Thursday, December 27, 2012

NYC 2012, Pt 2

As the new year looms I remembered I still hadn't posted the rest of the story about my trip to New York City last spring for Jessica Leccia's fan luncheon, so here it is. I promise you, dear readers, that if I have the opportunity to attend another event like this I will not wait so many months to tell the story. (If you missed it or just want to refresh your memory you can read about it here.)

I concluded Part One of this story by telling of a very special dinner with Jill Lorie Hurst and a few friends. As we left the restaurant that night, Bettie volunteered to see me home safely and we had time to continue our conversation on the subway. She's a wonderful storyteller who has led an interesting life so be sure to check out her blog for her stories of her recently concluded two year sabbatical in NYC.


The next morning was colder than expected so Kathy and I decided to accept the offer of our Twitter friend @Nnn2u to share a cab to Brother Jimmy's instead of walking. Among the first to arrive we quickly found familiar faces and met new old friends we'd known for years online. Moving downstairs for the luncheon, Kathy & Julie (@julieluvsotalia) found our friend, Linda (@Medasst28) at one table while I found Denise (@jessiewolf) at another table down front near the band.


The best way I know of to describe an event like this one is to say it's like a family reunion. Not the ones you brace yourself and go to whether you want to or not, but the ones you can't wait to get to because you know you'll finally meet those cool relatives you've only known through frequently shared stories. Looking around a room full of strangers you can't deny there's something familiar about them, the way you can see the expressions of loved ones in the face of a cousin you've just met for the first time. Some have experienced great joys during the previous year, some heartaches and challenges, but we've drawn strength from each other through all those silly little conversations on Twitter and sought each other out for a little encouragement and hope when we've needed it most. For many, like me, these encounters have been life changing.


As the room fileds up Jeryl Orsino (@JerylMusic) and her band stepped up to play. Jeryl's music has been featured on Venice, the Series so if you've watched that wonderful webseries, you've heard her music. I began to take a few pictures as they played and when I looked behind me to the rest of the audience I saw that Jessica Leccia, herself, had sneaked in - she's good at that!








After the music, Jessica began to go from table to table, greeting everyone, signing autographs & posing for pictures. Fans got pictures with Jeryl, too.








After a while Jessica sat down for a Q & A session and we learned a little bit more about her. This always gets a lot of laughs because Jessica has great sense of humor and a quick wit. Really, somebody needs to get this girl a sitcom!







There was time for one more question and I raised my hand. Jessica had been telling us about her daughter, Ivy, and of course her stories made me think of my two daughters, now 29 and 20, what they were like at three years old that gave me a glimpse what they might be like when they grew up. I can't remember exactly how I worded the question but it concerned what she would someday tell her grown up daughter about what she'd been like as a child. As soon as I asked the question, Jessica exclaimed, "Donna, why'd you have to go and make me cry!" When the Q& A was over I gave her a hug and we had a little "mom" moment, marveling at the miracle of daughters before she went back to signing autographs and posing for more pictures.

Everyone had gotten a packet that included an 8x10 photo of Jessica for her to autograph and a "Jessica Leccia" shot glass and a few other fun things. When I opened mine I also saw a handwritten thank you note from Jessica (I had made pin back buttons for the packets) but that note somehow did not make it home with me. I'm guessing my packet got switched with someone else's by mistake. If you went to the luncheon and ended up with a note from Jessica that says "Dear Donna, Thank you..." please let me know! I'm glad I at least saw it and made it home with everything else in the packet!

One of the highlights of attending Jessica's luncheon is meeting her husband, Brian Malloy, who runs Brother Jimmy's. He's a sweetie and it's so fun to see the two of them together because they just radiate love and joy. Many of us had met him before so he renewed old acquaintances and made new friends and posed for photos with Jessica and with the fans. You should stop by Brother Jimmy's the next time you're in NYC because Brian makes everybody feel right at home!













Then Jill Lorie Hurst showed up, joining in for the picturing taking, too, and visit with Jessica and Alan Locher, another member of the GL family.....







Just a few photos with some of my favorite people...







It's always a challenge to get a good group picture at an event like this but always worth the time and effort!



When it was finally time to go a few of us took a little walk with Jill, first to Rockefeller Center, then up to the Central Park. Then it was time to catch the train back home. I can't wait till next time! Thank you to Brother Jimmy's and everyone who had a hand in planning the Jessica Leccia Fan Luncheon and a special thanks to Jill Lorie Hurst!





Friday, December 21, 2012

Thanks, Mom!


Checked my mom's old tin of threads to find just the right color for securing this bow & look what was right on top!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Newtown


When I heard the news of the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut today my heart went out to those whose lives will never be the same. Along with my horror at the unfolding events came a growing concern for the life of one little girl, a friend of a friend of mine.  As time went on and others had been accounted for, I prayed specifically for her and her family. This evening my friend could share no details with us except that this little girl is not among the survivors.

While we struggle to understand how something like this could happen I don’t know if we can ever really know. It makes no sense. 

We are reminded that life is short and precious and that we should tell people we love them when we have the chance. Instinctively, I want to do something to fix this.

I was accused of being insensitive because I made comments on Twitter today about changing laws in ways that I believe might help prevent another school shooting.

This person made the assumption that because my comments were about political solutions I had no feeling for the victims. I should instead wait a bit, as a sign of respect. She assumed that I was just using the tragedy to further my personal political agenda.

I think the fact that I seek positive steps that might address the need for more mental health care and fewer assault weapons in our country shows that I do understand what the families of the victims are dealing with, at least as much as I can without having experienced it myself. I know they’re hurting and I hurt for them and I’d like to do what I can to keep other families from hurting. I’d like to do that as soon as possible.


If I say something now…

Do something now…

While people are paying attention….

Then maybe we can start to take some positive steps

Now

Before Honey Boo Boo comes back on.

Because we can’t compete with one of the year’s 10 most fascinating people, right Barbara Walters?



I don’t mean to be dismissive of people who watch Honey Boo Boo or Barbara Walters because I know smart, caring people who watch them both . I just don’t share their taste in television programming.

And that’s the problem we have to face…  being dismissive of those who disagree with us.

Because there are no disposable people.

If we are all part of the problem then we must all be part of the solution.


Keep listening.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Tina Sloan's Charity Auction


Great Guiding Light memorabilia is being auctioned for charity on eBay by Tina Sloan  who played nurse Lillian Raines on the show. When Tina mentioned on Twitter that she had these items the fans suggested she auction them for charity and Tina made it happen.

After the pictures were taken for eBay, she autographed each of them and also had them autographed by Grant Aleksander (Phillip Spaulding), Beth Chamberlin, (Beth Raines Spaulding), Justin Deas (Buzz), Peter Simon (Ed Bauer), and Jill Lorie Hurst (Headwriter).

All proceeds go to the Commit Foundation for wounded vets, a cause close to Tina's heart as her son served in the Marines and she stars in the movie "Happy New Year" about a wounded veteran returning home.

Included in these items up for auction is a glass cube paperweight presented to her by the producer at the end of Guiding Light. Tina received two of these and is auctioning one, with the actor's autographs on the box.

You can see pictures of the actors signing the items in Tina's Twitter gallery,

And here's a link to the auction listings:

Tina Sloan's Guiding Light Auctions

Imagine the delight of your favorite Guiding Light fan if they received a present like one of these this holiday season! Better hurry as the auctions are up for only one more day!



Image copyright Tina Sloan

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

I See People....



We, the People….


Which People?


My people?


Your people?


Surely not those people….


When our Founding Fathers wrote those words they surely didn’t mean those people whose skin was darker than their own,  who planted and harvested their crops and built their buildings, whose names were not written in their ledgers because, after all, they were property, not people.

They surely didn’t mean their wives because everyone knew that women weren’t concerned with politics and power and important things like that. They just took care of their homes and raised the next generation.

I doubt they meant the Native Americans who had occupied the land first, either, considering the way they drove them from the land simply because they wanted it for themselves.


This Land is Your Land…. Yours… mine… but certainly not ours.


In the movie “Little Big Man” a white boy is adopted into the Cheyenne tribe whose word for their people is translated “Human Beings”. So when the characters mention someone who is not of their tribe they say, “He is not a human being.”



It’s all about who you see as people.



Who do you see as human beings who have wants, needs, families and dreams

Just like you?


I will never forget hearing Rep. Barbara Jordan’s eloquent speech to the Watergate Committee on the Articles of Impeachment in which she said ”… through the process of amendment, interpretation and court decision, I have finally been included in ‘We, the People…’.”  I encourage you to take the time to listen to at least the first couple of minutes of this as she speaks of her faith in the Constitution:  





I wonder if the Founding Fathers envisioned a time when a black woman would make such a statement, when she would be able to vote and herself be elected to serve in the Congress. I’m glad they wrote the Constitution in a way that allows America to grow and change as the world grows and changes.


I voted early this time, taking my daughter with me for her first experience as a voter a few days ago. We decided to vote early because we didn’t want to take a chance on Hurricane Sandy leaving our polling place without power on Election Day. I thought of women who fought to give me the right to vote, grateful that my daughter understands the significance of this responsibility and privilege. I don’t mind telling you how I voted. I voted for Barack Obama. I also voted for Question 6 here in Maryland because I support the right of all people to marry, regardless of sexuality.  

Before another day has passed we’ll know who the next president will be. We’ll also know if enough voters saw gay and lesbian citizens of Maryland as human beings with hopes and dreams and rights to uphold the law that was recently passed by the legislature, giving them the right to marry.


Because that’s what it all comes down to, isn’t it?


Who do you see when you say

We… the people?



Wednesday, August 08, 2012

NYC March 2012 Part One


I used to watch the soap opera Guiding Light which went off the air in 2009. It Introduced me to some wonderful friends online through message boards and Twitter and I met some in person at fan luncheons in New York City for Crystal Chappell and Jessica Leccia, two actresses from that show. Because I’m a writer and photographer I shared my experiences at those luncheons here so others who were not able to attend could know what happened there and what it meant to me and maybe feel, at least a little bit, as if they were a part of it all. Because they were. If I had a nickel for every time the name of an absent Twitter friend had been mentioned by someone at one of those luncheons I could probably afford to go to the next event! If you’d like to catch up on those stories you can read about them here: 





The weekend of Jessica Leccia’s fan luncheon in March of this year began a couple of days early for me when Kathy (@Zoogirl) arrived to spend a couple of days with me in Maryland. We had been talking about our travel plans on Twitter and decided that she’d spend some time with me here in Maryland before and after our train trip to NYC where we’d split the cost of a hotel room.  I put her to work helping me make the buttons that would be included with the fan packets at the luncheon. Then she got to watch me stress out as my computer started making strange noises and I frantically backed up everything, hoping I didn’t have a failing disk drive. (I’ll finish that story later.)

My husband dropped us off at the train station on his way to work Friday morning. Thank you, Amtrak, for wifi on your Northeast Regional trains so we could tweet all the way there! I had assured Kathy that we could easily walk to our hotel, having checked the map and compared the distance to other walks I’d taken around NYC on previous visits. I wanted her to get a feel for the city and see it up close, too, instead of speeding by in a taxi.

We met Julie (@julieluvsotalia) and her mom, Marcia, at the hotel. It was too early to check in so they had checked their bags and we did the same before heading out again to eat lunch. I had noticed we passed a burger place, a bar & grill and a pizza place on the corner near our hotel so we debated our choices as we walked and decided on pizza. I’ve been to a lot of pizza places in my day but I’ve never seen a guy bring his unicycle to one (and that’s a sentence I never expected to write!). I couldn’t resist taking a picture. Oh, and Marcia? Thanks for the pizza! (Gotta watch her… she deserves a gold medal for fastest check-grabber!)




After lunch I called Denise (@jessiewolf) who had arrived on a redeye flight the night before. She was staying at a hotel where we’d split a room when we came for Jessica’s luncheon in 2011. I led the way as we walked just a few blocks and found Denise and her friend, Natalie, in the lobby. We didn’t have too long to wait before Jill Lorie Hurst joined us. After introductions, hugs, a few pictures, and discussions about plans for the weekend we left Denise & Natalie to go to their show and Jill led the rest of us toward Grand Central Station where she and I parted company with the others. Kathy, Julie and Marcia had plans to attend an event for @nycwriterchick and Jill had plans for me....








Jill said she’d called a few friends and said, “Donna’s coming to town! Let’s have dinner!” We took the subway to the Upper West Side to a great little Greek restaurant, Symposium, and were soon joined by my friends Lisa 9@ColumbusNYC) and Bettie (@bettielavin).  I’d met them when I came to Crystal Chappell’s fan club luncheon in October, 2010. They were followed by Mimi Torchin (@Mimi_Torch) and her partner, Liron Cohen (@SunshineLiron), whom I was delighted to finally meet in person after chattering with them on Twitter for a couple of years. 

I wish I had set a tape recorder in the middle of the table to capture the evening’s conversation. I’m sure we solved all the problems of the world at least three or four times as we talked about politics and soap operas and families and politics and Texas (Mimi & I are both Texans) and writing and politics and pets and the economy and oh, did I mention politics? Mimi had been reading my blog and giving me wonderful words of encouragement for months so I shared with her my idea for a book. She thought it was a great idea and urged me to write it, just as Jill had done when I shared it with her. (It's in the works. OK, mostly in my head.)


At one point during the evening I took a deep breath, leaned back and let the conversation swirl around me, thinking, “How did this little Baptist girl from Dallas, now preacher’s wife, end up here, of all places?!” I felt honored to be in the company of these fascinating women who had courageously pursued their dreams and led such interesting lives. It made me want to reach for my dreams, too.


I had my camera with me but I hadn’t taken any photos since we got to the restaurant, choosing to be a participant in my own life rather than observer. But as we were getting ready to leave I knew I’d regret it if I didn’t document the moment. I asked everybody to gather around for a group photo, handed my camera to our gracious waiter and had him take a shot of us all together. I think it turned out great!




Stay tuned for "NYC, March 2012, Part Two".....



Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Up a Tree


I was a tree climber when I was a kid. Not that we ever had trees worth climbing in my yard when I was of an appropriate tree climbing age. I had to go to the neighbors’ yards to find the good ones. My friend Kellye had a nice Chinaberry in her backyard a few houses up the street but my favorite was a mimosa tree right next door.

Mimosas had more entertainment value per square inch than any other tree in my neighborhood. The big fan like leaves were perfect for pretend servants to fan a pretend Cleopatra, and the seed pods were great for pretending to pick beans for supper or just tearing up and scattering to the breeze with the soft, tufted blossoms on a windy day. The end result of such play was that every yard on the block had a few mimosa trees of varying sizes, some small saplings, some large enough for not-too-big kids to climb easily.

My neighbor’s mimosa tree stood right in the middle of the back yard but the branches arched almost all the way over to the tall stockade fence between their backyard and mine. It was fortunate that a couple of little boys lived there for a few years when I was in my tree climbing prime. I’d bound out my backdoor, letting the screen slam shut behind me, and head straight for the fence where I’d scramble up to peak over the top and see if Vernon and Davy had finished their breakfast so I could come over and climb their tree with them.  Once we’d shouted our greetings over the fence they’d wave me over I’d head straight for the tree.

I was big enough that with a good jump (it sometimes took two tries) I could reach the lowest branch, then walk my way up the trunk, throw my leg over it and hoist myself up the rest of the way. Vernon was shorter and required a boost but he liked to push his pedal driven tractor over by the tree and climb up on it so he could reach it himself (no safety inspector required). Little Davy was only three so we didn’t help him climb up, at least not after his mama caught him up there with us once. Okay, maybe twice.

Once up on that first branch, I saw a larger branch rising from the trunk at about an 80 degree angle to the left. This is the one that reached toward my house and I could lean my body against it, holding tight to smaller branches, and see the full expanse of my yard next door on the other side of the fence. To my right I saw the dog asleep on the back step of the house across the alley from mine, a sight I could only see from that perch because if it saw me in my backyard it started running and barking along the chain link fence. If I climbed a bit further up that branch I could even see a little over the fence on the far side of my yard into my friend Tony’s backyard, too.  And I could always see the neighborhood kids taking a shortcut through my yard from the alley to the street, something they did often since we were in the middle of the block and our yard had no fence.

Extending in the opposite direction of that branch was a larger one sloping gently upward at about a ten or fifteen degree angle. It was broad enough to seem almost like the floor of a tree house with good strong limbs branching out from it, giving us several options for swinging down to the ground. We played Tarzan and Swiss Family Robinson and we could even sit cross-legged on this big, wide branch and play a game of checkers as though in a room with gently swaying green walls.

Climbing trees was something I could do better than the big kids. That was significant for me, the youngest of three children in my family. Yes, taller kids could sometimes reach those lowest branches more easily than I could but I could climb higher, up into the thinner branches that could easily hold my smaller body as they danced in the wind. My grip was sure and I knew the way to the best footholds on that mimosa. And once I’d found my perfect perch I could stay until I was good and ready to come down because the big kids couldn’t follow.


I had lunch with a friend this week. We don’t see each other that often. Months may go by without exchanging a single word but when that inevitable phone call or visit finally comes, the words tumble out for hours and the visit ends much too soon.

My friend and I have each had our share of challenges the past few years. Our children have grown up, loved ones have aged and passed from this life, our husbands have coped with professional challenges, and our families have struggled with the economy.

During our lunch visit we talked about who we are now, who we used to be and what we’re trying to do with our lives. We have each found it easy to see the good qualities and talents in someone else yet have difficulty seeing them in ourselves. So we spent a great deal of our conversation pointing out these things we’ve always known about each other. I say I’m just a doodler who likes to take pictures and tell stories. She calls me a talented artist, photographer, and writer. She says she’s trying to learn new software and marketing initiatives for their family business and I’m in awe at what she’s accomplished without ever taking a class.

We take turns heaping huge piles of affirmation on each other over plates of ribs and catfish, propping each other up until we can regain our footing, pointing out new possibilities our busy schedules and personal blind spots have prevented us from seeing before.

As I opened the door of her car after saying goodbye and bounded up the walk and into my house I thought, “There is something familiar about this feeling....”  I didn’t know why at first. The same half-finished projects were strewn about my living room, the same To Do list in my notebook on the table, the same bills waiting to be paid.

And then I realized….

I felt like just like that little kid, bounding out the back door into a world of possibilities, secure in the knowledge that my grip was strong, that I knew the best footholds and that my dreams were carried on the breeze.



Thursday, July 05, 2012

Bubbles


This is going to be a long and tiresome campaign season.

It seems to me that on one side we have people who want to move forward, making changes with an eye to the future and on the other side are people who want to restore the glory days of the past. Each of these approaches contains a little good and a little bad but I’m all for moving forward.

I understand why some want to go back, though. They look back and see a simpler, safer time when time itself didn’t move at the breakneck speed it seems to today. As parents, we want to protect our children. It’s our job. We sometimes wish we could place a bubble around our children to protect them from all the bad stuff out there: bumps, bruises, bad guys and broken hearts.

But we can’t.

I know this desire to protect loved ones motivates many political conservatives. They want their government to mirror the values they teach their children. They want to shield them from those who would teach them that any other way of life is acceptable. They want to preserve the world they’ve carefully created for their families and keep out the changes they don’t want.

But they can’t.

Life brings with it changes that cannot be anticipated. Some we are prepared for, some not. But change will come, with or without our cooperation. How you face that change is your choice.


When I was a teenager I sang in the youth choir at my church. Every year we performed a musical and sometimes we took it on tour during the summer. I often played my guitar, once sang a brief solo part, but always sang in the alto section.

And once, I danced a can-can.

The musical told a story about a youth choir rehearsing for the performance of a musical. One song was called “Bubbles and Fizz”, an energetic, enthusiastic number with a really boring alto part on the chorus. We girls in the alto section had no trouble pretending to be teenagers cutting up during a choir rehearsal. As we started to sing that one note that we knew lasted for an interminable number of measures, we linked arms and started kicking up our heels like Rockettes in formation. By the end of the note I confess there was more giggling than singing. We expected our choir director to tell us to knock it off and behave ourselves. But he decided to keep it in and told us to go with it and make the most of it since it fit the story. So we hammed it up, enthusiastically high kicking on the back row at each performance.

I remember the lyrics to that song like it was yesterday. Once you got past the rah-rah part the song slowed and came to a thoughtful resolution:

When it’s over and that’s all there is
Fading bubbles, disappearing fizz
Songs and words, you can forget them, said
Your commitment’s gone.
The feeling’s dead.


You can live in a bubble if you want to.

But bubbles won't last. They fizzle and fade and disappear.

The world will continue to change around you. As a parent I think the best thing is to try to give kids the tools they need to live in the world as it is and teach them how to change it for the better.

Maybe they can make the changes we couldn’t.





Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Small Moments, Big Impact


I’ve been thinking this week that it’s finally time to sit down and write about my most recent trip to New York City for Jessica Leccia’s fan luncheon. That was back in March of this year. I guess three months is long enough to let that story simmer on the back burner. I’d better finish editing those photos, too. Recalling that trip makes me think of all my visits to NYC and the things that have happened there to surprise me, change me and challenge me.


Even a small moment can make a big impact.

A laugh

a hug

a passing comment from one person

that changes the life of another

and before I know what’s happening I’m back on the train and headed home again,

knowing I’ll sift through it all in the months ahead,

taking out each moment to examine it again,

trying to squeeze all the insight out of it that I can,

all the affirmation I’ll need when I don’t like what I see in the mirror,

all the encouragement I’ll need when I’m ready to give up,

along with the challenge of my friends and mentors to keep being myself as only I can do,

even when that seems the most impossible task of all.

Especially then.


And now I’m thinking about Nora Ephron, how she touched my life and told me over and over again that being something other than what most people expect is a very good thing and that the smallest, most ordinary moments can be the most important of all. No, I never met her but I’ve watched her movies repeatedly, gathering up all the insight, humor, and affirmation I’ll need until the next time.

One of my strongest memories of NYC is also about NoraEphron. The first time I went to NYC for Jessica Leccia’s fan luncheon I saw Love, Loss and What I Wore, the play she wrote with her sister, Delia Ephron. I wrote about the impact that play had on me in the first of four articles about that trip.

I should be telling my stories more often. I’ll work on that. Until then, click on this and go read what I wrote about seeing that play and what it did for me.


And if you want to read the rest of that story here are the links to parts two three and four:




Thank you, Nora. Rest in Peace.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Little Things




It’s the little things that can make all the difference.

A pat on the back

A smile from a friend

The scent of gardenia in the breeze

The sight of something from my childhood

When I feel myself being twisted into knots of stress that are being pulled ever tighter all it takes is one small thing to make me stop… 

Take a deep breath… 

Laugh a little… 

Let that tear come, if it will.


Recently, a display of sewing supplies at a store drew me in like a magnet. It was just a small display at a discount store, nothing fancy. And I certainly didn’t need to buy any sewing supplies since I had all I needed at home. But I found myself pausing, just for a moment, reaching out to touch the needles, thread, tape measures, etc….

In an instant my thoughts raced through images of my mother and all the hours she spent sewing the dresses of my childhood, the colorful array of thread spools and fabric scraps that cluttered her sewing table when a project was underway.

It’s just a thimble.

But when I look at it I feel my mother’s love.


I’ve been digging up more buried treasure at my house for my vintage Etsy shop. It isn’t hard to find as we’ve spent years accumulating things that some people might call junk. But one man’s junk is another man’s treasure, isn’t it? Something I’m ready to discard may be that one small thing that reminds another person of a special time or location, something that will find a place of honor in their home. A camera or radio like Dad’s or an ad for the car he drove. A kitchen gadget like Mom used. A game played with brothers and sisters.

Even when there is no personal connection, we stop and look and acknowledge the history, remembering another time, whether to appreciate all it was or to remind us of how much better our lives are now.

It gives us perspective.

Sure, it’s just old stuff. But it prompts us to tell our stories, to remember how we started and how far we’ve come. Just some little token that shows us our place in History, if only for a moment, and reminds us that the story isn’t over yet.


My story isn’t over yet.


No matter what stress I may struggle with, what discouragement may hold me back, what heartbreak may wound me, I can be sure of that.

My story

Is not

over

yet.


One day, this big thing that threatens my dreams may just be a little something I put on a shelf to give me a little perspective.



Monday, April 23, 2012

Steve And Janie




This is a story about my friends, Steve and Janie.

When Janie was a teenager, my mother was one of her Sunday School leaders. When I became a teenager, Janie was one of my leaders and I babysat for Janie and Steve’s kids.

I was teaching myself to play my brother’s guitar back then - a generic solid body with a small amplifier my dad had picked up at a garage sale. I practiced every day after school and on weekends and played till my fingers bled. I watched my friends who played for our church and they gave me tips and let me play their acoustic guitars sometimes. Steve was one of those friends.

One night when I went to babysit Steve and Janie’s kids, Steve said I could play his guitar after the kids were in bed. Steve had a nice little Yamaha classical and those nylon strings were so much easier on my fingers than the steel strings of that electric guitar. I told him I was saving my babysitting money so I could buy one of my own. He said he didn’t play his guitar very often so he wanted me to take it home and borrow it for a while. I was ecstatic. I played Steve’s guitar for about six months until I got a guitar of my own.

Thousands of people have heard me play guitar for Sunday Schools and church services, summer camps and student meetings plus a few weddings thrown in for good measure. I even wrote a few songs of my own and recently found some old friends on Facebook who remembered them. It’s not that I was ever that good at it. I was just willing and available.

Sometimes, when nothing else can calm my inner storm I take out my guitar and spend a few minutes playing an old familiar song about God’s love and grace. It’s like taking a deep breath, spiritually. I can’t imagine not being able to do that. Without Steve’s confidence in me and the loan of his guitar at just the right time I might have given up and never learned to play.


My friend, Steve, has Alzheimer’s Disease.  He was diagnosed when he was 60 years old. He’s only 64 now but he can’t live with his family anymore. He doesn’t always recognize them when they visit him in the nursing home where he lives. Caregivers there are trained to deal with Alzheimer’s patients when they become aggressive but Steve is especially challenging. After teaching martial arts for over 30 years he is quite adept at defending himself. He can’t understand that they’re trying to take care of him.

Steve and his son, Jay, used to teach eight martial arts classes a night on two mats in one of the largest Karate schools in the state of Texas. Steve shared with his students the things that were important to him. He quoted scripture, told Bible stories and often brought his guitar for a jam session with the kids at the end of the evening.

Because of Steve’s ADHD, it wasn’t unusual for him to ask for Janie’s help finding his keys or other things he’d lost. During routine check-ups his doctor would say, “Oh, does Janie think you have Alzheimer’s again?”

But then Steve began to lose track of details on the job. When he had to ask Janie for directions to the dentist they’d been seeing for years she was worried. When Steve panicked at the thought of Janie going out of town for a couple of days she canceled her trip and called the doctor the next day.

Steve knew what he was facing when he got his diagnosis. His mother had died of Alzheimer’s years before. More is known about the disease now and Steve was able take medication to help slow the onset of symptoms. That helped for about a year. The younger the patient when diagnosed, the faster the disease progresses. Steve can no longer speak in complete sentences.


I remember Steve as young, handsome, energetic, talented, a loving father, a faithful friend. When Janie found me on Facebook recently and told me about Steve’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis my heart broke for Steve, Janie, and their family.

If you look at Janie’s Facebook page, you see her smiling face and photos of her children and grandchildren.  And every now and then you can read comments about her family’s experience with Alzheimer’s and encouraging words from her friends who have gone down this road with their own loved ones.

“It’s not just being forgetful," Janie says. “It robs them of their personality and their passion.” Steve stopped playing the guitar. Then he stopped karate.  Because of their experience with Steve’s mother, Janie knew that it would be hard. “But it’s different when it’s your spouse. The person you’ve confided in and looked to for support is not there anymore.”

It was about two years ago when Janie realized she’d have to quit her job and stay home with Steve full time. She got a call from the Sheriff’s department while she was at work. Steve had wandered down the road from their house and knocked on a neighbor’s door to ask for help getting back home. Three days later, it happened again.

Janie had always considered herself to be a private person, but the stress of taking care of Steve took its toll. She kept telling herself, “It’s not Steve, it’s the disease. It’s not Steve, it’s the disease….” She finally started confiding in friends at church, letting them encourage and pray for her. She says, “You have to give yourself permission to be frustrated.” She felt guilty when she moved Steve to the nursing home, even though she knew she couldn’t care for him herself anymore. He was far enough away that she couldn’t visit him every day so she turned her attention back to her own life. She started taking better care of herself and found a new awareness of God’s leadership in her life. Janie recommends that caregivers find an Alzheimer’s support group and seek out resources like the book, The 36 Hour Day, a wonderful resource for caregivers of patients with Alzheimer’s and Dementia.


They call it the “Silver Tsunami”. More than 10,000 baby boomers turn 65 every day. One in eight people over the age of 65 has Alzheimer’s. Unfortunately our health care system will be faced with a lot more Steves and Janies in the coming years. I urge you to read this article about the impact this will have on our health care system: http://dallasne.ws/Ikh8rC

The 2012 Alzheimer’s Advocacy Forum is underway in DC this week. Over 700 representatives from all 50 states have gathered to urge our government to take action on Alzheimer’s issues. As we approach the elections in the fall I hope you will consider candidates who will work to find solutions for those who cannot help themselves.


Alzheimer’s has taken Steve not just from his family. It’s taken my old friend from me. Over the years I’ve been delighted to reconnect with friends from the church of my childhood, whether online or in person. I talked with Janie recently, catching up on the news of family and mutual friends. I was comforted by her memories of my mother, when she was young and strong, thinking of all the young people she encouraged, like Janie. I am so glad we’ve renewed our connection.

But I can’t talk to Steve anymore. The Steve I once knew is gone. I can’t tell him about all the years I played my guitar because he loaned me his. This disease robs the world of all that Steve might have continued to do to be a blessing to his friends. It has robbed Janie of her closest friend and encourager with whom she has shared the past 48 years. Jay and Shannon will tell their children about their grandfather but Steve can’t be there for their ball games, karate matches, graduations or weddings.

Some leave us slowly, their strength fading even as their memories and personalities persist. Some leave us suddenly and unexpectedly, with no chance to say goodbye. In both circumstances we mourn the passing of those who are no longer with us.

Janie is mourning her husband and best friend, Steve, the man she visits as often as she can, whose care she entrusts to trained professionals. It is difficult for him to speak now but sometimes he’ll look at her and say “I love you.” But the Steve she knew is gone.

If there is a Steve in your life, my heart goes out to you. If there is a Janie in your life, I pray you’ll offer your support and prayers. And if you have something to give, please make a donation to help fight this terrible disease through research, support programs and services.


Thank you, Janie, for the use of your photos.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Buried Treasure


Cameras and photos, books and magazines, radios, toys, etc. can clutter an attic, tell the story of a life, or decorate a newlywed's budget apartment. Is it just dusty old stuff to you or is it buried treasure?

I often tell people that our house is decorated in a combination of early College Apartment and Late Salvation Army. I hope that when friends come to visit they see evidence of creative lives well lived and assume that each oddly placed object that doesn't seem to match anything holds a story all it's own. That would be a correct assumption. Sometimes the story is about whatever happened to distract us from actually finding a better place to put said object, but that is the story of our lives.

From time to time as our daughters have grown we have used the objects we've gathered to tell them the story of our lives or of others we have known and loved and give them an appreciation for history. They knew exactly how my mother sewed clothes for me because I used the same cast iron Singer sewing maching (no zig zag stitch included) to sew clothes for them. They saw the young woman who would become my grandmother as I scanned my grandfather's 3x5 black & white negatives and saved them to my computer's hard drive for retouching and archiving later. They followed us, sometimes impatiently, as we wandered through flea markets and antique stores, recognizing items that filled our childhood homes, occasionally adding something to our collection.

I've been gathering vintage cameras and photography equipment for years. I love picking up an old camera, feeling the weight of it in my hands, looking at it from the photographer's point of view. I can see all the steps  a photographer took to record babies' first smiles, first days of school and high school graduations. Some cameras in my collection once belonged to family members, some I've picked up just because I liked the look of them.  My older daughter remembers watching me develop pictures of her in my homemade darkroom using an enlarger that had belonged to my father.

As older relatives have passed away and family members have downsized, our collection has grown and we are making choices about what we really want to keep and what must go to someone else who will value it and make a place for it in their home. We're getting ready to open a shop of vintage items on Etsy. I've been busy for weeks now, sorting and photographing things we'll be offering for sale, writing descriptions that tell their story and getting ready to let them go. Some we've had all our lives, some were just passing through. The shop will be ready to go public sometime in the next week or so. I hope you'll check it out and share it with all your friends, too.

In the meantime, here's a photo of an old type tray I picked up at a flea market years ago. I started displaying a few small souvenirs and things in it and slowly filled it up. Each one tells a story, but they don't take up much space. Feel free to leave a comment and ask me about them and maybe I'll tell you the story in my next blog entry.




Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Light


It didn't last very long

Just a blink of History's eye

A flash in a pan

But oh, how brightly it burned -

How beautiful the flame!

Millions came out to watch

As star after star burst into glory

Each taking a turn

To dazzle and shine

And amaze us all

Till the fire slowed its dance

And flickered softly

Casting its light on us

As we warmed ourselves

In its comforting glow.

The few remaining embers

Faithfully share their warmth

As we gather closer

Trying to soak up the last

Of the comfort they offer

And strain to see clearly



Through the shadows.




In the morning

We'll keep the Light with us as we go.




Friday, March 16, 2012

One Great Truth


When I was a little girl one of my favorite games to play with my brother and; sister was pick-up sticks. A bundle of brightly colored pointed sticks was stood on end and quickly released so they fell in a tangle. Sticks fell on sticks and were covered by other sticks in a random pattern of colors, interwoven so that you sometimes had to look closely to see where one stick began and another of the same color ended.

Taking turns, we each tried to pull one stick at a time from the pile without disturbing any others. I recall how it felt to touch one stick and suddenly realize that if I moved it at all, everything would fall apart and the game would end.

Just a child's game.

Simple. But not always easy.

Faith is like that.

Different groups look to the same Scriptures for Truth and ultimately see a variety of meanings in them, finding reasons to choose certain words to emphasize over others. Hopefully, we each seek God's guidance as we read and study these same words and yet we reach different conclusions.

When I find myself in disagreement with other Christians about the details I keep coming back to the one Great Truth of the Bible.


God is Love.


Love forgives, instead of seeking revenge.

Love encourages, instead of tearing down.

Love serves, rather than seeking to be served.

Love wants to embrace, not reject.

Love reaches out to draw in, rather than turning away or walling out.

Love does these things not because they are easy but because they are right.

Galatians 5:22 says "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control."

When anyone claims the label "Christian" I look for these. I look for the love.

Unfortunately, what I often see is someone clinging tightly to one stick for dear life, afraid that if they release their grip, the whole pile will crumble away to nothing.



"Now I know in part, then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known." 1 Corinthians 13:12


Monday, March 05, 2012

Familiar


I showed up, God.


Maybe I'm early because it doesn't seem like anything is happening yet.

At least, not that I can see.

I'm not even sure why I'm here.

Maybe it's just habit.

Or maybe


hope.


Just a little bit of hope.


I don't have much left.

Not today.

Or yesterday.


But maybe tomorrow.


I've been here before

in this place with little hope.

It looks familiar.


Unfortunately.


Or maybe that's a good thing.


Yes, I have been here a time or two.

More often than I'd like to admit.



But I didn't stay.





Saturday, February 11, 2012

Whitney


It wasn't just the voice.

It was the light we saw in her eyes when she sang.

She looked like she was tapping into a well of creativity and talent that was continually replenished to overflowing by the Creator Himself.

I think that’s exactly the way it happened.



She sang songs from her heart

and they touched ours 

leaving an indelible mark on a generation.



Memories of millions of lifetimes are wrapped up in the lyrics of her songs

making us feel young again whenever they’re played.



I pray that what we’ll remember most about her is

her smile that could light up the world

her eyes that sparkled with a secret only her song could reveal

and that voice….


That voice.


Thank you, Whitney, for sharing your gift with us.

Go with God and rest in peace.


Thursday, February 09, 2012

Freedom

I just watched an excellent program about the Freedom Riders on PBS's American Experience. I confess I don't remember a lot about 1961 - I was just shy of my third birthday when all this took place - so I was glad to learn more about it and glad my daughter was watching with me.

This program was riveting for both my daughter and for me as we watched the story play out, day by day, told by the Freedom Riders and others involved. They shared their memories as black and white films and photos of the actual events were shown, taking us step by step through the whole story of these brave young people who helped to change a country.


We saw white officials in the South explaining that segregation of the races was the best thing for everyone and how it was wrong for these agitators to interfere and try to make trouble for everybody. Their basic message was, "If you want to mix the races in your state that's your business but we don't do things that way around here. It's against the natural order of things. Down here, everybody knows their place. It's best to leave well enough alone."


But of course, the Freedom Riders didn't leave well enough alone.

Because they knew people were just people, regardless of the color of their skin.

And the Constitution says people have rights.



Southern whites expounding on the natural order of the races as a great universal truth did not speak for all white people. The plan of the Freedom Riders was for white people and black people to travel together. They all knew that they were likely to be hurt, perhaps even killed for defying the Jim Crow laws of the South.

They also knew that nothing would change if they did nothing.

I understand that the Southern segregationists were afraid of change. They were afraid that they would no longer be able to control their society and that their status in their communities would be lost. They were fighting for their way of life.



But their way of life was wrong.

Because people are just people.

And the Constitution says people have rights.


After watching this program I saw that some of my friends on Twitter had been having a heated discussion about same sex marriage with a person who called herself Christian. This person said "I am a Christian so I know marriage is between a man and a woman."

My first thought was, I am a Christian and that person does not speak for me.

How many different Christian denominations can you name? How many different types of churches do you pass every day in your city? Some worship on Sundays, some on Saturday. Some dress up to go to church, some come as they are. Some allow women to preach and teach and some do not. Some welcome gays and lesbians and allow them to serve in any capacity while others close their doors to them.

There are many different types of Christians.

When I was growing up, everyone in my extended family was a Baptist minister or married to one. Every Sunday when I went to church I learned that "God is love".  I heard my mother sing hymns as she went about her housework when no one else was looking. And at bedtime my family gathered on the big bed I shared with my sister and read the Bible and prayed together.

The Truth that God is love was everywhere in my world.

I am white and I am Christian. Those who call themselves Christian who speak with words of hate do not speak for me any more than white segregationists do.

I know some who oppose same sex marriage will say they don't hate gay people. So what is it called when you see someone as less valuable, their relationships less meaningful, their families less legitimate than your own? Why can't they enjoy the same protection under the law that heterosexual couples do? Why do they have to jump through legal hoops to protect their rights as parents? Why is their relationship not recognized by the law even though they've been committed to each other for decades, raising children together, while others are allowed to marry and divorce as often as the seasons change?

It doesn't matter if your religious beliefs say that their relationship is sinful. There are those who believe it is sinful for women to wear make-up or pants. Should that change their status under the law? Whatever your religious beliefs are you can find someone who doesn't believe the way you do. Your religious beliefs are your own but the law is for everyone.

Barbara Jordan, black Congresswoman from Texas, made a statement to the House Judiciary Committee in 1974  and she spoke of the Constitution:

"Earlier today, we heard the beginning of the Preamble to the Constitution of the United States: 'We, the people.' It's a very eloquent beginning. But when that document was completed on the seventeenth of September in 1787, I was not included in that 'We, the people.' I felt somehow for many years that George Washington and Alexander Hamilton just left me out by mistake. But through the process of amendment, interpretation, and court decision, I have finally been included in 'We, the people.'"

There was a time when slavery was legal in America.
But we learned and the law was changed.

There was a time when racial segregation was legal in America.
But we learned and the law was changed.

There was a time when inter-racial marriage was illegal in America.
But we learned and the law was changed.

Each time the laws were changed opponents were dragged kicking and screaming into the future that we know now. But no matter how hard they fought it, change was inevitable.

I believe there will come a day when we will tell a new generation about the struggle to legalize same sex marriage. And they will shake their heads in disbelief that people once opposed it just as my children couldn't understand why anyone would want racial segregation.


Maya Angelou said "When you know better you do better."

It's time for us to do better.