch with her family but a gentleman had stopped to assist her just before we did.  He said that he had called the police and that they were going to send a wrecker for the car.  He was going to give the young woman a ride into town.  Something didn't feel right even though there was no reason to question his motives.  We said that we could get back to Fredericksburg through Warrenton, where she lived, and that it wouldn't be out of the way for us to give her a ride.  My memory is somewhat questionable but there seemed to be some debate.  I suppose, ultimately, we seemed safer, two of us, a Mom and a Dad, test driving their daughters new car, so she came with us.   I called the police to let them know that we had her and were taking her home and they said that no one had called and they knew nothing about the disabled vehicle. 

I'm not sure why things happen the way they do but I have always believed that we were there for a reason, guided, prompted, compelled by some unseen hands.  A little over two years later, a young woman, Alicia Reynolds, was abducted on Rt. 29 by a man who would later be dubbed the "Rt. 29 Stalker".   I have no way of knowing if the intentions of the man who stopped to help a stranger that night were innocent, or if we had thwarted the earliest attempt of someone who would continue to do harm, but I'll always be glad that we followed our instincts. 

In the summer after Shannon graduated from college, she applied for a job at a facility for children who had fallen through the cracks in the system.  This home was in the country, and provided a safe haven for these children to live, attend school and receive counseling.  Shannon and I took a Sunday afternoon drive to the facility so that she would be able to find it on the day of her interview.  It was eerily close to the place where Alicia Reynolds had been found after her abduction in 1996.

Most of the times in life, when our paths intersect in meaningful ways with people we don't know, we aren't aware of the difference we might have made.  Those moments that we are aware of, give us opportunities to realize that we aren't just floating along, twisting and turning in the breeze, subjected to chance encounters and accidental circumstance.  I choose to believe that we each have someone watching over us regardless of outcome. 

When Shannon came into my life, an Angel came with her.  When she left this life, her Angel was there to take her hand.  She never had any doubts, and neither do I.

"Thank you for the comfort of Heavenly companions.  Thank you for an afternoon with Jill.  Thank you for Special K Blueberry Crisps.  Thank you for Bill and Donna.  Thank you for forever friends."    JJB    2-24-2010


"Thank you for pictures started.  Thank you for another S.K. underway.  Thank you for good movies.  Thank you for laughter.  Thank you for hugs." SAB    2-23-1998
 
Shannon loved Stephen King.  She was always trying to convince me to read The Talisman, assuring me that it held within its pages some profound truths that she was certain I would relate to.  I've tried to read it several times since she "left" but it is a huge book with 768 pages.  I still plan to read it but I'm having trouble with some of the 150 page books that wait expectantly on the nightstand. 
 
Willow angels_edited-1 I've mentioned some of the creative ways that Shannon has said "Hello" from Heaven but in trying to stay true to the chronology of our last year together, I've been holding back a little.  But today, because twelve years ago she had just started another Stephen King novel, it seems appropriate to share.
 
We're amazingly strong and amazingly fragile after losing someone we love.  We go through all of the motions of the life we had only a few days before, trying to find familiar footing, but although everything looks and smells and sounds the same, the dynamic of life itself has changed and shifted in ways that you can't even grasp.  You wait for the familiar sound of the car in the driveway.  You don't know you're waiting until you see Emmy standing at the end of the sofa looking expectantly out the window.  You walk into the empty bedroom to kiss goodnight like you have a thousand times before with out thinking that it will never be the same again.  You thumb through the pages of a book they left for you to read, touching the dogeared corners that marked a stopping place. You continue to call home from work, checking for messages, imagining, no, praying, that you have been asleep, in a nightmare that you can wake up from if you can only find the key. 
 
I was still feeling my way through life when I volunteered to be tested as a bone marrow donor for a little girl in our area.  I believed as I sat in the sterile waiting room with a dozen other hopeful volunteers preparing for a blood draw, that I would be the one to save another family from the agony of losing their daughter.  I wanted it so badly.  I held "The Talisman" in my lap, anticipating time to read while I waited but my lack of concentration made it impossible.
 
Weeks passed, then months and no word.  Then one afternoon I came home from work to find a message waiting.  
 
"This is the National Bone Marrow Registry, we're trying to get in touch with Stephen King.  If you could return our call at your earliest convenience, we would be very grateful."
 
I remember that I was putting clothes from the washer into the drier as I listened to the message, and then listened again.  At first I thought that maybe they were trying to get in touch with me...they had called my number.  Then I wondered how they got my number with Stephen King's name.  Then I imagined that they needed me to be a donor for Stephen King...how cool would that be?
 
I nervously dialed the 800 number from the message.  The young woman was very kind but couldn't explain the call.  She didn't know why they had our number, they did not have our name or any record of an attempt to reach us.  She was unable to give me any information on Mr. King, since I was, of course, not him.
 
Then I realized that it had to have been Shannon's subtle way of letting me know that not only was she aware of my willingness to be part of the Bone Marrow Registry, but that I had been making an effort to read the book she had left for me....Stephen King's The Talisman.
 
Now I know what you might be thinking...I've thought it too.  That we see what we want so desperately to see, that we imagine what we need to believe, but I know Shannon.  I know that she didn't stop loving me when she "left".  I know that her wings give her magical powers to sprinkle gifts into this weary heart, and I know that she loves being just a bit complicated and obscure.  She was the most incredible gift giver on Earth.  The gift, the wrapping paper, the ribbon and the card were all chosen with thought and preparation and love.  Why would that change?  She simply had to get even more creative, find ways to get through to me that wouldn't break the rules that I'm sure govern such things.Nanandme
 
When life gets all balled up with work, deadlines, post it notes, day planners, appointments, laundry, dental visits, colonoscopies, groceries, meals, pet hair and snow... it's easy to miss the gifts.  Easy to overlook the magic because we've been convinced that it isn't possible or the result of wishful thinking... but evidence has accumulated over the last twelve years that could convince even the most skeptical, that we do not die.  We continue to live with joy and hold on to the connection and the ever present desire to keep the love and lines of communication open.  Two books that I have read over the last few years have titles that say it all..."We Are Their Heaven" and "Never Say Goodbye".  
 
Now that it's come up... I'm wondering if there is a message in The Talisman.  I think that it has just moved to the top of the ever growing priority list.  I'll let you know !
 
"Thank you for taxes done.  Thank you for "Hello"s from Heaven.  Thank you for doors that open in both directions.  Thank you for "The Spirit Whisperer".  Thank you for one day closer to spring." JJB    2-23-2010

Flat Stanley

"Thank you for seedlings planted.  Thank you for the art desk being done.  Thank you for X-Files.  Thank you for pretzels.  Thank you for weight/fat loss."     SAB   2-22-1998

Stanbird

Today I received a guest in the mail from Gracie.  He is wearing blue pants, a yellow shirt and red neck tie that matches his shoes.  His name is Flat Stanley and he has red hair.  Apparently Stanley wasn't always flat, but one night the bulletin board his Dad gave him fell from its place over the bed and flattened him.  He's making the best of it, finding that being flat has definite advantages and has made him a pretty popular fellow.

I know it sounds ridiculous, but I had such fun showing Flat Stanley around this afternoon.  The cats don't know what to make of him.  He had very little to say but seemed to enjoy the snow and making spaghetti.  We're hoping for sunny skies tomorrow so that I can show him around Fredericksburg.

When Shannon was little, being an only child, she had no trouble entertaining herself.  She talked to her "friends", playing school and trying to teach the "children" to read and write and behave while standing in line.  She became very incensed when asked who she was talking to as if there was something wrong with people who couldn't see her "friends".  My poor Dad who overheard her conversations with "the kids"one afternoon, asked my Mom if there was something "Wrong with her!"  Wonder what my Dad will think of me when he gets a glimpse of my adventures with Flat Stanley. Standin

I don't indulge in too much whimsy these days.  I think sometimes I've gotten old too quickly.  That can happen when you aren't looking and before you know it you are limping in the grocery store and stumbling over curbs.  Some of it is sadness and that is unavoidable.  Some of it is apathy and that isn't. 

There is a series of books written by Julia Cameron about the "Artist's Way".  She suggests that you make a play date with yourself once a month.  A day that you plan, as you would any outing with your best friend.  Don't break the date, do something that delights you and leaves you with a sense of wonder... that feeling that you have bubbles inside.  She has a book that I haven't read...not that I've actually read her others... I have them all and I have glanced through them... but reading is another of those things that always falls at the bottom of the to do list.  Books are my vice.  I tried to figure out why I can't go in a bookstore without getting a little light headed and I think it's because of all the wisdom and experience and laughter and tears and camaraderie and knowledge contained in one room.  Like a library except that you can take them home, forever!

There are so many things I WANT to do!  Things I dreamed of when I was working too many hours a week to fit them all in.  Now that I should have more free time, I seem to freeze in place when I try to decide...it's like the hard drive on the computer trying to whir in too many cyber places at once simply shuts down.  That's me.  I shut down and then it's too easy to make my way into the world of mindless  "must see T.V.".

I'm finally ready to start the pieces for the Art Show.  I have exactly 13 days to complete them.  I'm doing another in the "Lingering Light" series of Gracie at the beach.  Maybe Flat Stanley can help with that one before he heads back to Louisiana.  I'm thinking that there is something to this whole Flat Stanley phenomenon.  I might just create me a whole bunch of flat silent traveling companions and see what happens as I photograph them on their site seeing tour of Washington's boyhood home!  Makes me giggle just to think of the possibilities.

We all need to give ourselves permission now and then to remember silly, be silly, enjoy silly.  To do something once in a while simply because it feels good, not because we have to or need to or are supposed to.  I am so grateful for the imagination of my delightful niece who has introduced me to a red haired, paper boy who will need a jacket and an umbrella for his stay in Virginia.  I think perhaps we should be as willing to embrace fun for ourselves as we are to risk appearing ridiculous for the little ones in our lives.

At least for the next week I shouldn't have as much difficulty finding something to write about...I feel certain that this is just the beginning in my adventure with Flat Stanley !

Stanjeep

"Thank you for Gracie and Flat Stanley and Jeff Brown and his many talented illustrators.  Thank you for friends who love silly.  Thank you for rain instead of snow.  Thank you for the anticipation of adventure.  Thank you for unburnt spaghetti."     JJB  2-22-2010
 


"Thank you for a completed doll house roof.  Thank you for Mom getting the bookshelves.  Thank you for time to sleep.  Thank you for letters from friends.  Thank you for E mail." SAB    2-21-1998

Nanem

Towards the end of High School, beginning of college, Shannon decided that she wanted to make a more dramatic statement with hair color.  We made an appointment for her to get "low lights".  She chose a deep mahogany and spent hours in the chair in the basement salon of the young woman who had done our hair for years, and after having her baby decided to work from home.  The stylist was very concerned that she would put too much color in Shannon's hair and she would be disappointed so she used the color sparingly.

As always, Shannon looked beautiful but she was crying before we even got out of the driveway.

"Hours.  We spent hours and money and I look exactly the same.  I wanted a change.  I wanted it to look different.  I'm so disappointed!"  she cried and cried.

There was no consoling her.  I know the feeling.  I have changed hair color with the seasons.  Once I even dyed my hair bright red because my clown wig got damaged right before the Christmas parade.  The color was not supposed to be permanent but my hair was very porous from perms and highlights and consequently I spent months as a fiery red head until I was courageous enough to get it all cut off. 

When her disappointment was more than I could bear, we went to CVS and picked out the hair color she had been anticipating.  We went home with a seven dollar box of Miss Clairol and in less than an hour, she had the dramatic color she had spent all afternoon waiting for.  The image of her sitting at our kitchen table with her hair wrapped in a clear plastic cap waiting for the color to take is as clear today as if it had been yesterday and I can still feel that twinge of anxiety, not knowing whether or not her hair might all fall out when we rinsed it, because of excessive processing.  It didn't and she was happy with the results...and I was happy when she was happy.

I'm fifty five.  When I was young my hair was almost to my waist.  We lived in a house with a gas floor furnace and to dry my hair I would straddle the grate and swing my hair over the furnace until it was nearly fried and electric with static and then pull it into a pony tail on top of my head and roll it with pink sponge curlers.  My hair was very course and very straight.  Dirty blond.  I always wanted curls.  Of course with this much hair, most perms were a disaster and I looked very much like a lion for months at a time.  Jules always hated the curls and the stinky smells that accompanied perms.  I always fretted after every haircut, color or style change.  I think I always went in hoping that I would be miraculously transformed by the magic scissors and products of the right stylist.  Never happened. 

Whenever Shannon was transitioning from long to short or short to long, she didn't hesitate.  When her bangs were growing out, they only had to reach her ear lobes for her to be brave enough to cut everything the same length.  "It is, after all, only hair, and it will grow!"  I finally understand.   At the moment, I am growing out.  most of my hair is the same length... just below my ear lobes.  My bangs haven't quite gotten there so they are unceremoniously restrained on top of my head by a very fancy black enamel barret with little diamond like stones.  I'm not sure if I've even brushed it today.  Funny how one day we wake up and just "get it"... the things that matter and things that don't.

We are such silly creatures.  When I was working as a cable splicer, dirty sweaty work... I decided that I would feel so much better about myself with fingernails.  Spent fifty dollars to get a set of "Pink and Whites".  By the end of the first day splicing... they were brown and whites and even as they grew out, the deep grooves that had been ground into my own nail beds to make the artificial nails fit well, looked awful.  I felt more feminine for twenty four hours and then spent weeks trying to undo the damage I had paid to have done.  Silly creature.  At the moment, my nails are, like my hair, growing out...in transition.  I think I see a theme emerging.

Every seven years, or so they say, every cell in our body is new.  We don't realize the subtle, shift as cells wear out and are replaced with fresh new life.  It's magical.  What else do we have, what man made product can we count on to last fifty, sixty, ninety years?  I fuss about my hair and nails and don't think twice about my heart and lungs until I get sick and tired.  This heart has to pump blood to every cell, for the extent of my life and yet I give more thought to hairstyle or nail color than the food and rest and exercise I provide for the sustenance of my heart.  And I can't remember the last time I actually brushed my teeth for more than two minutes...and we won't even talk about how religiously I floss !! Silly silly creature.

With that thought, I'm going to brush and floss and put my healing self to bed.  I think instead of wasting so much time worrying about my purpose or jobs or productivity... I'm going to concentrate on taking care of the gift I so often take for granted.  Let's all do that for the next few days.  When we start obsessing over something insignificant, take a breath, drink a glass of water, peel an orange or soak in a warm bath with olive oil and lavender.  And absolutely no guilt at taking care of you, acknowledging with gratitude the incredible gift you are.

"Thank you for hair that grows.  Thank you for restorative sleep.  Thank you for ten fingers and ten toes.  Thank you for invisible organs that do their best even when we don't.  Thank you for flying squirrels that escape from clawless cats." JJB   2-21-2010


"Thank you for a good day.  Thank you for my home.  Thank you for things to do.  Thank you for art, in all its forms.  Thank you for beautiful, beautiful skies." SAB     2-20-1998

Some years ago, twenty five to be exact, I embarked on a spiritual quest.  I started attending a "Search for God" study group, even though it wasn't God that was lost.  We talked about meditation, compassion, prayer, service, Jesus, Buddha and healing.  The people in that first group were kind and open hearted and even though I had to drive to Richmond every Wednesday night for the group, it filled a void.

After a time, I decided to start a group in Fredericksburg, with the help of the Edgar Cayce Foundation, The Association for Research and Enlightenment.  On the night of the first meeting, I opened the door to Patricia, and we both felt that immediate connection that seems to span lifetimes.  She is still the butterfly in my life as a caterpillar.  Other people came and went... some were looking for the sensational  paranormal, maybe psychic friends or something.  They wanted to spend evenings in Civil War cemeteries being pulled from their cars by "wayward souls" or discussing possession or their latest "reading" from the local psychic.  When they discovered that our search didn't involve table tapping, seances or aliens, they didn't return.

I made some life long friends during that time but I also had to learn to discern sincerity from ego, real searches for spiritual growth from who could make up the largest load of pooh.  I remember being invited to a meditation group that was to hold as its focus, healing of the planet.  There were thirteen of us and we met once a week.  I quickly discovered that two of the participants were channeling "High Level Guides" and Aliens were evesdropping outside the window.  It was also around that same time that a statue of the Madonna was weeping blood at a nearby church.

The "High Level Guides" were warning that we should all prepare for the "End Times".  That Mary was weeping because we were destroying the Earth and one another.  Some of the impressionable participants were making notes on how much water and food they should start storing in the basement.  One of the leaders was on the City Council and was photographed wearing a crystal headband, for an article in the local newspaper.  I tried to be non judgmental, I mean it seemed important to give everyone the benefit of the doubt. I certainly didn't have all the answers and they seemed so sincere...at first.

I won't pretend to know how this all works.  We do the best we can as human beings.  We rely on our connection to the Divine and to each other to find our way.  I believe that the Universe is more vast than we can even imagine and I feel that God has probably created other beings in other places... it's hard for me to think that we are the only ones... but I've never seen an extraterrestrial personally, and I'd like to believe that they have far better things to do than listen to silliness outside anyone's window.  I listen for the whispers of Angels or Spirit Guides, even my own "Higher Self" wouldn't be too great a stretch but if we do hear those whispers, I am convinced that they would be loving and encouraging and hopeful.  So... when things got a little too dark and the predictions a little too grim, I suggested to this "open minded" meditation group that Mary was weeping for joy.  That we were waking up as human beings to the potential we all hold.  I suggested that focusing on topics that generated fear were damaging and self perpetuating.  I was asked to leave the group !

Some months later, another member of the group called to say that they had held a ceremony and burned my name in a candle flame to insure that I would not return.  How could I have missed that everyone was a little nuts?

After that, I became much more discerning.  I do have quite a few quartz crystals.  I do have books on every subject from Herbal Beer to Seeing Auras.  I consider Jesus to be a close personal friend, and I wish sometimes that we could meet for coffee.  I wish that I could learn to meditate, to find that still small voice within that would give me at least some of the answers.  I believe in magical things and that if I trusted myself enough, I could communicate with the "other side".  I don't think spirits get "trapped" and I don't believe in evil spirits... I think once we're free of the confines of the human body, we are also free of the concepts of evil.  I believe in forgiveness and honesty and compassion... and that people sometimes need things to focus on to get quiet.  Like the rosary or prayer beads or a candle flame or chanting or alternate nostril breathing or yoga or church choir or nature walks or incense... whatever brings us back to center in a life that often feels like it's spinning out of control, does no harm to anyone and invites God in is okay with me... but I can do without the crazies.

Patricia lives on the West Coast and I miss her.  She has a artist's eye and an Angel's heart... a description I have also used to describe Shannon.  They loved each other too.  I've been looking back through time this afternoon, remembering how often I crossed paths with people who left me feeling like I had just stepped out of the Twilight Zone... but I have also been blessed with friends who never cease to amaze and embrace me.  Patricia was there for the first Search for God group, she was there wearing pyramid hats on Princess Ann Street and she was there when our Nature Girls camping trip was nearly washed down the Rapidan River.  She went with me to Flower Essence certification in Santa Barbara and served me tofu soup in china bowls at Big Sur. 

One summer night in August there were supposed to be incredible meteor showers.  My brother lived in the country where the view was not obscured by stop lights and street lights.  Several of my girlfriends, a couple of their husbands, Shannon and Jules and I took blankets and snacks and camped out on my brother's front lawn for the show.  On another occasion, Shannon and I decided we would get a better view from the roof.  So we took our blankets out the bedroom window on the second floor and walked to the peak of the garage roof where we carefully placed our blankets and prepared to watch the shooting stars and make a million wishes.  Unfortunately, the blankets stuck to the shingles but our shorts didn't stick to the blankets and we spent some very hysterical moments trying not to slide to the ground.  How lucky am I that my daughter was also my best friend and willing to give just about any hair brained scheme at least a cursory try?   Bless her heart... she even chose "Pyramid Power" as the topic for her High School Senior Science Project !  And Jules... our Marine Corps, left brained, matter of fact husband/Dad, was always there to lend us tools, design consults, muscle or on occasion, the voice of reason, but he never let us down.Pyramid2

I'm not sure where all of this came from or is going... stream of consciousness again I guess.  Or maybe, just like we need a map to show us where to go, equally important is the map that shows us where we've been. 

 Pyramid1

"Thank you for the maps to our memories.  Thank you for the games Izzy and Sammy play.  Thank you for washed cars.   Thank you for Recliner hugs.  Thank you for dishwashers and clothes washers and vacuum cleaners."   JJB    2-20-2010

 


"Thank you for a beautiful morning.  Thank you for rules to follow.  Thank you for time to enjoy life.  Thank you for dogs and people healing.  Thank you for a friendly voice to call."    SAB    2-19-1998
 
There was a scene in "Love Happens" that made me cry.  A Dad, stuck in the moment of his son's death, has been unable to move forward with life.  Walter has lost his business, his wife, his life.  Having worked as a contractor, spending hours in hardware stores with his young son, he now works nights as a janitor and has not been in a hardware store since losing Steven.
 
The entire seminar group loads onto a bus for a field trip to a surprise location. 
 
 Home Depot.
 
At first Walter is unable to leave the bus...frozen by the fear of having to relive his memories.  As the scene progresses, each member of the group, walking protectively with Walter, adds another Contractor's item to his basket.  There is unbelieveable tenderness in tool belts and hammers and cordless drills. 
 
When you have always found giving more comfortable than receiving, listening easier than asking to be heard, embracing instead of being embraced...it is possible to start believing that you can do it ...whatever it is... better, alone.   Maybe that's true in scrubbing tubs, dusting tables, reading a book of poems or driving the car, but maybe once in a while... when alone starts to feel too much like loneliness, it's okay, really okay, to let others put tools in your basket !
 
"Thank you for the courage to try.  Thank you for the vision of crocus stretching toward spring.  Thank you for fields of bluebirds.  Thank you for incredibly blue, snow dipped mountains.  Thank you for the lone swan on the thawing lake." JJB       2-19-2010