Oh, What a Wonderful World


Earlier, I began to write on a topic totally different from what you are reading. As I was polishing my words, editing and spell checking, a random melody of What a Wonderful World, quietly began to play from an app recently pressed on my iPhone. A small speaker of silver encased in turquoise blue sat atop the crowded corner of my half-moon desk. Suddenly, my body halted in a burgundy swivel chair. Fingers of ten lifted up, freezing in position. I was utterly still while listening to lyrics strumming from a soothing Hawaiian ukulele. I hadn’t heard this song since last month when I chose it for Eileen’s, memorial service.  Eileen, my father’s wife of 142 days who passed away from cancer.

Things happen in life that we don’t often understand at the time. Later, something may trigger us to look back with fresh eyes, opening a window to a new meaning or purpose of such. This moment of clarity happened seconds ago which I will share with you now.

Last month while flying to Phoenix for Eileen’s service, a beautiful young woman with several long, dark braids and wearing a patterned paisley scarf tied around her head sat in the window seat next to me. During the three and a half hour-long flight, I closed my droopy eyes to catch a nap. Suddenly, something cold landed on my sleeveless arm. My eyes popped open. Near my wrist, a small plastic pellet, cold as ice rested comfortably. Taken aback, I flicked it off my arm with my index finger. The girl/woman had fallen asleep, her partially covered head rested against the airplane window with braids tossed this way and that. Her scarf was twisted, revealing a cap of white underneath.

Directly in the row ahead of us, a mother was busy juggling twins, a girl and a boy who jumped up and down when a smiling flight attendant appeared carrying a tray of sweets. One at a time, she served them soft, chocolate chip cookies. The commotion woke the young woman next to me who began to talk playfully with the children ahead of us.

“Mmmm, I bet those are really good cookies,” she exclaimed! “I have twins, too,” she added, smiling at the children’s mother. “Two little girls, six years old.” “How great! My kids just turned four,” the other mom, replied.

Naturally, I couldn’t help myself. “I have twin grand-babies” I added, leaning in to my seat-mate. “Two girls, like you. They’re just over a year old.” From that moment on we bonded, sharing family photographs while getting to know one another. Shortly before landing, she explained that her family lived in China, where her husband worked for a major New York investment firm. She added that she felt extremely guilty for leaving him there while she came to America (Phoenix) for cancer treatment. My heart stopped.

“No, this can’t be, I thought to myself. “She’s too young. I can’t bear to hear this. Not on this trip. Not now.”

“What do you think,” she asked. “Is there any better place for treatment?”

Gathering my composure, I took her hand and smiled with self-determination. “I think Phoenix has some of the best treatment options available,” I answered. “As good or better than anywhere in the world,” I added with enthusiasm.

“Do you really believe that?”

“Yes,” I answered, honestly, which I did. Looking directly into her eyes, I told her not to feel guilty, that she should concentrate on getting well. For the next few minutes, I gave her a pep talk of sorts, insisting that she put herself first and foremost. I asked her to concentrate on getting well for herself, as well as her family; to never stop thinking of those precious little girls who so needed their mama.

Just before landing, she asked, “What brings you to Phoenix?”

“Oh, just a brief visit with my father,” I answered, misty-eyed, smiling slightly.

*Below is a prayer I wrote that accompanied What a Wonderful World, at Eileen’s service. Today it has a new meaning for me, a new purpose. Surely, Eileen is an Angel….yes, the young mother’s Angel. Eileen sits beside her through each and every cancer treatment. Eileen dries her tears, eases her loneliness and eventually, will reunite her with family. And, yes, the young mother will be happy and healthy, living to raise her daughters into womanhood.

Oh, What a Wonderful World.

Angel Prayer-

Before the sun shall rise again, darkness descends upon the earth

And, though I do not see, nor hear, nor touch…

What lies beyond the ink of skies above

My faith surpasses any doubt of where I soon shall fly…

Be still all earthly pain, and hush my labored breaths

Blanket weary lids, and rest ‘till morning dawn…

View these beautiful Angel wings above favorite desert peaks

For He has grasped my hand in Heaven 

So full of joy it spills forth

With light and love…

Gaze with me as glory casts golden rays

For now and all eternity.

                   ~Amen~

 

Taking Time for Change


Recently, I’ve gone through a period of feeling overwhelmed in life. Not depressed. No, I’d compare it to feeling like a small green pea in a big pot of vegetable stew. Small, while trying to stay afloat……

After helping my father with his wife’s memorial service in Arizona, I planned to catch a plane back to St. Louis where an estate sale was in process, selling off many of my home’s objects together with a long list of life’s memories.  Unfortunately, I was a day late getting back due to weather delays and missed connections. When time was of the essence, I ended up spending a total of 19 hours in the small airport of Grand Junction, Colorado. Finally, a day later, my plane was diverted to Denver, where I grabbed a quick nap from 3-5 am before catching a non-stop flight to my original destination.

Upon arriving, there was barely time to say “Goodbye” to the home I loved so much. Quickly, I walked through my turret office space, where blog posts were tapped on keys of black. I strolled into the periwinkle nursery where I remembered gently placing my very first grand-baby in her spindled crib, as though she was a porcelain doll. Images of magical tea parties danced in my head together with giggles, dress up play, and story book time.

Afterward, I stepped outside onto the red brick pavers of my patio where fingers traced petals of crunchy golden sunflowers. Looking around, I began to collect a few, forgotten colored clay pots leftover from my garden. Suddenly, a brown sugar doe leaped from the woods. Sighing, my heart knew it was God’s last gift to me….at least at this house, in this time.

It’s been three weeks since I’ve moved to my new house, and I’m mostly settled now. For whatever reason, my body and mind felt spent when all was said and done. In moves past, I worked until everything was completely in place, typically within a few days to a week. Not this time. I was tired. I let things go. My mind said, “No.”

I’m happy in my new home. There is lots of room for my grand-babies to stay for as long as they like. Nearby, there is a beautiful lake surrounded by woods and walking trails with lots of nature. In fact, it’s a nature preserve where I see something new each and every day. A different plant, the sound of a bird’s call or the beauty of a new sunrise.

Best of all, my overwhelming feeling is beginning to lift. I guess I didn’t drown in that pot of vegetable stew after all.

 

Through The Lens of a Child


A reminiscent post that gave my heart a smile today…..

Each and every day and usually more than once, I drive past a lovely Equestrian Center very close to my home. It’s a beautiful place where horses of all breeds are boarded, competitions are held and lessons are taught, trail rides are given, and a bit of magic happens…..

On any given day, behind white split-rail fencing in flat, muddy fields I’ll see mares munching on bales of hay, stallions kept at bay, geldings trotting close enough to take a look, and if I’m very, very lucky, a mama nursing her baby foal on spindly legs or a dewy colt newly born.

This past summer on a still afternoon, my husband and I pulled into the dusty parking lot of the above with our little grand-daughter who squealed with delight. Clouds of brown welcomed our car with poofs of air the color of smoke. A wooden porch of sun-bleached planks greeted us before we checked in. Sitting on the plain pine bench, I almost expected a prickly tumbleweed to roll by!

The smell of open barns drifted my way, drawing me in. My grand-daughter’s small of hand clasped my own, looking up to me. Her eyes of saucer blue together with a smile that melts my heart-so-much stopped me in my tracks. We went on to visit countless stalls of fresh cream-colored straw, most with horses living in them. Others were out, taking a break. Everything was ‘new’ to her, a story waiting, words to say, more magic happening…..

Wafting through the first barn was the musty scent of sweaty twine together with horse manure from nearby fields of munched on grass and weeds.  Click-Click…sounds of fancy cowboy boots tapping on the pitted cement floor while silver spurs passed right in front of us. So close we could almost touch them! Shiny silver with sparkling jewels together with little stars twinkling from them! On the wall to the left, a long row of black helmets hung from dark brass hooks. “But, why…,” she asked. Always a question, forever an answer. “To keep you safe,” I explained.

“I want to see the horses, Grandpa,” our grand-daughter exclaimed, jumping up and down! My husband lifted her with both hands, propping her up on his shoulders to get a better view over the fence-line. Gorgeous, smooth, soft-to-the-touch heads in solids and spots sprung from their lunch breaks to check us out. Pointed ears in brown, black or tan tapered just so, in curiosity. Long, wiry hair of swishing tails swinging back and forth. Sooo pretty!

Thinking it might be time to go, we moved towards the car. “Where are the ponies,” came tiny words from little, ‘Moppet Head.’  My husband and I held her hands to walk several blocks to the last and final barn.  Home to all of the ponies. There she hung on the rail, eye-level to ‘horses’ more her size. She whispered close to their ears, named each and every one and visited their stalls, before blowing imaginary kisses to say, “Good-Bye.”

After all my time in living here, it took a child’s innocence for me to see the magic in a place I’ve barely glimpsed before. How much MORE of life is there to live, if only I could look through the lens of a child?

 

 

“My Angel”


My father lost his beloved wife, Eileen on Monday evening after a four-month battle with cancer.

About two weeks ago, I was able to speak to her over the phone. “Your father has been my angel,” she said.

Last evening, again on the telephone, my father asked for my help in preparing Eileen’s memorial brochure for the funeral service. Even though I’ll be in Phoenix later today, he needed to get started on the information immediately. So, I sent him a photograph that I took last year at 5:30 in the morning while visiting the two of them.

As I forwarded the photo on to my father, I mentioned to him that it might be appropriate for someplace in Eileen’s memorial. I remember how she loved it so.  To me, it symbolizes Heaven, with the clouds above appearing to look like angel wings. My father agreed.

“I called her my Angel,” he cried through tears.

How ironic. Two Angels. One on earth and now one in Heaven above.

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you…

Philippians 1:3

Learning To Love Sewing


A heartfelt post filled with love and creative talent passed down through generations.

 

The Aran Artisan

20160811_164800 A colourful selection of make and paint your own totebags.

I fell in love with sewing at age seven and the passion has never waned.  Taught at my grandmother’s knee, I went on to learn about industrial sewing and design at my first professional position and then tailoring at the next.  I was blessed to have not only one teacher, but three phenomenal women to mentor me, all who spent a good portion of their lives behind the machine developing their sewing skills.  Sure, there were periods of my life that demanded the time I would’ve otherwise spent on sewing, but I knew that someday I’d go on to teach others too.  After spending my lifetime learning the craft (and still so much I’ve yet to know) I’ve chosen to devote the little teaching time I have to children.  In some ways it’s like some of me lives on through their creations and, more…

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Today I give thanks for it all


Prayer for today, for we know not what may come tomorrow.

Purplerays

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“Today I give thanks for it all,
Though I do not understand much of what I see,
I surrender anyway….
I trust in the Goodness of Life,
I open to the One that breathes me,
To the One who has given me one more day
To feel so alive and free”

~ Flora Aube

Photo & text credit: Practicing the Presence through Mind and Meditation https://web.facebook.com/Practicing-the-Presence-through-Mind-and-Meditation-209171649145514/

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Dragonfly in the garden


In this time of death and dying within my family, Mike’s picture portrait of a dragonfly brought tears of joy to my face. Please don’t let her fly away from you.

Mike Powell

I don’t often see dragonflies in a garden, but spotted this female Eastern Amberwing dragonfly (Perithemis tenera) amidst the flowers earlier this week at Green Spring Gardens. There were lots of male Eastern Amberwings buzzing around the small ponds in another location at the gardens in hopeful expectation of finding a mate.

I have the impression that female dragonflies like to hang out in a different area from the males and then make an appearance at a time of their own choosing.

Eastern Amberwing

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Smorgasbord Health – New Series – Women’s and Men’s Health Revisited for the next Ten weeks.


Please visit Sally for information that could save lives!

Smorgasbord - Variety is the spice of life

smorgasbord health

A year ago in July 2015 through to the September I focused on the differences between men and women as far as health issues went.  I was delighted to have some wonderful guest posts from people who had experienced health problems that were both inspiring and very informative.

I want to republish those posts over the next ten weeks as there is now a wider audience of readers who might find them helpful if facing their own health issues. Also it is a subject that bears repeating as we do tend to become complacent and feel that ‘it will never happen to me’ 

There are many tests that you can take advantage of in the European health system for free and there are also home tests available that you can take regularly to keep an eye on your body’s well-being. Getting an early diagnosis can make the difference between life…

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A New Year Has Just Begun


I received a darling picture of my oldest granddaughter yesterday. She was all dressed in her 1st day of pre-school finery. Sitting on the stoop of her house, she carried the weight of her most prized possession, a striped hot pink backpack strung over her shoulders. In a sense, a new year has just begun.

My husband called while on the road to say our youngest son had put his beloved home for sale. He and his family of five including my Babies of Two are moving to a new state because of his job. Perhaps their present home has been a stepping stone to where they are meant to be? I’m praying for my son and daughter-in-law to find a new home that they love. A home to raise their babies in for a long, long while. A house that one day, the kids may even begin to skip off to school.

In talking to my father, he told me the doctors found another large lump on the back of his wife’s neck. They had already done another MRI and would be coming back to discuss treatment. She can’t even get out of bed. I spoke to my father, asking him if I could be ‘honest’ with him.

“Yes, of course, always,” he answered.

I went on to tell him of my good friend, and excellent internist who began a terrific Hospice House here in St. Louis in order to focus on palliative care. My father had met my friend in the past and knew he was a good man.

Finally, my father hesitated before speaking. “I’ve been thinking and I don’t want to put her through anything more. I just want to take her home to the house she loves. I want her to look at the desert stars before she falls asleep and for her to see the sun rise above the mountains in the morning.”

With those words, my father cried. Before I even spoke to him, he had already begun to accept the idea of hospice and was preparing himself to let her go… Today he hopes to take her home where they will simply love each other until death they do part. Tomorrow is their four-month wedding anniversary.

There are still two more weeks before I finally move into my own new house. Yes, I know, it has seemed forever…..My goal was to find something close to my son and daughter-in-law who are expecting their third baby around Christmas. At the same time, I wanted to be near nature if possible, have room for an office, and a sleeping area for visiting grand-babies.

Well, my husband and I feel very fortunate as we enter this last stage of our lives. Our new home is only a short distance from family, and although smaller and very different on the inside, it looks very much like the outside of our current house. We plan to use the formal dining room as an office where I’ll soon write from my half-moon desk in a windowed turret just as I’ve done for many years.

Next to our bedroom is a small space that will be used for the grandchildren’s sleeping room. Bunk beds and a white spindled crib will soon be rolled in beneath a breezy fan. The closet is already stacked with shelves to fill toys and puzzles soon to be spilled upon the wooden floor.

On the back of the house is a full length screened porch where painted wicker furniture awaits future family gatherings. A round glass table will be set with plates for summer BBQ or early evening board games. Nearby, a chair teeters back and forth. In the spring, I’ll rock the next bundled baby close to my beating heart.

As mentioned above, my husband and I feel very fortunate. Our new house is in subdivision encompassing a dedicated nature preserve. The view from the back of our house is tall trees where a walking path winds over a small stream and through the thick of overgrown wildflowers. A few minutes to the left are trails surrounding a 15-acre lake stocked with fish for catch and release. No boats are allowed, only wildlife and the stillness of peace.

I’ve missed the whole of summer which feels like the whole of a year. Family issues have been filled with stress, but in the end, life begins anew. God has parted a curtain. The previews have finished with the main feature now in full play. And, although I don’t know the ending, I’m certainly looking forward to living again.

Yes, in a sense a new year has just begun.

What Could Be Pretty About Cancer?


I’d like to write about something inspirational, to focus on nature, something pretty in life or something hopeful. Instead, my mind is filled with sadness, anxiety, and despair. I suppose the same three words could easily be summed up into one: cancer.  What could be pretty about cancer?

Soon after my father married at the end of this past March his bride was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Together, they’ve been fighting the disease ever since with every ounce of strength imaginable.

I feel so very helpless because I am here in St. Louis while my father and his wife are living in Arizona. I can’t be there to hold his hand, run an errand, cook a meal or simply sit with him at the hospital. When he calls, his voice invariably cracks during his last few words. He struggles not to show his emotion, yet it is there, just beneath the surface. In my mind, there are tears in his eyes and I hear a choking sound in the back of his throat. My heart aches for my father.

Although not my decision, perhaps my father’s wife should have been in hospice for the last several weeks? There, she might have been more comfortable, able to hear her favorite music while visiting with her daughter and grandchildren? Yet, doctors and oncologists are willing to provide every treatment possible to prolong the inevitable end of life, especially when the patient has been sold on the slightest chance of more time.

More time for WHAT? More time for hair to fall out from chemotherapy treatments. More time to buy a wig. More time for a person’s skin to redden and dry from the effects of radiation. More time to lose the senses of taste and hearing. More time to wither away to skin and bones. More time to vomit and writhe in pain. More time to slowly die…..

If my father’s wife was a loved one to any of member of the team of doctors treating her, a wife, sister or mother, would the protocol of treatment have been the same?

Cancer…the only thing pretty about it is the love that has brought my father and his wife closer. For that I am thankful.

 

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