I’m Back

For various reasons I’ve been away from this blog for a while.  One reason is that I had told myself that I’d write a post once a week and post something “various and sundry” on Fridays. I then realized that I had put pressure on myself to accomplish that and, unfortunately, pressure on myself usually doesn’t work!  You’d think I’d have figured that out by now!  So for now I’m just going to tell myself that I can do a post from time to time and that will be ok. But here’s an early Friday Sundry that I need to remind myself of often!  It’s from the lovely and very talented Mary Anne Radmacher.  I will try again tomorrow!

Sending much love!!  xoxo

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Friday Sundries

This is my first weekly post of what I hope you’ll find to be juicy tidbits of this and that and that you’ll come back to visit!

Since I’m feeling a bit bookish today, surrounded by books in my office/sacred space – including the book I made my very own self! – I thought I’d share this quote from Carl Sagan:

 What an astonishing thing a book is. It’s a flat object made from a tree with flexible parts on which are imprinted lots of funny dark squiggles. But one glance at it and you’re inside the mind of another person, maybe somebody dead for thousands of years. Across the millennia, an author is speaking clearly and silently inside your head, directly to you. Writing is perhaps the greatest of human inventions, binding together people who never knew each other, citizens of distant epochs. Books break the shackles of time. A book is proof that humans are capable of working magic.”

Oh yes, I surely am a book person!  I hope my bit of heaven, should I get there, is a cozy bookstore with a fireplace in the corner, comfy chairs, several bookstore cats and dogs, and a small cafe serving lots of Peets coffee (and tea for my bookish friends who prefer), and plenty of scones!

{photo by stock.xchng}

Being Creative

When I was a little girl, through my teens, and as a young mom, I used to make things; lots of things!  From drawing to sewing to embroidery and to pretty much anything that caught my interest I’d DO it.  I never wondered much about what other people thought about my projects, unless they were gifts, but everyone seemed to enjoy them. I always thought of myself as a “creative type.”

Then one day I realized that it had been many, many years since I did anything really very creative, although I suppose gardening and making holidays magic for my family would count. But I’m talking about actually sitting down and working on making a tangible thing for pleasure. I did start learning to make beaded jewelry a few years ago and enjoyed it, but I have that terrible disease, you know, the one where you decide to do something and if it’s not perfect you say, “Oh, well, I guess that’s not my thing.”  Ouch!  So my beads have been sitting in a bin with only themselves for company.

It seems, though, that in the past few months I’ve found myself longing to just make something. It’s felt like a real hunger and one that caused a lot of frustration. I keep trying to ask myself what I’d be good at.  (This is not something I ever thought earlier in my life when I’d just DO whatever I thought of.)

Then a couple of weeks ago I was in an art supplies store and noticed that they offer classes.  (I’ve actually been there a lot of times and always noticed they offered classes!) This time though, without giving it a lot of thought (that’s an “aha” moment!) I signed up for a class on paper marbling!  (I’ve recently discovered that paper marbling can be astoundingly beautiful.)  When I was registering for that class, I noticed another one they offered sooner, one on book making.  Why not, went my brain, without wondering how the heck you make a book anyhow! It was so far out of any experience I’ve ever had I just decided to take the class, with no expectation that anything particularly good would come out of it.  Well, to make a long story a little bit shorter, the class was last Sunday and I LOVED it!  I even love the book, a journal, I made!  Oh, it’s not perfect, but unlike other times in my life I don’t care! And I want to make another one and then another and …..  Just for my own joy, without any other reason.

I’m still going to take the paper marbling class this weekend, and perhaps another type of book making class next month.  Oh dear, I’m afraid I’m hooked on paper and I’ve always been hooked on books!

 I have no expectations for this other than I think I’m going to get a lot of satisfaction. And I’ve already gotten some of my beads out again! You know what?  I think I had forgotten what fun feels like!!  I’m so glad to be finding out again.

A Prayer

This has been a somewhat emotional week for me.  In addition to the anniversary of my son’s death, the election crazies are really getting to me (my apologies to those of you in another part of the world — maybe I should come visit until after the first week of November!)  But I think what’s hurting the worst just now is the shooting yesterday of the sweet little Pakistani girl,  Malala Yousufzai, shot just because she wants an education. I could write pages and pages of how I feel about judgements and hatred and prejudices, but for now I thought I’d share with all of you this prayer I saw today on Facebook. I shared it there as well, but would like to add it here. It articulates so well what I feel; I only wish I could have written it. It’s written by Rabbi Harold Kushner.

A Prayer for the World

Let the rain come and wash away the ancient grudges, the bitter hatreds held and nurtured over generations. Let the rain wash away the memory of the hurt, the neglect.

Then let the sun come out and fill the sky with rainbows. Let the warmth of the sun heal us wherever we are broken. Let it burn away the fog so that we can see each other clearly, so that we can see beyond the labels, beyond accents, gender, or skin color.

Let the warmth and brightness of the sun melt our selfishness so that we can share the joys and feel the sorrow of our neighbors. And let the light of the sun be so strong that we will see all people as our neighbors.

Let the earth, nourished by rain bring forth flowers to surround us with beauty.

And let the mountains teach our hearts to reach upward to heaven.

Amen

 

 

Timothy William Romei 03/11/1968 — 10/08/1990

October 8, 1990 was the day my life was split in two; before and after. That was the day my beautiful oldest son Timothy Romei, a corporal in the US Marine Corps, was lost in a helicopter collision over the Gulf of Oman with seven other young men during Operation Desert Shield. I can remember the moment as if it were yesterday. Below is a piece I wrote several years ago just to stop it from running so constantly through my brain; it so clearly describes what it was like.

 It’s Monday morning, October 8, 1990.  Rudy and I are sleeping in.  Two more days of vacation before I go back to work.  The phone rings.  It’s my sister.  She asks if I’ve watched Good Morning America.  I tell her no, I’m still sleeping.  She said they announced that two helicopters from the USS Okinawa, Tim’s ship, have crashed.  Eight killed.  I tell her it’s not Tim.  There are lots of helicopters on the ship and I would have heard anyhow.  I hang up and try to go back to sleep.  I can’t go back to sleep.  I begin to feel uneasy.  Rudy gets up too.  The cats start meowing; we’re out of cat food.  Rudy says he’ll go to the store to get some.

The uneasiness increases.  I decide to call Camp Pendleton.  They tell me nothing.  Tim shipped out of Tustin; try there.  They say they don’t know anything about a crash.  I say how can you not know if it’s on television?  They say I have to talk to a public affairs person.  I hang up.  I get dressed.  The uneasiness has now become anxiety.  I try calling Tustin again.  I’m getting rude to the young man on the phone.  Suddenly Rudy comes running into the bedroom, a small brown bag with the cat food in his hand.  “They’re here!,” he shouts.  “The Marines are here!  It’s Tim!”  Just like in the movies.  I scream into the phone:  “It’s my son!”

I run to the living room window and see two young Marine officers in uniform.  I know why they’ve come.  I think, “If I run out the back door they can’t find me and then they can’t say what they’ve come to say and I’ll be safe and my life won’t be changed forever.”  They knock on the door.  I open it.  The youngest one looks scared and nervous; he’s being trained.  The older one is more self-assured.  After they introduce themselves I don’t let them speak.  The house is a mess.  I pick up newspapers from the sofa so they can sit, ashtrays to empty, glasses to take to the kitchen.  “Mrs. Reber!  Sit down!”  This is the older one.  I sit.

He tells me that two helicopters have collided over the Gulf of Oman.  One of them is Tim’s.  I tell him I’m sure Tim is all right.  He says, no, there is nothing left.  A huge fireball was seen from another ship.  There is hardly even any debris, no remains.  I say, “How can you know?  This just happened!”  He reminds of the time difference; it actually happened yesterday, Sunday.  A training mission gone wrong.

 I sit.  It’s a beautiful fall day. The windows are open.  At the park across the street people are playing tennis.  I think, “How can they act like it’s a normal day?  How can they be playing tennis?  Don’t they know that Tim is dead?”  I hear the sound of tennis balls, a strange sound on this day.

 I get up to go into the kitchen.  At the dining room I stop dead in my tracks (an appropriate word, dead).  Then I’m enveloped with a sense of awe.  Tim knows now!  He knows what we all struggle to know during our lives.  For the first time in my life I know without a doubt there is a god.  (A parting gift from Tim, some say.)  The moment of awe quickly vanishes.  There is only devastation now.

 The day passes; I remember very little about the rest of it.  The next day I go to the window in the living room and discover that each one of the huge, old palm trees that line our street is wrapped with a wide yellow ribbon tied in a huge bow.  There must be a dozen of them, each tied at exactly the same height as the others.  It looks like large yellow butterflies have decided to rest on our street.  They come down after the funeral.  I never know who put them there or who took them down.

 I will always hate the sound of tennis balls.

 It was clearly the worst moment of my life. And yet, it was the moment that changed me forever and gave me the courage to survive, to be open, and to tell the people I love that I do (I thank God that my last words to Tim were “I love you”). Tim always thought I was more than I am (as probably do all my children) and after his death I tried and continue to try to be the person he thought I was. He was the big brother my other children knew they could talk to and he would listen. He was easy-going and loving, and when home on leave would come over just to wash my car. He loved telling me, with a big grin, things he had done when he was a little guy that I never knew about, just to watch my hair turn gray right in front of him, I suppose! One day he visited me at work and laughed and joked with my co-workers, teasing me unmercifully but with love.  He was proud of me, of his dad, his step-dad and of his siblings. This is not to try to make some sort of saint out of Tim, he was definitely not that. He was slow to anger but when he did, holy cow! However, it never lasted long and his beautiful smile was never far below the surface.

The day after he died and the week following my house began to fill with people, wonderful people bringing huge bouquets of kindness!  Food, the offer of a cleaning lady before the reception our home, my work place offering to cater the reception, hugs, tears, support, and encouragement of the kind I had never known. My sister and her husband came and stayed a week, which I needed like water. One of my oldest friends flew out to California for the memorial service from Connecticut, having been given the mileage points from someone who knew she needed to be there and didn’t have the money. Kids were there constantly, kids that knew Tim, some I had never met, all who told me things he had done for them or said to them, the fun they had had, the pranks I never knew about (good thing!), and how he had touched their lives. The same was true in the letters I received from his commanding officer, that Tim was the person the others went to when they needed support or encouragement and that he was always there to offer help if asked. In my home that week so many young people cried openly and hugged one another, boys and girls, boys and boys, and girls and girls. Believe me when I tell you I was NEVER that kind of person. I was much more reserved and tried very hard to keep my emotions in check when in public.  But since Tim’s death I’m not ashamed to cry and I’ve become a big hugger! I smile more, laugh louder, and have tried to become the person Tim believed me to be.

 Tim’s life and death gave me the courage to show up in my own life, to be brave at times I’d rather hide, and to risk being vulnerable. Even my little blog, which is still scary, is something Tim would have applauded and said “Go for it, Mom!” He really believed I could do anything I wanted. There’s never a day that I don’t think of him and miss him terribly. Not only was Tim my sweet son, he was and is my greatest teacher.

 Although I still hate the sound of tennis balls.

Gladys Spellman

When the days turn crisp and sunny and the trees wear their beautiful autumn colors, I think back to my 6th grade teacher, Gladys Spellman.

When I found out that Mrs. Spellman was going to be my teacher I was disappointed.  I wanted to be in Mr. Simpson’s class.  Just think of it, a man teacher! I thought it would be so grown up, like high school.  Alas, that was not to be.  So I may have had a wee bit of a chip on my shoulder that first day of 6th grade.  Little did I know I was about to step into the whole big world!

Mrs. Spellman was unlike any other teachers I had had.  She always seemed genuinely happy to be there with us.  She smiled and laughed and taught so well. She made me want to learn and succeed.  She was the first one to tell me (and my parents) that I should write, and that I had a good sense of humor. She me gave confidence and because she believed in me, I began to believe in myself.  I always struggled with arithmetic and yet she worked with me in such a way that I didn’t feel stupid. She wouldn’t let me or anyone else get away with anything, but never made anyone feel bad about having tried.

It was in her classroom that I learned about the Holocaust.  It was 1956, only 11 years after the end of World War II, although to me it seemed like ancient history.  (I was born just before the war ended.) She told us gently, enough to understand the horror but not enough to be frightened.  (The air raid drills and hiding under our desks did a good enough job doing that!)

She taught us how our government worked and we even had a mock election in our classroom.  I was so proud to bring in an old shower curtain from home to use as the curtain for our class voting booth! At Halloween she showed us films of children who had no food and who had deadly and preventable diseases.  It was the first time I realized that there were so many children who didn’t live like I did; I had a hard time processing it. And then she told us how we could help; that we could Trick or Treat for UNICEF and make a difference!  I think that was the first time I realized that if we all pitched in we could actually change things.  I think that Halloween I was the best salesperson UNICEF ever had!

In the spring Mrs. Spellman and Mr. Simpson took both the 6th grade classes by train for a one day trip to New York City! (I lived just outside of Washington, DC.) Imagining that now, with all those children on a long train ride with two teachers and a few parents along to help, I’m amazed at their adventuresomeness! I can remember the shivering
excitement I felt as I arrived at Union Station very early in the still dark morning. I remember the awe I felt at seeing the flags of all the countries lined up at the United Nations and how I felt when I saw the Statue of Liberty.  I know we must have gone other places, but those two images have always stayed in my mind.

Later on, in high school, Jack Kennedy’s “Ask not what your country can do for you” speech, the Peace Corps, the Civil Rights Movement, and the Viet Nam war all galvanized me to become involved in the world and show that I care, but it was Mrs. Spellman who opened the door for me and showed me the possibilities.

People living in Maryland now may remember Gladys N. Spellman later in her life as a member of Congress, her induction into the Maryland Women’s Hall of Fame, and all the other honors and recognition she received.  The children who attend Gladys Noon Spellman Elementary in Cheverly know their school is named for her.  Others may remember her as the congresswoman who had a stroke at an event and spent the last eight years of her life in a coma.

But me? I’ll always remember Mrs. Spellman as the teacher who taught a little girl that she could make a difference.

Did you have a teacher who made a difference in your life?  Share your memories in the comment section if you’re moved to do so. The good ones deserve to be remembered.

10 THINGS YOU DON’T KNOW ABOUT ME (unless you know me!)

1.         I’ll get this one out of the way first.  I’ve been married four times!  Yep four. The first and longest was to the father of my incredible children, Tim, Gordon, and Katy.  The second probably should never have happened and yet it allowed me to raise my two beautiful step-daughters, Jenna and Susie.  The third was a huge mistake and yet I was blessed with two grown step-sons, Eric and Skip, both of whom have since died, Eric in a motorcycle accident and Skip by taking his own life. The fourth marriage was to a wonderful man, Larry, probably the only person who ever really loved me just for who I am. He had cancer before we met and we had nearly five wonderful years together before he died just three weeks before our third anniversary.  Larry made me believe that I can be lovable – who knew?

2.         I’m a Gold Star mother.  My sweet Tim, a corporal in the Marine Corps, was killed in a helicopter collision over the Gulf of Oman during Operation Desert Shield on October 8, 1990.  Nearly 22 years now.  The anniversary of his death is coming soon and this is always a difficult time of year for me. I’ll probably blog more about it on the day, but for now it’s enough to know that having had the privilege of being Tim’s mother is one of the sweetest gifts of my life.

3.         I’m the very proud Nana of four: Ethan 18 (YIKES!! Really???), Bonnie 14, Jacob 8, and Zachary 7. They say that having a child is like wearing your heart outside of your body and I can say the same for having grandchildren. They delight me beyond all measure!

4.         I’ve suffered all my life with chronic depression, with sometimes episodes of major depression.  It’s an ongoing struggle but in some ways seems to be getting better with getting older.  Who woulda thought?

5.         I made up my last name!  After my third divorce I didn’t want to carry his name or the names of any of my ex’s and not my maiden name either.  I was having a hard time trying to figure out what name to use when my daughter Jenna came up with the brilliant name of TIERSON!  The “Ti” is for Tim, the “er” for Eric, and the “son” because they were.  I had a bit of concern at first about the two T’s (Tina Tierson) but then I thought of one of my idols, Tina Turner – it works for her!  I had it changed legally and it SO works for me.  This is the name I will always carry, with Tim and Eric along always.  Tina Tierson is the person I was meant to be.

 6.         I’ve always struggled with my weight.  Up and down, round and round. It’s still a problem (I’m “up” just now), but my reasons now for wanting to lose weight are more for health than anything else and I think that change in thought may be somewhat helpful.

7.         I HATE exercise!!  I know, I know, it’s an absolute must, but if I had my druthers I’d just rather spend my time curled up with a good book in front of a fire at the beach! I am walking a bit more now and, although I don’t like admitting it, it does make me feel better and does seem to help with depression.  (Just because those who have always told me so are right doesn’t mean I have to like it!)

8.         Like someone else some of us know, I really hate shaving my legs!

9.         I love my kitty Atticus very, very much and will always have a kitty, but I couldn’t exist without a dog!!  My Molly is getting up there and I dread the time when she’ll no longer be here.  So I appreciate each precious silly and loving moment with her.  No matter what happens in one’s life, no matter how fat and ugly you think you are, a dog will never look at you with anything but total unconditional love.  A person can learn a lot from a dog.

10.       Ever since the Viet Nam war I’ve been a peace activist.  I protested the war my Tim was in (in his last letter to me he said to go for it.  He said, “You wouldn’t be my mom if you didn’t!”) Before the Iraq war started and afterwards I spoke at rallies, high schools, and other functions.  I am passionate about peace and justice, but the big surprise to me was to discover how much I like speaking.

Start Close In …

“… start with the first thing close in, the step you don’t want to take.”

This from the poem Start Close In by David Whyte and the name of my blog. It reminds me to start small with the first thing and not become so overwhelmed by all the possibilities that I don’t start at all.  Start with the first step.

I’ve been thinking about and talking about starting a blog for probably close to two years, but I’ve always gotten too overwhelmed by not staying in the now. Thinking that  no one would read it and then, always then, the comparison trap. The “I don’t write as well as ____,” “I have nothing interesting to say like ____ does,” “I’m not as smart as____,” and the dreaded “I’m not enough.” Always comparing and always looking into the future, not staying close in, starting with the first step.

So here it is, my blog. I don’t know where it will go and I’ve finally let go of any expectations for it. If I’m the only reader it will still be an accomplishment. It will just evolve as it will, as I do, as we all do.

My intention for it? To share my journey and maybe have others share theirs with me. I’m beginning on a new path in my life, as I’m now well past mid-life but don’t yet consider myself old. It’s an interesting place to be, especially realizing that I can still be anything I want to be when I grow up! Even now, at nearly 68 years of age!  Who knew? Certainly not me and it comes as a great surprise at the number of blessings that come with aging.

That said, at my age the archetype is the crone, a sign of wisdom and knowledge. I SO don’t feel wise or knowledgeable, but nonetheless, here I am. Maybe in the course of writing this blog I’ll discover that I do have a bit of wisdom to share. Or maybe not and that’s ok too.

Here I’ll write about my view of life from this place. It will include musings on aging, grief, and loss.  It will also, and mostly I hope, include my thoughts on joy and love and compassion and laughter and all the gifts that each day brings. I’ll probably also share a photo of the new tattoo I’m planning to get soon!

I hope some will choose to join me as I continue to discover what comes next and share with me the path you’re traveling.