Siren Song – The Call of Autumn


yellow-leaves“Autumn is the Mellow Time.”    William Allingham

“Delicious Autumn, my very soul is wedded to it…”     George Elliot

The last several mornings on my back porch have been filled with Goldilocks perfection, just warm enough, just cool enough, just right…bringing peace. My heart breathes a sigh of contentment, the intensity of summer in North Carolina is mellowing at last. rusty-leaf Fall is my favorite season and comes late here on the coast, slowly evolving, and lingers into December.  I love this gentle unfolding of its graces.

Elizabeth Bowen said it, “Autumn arrives in the early morning..”  When after days of drenching rain it crept on into our yard early last Friday morning on cool fingers of fog, only poetry could describe its Siren Song:

pine-trees-in-fog-copy-2

Morning mist wanders in the limbs of the long leaf pine,

Drifting in wisps, blurring the edges of our garden

Into watercolors of soft green and gray, burnt sienna and sable,

Lightened by mere fingerprints of lingering mums,

Touches of rust and buttercream.

 

geese-against-blue-sky-copy

 

In circles of sound, crickets play perimeter harmonies,

Cardinals and warblers welcome the yet unseen sun, and

geese-in-mountains-copyOverhead geese cry, Come, Come, Come, Come,

I will, I will, I will…..Come, Come, Come,

I will, You know I will.

 

 

autumn-mist-in-treesAutumn lulls us with whirring cicadas,

Suffuses our senses with sunrises of scarlet, rose, amber, and yellowed gold,

Washes us luxuriant in lush leaf colors,

Palettes of crimson and cinnabar, jacinth and jessamine.

Come, come, come…I will, I will.

autumn-forest-copy

Sing to me autumn, sing your song of life fulfilled,

Enfold me in your slanted, soft, saffron, light,

Ripen me to completion, ready for harvest

As I finish the last niggling leaf in life’s story,

Come, come to me, Sing your song…I will,

I will.

 

No, I don’t write poetry often any more. canada-geese-against-sunsetBut flights of geese arrow over head this morning, pointing me to answers, calling.

Can you see them?    Can you hear them?   Will you answer?

…I will.

 

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Birthdays and Living In the Moment


woman-at-sunrise-copyListen to the Salutation of the Dawn:
Look to this day, for it is Life.
It is the very life of Life.
And in its brief course will lie
All the verities and realities
Of our existence…
The bliss of growth.
The glory of action.
The splendor of beauty.

sunriseFor yesterday is but a dream
And tomorrow is only a vision;
But today well-lived makes every
Yesterday a dream of happiness,
And every tomorrow a vision of hope.
Look well therefore to this Day!

From the Sanskrit

birthday-cake-copyLast week my family and I began texting, then calling, planning for the milestone birthday I celebrated on Sunday. I don’t know if people still think of 40 or 50 as “over the hill,” but this birthday sets me firmly, undeniable, over it. While I actually have never felt my age, and have more energy than many younger than me, some milestones are meant to make us take stock and reevaluate.

grey-card-page-2-copygreys-card-page-1-copy

 

Additionally, on Sunday the 11th, Doug made the formal announcement of his retirement at the end of the year. So, it had been a philosophical week.

But since my last two have been serious posts, I thought I would winch it back a bit and maybe do a light weight post.

Life apparently had at least a little seriousness in mind.

unhappy-worryYou see on Saturday, on Facebook, a 60+ year old friend posted, “I continue to worry that I will die young.” Knowing him as tongue in cheek guy, my first reaction was humorous, “Too Late,” since I thought “continue” was inserted as a word clue he was kidding, that he was saying “too late” himself, poking fun at his age. stress

Then another friend commented on the post that her 89-year-old father had mentioned at lunch that he had always thought he’d die in his 60s. It made me wonder if he wished in hindsight that he hadn’t spent time worrying. So I wrote a serious reply, “Worry merely undermines your joy in the present and the present is all we have.”  Then I added, even more seriously, “Letting go of worry lets you live fully in the present for however long with no regrets.”

I really do believe this…but then I wrote a second humorous reply to this former aide to a Senator, “….perhaps it’s more about this election causing the end of the world…” That was the comment that got a like from him.time-hourglass

But milestone birthdays are there to make us think. So, given that while at my age it is also too late to worry about dying young, more importantly it should be too late to worry…about anything. That would only eat up joy…and time, and I don’t plan to squander either of them.

 

ella-card-page-2ella-card-page-1-copyAge is supposed to bring wisdom. This birthday is a reminder: Unlike when I was a kid and all of life lay ahead, age teaches us time is precious. There are still things I want to do and time with my grandkids to plan. So my mantra is two-fold: Focus on what matters and Live each moment to its full potential for joy.

Of course, me being me, all this set me to thinking and I remembered the poem above and the lyrics to an old song by Sinatra my mother loved:

liveI’m gonna live till I die!
I’m gonna laugh ‘stead of cry,
I’m gonna take the town and turn it upside down,
I’m gonna live, live, live until I die.
They’re gonna say “What a guy!”  (gal🙂 )
I’m gonna play for the sky.
Ain’t gonna miss a thing,
I’m gonna have my fling,
I’m gonna live, live, live until I die.
dance-copy                  Gonna dance, gonna fly,
I’ll take a chance riding high,
Before my number’s up,
I’m gonna fill up my cup,
I’m gonna live, live, live, until I die!

Yep, that’s my plan and I’m sticking to it.

George RR Martin said it this way:  “What do we say to Mr. Death? Not Today!”

balloons-painting-copy

 

So, today and every day I’m gonna dance, write, love, laugh, and hug my family and live…live so joyously my heart soars until one day it does fly free.

 

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United We Stand – On Being the Unity We Seek


one-world-trade-center“Put one foot in front of the other. Turn off your TV. Power down your phone, say hi to your neighbor, and introduce yourself to a stranger. Connect. Be the unity you seek.”      Joe Quinn

Monday morning on my back porch, drinking my coffee, I came upon this quote reading the New York Times on my phone, my dog next to me. A resonance remained from all the emotion of last week as I discovered these words in Fail Better, America on the 9/11 Anniversary, by Roger Cohen.

Quinn, whose brother, Jimmy, died on 9/11 spoke these words at the 15th Anniversary Service on Sunday in New York. Inspired to serve, Quinn did tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, and now was calling upon us to recapture the national unity we experienced after the terrorist attacks. I think he’s right. We need to, not only as a memorial to that event, but because America is always stronger when we are united as a people.

weather-vaneWe aren’t now. We’ve lost the sense of direction and shared purpose we had. Quinn reminded me that the unity that was so palpable then. has fragmented till it feels as if we are locked in armed camps. Sadly, this seems equally true in the rest of the world.  The growth of nationalism, isolationism, the rejection of refugees and immigrants, even Brexit, seem to signal a withdrawal from connection, the kind of tribal dissension that has raged in the Middle East for generations.

conflict-copyIn America, two forces seem locked in combat and fearful animosity:  Those who seek inclusion, unity with “the Other,” the offer of a helping people to those my faith calls “neighbor,” and a requirement for involvement in humanity; and on the other side, those who feel under personal attack,  who feel left behind as the world moves forward, angered as their dreams slip from their grasp, they want to withdraw, put up walls, fall back, retrench, and protect themselves and those they love.

angry-man-copyThere is no right or wrong here, just different life experience. The problem comes when these groups begin to characterize the others, labeling them, blaming them, destroying any sense of American unity.

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Admittedly, my empathy begins with the first group named, but how can I love “others” and embrace neighbors (described as like Samaritans, a despised group at the time of the story), and not find love for those in the second group. How can I want a place to live, jobs, and health care for the poor, homeless, and the immigrant, and not want those things for blue-collar struggling Americans. How can I hear their primal scream and not hear pain.

Those in the second group  know what it is like to try to claw out an existence seeking the American dream, to face homelessness, poverty, or the loss of a middle class life style, to take on second jobs, to do everything they can, and still feel America leaving them behind.

steel-millSadly, in my opinion, the “pull yourself up by your bootstraps message” of our country doesn’t work well in a recession. It often doesn’t work well for minorities, the poor, or the undereducated. And jobs and work are changing in an increasingly technological world. I have lived where assembly line jobs at automotive plants and breweries were lost, where well-paying jobs disappeared as steel mills closed.

red-white-blue-hopeI can understand and support the idea of meeting the needs of our own citizens first. Yet, I would ask,  “Can’t those in tough circumstances empathize with those in even worse conditions? Can’t we try to be bigger, help more? Can’t we still be the land of hope, of opportunity for anyone seeking it.

 

we-united-copyTogether we can. United we can.

After 9 11, the worst attacks ever on our country, we came together. We were determined to fight. Our unity was our answer to the disasters of that day. We need that unity again.

For centuries, we have known the wisdom of “United we stand, Divided we fall.” It actually comes from two Aesop Fables. First, the story of the Oxen and the Lion:

africa-lionA lion prowled a field in which Four Oxen lived. Over and over, he attacked them; but whenever he did they turned their tails to warn each another, and whichever way he attacked he was met by the horns of one of them. At last, however, they quarreled and each went off alone to separate corners of the field. Then, the Lion attacked them one by one and that was the end of all of them.

bamboo-sticksThe second is the story of a father whose sons are quarreling. He brings them a stick and a bundle of stick tied together. He breaks the single stick and asks them to try to break the bundle. They can’t. And he tells them, “My sons, if you unite to assist each other, you will be as this bundle, uninjured by all the attempts of your enemies; but if you are divided among yourselves, you will be broken as easily as this stick.”

Aesop’s Moral for both stories:  United we stand, Divided we fall.

statue-of-liberty-copyThat is a lesson that has endured for several thousand years. We need to listen to it today, and reach across what divides us to the common ground that unites us. We can seek the common good and elevate ourselves and the world at the same time.

Why do we have to? Are we under attack? Yes, from many directions. Economically, environmentally, globally, politically, there are lions lurking.

But this isn’t the first time that has happened. We are Americans. United we have gone to the rescue of the entire world in the past. Surely, united, we can see to it that opportunity exists for all of us who are here, and still be the America of the Statue in New York’s harbor offering second chances to the world. It would take the commitment of us all, but we have done it before. Each of us just has to commit to doing our part, adding our stick, reaching out, instead of turning in, and finding what unites us.

america-starWill we succeed in addressing every issue facing all of our citizens, and the world. Not easily, not the first time, and no, not with the first attempt. Yet, one of our strengths is perseverance. Americans aren’t quitters. In his article, Cohen used a Samuel Beckett quote to express this, “Ever tried. Ever failed. Try Again. Fail again. Fail Better.”

I would add, “Then, reach out to your neighbor and try once more together. And never give up. The only guarantee of failure is to fail to try.”

America has always known that. We are the UNITED states. And we can face anything, as long as we remain united.

 

 

 

 

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Memories of a 9/11 Responder – Ground Zero Remembered


twin-towers-on-fire-copyToday is the 15th Anniversary of the terrorist attack on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon. I served at Ground Zero with The Salvation Army for several weeks in the immediate aftermath, arriving in New York City on September 14th.  (I wrote a detailed memoire recounting my experience, the link to this is  In the Ashes of My Brothers.)

Every anniversary has been poignant for me. This year more so for several reasons.  A year ago, I was diagnosed with an illness that may be related to my time serving there and I went to a New York Hospital to complete my diagnosis this past January. I took that opportunity to finally return to tour the Memorial site and go to the Museum.

deris-south-tower-girders-copyMy husband, Doug, also went with our team, and even at that time both of us believed it could carry long-term consequences. The pervasive heavy grey dust we walked through, the smoke in the air, and the smell of the rising fumes were certainly warnings. and our aid station was in the debris field, initially on a fallen girder from the South Tower. (as right)

9-11-ground-zero-debris-with-archesThough Doug worked the 12 hour night shift with the Night Crawlers, and I was on a 12 hour “Day Watch,” we wrote notes and discussed it, even the possibility it would shorten our lives. Several times when the smoke was blowing toward us, the EPA told me the air “was bad.” But my team stayed. Both of us have had health consequences.

Neither of us have any regrets.

me-at-911-fountain-copyFor us, somewhat like I have heard from family who served in World War II, our time there and our work there will always be the most meaningful experience in our lives. So, going back, visiting the Memorial Museum, seeing the fountains was something I have wanted to do for years.  And just as I had hoped, going there with my daughter and sharing my memories with her, was poignant yet healing.  (To the right, me  at one of the memorial fountains.

sheathing-falling-teeth-911-copy-2When I climbed through a broken window into the Ground Zero site, the first things I saw, and I am sure you remember from iconic pictures, were twisted pieces of metal, girders, and large pieces of the exterior aluminum support sheathing which fell and embedded themselves into the ground.teeth-2-copy

I thought of these pieces, standing at oddly skewed angles, as looking somewhat like crazy teeth. The girder from the South Tower (WTC 2)  which served as the site of our first Aide Station was directly in front of one set of them on what had been West Street. (see just below)

members-of-our-team-on-the-girder

To the left is the only picture I have of our aid station. It is actually the picture of a picture that appeared in Others, the newsletter of our local Salvation Army (Syracuse Area Services.)

My team was deeply moved by the loss of the firefighters and police officers we served and agreed not to take pictures. We believed we stood on holy ground.book-with-picture-of-the-windows-copy

 

To the right, is a picture from a book I bought during this visit. I looked for something at the Museum store and opened a book to this picture. I think I gasped. These are the exact windows we climbed out of World Financial 2 and into Ground Zero.  It shows the debris and the teeth from the South Tower.

support-arches-north-tower                                                                                  To the left of our girder were the remains from the bottom exterior of the North Tower (WTC1). Another iconic image to responders, these support arches held up the aluminum exterior sheath of the North Tower, reminding me of the arches seen inside gothic churches, and pictures of bombed churches in World War II. (on left)

The arches and the teeth in front of us bracketed what remained of the Twin Towers. Between them was a pile of debris  that rose like a mountain to a height of more than six stories, still burning at 1500 degrees.

sculpture-teeth-copy

For the whole time, I was there those aluminum pieces meant to add a flexible outer structural support to the Towers, those “teeth”  framed my experience. So, I ask you to imagine what it felt like to walk toward the Ground Zero site and see this aluminum sculpture.

teethwings-911-memorialIt was the first sign to me of how hard the designers had worked to create a place of memory  for people who had images of the disaster seared into their minds and linked to their grief, and simultaneously, it was an indication of resurrection and redirection. To me, these new teeth, reminders of pain, had become wings, attached to the earth into which the originals were imbedded, but reaching for the sky.

support-arch-copy Because I knew this would be emotional to me, once inside I chose not join a group with a tour guide, but to go with my daughter at our own pace through the displays. As we descended the stairs to the below ground museum, we saw the first remains of the Trade Center.  There was one of the North Tower “church” arches, against a multi-paned window reaching for the light. Again, pain yet relief, remembrance and transformation, but united by the same sense of entering a sacred place I felt every time I brought supplies for the first responders into Ground Zero.

survivors-stairs-copyThen, we descended further next to the Survivor Stairs down which many in the North Tower escaped, and we reached the next amazingly sensitive piece of art, an immense wall of blue, a touching quote. Again, sharp memory.

I instantly was taken back to  hearing about the first plane, thinking it must have been a small one, and going to a conference room to turn on the Today Show. I was shocked by the damage I saw to the North Tower, the smoke black against the brilliant blue sky, and then the second plane flew into sight and hit the South Tower.

blue-sky-tribute-copyThis quote from the Aeneid, “No Day Shall Erase You From The Memory of Time” is set against Spencer Finch’s immense blue art installation of 2,983 individual watercolor renderings by artists of what color the sky appeared to be to them that September 11th. Each one unique, the squares represent each person killed in the original attack in 1993 and those in 2001, each person as distinct in memory as the different colors of blue sky.

gretchen-and-events-wall-copyMy daughter and I passed a preserved though damaged fire truck, a glass encased fireman’s helmet, a wall outlining flight paths and a step by step progression of events, the slurry wall that held, many pictures, and places to listen to audio recordings from that tragic day. So many stops, a Via Dolorosa of tears for me.  I know it wasn’t easy for Gretchen to watch it hurt me. She has more empathy than most and I am sure she felt my pain. I think she also felt my healing.

last-girder-copyThe last location I will share from the visit is aptly named “the Last Column.” During the clean up and recovery work that lasted until May 30, 2002, this support column from the southeast corner of the South Tower was left in place and intact to represent the resiliency of our country, to show that, despite this cowardly but devastating attack, America, like the column, was still standing.

As a part of the ceremony marking the completion of the recovery phase, first a flag representing those victims of the tragedy who were never recovered was carried from the site, put in a stretcher and placed in an ambulance, like all the victims who had been found. Then, the girder was cut down, draped with a black pall, and escorted by an honor guard that included FDNY and NYPD. After the playing of taps by a police officer and firefighter, The Salvation Army Band played as the Column was escorted from the Trade Center Site. A YouTube of the Closing Ceremony.

Seeing the column, now standing tall at the center of the Ground Zero Museum, made me straighten my shoulders at least a bit. It made me proud of the first responders and all who assisted them. It made me proud to be an American.

It also salvation-army-shield-copymade me proud to have worked for The Salvation Army which on September 11th, as at all other times, truly was a strong army of salvation. The only agency authorized  to serve inside the fenced perimeter, in a little more than 8 months, during Operation Compassion Under Fire, 39,000 officers, staff, and volunteers provided over 3 million meals and over 1 million volunteer hours.

news-clippingPerhaps, most importantly, Salvation Army counselors provided emotional and spiritual support in extraordinarily difficult circumstances to the brave rescue and recovery workers there. I was blessed to have been part of that effort.

Today I will remember all of it, and I think we need to remember September 11th, not just at this anniversary. Why? Because on a day that was intended to humiliate America, Americans demonstrated all that makes us remarkable.

flag-and-towers-copyWe must never forget that at Ground Zero, at the Pentagon, and on a Plane that crashed in a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, heroes arose among us. First responders, military personnel, the amazing passengers and crew of Flight 93 AND ordinary citizens who helped strangers down the stairs or led others crawling out of smoke-filled corridors, those who gathered supplies on girders, who brought in pizzas to Ground Zero, and boys and girls who packed lunches with colored pictures thanking the rescue workers, heroes arose among us.

Stand tall America. You are a land of heroes. May we follow their example and remember we can never be defeated when we stand together. Let’s roll.

Again, a link to my memoire of my time at Ground Zero.

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Finding Your Call


man-jumping-rocks-copy“Finding your calling — it’s not passive. When people have found their calling, they’ve made tough decisions and sacrifices in order to do the work they were meant to do. In other words, you don’t just ‘find’ your calling — you have to fight for it. And it’s worth the fight. People who’ve found their calling have a fire about them,” says Dave Isay, the winner of the 2015 TED Prize. “They’re the people who are dying to get up in the morning and go do their work.”

ven-diagram-of-a-calling-copyWebster defines a calling as “a strong inner impulse toward a goal or career, especially when accompanied by a conviction of divine influence; a profession or vocation.

Dave Isay, the originator of the Story Corps Archive, created a Ven diagram in which he graphically portrays the idea that a calling is an intersection of three things:  Finding something you are good at; Making others lives better; and Feeling appreciated.

social-workAll three have been true in my life as I moved from teaching into social work, management, and therapy, and back to teaching. Working with others in these various forms has felt like just different versions of the same call to me. However, I don’t know if I agree with Mr. Isay that every calling results in appreciation or requires it.

I am sure, however, that a calling is a combination of commitment and passion, and it produces a sense of “fit,” a feeling that your work or vocation is right for you, perhaps even necessary for you. I think when you discover it, it comes with a certainty that you are “meant” to be it or do it. So, appreciated by others or not, I think calling brings a sense of fulfillment, of being in the right place and doing the right thing.

chasing-a-star-copyI find myself returning to this topic because finding and living my call is so central to my life, and because ultimately, I believe everyone has a calling. I think we are all meant to look for and live out a call and find that fulfillment sometimes in our work, sometimes in our avocations.

children-world-universe-copy                                                                             This sense that life was meant to have meaning and that a purpose was there to be discovered started when I was very young. For me, though not for everyone, it is wrapped up in a sense that God, or the universe if you’d like, had a need for me to do my part in a bigger plan. As Frederick Buechner put it, “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”

When I was fourteen this is how I expressed it:

I was born, dear Lord, but why?star-centered-in-universe-copy
Merely to live and then to die?
Surely there must have been a goal,
Some Fulfillment for my Soul.

As I journey here on earth,
Seeking Justice, Glory, Worth,
Am I building a tiny Home,
Neath your Heaven, near your throne?

meaning-of-life-copyFor me, my calling has evolved. Now, I see my writing as a call. In my blog and in my novel, titled unsurprisingly, The Call, I am trying to share the awareness my work and life has brought me.  I don’t know if there is any hunger for this in the world, or if there will ever be appreciation or recognition. I may or may not get my book published, or find an audience for my words. But as Dave Isay says, perhaps the work and the fight to keep doing it isn’t meant to be easy. It certainly can require persistence. But, at least for me, it is a necessity.

If you aren’t sure how to uncover your calling, here are some tips I edited from Amy Kessel on the Blog Forum, tinybuddha, to get you started:

“1. Notice what captivates you.

Check out your bedside reading table, your Amazon wish list, and the blogs you follow. What most excites you, or enrages you? What would you like to write about? Why?

2. Take your life inventory, reflecting past callings.

Acknowledge what you learned from acting on older callings, and see if anything from those experiences remains alive for you. Retrieve bits that might help you in deciphering your current calling. Put your old callings to rest so you can open space for new callings.

3. Journal on what your calling is.

Write out 50 responses to the question: “What is my calling?” Do not pause or edit, and don’t stop till you get to 50. Your calling will make itself known.

4. Ask others what they think.

Poll your friends and family about your passions. Ask them what they see as your calling. Notice which responses elicit a feeling of “yes!” in you.

5. Use your values as a guide.

Make a list of your core values (these are qualities that make you, you; they aren’t who you think you should be, but rather who you already are). What do your values tell you about your calling?”

going-copySo what is your calling? Is it something you’re doing or thinking about doing? Do you have something only you can share? Is your heart or mind pulling you or pushing you or are you searching for that sense of direction? Find it. Be who you are and who you are meant to be.

man-in-milky-wayAre you feeling fulfilled in what you are doing or struggling to find a meaning and a purpose? Are you out there seeking the “justice, glory, and worth” I dreamed of as a teen, or searching for something else? Do you need to practice or go back to school or change jobs or make the time to do what you know is important to you? Whatever it is: Do it. Don’t give up, don’t quit, keep going!

communicationcall-copyCan you hear your call? It is saying, “You have a place in the world that is uniquely yours and the world needs you.” Come live it.

A Link to Dave Isay’s article on meaning,      7 Lessons

A link to Amy Kessel’s article on tinybuddha

 

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To Live the Dream


think positive poster copy“You’ve got to accentuate the positive,
Eliminate the negative,
Latch on to the affirmative, and
Don’t mess with Mister In-Between.

You’ve got to spread joy up to the maximum,
Bring gloom down to the minimum,
Have faith… or pandemonium
Liable to walk upon the scene.”
Written by Johnny Mercer for Bing Crosby in White Christmas

America has always been a place of optimism, maybe at times even over-optimism. We are the “Can Do” people. We have always believed in opportunities, taking on big problems and solving them. When we set our mind to it, we achieve what others only dream.

Astronaut on moon copyI remember in 1961 when President Kennedy said that we would put a man on the moon by the end of the decade. When he made that promise, we had only just achieved a sub-orbital flight by Alan Shepard. To leave our atmosphere, travel to the moon, and return was almost beyond imagining. It was an ambitious vision, some said a profoundly over-ambitious goal. Yet just over eight years later in the summer of 1969, we gathered around our televisions to watch as Neil Armstrong made his “one step” and humankind’s “giant leap” into space.

spectacles copyIt seems to me that we are in a wrestling match right now about America’s vision for itself and its leaders vision for us.  I believe as individuals and as a country the Proverb “without vision, the people perish” applies, and I believe vision has to be positive, a forward-look that will carry us into a brighter future. True vision is never a backward glance, a yearning for the impossible hope of re-capturing the perfect past.

head view copyIt is easy to talk about and all too easy to believe in a cherry picked view of an idyllic past. We all have selective memory about those shinning moments, those golden days, and gloss over our past failures, pain, and wrong choices.

The same is true for the country. Through rosy colored lens, we replay an edited version of the perfect 50s and forget that we had glass ceilings, legalized discrimination, and lynchings then; how easily we remember the idealism of the “ask not what the country can do” 60s that led to the Peace Corps, but also to protests of the morally ambiguous Vietnam War, Watergate, and race riots; the 70s got us out of the war, but into the “Me” decade, rising oil costs, and the Iranian hostage crisis; the 80s saw the ending of the Cold War, but the beginning of internationalization and the move of jobs out of America,financial-crisis copy as well as huge budget deficits and Tiananmen Square; the 90s saw the break-up of Soviet Union, but the rise of terrorism and the first attack on the World Trade Center; the 2000s saw increased the rise of al-Qaeda, the 2001 terrorism attacks, wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Banking Crisis and Great Recession, yet the election of the first African-American.

mistake copyThe past held successes, but was far from perfect…except in romanticized memory.

Acknowledging that doesn’t mean that I think we should bemoan the mistakes of our past. Negativity never accomplishes anything. I don’t even believe trying to merely fix our mistakes is the answer. Though we can learn from them, we cannot retrospectively make things ideal.  I am suggesting quite the opposite.

reach for the stars copyIn fact, what I believe we need to do to move forward to a better future is to do what Kennedy did. We need to set positive, almost unachievable goals and reach for them. We need to ask, “What is the next “moonshot” for our country?  What is the future dream for us as individuals?”

Once we answer those questions, we have to set our goals, and then, just as importantly, we have to believe we can achieve them.

impossible possible copyThat is what sets America apart. That is what has made the American dream a reality. We dream big and we believe in our dreams. Then, we achieve them.

Ambivalence, second-guessing our vision, and backward looks at the falsely idealized past keep us in the embrace of Mr. In-Between where we get stuck…if not turned into pillars of salt.

That is no man’s land….and sadly, that is the place where too many live. It is not an answer. It is a trap. You can’t move forward looking backward, and you can’t get where you want to go without an idea of where you’d like to be.

balloon in the atmosphere copyWe need to move beyond our past to live in the future.

Yesterday, Doug and I watched a music video of one of our newer favorite groups singing Dana Lamb’s “You Should Dream.” The Texas Tenors are a great group. If you haven’t heard them they are amazing and you can listen here to the song (You Should Dream) whose lyrics capture the thought behind this post so well:

 

Tell me who hasn’t felt lost when you’re not where you thought you oughta be,
Tell me who hasn’t felt discouraged by their reality.
Tell me who hasn’t walked a thousand miles just to find they’ve gone the wrong way.
Tell me who hasn’t thought tomorrow’s just another day,
match copyBut I’m telling you the tide is gonna turn,
The doors will open when you finally learn…

You should dream,
Let the voice inside you sing.
You should dream,
Let your wishes take wing.
Close your eyes,
Find your hearts desire,
Hold on tight and set the world on fire,
Be the living reason for all to see.
You should dream!eye moon copy

America really is the land where dreams come true. We need to dream. It’s what carries us forward. It’s what makes futures possible. It’s what makes us great as a country and it’s who we really are.

 

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There’s No Place Like Home


House in Summer copy“When you look into my eyes
And you see the crazy gypsy in my soul
It always comes as a surprise
When I feel my withered roots begin to grow
Well I never had a place that I could call my very own
That’s all right, my love, ’cause you’re my home”       Billy Joel  You’re My Home

Epigrams about Home:

“There’s no place like Home.”
“Home is where the heart is.”

 

Or as I wrote once for an ad for our church:  “Home is where you go to make sense out of life. Family are those who love you while you look for the answers. (The ending tag line for the ad: Come home to First Church, a Family of Faith. “)

Harbor copyHome.  Safety, love, comfort, celebration, the gathering place for family, a haven from the troubles of the world, the welcoming beacon to the wandering soul.

Home is iconic in that while it can be as individual as we are, a city dwelling, a farm, a house in the suburbs, a condo or apartment, it stirs within us memories of childhood, of family.  For some, those memories are of warmth and love, for others, recollections of conflict and heartache, for many they hold some combination of the two.

architecture apartment copy

 

Doug and I have shared seven homes in our long marriage, alone in an apartment as newlyweds, three with just our son, three with our children, (one in a cottage at the church camp on Lake Erie where Doug ministered, one we lived in for 28 years,  during the kids’ school years where we sheltered them until they were grown and gone) Houses on Water Street copyand now, a house in a historic little town on the Albemarle Sound where they come with our grandchildren to visit with us and our dog. Some will always hold a place in my heart, some have just been a roof over our heads.

No matter the construction or the size, home is ultimately a state of mind, a place to love and be loved.

After many years of conflict and fights that erupted seemingly out of the air in our house, my father’s job with the Air Force was moved the summer I graduated from high school. My mother chose not to move with him from Utica, New York to Norman, Oklahoma.  So, when I left home to go to college, I bid farewell to the house I had grown up in and when I returned for the Thanksgiving holiday we didn’t live there anymore.

2 paths copy

No walking down our road, rural enough not to have sidewalks, on which we could even skate in winter on the ice that would cover it.. No yard where we played and looked for four-leaf clovers and buried dead birds, or frogs, with solemn services and crosses made from twigs. No woods whose paths I had wandered finding escape and joy. No creek. No blackberries. No crabapple tree.

For a very long time, it was the home I missed the most.

buffaloBut leaving was also freedom! No longer the monkey in the middle of my parents’ fights, trying to make my mother laugh and calm her resentment, no intervening with my father so he would belittle me instead of her.

Replacing that: the University of Buffalo; learning, new books, thoughts and ideas; a new place to explore with new friends; time with my stern grandmother, other relatives, and wonderfully with my favorite aunt and uncle and cousins in this place my parents grew up; and ultimately, most importantly, Doug.

It was only later, after our son was born, when the Air Force moved my mom to Kansas City and there was no one to go and stay with there, that I realized my home was no longer Utica, nor was it Buffalo, though it holds a special home-like place in my heart. Open Door copyMy true home was the love I had for Doug and the family that grew from that love.

Stephanie Perkins says, “For the two of us, home isn’t a place. It is a person. And we are finally home.”

Seriously looking at retirement means very soon we will look to find a new place to live. This time, for the first time ever, ii will be in a house we choose that will actually belong to us….with at least a little garden for Nessa and me. We’re not there yet, we haven’t even looked yet, but I can feel it beckoning to us.
Sunset from the Courthouse copy

I will miss lovely Edenton, walks at the harbor at sunset, the quaint and stately old houses, the sense of an earlier, simpler time that permeates every second of living here.

I know I will be nostalgic for the fireworks over the water for the 4th, the Peanut Festival, the Christmas parade, the trolley ambling though the town telling tourists the history of this first capital of the state. I will miss the charm of rocking chairs on porches, the carillon at the Baptist Church playing old hymns at noon and six, and chiming away the hours in-between. I will miss my garden and the Arts in the Garden events and the Pilgrimage Tours, and most of all, my church family.

photo-8But when we do move to Raleigh, just like my move to Buffalo for college, this move will be a life changing one. It will be adventures into new opportunities, an exploration of where God is calling us next.

I know it will start when we pull up the roots we sank ever so deeply here and slowly grow them in our new place. But this move, like every move, will still lead us where we need to go, and this move closer to our family, like every move with Doug always leads me home.

“No matter where we roam, for always and forever you’re my home.”  (Love you…and yes, I do get to post your picture!}

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