Thursday, December 31, 2009

A Matter of Hope

My sister, Jackie, recommended a book to me some time ago.  Three Cups of Tea turned out to be a compelling read, but then, in high school I was a reader of Dr. Tom Dooley's books about his experience as an American doctor working in Indo-China (what we then called Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam)  in the 1950's.

Now Mortenson has a new book out, Stones into Schools.  If you have any interest in alternatives to guns and bombs in the middle east generally and Afghanistan and Pakistan specifically, and if you have not read any of Mortenson's work, either title is worth your time.  If you are interested in the role of women in society, Mortenson's work offers a perspective most Americans don't consider.  If you are interested in education, Mortenson's determination is inspiring.    If you are interested in mountain climbing in the Himalayas, Three Cups of Tea might prove interesting.

These books are an example of the difference one person can make, of the concept that each mountain, each pearl, begins with a single grain of sand.  Even the US Army concedes that Mortenson makes a difference.  He has spoken to cadets at the US Military Academy, West Point.

"On Wednesday, July 15, 2009, Admiral Mike Mullen, U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff paid a visit to Pushgur school, in a remote valley of Afghanistan, to inaugurate one of Mortenson’s new schools, to highlight the military’s new strategy to advocate empowering local communities, build relationships and the significance of education to promote peace.... " (Greg Mortenson - Wikipedia)

Would that I could find a way to make that kind of a difference in someone's life.  Can't do it sitting at home, or going to work and coming home every day, or otherwise caught in my comfortable ruts.  Making a difference means stepping out of the box, making new trails.  May I have the courage to leave my ruts.

Happy New Year!!!

Don't forget to pray ....

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Surviving the Holidays

Normally I love Christmas.  I love the decorating, the scheming to create the perfect gift for someone else. I love the lights and outdoor decorations that we don't see much of in this neighborhood.   I love the sharing, opening my home, visiting friends.  The Advent wreath, marking those four Sundays before Christmas, reminding us of promise, prophesy, anticipation, love, candles bringing more and more light even as the days shorten and  the winter solstice nears.  Baking, and baking more.  Hauling out the fine china, polishing the silver, just the right candles on the table and around the house.  Ray was known to bring home the on duty Sheriff or Highway Patrolman for Christmas Dinner.  It was always a trauma for me to give up the cooking and trundle off to Kimo's house to celebrate Christmas with his family.

It not the same in someone else's house.  There are 95-year-old short tempers to consider, others with their own traditions of celebrating -- or ignoring -- the holidays.  My "props" -- the seasonal decorations -- are all 3000 miles away.  Even if they were within reach, there would not be room for them here.

December 23rd was my parents' 70th wedding anniversary.  It was also the annual Christmas Party at Oahu Care Facility.  Mother and I made the trek to share the morning with my dad.  We arrived about 10 minutes before the celebration was to begin.  He was still in bed, asleep.  He did not WANT to get up.  He "didn't feel good" (a frequently used excuse).  He didn't recognize my mother enough to call her by name.  But with a little prompting he did remember that it was their wedding anniversary.

Christmas Day.  I went alone to Oahu Care.  Daddy was awake, and was thrilled with the album I had put together for him from some old photographs my brother Ian has been scanning.  All of them have come from my dad's old albums.  He nearly snatched the book out of my hands, he was so excited to look at what was in it.  He didn't remember that he'd seen all those pictures recently.  They are now in a book, and that makes them special and new.  The fish t-shirt -- he liked the fish, but it was just another shirt, and doesn't have a pocket.  The non-slip socks pleased him.  But photos in an album thrilled him.   When I admitted that my brain was in "forget" mode, and I'd forgotten to bring the Christmas cards and gingerbread that were set aside for him, he was alert enough to quip, "Welcome to the club!"

In the end, I survived Christmas.  It was far from a perfect holiday, but it was not a disaster either.    Although they are not gardeners, Ian and Meda seemed intrigued by the herb pot of basil, parsley and thyme I created for them.  Mother is slowly working her way through 2 lbs. of See's "soft centers only" chocolate, and was not offended by my favorite throw-it-in-the-pot egg timer I found her after she soft boiled the last batch of "hard boiled" eggs.  Church on Christmas morning, rather than our customary Christmas Eve, helped keep the focus where it belongs.

Reach out today to someone who is alone.  Look for someone alone in a crowd.  A smile, an acknowledgement of their existence, is a start.  Don't forget to pray.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Variation on the Theme.

The theme, in this case, is purchased strips of fabric in someone's idea of pleasing color combinations.    I had not intended to put any hand-quilting into this project, but in the end could find no design that I could successfully do by machine AND liked.  The overall design in the two borders is done by hand.  The callous on the left middle finger, which catches the needle on the downward stroke and makes the requisite tiny stitches,  is becoming permanent.  The stitches are getting smaller and more even.  I am fond of the purples in this project, with the pink and green accents.  Who would have thunk it -- purple and this wonderful bright green?!   The blue backing looks like many drops of water.  My mother says she loves that backing fabric.  

Give thanks for communication opening.  Don't forget to pray!  

Friday, December 18, 2009

Abuse ... and abuse

I detest men who treat women as (sex) objects, as servants, as pawns.  I detest men -- and women -- whose behavior illustrates that spousal abuse does not have to be physical to cause great harm.

A card from a friend, received today, shared the sad news.  A mutual friend was caught embezzling, perhaps as much as $500,000, from her employer of more than 20 years.   This isn't the first time; last time it was a different employer and over a much shorter period.

She doesn't do it for herself.  She does it because she is incapable of saying "No." to her husband.  She admits that she created a monster by catering to his every whim.  It's more than just money.  He doesn't help around the house.  He doesn't provide the tools to do the tasks that needed doing.  One day Ray caught her trying to shovel snow off her front steps -- with a boat oar.   For most of their marriage, Hubby made a minimal contribution to the household finances.  Yes, he did have a responsible, good-paying job for a few years.  Now he is disabled.  The disability could have been prevented; he didn't take the action necessary  for prevention.  Their relationship is not a partnership with give-and-take on both sides.  She does all the giving, and always has.  Thank goodness they never had children.

My friend is a sweet, intelligent woman.   Unless one knows the circumstances of her personal life, she is the last person you'd expect to steal anything.  Those who care about her believed she had learned from previous experience.  It's hard to learn that she didn't.  

Pray for my friend.  Call her Liz.  Pray for all victims of emotional or verbal abuse from partner or parent.  ...

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Negotiating the Marathon

Today is Honolulu Marathon Day.  

For those of us unlucky enough to live directly on the last 5 miles of the race route, it means we are trapped for most of the day.   

But today was Patu's birthday.  Her 95th birthday.  Patu is the Historian for Daughters of Hawaii.  The Fearsome Four (as we of the Historian's Committee have apparently been dubbed) invited her out  for her birthday.  We offered dinner earlier in the week, but she chose to celebrate with brunch on The Day.  The celebration was to be at the Kaneohe Yacht Club, on the opposite side (but not opposite end) of the island from Kahala. 

In preparation for escaping this morning, I parked the car on the nearest side street yesterday afternoon.  Then came home and read the traffic instructions from the Race Committee.  

When I left the house just before 9 a.m., one lane of Kealaolu Avenue (a 2-lane street) was full of runners.  As I looked up the street, the pack was arriving.  Both lanes were filled with runners.  Several miles of runners, I knew, even though only a quarter-mile or so were in sight.  

Then it was a matter of winding through the neighborhood back streets to the one intersection where traffic was allowed to cross the race route.  Three uniformed police officers directed traffic there.  Good thing I was headed to Nu'uanu and Kaneohe.  Couldn't have gotten to church; an essential intersection was closed in that direction.  
The birthday party was lovely, with 9 of us attending.  Then home. 

By now it was nearly 1:30. Race publicity suggested that by this time of day, limited local traffic would be allowed and I could get safely home.  No such luck.  There were more walkers than expected.  The race was running really late.  The nice officer I spoke to said he was bailing at 2, but it didn't look like they would clear the road until at least 3. Too many walkers.  The runners finished hours ago.   He conferred with other officers at the intersection.  Nope, could not travel against the flow of walkers, even if an officer walked alongside the car.  Not even a place to park in a zillion miles so I could walk home.  Maybe if I went up to the next intersection, they suggested,  the officers there would allow me to travel with the flow of walkers, but in the lane being used for Emergency Response.  

That worked.  Thank you, Officer Mata!  I breathed a large sigh of relief as I pulled into the driveway between clusters of walkers.  Safe for another year. 

Give thanks for friends, especially those able to celebrate 95 years of living.  Hug a friend.  Don't forget to pray....  

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


Yesterday was my dad's 96th birthday.  We took him a birthday cake and some cards, the celebration following immediately on the heels of lunch.  It was a day of mixed blessings.

He ate a piece of cake, although he had turned down most of his lunch with the excuse that he didn't feel well.  He's used a similar excuse for years when served something he has decided he didn't want to eat -- doesn't like, bored with, too hard to chew, doesn't like the look of ....

He carefully "read" each birthday card, spending a great deal of time on the one from his sister, very little time on the one from Mother and me.   We wonder if he can actually see the messages on the cards, even with his glasses.

He is having more and more trouble moving around in his walker.  Before long, he will not be able to get around without a wheelchair.

He never acknowledged my mom by name.  Later she commented, "I don't think he knew who I was."  Perhaps it was deliberate, for she seldom visits and he often asks about her.  Perhaps he really doesn't recognize her.  Perhaps he just didn't think about calling her by name.

His eyes were empty, and he didn't seem to grasp the link between birthday and cake.  One day last week I asked him about birthday cake, and he commented that it was always fun to cut a birthday cake.  Maybe candles would have helped the memory.  We couldn't light candles at his care home; they set of the smoke alarms!

Conversation that includes him is impossible, for his rapidly failing memory frequently prevents him from contributing meaningfully to a conversation.  Poor hearing (although he is nowhere as hard of hearing as Mother) makes it hard for him to even follow a conversation.  His mind wanders off into its own time and place.

Soon it became clear it was time to leave.  I lowered his bed from a visiting to a sleeping position, and kissed him good-bye.  He closed his eyes and would be asleep in moments.

We give thanks for his many good years.     Give thanks for the parent-figures in your own life -- the good, the bad and the indifferent.   Sometimes we reflect their beliefs and lifestyle.  Sometimes we deliberately turn in other directions.   We are who we are because of the lessons they taught us.

Hug your children....   Don't forget to pray.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Miss Meda

Miss Meda is my sister-in-law.  My mother found this article this morning, a full two-page spread in today's Star-Bulletin -- which used to the the afternoon daily newspaper, and for which my brother used to work as an investigative reporter.  

Ian and Meda chose long ago not to have children.  Instead, they have 8 cats, all foundlings. (Except Duke, now the 19-pounder, whose mother was already pregnant when they rescued her -- and other cats -- from the home of their deceased owner.)  They have their work, and their collections.  Meda has jewelry and china and ...  Ian has cameras and old photographs.  Together they collect art with a Hawaii connection.  They are happy.