All Saints Day

Russian Icon of the Second Coming used for All...

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Here is a terrific poem featured today, November 1st, 2011, All Saints Day, at  WhiteStone Publishing Blog which is produced by Jeanette Thomason:

The holiday arrives
quietly like phrases
of faint praise
in Braille. Famous
… saints bow at the waist,
then step back, making
room for scores
of unknown saints,
to whom this day
also belongs. Not
a glamorous bunch,
these uncanonized,
unsung ones, shading
their eyes shyly
in the backs of the minds
of the few who knew them.
Hung-over, mute, confused,
hunched, clumsy, blue,
pinched, rigid or fidgety,
unable to look the radioactive,
well-dressed major saints
in the eye, they wonder
terrified: What…
Am I Doing Here? Still
drenched, the tobacco
spitting fisherman who dove
after a dog swept downriver
looks in vain for a towel,
too timid to ask….
What can we offer these reticent saints
who lacked press agents…?
~ AMY GERSTLER in *Jacket 32* (c) November 2008, edited by Elaine Equi
I attended Catholic School for 12 years. At  Catholic school, students do not have to attend class on Holy Days of Obligation (special feast days) but they are obliged to participate in the Mass. November 1st, the day after Halloween, known as All Saints Day, is a Holy Day.  The elementary school my siblings and I went to was called St John’s. As was typical with most Catholic schools in Seattle, the parish church was situated on the same city block as the school. One thing that set St John’s apart from other parochial schools was this: there was a public school of about the same size directly across the street from it, called Greenwood Elementary. Years of experience had taught my brothers and sisters and me one thing about walking to mass on All Saints Day: we knew we were in for some teasing from the public school kids on the playground at Greenwood.
“You have to go to Chu-ur ch, You have to go to Chu-ur ch,” they would sing-song at us as we walked along the sidewalk next to the playground fence. Outwardly we ignored them, but inside, we were hot! “Those ‘publics’ are so stupid,” we whispered to each other, feeling indignant, but also rather holy as we suffered for our faith.
Once safely at church, we dutifully attended Mass, praying for our deceased family members, and calling to mind all of the great, inspiring  saints of church history  by reciting their names from the Litany of the Saints during the service . What we were looking forward to, though, was taunting the Greenwood school kids who were on the playground as we walked home from mass. Then we would get sweet revenge on the ‘publics’  as we sang,”You have to go to scho -oo- ol. You have to go to scho -oo- ol,” while waving our Halloween candy bags at them. Ah, Christian charity! I try to  remember that this mutual animosity between public and Catholic school students happened before the Ecumenical Movement of the church, which began in the 1960’s. Would you bet some of your Halloween candy that students are less belligerent about such things today?  I sure hope so.

Remember to breathe

Empty nest of a White-tailed Eagle, location s...

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There are all kinds of transitions in life; one thing that most of them have in common is that they are difficult. A friend of mine is going through a big one right now, as her youngest child moves far away from home. In thinking about what this means for her, I am reminded of another type of transition – one that occurs during labor and delivery.

Here is a definition of ‘transition’ from

During active labor, your cervix begins to dilate more rapidly and contractions are longer, stronger, and closer together. People often refer to the last part of active labor as “transition.”


A definition is one thing – living out the experience of the definition is another. I would guess most women who go through labor remember something about  transition. Here’s what I recall:

It’s hard work; it’s painful. Emotions run high; there may be outbursts of tears and words; there are great fears about being able to make it through; strongly worded prayers and questions are directed at God. It is easy to forget all the lessons learned about breathing correctly through labor –  you know you should listen to your breathing coach, but the pain is escalating.  I think that if there were an easier way through transition, most of us would take it (caudal anesthesia, anyone?).  Whether anesthesia is used or not, the truth is there is no going back once the stage of transition begins. A chain of events has been set in motion that cannot be reversed. Eventually transition ends for the mother and the baby; the start of a new life is the hoped for joyful end. Once the work is finished, the worst of the struggle and pain is forgotten; our perspective is changed and there is an entirely new world before us and our child.

I see many similarities between the work of transition that occurs during labor and the one that happens as the last child leaves home.  The transition from a home with kids to one without is difficult and painful. Emotions run high; there may be outbursts of tears and words; there are great fears about being able to make it through; strongly worded prayers and questions are directed at God.   I think that if there were an easier way through this transition, most of us would take it – but there isn’t. For all of those involved, a chain of events has been set in motion that cannot be reversed. Eventually, this transition time ends for the parents and child; the start of a new life is the hoped for joyful end. Once the work of transitioning out the parents’ home is finished and everyone can catch their breath, the worst of the pain and struggle is forgotten; those involved have a change of perspective and there is an entirely new world ahead.

Today my friend whose youngest child is moving away from home is on my mind and heart, and in my prayers. I know she will make it through this transition, but it will be painful, and it will take time. I hope we can spend some of that time together. Maybe we will practice our breathing.

Not exactly a fashion statement

A old fracture with nonunion of the fracture f...

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Six weeks is the average time it takes to heal a
fractured bone, so I was expecting to be footloose and fancy free by eight
weeks status post fractures, but nope. Do you think things are taking longer to
heal because two bones were broken? Or perhaps it is the locations of the
fractures (foot and ankle)? Or maybe it’s because I am, ahem, a mature person
and therefore slower to become fleet-footed again?  No complaints,
you understand, just curious. I am very thankful to be upright and ambulating
without walker or crutches, only having to use a walking boot to get from point
A to point B. But I am just a little disappointed that even though the all-
clear has been given to work fulltime without The Boot, that I probably will not be able to actually do it. I have been experimenting at
home, trying to participate fully in daily activities for several hours sans The Boot  – it hasn’t gone so well.

On Monday, the work day will be started wearing two
standard, matching, everyday work-world shoes, but The Boot will be close by;  a
sort of security boot, if you know what I mean. By the way, if you don’t know what
a walking boot looks like, you can get an idea here:

At some point in the future this whole episode involving
broken bones, and learning compassion for those whose lives are temporarily, and
sometimes permanently altered by such injuries, will be over. In the meantime,
I’ll do what needs to be done to stay an active bi-ped. But someday soon I hope
to give The Boot the boot.

Speaking of footloose, the re-make of the movie, Footloose, is going to be released in theaters soon. Here’s a link  to the trailer:

What’s that say???

Flower motif in contemporary nakshi kantha

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Many years ago I was active in several quilters’ groups. At one of the quilt shows I bought a large metal pin that said “I am a QUILT lover.” The next day when I wore it several men and women were aghast as they read it. One thought it said, “I am a QUIET lover”; one thought it said, “I am QUITE a lover”, and one thought it said, “I am a GUILTY lover.” I took it off as soon as I got home from church and never wore it again. True story.

Looks pretty wet out there

Child enjoys a puddle in Vancouver, B.C., Canada.

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My younger sister, Claudia, has a big family, and had
the knack of delighting in her children as they passed through each stage of
development. Even though I was older, and my children were older than hers, she
was always teaching me something valuable about rearing kids. For example:

I was visiting one
day when her son Nick, who turned 30 this year, was 5yrs old; he was invited to
play at the neighbor’s house across the street. It was raining, so Claudia
found a jacket with a hood and some rain boots for him to wear for his walk. It was a quiet neighborhood, and both Moms would be watching as Nick crossed the street. Claudia kissed Nick and said, “Now walk straight over and look out for puddles,” then sent him on his way. She said to me, “Come and watch.”
I stood next to her at the window where we saw Nick find a puddle and jump in
with both feet and laugh, and then find another puddle, jump in it and laugh
again. Claudia and I both laughed as well, enjoying the experience almost as
much as Nick. I turned to Claudia and asked if she felt a little sad to see
that Nick was disobeying her. “He’s not,” she said, “I didn’t tell
him to STAY out of the puddles, I told him to LOOK out for puddles. He looked
out for them, found them, and did what every child should do – jump in!”
Another lesson learned.

Coloring Easter eggs the hard way

On Holy Saturday when the kids were young, it was our custom to clear off the kitchen table,  then cover it with newspapers. I  would find six  old coffee cups, six large tablespoons and some vinegar and set them on top of the  newspapers. Climbing up on a kitchen chair, I  would rummage through the storage shelf above the pantry and find the package I was looking for: PAAS Classic Easter Egg Decorating Kit. OK! Now we were going to have fun! Each year I looked forward to this event;  dipping white eggs into the bright jewel toned dyes mixed with vinegar,  trying to be patient as we wait for the colors to deepen — oh, it’s as close to magic as it can get, this tradition of dyeing Easter eggs, and I loved it! 

One year I had felt I could be extravagant, so bought three dozen eggs, two dozen of which I  hard-cooked so that we could really make a full afternoon of dyeing Easter eggs. Everything had gone well; no fights, no spills, and plenty of eggs for everyone to write on with crayons, dip into multiple dyes, and get creative with drawing stripes and dots and adding stickers. After the kids had gone to bed, John and I hid the eggs, some jellybean treats and the kids’ baskets. The kids got up early Easter morning and found everything in less than a half hour. So much for us parents thinking we had found clever hiding places! We went to church to celebrate the Resurrection, and came home for a traditional ham dinner.  As I was doing the dishes Kristin called out to me,  “Hey Mom! One of my Easter eggs is leaking!”  “Not possible,” I said, “It must be one of the jellybeans, or another piece of candy. “No, Mom, it’s my colored Easter egg!” “Bring it here and let me check.” Sure enough, I looked at the colored Easter egg and it was leaking. I cracked the shell over the sink; out came a raw egg. What could this mean? Oh oh. I went to the refrigerator and pulled out the only egg carton that was there. I took an egg out and tried to crack it open.  It was a hard-boiled egg! I had grabbed the wrong carton of eggs when we were coloring them the day before, so half of the 24 eggs we had dyed had been uncooked! That means we had colored, hidden, found and hauled 12 raw eggs around in Easter baskets for half a day ! And it took until after Easter dinner for one of them to crack and ‘leak’ – amazing! Quite a surprise,  and how funny! We got a laugh out of it then, and we still do.  Guess you could say the yolk was on us. True story! Happy Easter!

Waiting for the bus, Minnesota-style

These should be warm enough, right?

Growing up, our family didn’t have a car, so my brothers, sisters and I became speedy walkers and skilled public transportation users. Fortunately, Seattle’s temperate weather makes both those modes of getting around easy and comfortable throughout the year. When I moved to Mpls, I became accustomed to, and eventually dependent on, cars for transportation – partly because of their convenience, but also because they afford protection from the extremes of the weather in the Midwest -and there-in lies a story.

 Since I was familiar with using city buses in Seattle, I didn’t have much trouble learning the bus routes around Mpls. I was glad that I was able to find employment at a downtown hospital almost immediately after I moved, and soon found the buses that I would use to get to  and from work.   I knew the vagaries of bus schedules, the changes that came with evening hours, holidays and weekends,  and was familiar with how to make transfers and the like. But I didn’t understand the challenges that weather could bring to bus travel, and my first winter riding the bus in the Twin Cities was a major  life-lesson.

 In Seattle, winter boots and gloves are a fashion statement; they are meant to look good, but aren’t necessarily meant to serve any practical purpose. So, on the first below-zero morning of my life,  as I stood alone at the bus stop in downtown Mpls waiting to make my last transfer on the way to work, I was dressed for winter according to Seattle rather than  Mpls standards. I was already cold when I exited the bus I rode for the first half of my trip to the hospital; the second bus was 15 minutes late when it finally pulled up. I was blue with cold by that time, and more than ready to climb aboard the bus when it pulled up. But when the door opened, the driver looked at me and said, “I am sorry, Miss. I cannot fit any more riders on this bus. You will have to wait for the next one.” Then the door closed and the bus drove on. I was flabbergasted!  And I was freezing. I knew it would be at least another 15 minutes before the next bus came by. Could I – could ANYONE – possibly stand out on this windy, icy street for almost an hour and not be frozen stiff? As miserable as it was, I had no choice but to wait for the next bus to arrive. By the time I got to work I was 45 minutes late, numb with cold and wondering what frostbite looked like. I knew I had experienced my first “Minnesota Cold” winter day. In addition, I knew that when I got my next paycheck I was going to buy articles of clothing that were designed to keep bodies warm and well covered when out of doors  in winter. So much for fashion! I wanted protective equipment to deal with the elements from then on. LESSON LEARNED! , and never forgotten to this day – true story.

I think I get it now…

When first starting to read the scriptures, I began with the gospels. On reading  the book that chronologically follows the gospels, called the Acts, I was shocked! Who were these guys? They seemed to have the same names as the men in the gospels, but maybe they were a different bunch of men. I went back to the gospels and checked the names of the major players of the Apostles, and then checked their names against the text in the Book of the Acts. Yep – same guys. Could the Holy Spirit really make such a difference in how people understand and think and live, so much so that they didn’t seem like the same people? Could Jesus really dwell in us by the Holy Spirit and thus make us different people? Apparently so. A  facebook friend  (Leonard Sweet) explained it this way: Because of the Holy Spirit, Duh-ciples became Disciples. Couldn’t agree more.

Halloween costumes and lessons

Candy corn and candy pumpkins closeup

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A favorite Halloween costume memory has to do with the year that my son, Robert,  and daughter, Kristin, and I did some fun research on Native American clothing, the Haida tribe being in our cutural heritage. We worked together to find appropriate designs, colors, and decorations, and worked on the costumes together for about a month. I had read in the paper that the local theater group in town offered to do Halloween makeup for kids on Halloween morning as a fund raiser – that sounded great to me! So, as a finishing touch to all the time and effort we had put in to their Native American costumes, we drove to town the morning of Halloween and the kids waited in a long line at the theater to have makeup applied.  An hour later, Kristin came out happily sporting braided hair,  her face painted with a couple of colored stripes; Rob came out with a completely white face, black circled eyes, bright red lips with ‘blood’ dribbling down his chin and vampire teeth! I stared in complete shock and asked why he had vampire make-up on? He said, “They asked me what I wanted to be for Halloween, so I told them. I forgot I was going to be an Indian.” I didn’t realize until that minute that I had never clearly asked either child “What do you want to be for Halloween?” I had said “Would it be fun to (insert my idea here)?” and they had said yes.
We went home, then, to find Rob some black material for a cape, a white t-shirt and black jeans. He practiced making scary faces in the mirror the rest of the afternoon. Both kids had full candy bags at the end of the night, and Mom learned a lesson.