Monday, October 30, 2006

Altered: Father, How Wonderful You Are

I returned Friday night from a trip to California to visit my parents.  My father is ninety years old and has prostate cancer that he has been battling for fifteen years.  He sleeps more than he is awake and part of this is due to the pain medications he takes.  My mom has always laughed about my dad singing in his sleep but she told me now he only sings or hums a few bars of his favorite hymn, “The Old Rugged Cross.” One afternoon I was curled up reading a book in the living room and he was asleep in his recliner chair when he began to hum.  This was the first time I had ever heard my dad do this and I found it comforting to listen to him.  His faith in God has never wavered even in his failing health.

On Sunday morning I attended church with my mother.  Dr. Fermin Whittaker who is the Executive Director CA Southern Baptist Convention was the guest speaker.  He told us we are not a burden to God.  We are imperfect, we must confess, we must believe in Jesus as God’s son, and we will be saved and we will find peace.  He said sometimes we are so busy being Christians, for us to be a Christian.  During the sermon I became annoyed because someone behind me kept whispering and I was having a hard time concentrating on the message.  I turned around but the whispers continued.  Then I listened to what they were saying behind me.  Someone was translating the sermon from English to Spanish so the other person could hear the message.  I realized I was that Christian--too busy listening to the message and being annoyed to be a good Christian to others in the same service.  I asked God to forgive me and just let me concentrate harder to hear a message that obviously I was meant to hear.  Dr. Whittaker had a way of lacing personal stories into his message and at one point asked us all to say, “Amen.”  We did.  He said we sounded like a group of Episcopalians and asked us to say Amen again like Southern Baptists.  We did much better the second time.  I called my husband Larry after church to tell him about our Amen’s and he laughed because he was raised in the Episcopal Church.  At the end of the service they asked everyone to join hands and sing Better Together.  

I was telling my dad about an issue I have on forgiveness that I am working on; one God requires of me in order to be fully forgiven myself.  My dad listened and gave me some advice.  Then my dad smiled at me and said, “you’ll be in mine.”  My dad is dying from cancer and he is praying for me.  I can’t explain how this made me feel.  When my sister Sharron was dying she also prayed for me to return to God and church.  The power of knowing someone is praying for you is almost overwhelming and comforting at the same time.

My mom is my best friend and using her as a role model my daughter has begun calling me her best friend.  My mother is my father’s caregiver.  Anything he needs or wants, she takes care of.  She also does all the small things around the house to keep it running--fixing a leaky sprinkler head, tightening a lose pipe, and for bigger things she calls my nephew and he takes care of it or he finds one of his friends who can do it.  Her outlet is gardening since she can no longer quilt do to arthritis.  One afternoon my dad was sitting in his wheelchair and I watched my mom lovingly stroke the back of his head, running her fingers through his hair.   This is the kind of love everyone looks for and longs to find.  After almost sixty-eight years my mom and dad are still in love.  

My dad likes to tell us family stories.  He was living in California, working and saving enough money to return to Oklahoma and move us all out west to the Promised Land with warmer weather and a better life for his family.  At night my dad would stop by the side of the road and read his bible from the light of his truck headlights before going to sleep.  His road map for life came from the bible.  

The Old Rugged Cross

On a hill far away, stood an old rugged cross, The emblem of suff'ring and shame; And I love that old cross where the dearest and best For a world of lost sinners was slain. (Chorus) So I'll cherish the rugged cross, Till my trophies at last I lay down' I will cling to the old rugged cross, And exchange it some day for a crown. Oh, that old rugged cross so despised by the world Has a wondrous attraction for me; For the dear Lamb of God left his glory above, To bear it to dark Calvary. (Chorus) In the old rugged cross, stained with blood so divine, A wondrous beauty I see; For 'twas on that old cross Jesus suffered and died, To pardon and sanctify me. (Chorus) To the old rugged cross I will ever be true, Its shame and reproach gladly bear; Then he'll call me some day to my home far away, Where his glory forever I'll share.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Altered: Blank Canvas

My husband Larry has been on a sabbatical for the last year.  During this time we slept in late in the mornings, read the paper and discussed the news at our leisure, alternated between watching the today show and CCN, shared a pot of coffee, and just spent time together.  With no children in the house, this was the first time it has just been the two of us in eight years of marriage.  Well, if you don’t count the cat child, better known as Ally the queen, and Deuce the dog we are all alone.

Now Larry has gone back to work and I am all alone.  I began thinking about what I would do with this blank canvas of time several months ago.  When I am painting or working on a collage I cover up my canvas or blank page with paint or glue colored papers just to get rid of the plain white unimaginative and boring starting point.  I guess I could cover myself with paint; get a little messy with the glue, paper, and embellishments but it would be a little hard to explain when I needed to leave the house.  The artistic part of my brain has taken a break making this transition time even harder for me.  

Patience.  I keep telling myself this over and over.  Maybe I just need a short rest from everything to regroup and recharge.  I can’t sleep at night but I can’t work.  I watch a favorite craft show on television during the morning but it doesn’t inspire me.  I wander into and out of craft and scrapbook stores but, again, I am not inspired.

Three weeks after starting this blog entry I finally have an idea:  I am making mini memory quilts for my sister Sharron’s four children, Bryon, Chuck, David, and Kim.  They are all grown with babies of their own and one with a grandchild.  I have old photos of my parents and each of my siblings when we were small children that I have transferred to fabric.  I am using luxurious textured upholstery fabrics in reds, dark gray wool, ribbons, netting, embellishments, eyelets, and twisted wire to hang them.  I will machine quilt them since I didn’t inherit my mothers ability to quilt by hand.  I just wanted my nephews and niece to have a special handmade memento just for them.  

Monday, October 16, 2006

Altered - making a difference in a child's life and your own

My friend Art is the Whatcom County, WA, Toys for Tots coordinator. He is a former marine, a husband, father, grandfather, a Christian, a community leader, a business man, property owner, and drives a big four wheel drive truck when he is not on his Harley Davidson Softail motorcycle.  He wears many different hats but is always looking for ways to help others in need

There is just over two months until Christmas day.  Some of you may have been shopping for bargains since the day after Christmas last year and some of you haven’t even thought about it, waiting until the day after Thanksgiving this year for those 5:00 AM sales.

I shopped for months when my children were little to fulfill their most wanted items on pages of written notes and bent pages in the toy catalogs.  I never gave them everything they wanted but tried to select what I thought would bring them the most joy on Christmas morning along with some more practical items like the surprise “Christmas Eve pajamas” they didn’t know they were going to get, new shirts, pants, and books.

I taught my children early that not everyone was as fortunate as they were.  That some children would wake up on Christmas not even to find a decorated tree, much less presents, or a turkey to feast on for dinner.  We collected and bought stuffed animals and toys to donate to local charities knowing we were making a small difference in someone’s life.  

The first Christmas after I filed for divorce I worried about how I would buy presents for my children when I didn’t own a car and barely had enough money to get by.  I was fortunate because my family stood by me.  My sister filled my pantry and freezer with food, bought enough wood to burn in my woodstove all winter, my brother gave me money to buy gifts and extras, and my parents provided food, the loan of their car, and all of them supported and loved me.  My children and I were lucky.

When we give to others we are making a difference in their lives and the lives of everyone they know.  Helping a young family or a single parent provide a toy for their child will affect their outlook on life.  Someone cared about them.  Someday maybe they will be in a position to help someone else in need.  The child that is to young to understand and only has tears on Christmas day because they didn’t experience the joy they have seen and heard on television, school, and even church, will be changed by a simple toy.  The child that is old enough to understand all the advertising understands that their friends will have a Christmas they can only imagine, will be changed with a small gift.  A child without hope is a world without joy..

I cannot image being a mother and not having the means to buy even a small gift for my child at Christmas.  I have seen written letters by young mothers giving thanks for clothing and toys at Christmas because without the generosity of others they would have had nothing under their tree.  I have then seen the same young mothers earn money to help support other charities in their community because they have learned the value of kindness.  

Art recently told a group of friends that Toys for Tots is rated #65 out of all charities in the USA.  They give back $ .98 for every dollar that they take in to provide toys to children in need.  The money and toys collected in each county stays in that county.  Please make a toy donation, a cash donation, encourage your family and friends to make a donation, contact your local Toys for Tots and ask how you can help make a difference.  You can also make a donation by mailing a check to Marine Toys for Tots Foundation, P.O. Box 1947, Quantico, VA 22134, or go online to make a donation: with a credit card, e-check, PayPal, or sell on line EBay as a mission fish and mark Toys for Tots to benefit as the nonprofit.

When we give to others we make a difference in our own lives.  The joy of knowing that a child will wake up Christmas morning with a smile on his or her face.  A mother or father won’t have a tear in their eyes of feeling like they failed their child.  

Please don’t stop at Christmas to help in your community.  You can donate good clean clothing, good coats you have out-grown or don’t use, knit a sweater or hat, make a baby blanket, visit your local volunteer center to ask how you can make a difference all year long.

As part of the season of giving our Mt. Baker Chapter Harley Owners Group had their 15th annual toy run to Stafholt in Blaine to deliver toys to the Blaine Chamber of Commerce Giving Tree Program.  We had a sheriff’s escort throughout the back roads of the county with Santa and Mrs. Claus leading thirty-one bikes and one toy wagon loaded with presents.  The residents were happy to see Santa as he personally greeted each one and gave them a small stuffed animal.  There was hot soup, coffee, and cookies for our group when we arrived and each one of us was presented a t-shirt for our generosity.  

Our church began the “Better Together” 40 days of community by Rick Warren this weekend.  I can’t think of a better choice to study as a church to bring us together and remind us as Christians to reach out to our community, especially with the holiday season just ahead of us and so many people in need.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month


(Suzie Q)
08-21-1942 / 04-28-1993
Inflammatory breast cancer

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Commitment: 60 months

My daughter Kelly has grown up and matured so much in the last year since she went away to finish her college education.  She researched and found an apartment.  Found a roommate, lost a roommate, found a new one.  She transferred jobs, found a second job, found a boyfriend, lost a boyfriend, found a new job, quit an old job.  She hit all the highs and all the lows and she survived, wiser, stronger, and smarter.

Today she bought her first new car, a 2007 black Mazda 3 iTouring model.  Her car that she drove all through high school, and Larry and I gave to her after she completed community college, has developed a chronic wallet problem.  One fix after another, so it was time to make a change.  She loves her little white car and will feel sad when she finally sells it, but the excitement she feels right now driving her new baby will overshadow any loss she feels in letting go of her old set of wheels.

She researched, planned, shopped, test drove, and researched some more to make sure she knew all about every car and the options within her price range before she made a decision.  

With school expenses, rent, food, gasoline prices that are ever climbing, and insurance she will really have to budget now.  But she is driven to prove to everyone that she can be successful in school, in her job, in her life--and Larry and I know she will succeed.

This isn’t just another step in her life, it’s a giant leap.  

Lavender Wands

On Monday morning I had the chance to participate at the GRADS teen parent classroom with the students, not as an art instructor but as a student just like them. My friend Cathy came to teach a class in making lavender wands.

Cathy and Ron arrived with two huge bundles of lavender and ribbons. Cathy is an accomplished watercolorist, potter, and a number of other arts and crafts. She taught in the Seattle schools and has the patience and understanding that make her such a wonderful teacher.

The girls were excited to begin selecting their pieces of lavender and learn how to weave the ribbon. We laughed and talked and some of us, including me, realized we cannot talk and weave without making mistakes. We had to unwind our ribbons and start over if we miscounted; but that was part of the learning experience. A few of the girls were finished before others like me had even gotten started.

The lavender scent became so strong from handling it at one point we had to turn on the fan to blow the air inside the classroom outside. By the end of the class I think the scent had quieted and calmed us. It was a fun way to spend a morning and a new experience

Cathy let me take home the extra lavender because once cut it must be used right away because it starts to dry out. That night I wove several more wands to give to my family members as gifts.
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