Merry Christmas

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So this is Christmas.

We spent the last three days driving anywhere between 25 and 85 m.p.h. as we maneuvered my 4 cylinder Toyota, fully loaded with presents and baggage, from sunny Arizona through drought-brown hills of California toward our destination—Vancouver, Washington for Christmas. As my furry kids (two kitties) curl up beneath my bare tree in Arizona with only my cat sitter (and lovely friend!) for company, I realize this is the first Christmas in years and years that I have not been “home” in Colorado to celebrate.

My eyes brim and my heart clinches a little.

I keep the shrinking “Grinch” heart at bay.

I think back on the events leading up to our road adventure on this marvelous holiday and feel so blessed. The lovely Thanksgiving with family and the visits from family and the friends we have celebrated with already. Gifts and good-tidings; celebrations and holiday parties, home-made treats and cups of cheer overflowing—Christmas is the best time of year!

Then there is the Post Office…I don’t EVER wait until days before Christmas to mail, (nor do I recommend this!) but I had a little book-give-away to deliver and had a VERY close call with a “Grinch” in the parking lot just days before our departure. He almost stole my joy.

But I know what Christmas is.

I was leaving my two hour post office escapade, (heart determined to be kind to all who were braving this holiday faux pas,) when a gentleman just beginning his adventure, nearly swiped my bumper. He laid on his horn to get parked in an open space 2.4 seconds sooner than if he would’ve waited for me to inch forward behind the two grey-haired drivers I followed out. All this so he could arrive those 2.4 seconds earlier in into the two hour line in the lobby that awaited him.

My “Grinch” heart shrunk a little as I thought of several choice Christmas carols I’d like to yell at him: “Oh Holy–”

But I know what Christmas is.

I breathed deep and forgave him, knowing the lengths of enjoyment that lay before him with a “honking attitude” like he harbored.

Torrents of rain the night before we left awakened us through the night. We looked forward to grabbing our hot Dunkin’ Donut’s coffee before hitting the road. Avoiding the 15 car drive-thru line, we hoofed it to the entrance. On our way out, we fell silent passing an unkempt man wearing shorts and a light coat, holding a small grocery bag and seeking shelter out of the rain. My heart clinched and I pushed my sunglasses higher on my nose.

I think I know what Christmas is.

We still departed on our journey, but feeling pretty heavy–discovering he had spent the rain-drenched night outside. We left him with some home baked zucchini bread and money.

We ran out of clean clothes along the way, slept on some seriously rock hard mattresses and ate one-too-many continental breakfasts, but we are so blessed with what we have.

We think we know what Christmas is.

Though I am not with my family or at my “home,” I prepare to spend this blessed holiday with my fiancés family. Months ago, I planned a surprise for him. Before our Christmas Eve stop, I arranged for a “starter tree” to greet us and a few sparkling ornaments with which to decorate it. The look of surprise and wonder on his face at the discovery was equal to any child’s on Christmas day! It was pure wonderful!

I am feeling Christmas again.

And, as we prepare to hit the road again; washing our underwear, unpacking and re-packing, wrapping packages late into Christmas Eve, I know Christmas is MORE than family, sparkling decorations, packages and surprises from a jolly, fat, red-suited man.

I think of other travelers, long ago, who were “displaced” from their homes on this magical night.

No grouchy, horn-blowing Grinch can take Christmas from me. Those long ago travelers brought a gift to me and to all who believe.

I know what Christmas is.

The Charlie Brown’s Christmas special is one of my all-time fave’s. Linus wraps up nicely exactly what Christmas is…
Charlie Brown: Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?

Linus Van Pelt: Sure, Charlie Brown, I can tell you what Christmas is all about.

[moves toward the center of the stage]

Linus Van Pelt: Lights, please.

[a spotlight shines on Linus]

Linus Van Pelt: “And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, ‘Fear not: for behold, I bring unto you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.'”

[Linus picks up his blanket and walks back towards Charlie Brown]

Linus Van Pelt: That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.

(from www.imdb.com Charlie Brown Christmas Quotes)

 

For the horn- blower, for the Grinch, for the Dunkin-Donut’s rain man, for all people on all the earth–

–Wishing you all a magical and Merry Christmas, where ever you are!

 

HOME

Arvada Trains

HOME
“Home is the nicest word there is.”
― Laura Ingalls Wilder

Dorothy tells us there’s no place like it.

Where do you call home?

You know how you hear something every single day of your life and you end up tuning it out? Even though it continues, you no longer hear it. Until, one day, you leave the place you call “home” and it’s truly gone.
Then you miss it.
But, sometimes it returns…

I am back in Scottsdale, after a fantastic Thanksgiving visit to Arvada, Colorado – my hometown for 25 years.

“Home wasn’t a set house, or a single town on a map. It was wherever the people who loved you were, whenever you were together. Not a place, but a moment, and then another, building on each other like bricks to create a solid shelter that you take with you for your entire life, wherever you may go.”
― Sarah Dessen, What Happened to Goodbye

TOP TEN THINGS I MISS ABOUT BEING HOME:

1) Miles upon miles of railroad tracks criss-crossing through town and the sounds of the trains speeding through at all times of the day and night

2) Family and old friends being only a Starbuck’s distance away
3) My mom’s overflowing generosity and her chicken and noodles
4) Beau Jo’s Mountain Pies and, ACTUAL MOUNTAINS, the glory of the front range
5) Snow softly falling on fallen leaves and the smell of fireplaces burning
6) Layering up and running to Two Ponds, the nation’s smallest urban wildlife refuge
7) Bronco’s fans, after a win
8) Seeing my nephews playing in sports they love and growing a foot taller
9) Old Towne Arvada
10) My dad, my grampy, my grammy and all those who’ve gone before me to a different home

BUT…

THINGS I DON’T MISS ABOUT HOME:

1) Snot actually freezing in my nose
2) Dirty, crusty, chemical coated cars
3) Power windows freezing shut in the drive-thru at Starbucks
4) 15 car pile-up caused after the first snow and the guy with his new 4WD truck
5) Bronco’s fans, after a loss
6) Old town Aurora
7) The five pounds I gain as I eat more of mom’s chicken and noodles and Beau Jo’s mountain pies
8) Watching the melanoma eat away at my dad, seeing the dementia turn my grampy into a different man and visiting grammy in the hospital after the most recent surgery
9) Miles upon miles of railroad tracks criss-crossing through town and the sounds of the trains speeding through at all times of the day and night


“Happiness is home… It is a state of mind. A place of communion and unconditional love. It is where, when you cross its threshold, you finally feel at peace.”
― Dennis Lehane

Wherever you call “home,” may there always be more good things on the list of things you miss.

And may you always have a place of unconditional love and peace.

LUCKY 13

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October is Breast Cancer/Cancer Awareness month.
Through FaceBook, Carrie Ann Coomes-Kemp shares her story and we’ve seen her “warrior” against breast cancer. Every day.
Saturday, October 5th we lost a friend, Colleen McEahern, to cancer.
Also on Saturday, October 5th, I gulped down tears (and a Coors light in Colleen’s honor,) as the Avett Brothers played Paul Simon’s “Slip Slidin’ Away” :

“I know a woman
Became a wife
These are the very words she uses
To describe her life
She said a good day
Ain’t got no rain
She said a bad day’s when I lie in bed
And think of things that might have been”

If you have cancer, or if someone you love has it, every second of every day is Cancer Awareness.


She nearly died TWICE “on my watch” on two different trips to Arizona.

Very frightening for a granddaughter to see in her beloved grandmother.

She enjoyed long talks with the Avon lady, days at the hair salon with Desi, gambling at the penny machines “up on the hill” and anything with family.
She loved gifts, butterflies, shoes, the color purple, scary movies, buttered popcorn, chewy brownies, grandpa, angels, Jesus and, did I mention she loved gifts? 8)
Because we loved her so much, we all competed to give her great and creative gifts.

She gave me the very best gift.

Born October 13,1927, she would say, “Thirteen is my lucky number. It’s the day God placed me in this life.”

Before every NFL team wore pink in support of it, before Susan G. Komen made #savetheboobs a communal rally-cry and before every school had a “pink week” to raise money, my grandmother got her first (of several) cancer diagnoses. Aggressive breast cancer at 41 years of age. There was no 5K run in support. Her co-workers didn’t shave their heads to encourage her. This was before people were aware.

She didn’t drive. She carpooled with a “gentleman” to her government job. After she was diagnosed and began her treatments, (that she rode the bus to!), her carpooling partner explained he had to quit taking her to work because he couldn’t risk catching what she had.
This was before reconstructive surgery was “approved.” They took her breast, lymph nodes and so much tissue (including scraping a rib or two) that they developed a bodysuit for her to make her look “normal.” You could say she was the impetus of the original Wonder Bra!–She survived this treatment (from doctors and from co-workers) and persevered through many more cancer diagnoses and treatments. Eleven major surgeries in twenty years.
I never once heard her complain. Not even when she lost every single strand of her hair (which happened with Desi at the hair salon.) My grandmother fixed her jaw and stood strong while she watched as Desi wept.

Lucky 13?

The letter is green and hand addressed to me in Arizona and bears her characteristic, barely decipherable, chicken-scratch lettering. It is written on paper embossed with butterflies:
“…The rooms were great and I won just enough so that I didn’t have to spend a lot. Eleanor took $650.00 and I had $450.00. We didn’t want to carry that much in our billfolds so we devised a scheme. We hid it all in my fake boob behind and under my fake silicone boob. Eleanor called it our boob safe. I had a nice birthday and your mom cooked a great dinner for us as usual…”

She gained strength through every trial. She was an over-comer and had such humor about life.

I am 22 and we are in a red velvet lounger at a buffet in Las Vegas enjoying some special grandma/granddaughter time. I asked her how she could be so strong.
She said, “Your grandpa and I have seen so many of our friends and family die, we know each day here is a gift.”

Just after we nearly lost her in Arizona, they released her into my care so she could gain strength to return to Denver. She slept in my bed while I slept on the air mattress and brought her soups and cheese and crackers. We played cards and talked about life.
I had to know, “Did you see the light?”
She smiled. She said she knew where she was going. She was at peace. She soon would be with the Lord, but she remained because my mom and uncle weren’t ready.
She passed away shortly after her return to Denver.
She shared her attitude with all who would listen for 74 years before she “slip slided away.”
It was my grandmother’s “gift of gab” that endeared her to so many (and it was what drove us a little crazy.) One time I counted; she told me the same story FIVE times!
I would give all I own to have her back now and to hear one of her stories. But I know, deep in my bones, because of her faith, that where she is–sickness, sorrow and pain no longer pursue her. She is in the Lord’s presence.

What a gift.

An article from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association addresses this very thing, “Heaven is the place of perfect happiness — and one of its greatest joys will be our reunion with those who have gone there before us. God loves us, and He won’t withhold that joy from us!” (from BillyGraham.org)

“Slip slidin’ away
Slip slidin’ away
You know the nearer your destination
The more you’re slip slidin’ away”

The next time someone you love is driving you a “little batty”—remember it’s these little things that make them so endearing; so treasured and so unique when they are gone.

Because of the free gift of grace offered in Jesus Christ, I know that one day I will be able to laugh with my grandma and hear her stories for all eternity.

Pretty darn lucky.

In loving memory of Nancy Sterkel 10/13/27-4/30/01

And in honor of all the Valiant Warriors who have and who are battling cancer.

FREEDOM

anonymous freedom

anonymous freedom

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy…” (John 10:10)
Have you ever been afraid? And not just afraid, but truly fearful. I’m not talking about what I will call “scary movie” fear. –Who didn’t feel this type of fear in the movie “The Exorcism?”–The original one–Linda Blair and the pea soup. Scary stuff. I’ll admit my fear in that movie. But it wasn’t the fear that paralyzes. Thinking back, I’ve really just barely touched this type of fear.
True fear.
The paralytic kind of fear in which your brain sends sudden large amounts of adrenaline to your muscles and it either moves you into heroic action—the mother lifting up the car to free her trapped child, the soldier propelling in to saving his or her comrades in the heat of battle—OR the opposite occurs and fear overpowers you–your muscles are immune to the new fuel they’ve been flooded with and they simply freeze up. Not a chilly “goose bump” freeze, but absolute loss of function. The massive pounding in your chest blasts sound waves of blood pulsating throughout your head and eardrums. Your breathing is nearly non-existent and shallow in your chest, your body poised to strike, yet no amount of will can budge the load of bricks that have become your legs. Your nearly catatonic body that has become utterly non-responsive as deadly rigormortis settles around your soul. Surely you know this by now as the “fight or flight” response. It is (or at least, it can be) life changing. It is where the proverbial “rubber meets the road.”
What will you do in those circumstances? Action or paralysis?
We all would like to think that we would experience that “hero” response and be moved to achieve something transporting us beyond our human capacity. But if you have never been in one of these situations, how do you know?
When a friend of mine told me of her sister’s experience, I realized my fear experiences, though terrifying to me at the time, only skim the surface of this “true fear” that I am referencing. My true fear experiences were ones in which I could’ve lost my life. At least that is how I felt when I was knee deep in the experience. Really, it felt like any future I conceived turned completely moot and void. Nothing but that moment mattered because I didn’t think I’d survive past it. Falling out of the two man raft in a level five rapid on the upper Animas in Colorado. In retrospect, my life seemed in jeopardy but I wasn’t as close to losing it as I thought. That hike up the tallest mountain in Arizona when I freaked. The recurring nightmares haunting each of the 40 years of my life: the dizzying vertigo, loss of control at life’s edge of whatever chasm, bridge, or ledge it might be, the accompanying nausea, paralytic muscles, brain lock, shallow breaths, heartbeats quick rabbit-like but pounding like blare drums. All of this–nothing like what she details. Nothing. –Not to spoil the ending of my true fear story, but, SPOLER ALERT– I survived! I didn’t fall off that mountain and I was pulled back to safety by an experienced guide on the Animas River. However, I did experience momentary paralysis. Frozen in that moment and left with a choice. I will never forget the experience. But it just skims above the depth of what she tells.
Back to my friend.
I use that term judiciously because I see her as so friendly that I think she’d make friends anywhere. Or, it could be that I perceive her differently. Most people in my generation are keenly aware and sensitive to what she must’ve gone through to be here in America. She doesn’t always get this reaction. She’s a U. S. citizen and 23 years my senior. My friend, choosing to be unnamed, is one of five children born into extreme poverty in a small village less than 30 miles from Saigon. As a child, she saw a war-torn Vietnam, blossoming like a fungus as incomprehensible confusion, chaos, unnecessary death and lack of compassion overtook the scenic beauty of her birthplace. To this day, upon her return visits to try to help her village and her remaining family, she still sees the devastating, flesh-eating effects of Agent Orange on the civilian population left there and the health horrors that poverty permits.
We met at a food bank where we both volunteer. Often times the bank is low on food and with no other jobs to do, there is time to chat. My friend, who retired from a nearly 25 year career at Motorola, as she learned English in her spare time, is always one of the hardest workers and rarely is involved in chat time. If she isn’t marking foods or carrying out boxes, she is mopping the floor, sweeping or cleaning out bins. Today, except for the occasional carry-out, all is done.
Time for a rare chat.
Today she proudly wears a red, white and blue embroidered touristy shirt from her most recent trip to Vietnam. She is bubbling over with conversation and telling of her bravery at the doctor’s office. Yesterday she received a cortisone injection directly into her spine to help her deal with the pain and the numbing and tingling in her knees and legs brought on from work-related injuries through her career at Motorola. Yesterday. She refused anesthesia so she could drive herself.
She pounds her chest Tarzan like, “I so brave!” and smiles her huge toothy smile. Did I mention it was just yesterday?
A huge needle, (aren’t they all?) that could actually truly paralyze if moved just millimeters in the wrong direction, was inserted into her spine while she was awake and aware. She avoided burdening anyone for a ride. She’s a master at the self-sufficiency we Americans pride ourselves on. And ready to be working at the food bank today.
“Hey, Mrs. Saigon!” Buddy, who has been around longer than any volunteer (and most human beings! *wink*wink*!) razzes her, “You’re looking quite spry this morning!”
Her big smile erupts again.
She’s been married to an American soldier now coming up on 40 years. With two children and two grandchildren, this woman has more drama in her life than in most incident reports I read from the police department’s “ripped straight from the headlines.” (Can you hear the Law and Order “bong-bong?”)
Several weeks ago she told me one of her memories while living and working in Vietnam. She worked at the Vietnamese military base located just across from the American military base. She often walked between the two. She, totally in character, made friends with many of the Americans. The Vietnamese Military Police didn’t like this.
“Feel ‘dis.” She nods at me, picks up my hand, places two of my fingers on the top of her head, just to the left of her black hair’s part-line. My fingertips register the sheen of her soft hair. She pushes down on my finger and I feel it. Rough and uneven through skin, scalp and silky hair: granite.
Unaware, while walking between the two bases, she was stoned. Not that kind; an actual stoning. Out of the blue, she felt something smack into her head. Confused, disoriented, tears stinging her eyes and in pain, she realized her own countrymen were hurling rocks at her. Bloodied, and too embarrassed to tell anyone about her pain (and too poor to do anything about it,) a quarter-sized stone is still lodged in her scalp to this day.
I felt it.
Other drama in her life story includes very unwelcoming parents-in-law. It wasn’t until ten years ago (only 30 years in to her marriage) that her in-laws, still skeptical, admitted their continuing mistrust in her relationship with their son. They believe she is using him for her “green card.” For the record: she obtained her citizenship outside of marriage and on her own. They are from a different generation that is immune to her style of cooking, refusing her food at family gatherings and refusing the overwhelming kindness in her heart, and apparently severely lacking in the compassion department for what this woman has experienced and overcome. She is proud. Their treatment of the overly compensating, foreign daughter-in-law borders on the criminal.

The Pastor of the food bank, who missed being drafted and serving in Vietnam by answering God’s call to serve those back home, asks her to delve into her experiences. Being the same age as my friend, he is very curious about her time in Vietnam and her journey to here–right now.
The three of us stand in an alcove and she diverts the focus from herself and chooses to tell us about her sister.
Both her and her sister dreamed of escaping the poverty, the confusion, and the madness of what overtook their country. She–newly enamored with a young G.I.–has been offered (through this new love) an opportunity to leave.
She takes it.
She is in the U.S. just two years and then– April 30, 1975. The day she describes as “the day the world ended.” The U.S. attacks Vietnam. Through her new connections, her military husband is willing to help her sister and sister’s entire family to come to the U.S.—The sister must simply collect her five children, her husband and, at the predetermined rendezvous point, at the designated time, there is an arrangement for them to get out for free. All can make it out. Freedom. Opportunity. A new start. A new place. No more war in your backyard. But she must choose it.
The designated time and place come and go.
My friend and her husband-to-be wait for her sister and the family at the rendezvous point. All the while, the sister is crouched low, in the dark of the dirty walls of the one room that is home for her family of seven. Paralyzed. Tears of terror escape eyes that have seen too much. The tears run down this mother’s face as a sick example. She doesn’t heed their message. Her body is frozen in the crouch. Paralyzed at the opportunity. Paralyzed about a new place. A new start. The unknown. Freedom?!?
The depth of the fear that must’ve permeated this mother’s soul as she crouched there.
Maybe true fear isn’t what I comprehend it to be. Maybe this fear is actually a more subtle enemy. Maybe true fear is simply the doubts that cloud our minds when we are about to step off a ledge into the unknown. Maybe it’s more about choices. My friend’s choice to move to a country that doesn’t understand her, mistreats her and yet, gave her opportunity and freedom to live without fear. Maybe this explains why she is so friendly. She lives without fear. She lives in the chasm of opportunity that was opened to her when she took the leap into the unknown.–To work hard, to live fully, to give unconditionally, to forgive hurts, and to live with the rocks that have been embedded in her soul. And later, to return to the fears of her birthplace as she visits her sister and family who live in an abyss of regret each day in the country of their birth. She returns to try to understand and to try to change her remaining family by giving whatever she can.
But she can’t stay long on her visits there.
“My heart bleed too much there,” she explains to the Pastor and me tilting her head to the side. Her eyes drift away from us and her brows crease in confusion.
“…I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
(John 10:10)
Where does your heart bleed? Are you courageous enough to re-visit those places? Are you ready for the leap of faith or are you crouched in paralysis?

DROSOPHILIDS

frt-flies[1]DROSOPHILIDS
Definition from Wikipedia
Drosophilidae is a diverse, cosmopolitan family of flies which includes fruit flies. Wikipedia goes on to say “Generally, drosophilids are considered nuisance flies rather than pests, since most species breed in rotting material.”
Nuisance??!!! Really?? My definition: ANNOYING; a tiny little thing that makes just enough noise in your ear to drive you mad. This miniscule monster that begins with trying to share my AGATE RIDGE Primitivo and ends up diving straight into the glass and staying for the rest of its life! (For the non-wine enthusiast—Agate Ridge Primitivo is precious fluid masterfully crafted by winemaker Kimberly Kinderman.)
My first experience with the season of the fruit fly in Oregon was last summer. I actually went a little crazy. Okay, a lot crazy. I was on a mission to exterminate every single one of those damned drosophilids!
Like the itch of a mosquito bite, the more I tried to deal with this “nuisance” directly, the more it flared up. Squish after squash, after slap, after squish; on the walls, on the mirrors, on my jeans, dipped out of my wine… (Grrrr!)
Here’s what I didn’t know about these tiny annoyances: First—my efforts were futile. I thought it would be worth it to mount an attack—I didn’t want to share my Primitivo with anyone, let alone this little booger that insisted on plunging right in! They were so tiny and just slow enough for me to be able to attack, but there were way more than I could see. They were insipient, insidious and I was incapable of mounting a successful massacre. The other troubling thing I learned is– they bleed. As I snuck up on their unsuspecting little bodies and squashed them against the white wall with a business card, I was stunned to see the evidence of my kill. Red blood smeared on the card and the wall.
I had a Macbeth moment.
I tried other ways to redirect them out of my glass of aromatic, tasty, ruby-colored loveliness. I lured them with several mostly empty bottles filled with enough sweetness left in the bottom to trap them and relocate them. This was a bit more successful in terms of numbers and in the GUILT arena (no blood!)
I later learned these tiny annoyances are a fact of life in fruit bearing regions. Visiting wineries, restaurants and anything outdoor in the right season, you will be faced with these pests. Pretty harmless really. Their life span is extremely temporary (especially since they can’t swim!) and, when the season changes, the fruit fly frenzy is finished.
Do you have any fruit flies in your life? Those people that are tiny annoyances? That, when you try to rid of them in your life, there are 8,000 more to take their place? Mooches, thieves, clanging symbols in your ear, pests, and all around thorns in your side? Guess what?
They bleed.
I tried to understand the feeling I experienced when I saw the blood on the wall and the card I used in my massacre of the 2012 fruit fly invasion. It struck a chord with me about humanity. Those “fruit fly people” that deserve your attention and kindness the least, but need it the most. Those people who seem to serve no purpose, but will bleed just like the rest of us when wounded and hurting. Those people who, though you wouldn’t want to share a glass of wine with, just need some redirecting. Those people who may spend a season in your life, enjoy some sweetness, and then run their course or path in a new location.
“Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.”
(Ephesians 1:2)
Maybe you don’t have a “fruit fly” in your life but someone who is just downright mean. Nasty words seep from their mouths, uttering only pain inflicting daggers that wound and scar on a soul level.
Some of your “fruit flies” might even be family members.
What is it about the wounds that travel with us from childhood?
We spend most of our adulthood trying to recover from them.

My father was a sensitive man. However he had wounds from his childhood he brought along to our family. His upbringing consisted of a father mostly absent and a mother taken too soon. He and his four siblings had to be resourcefully resilient and hardened themselves to survive. He hid behind sarcasm and critical words that wounded both my sister and me, yet which had very different effects on us.
We both loved him in spite of the words and wounds; he was our father. It was his terminal cancer diagnosis that drove us to a deeper relationship and made us attempt to overcome those wounds while he was still with us. It sort of worked. Some scars we still deal with, but God has such an amazing way of working good out of these wounds. He is the Master at bringing light into the dark places.
I will never forget the day my father got out of an eight hour brain surgery that successfully removed a massive tumor and bought him more time with us. I traveled from Arizona to Colorado to be there with him. I was available to help him with anything he needed and I prayed for him with all my heart and soul. He awoke from the surgery looking like he just awoke from a nap (just wearing a gauze turban!) His main request was for me to bring him his mail. So I did.
As I tried to help him open the envelopes, he snapped at me, “Didn’t you ever learn to do this the right way!?”
I blew it off at first. Who cares how you open an envelope? As long as you get the mail out–Right?
He snapped it out of my hands and followed his sharp words with a detailed instruction of properly using that little slidey thingy with a razor sharp edge to slice the edges without slaughtering the mail.
Sounds silly, right?
Not to a daughter that inherited an overly sensitive heart and desire to please an unpleasable parent. Later, as I left the hospital choking back tears, I tried to think of my sister. She would have laughed it off. Her years of being the first to bear the brunt of his words delivered to her a tougher skin. God knew she would need it. He knew my sister’s future dreams of attaining success in a male dominated field. He knew the superhuman strength she would need to raise up two sons in a fallen world.
But that wasn’t me. I cried the rest of the day. I might be able to blame it on hormones or stress, but my lip still quivers at memories of all the imperfections he could easily point out. His words had the effect of making me more in tune to why he lashed out and making me keenly aware of those who do this same thing.
It was the most recent Women of Faith tour and Sheila Walsh’s healing testimony that penetrated the scar tissue of this old wound in me and brought understanding and peace. –Her father has suffered a stroke and brain injury when she was a small child. It brought out in her father nearly complete paralysis and a murderous attitude toward her–an innocent child who had been his favorite, precious and dearly loved daughter.
It was years later that a neurosurgeon explained to her the exact effects of these deteriorations in that area of his brain that had been damaged in the stroke—This is not a direct quote but my remembrance of the events she told–Basically, because of the location of the damage, it would distort the personality by 180 degrees. The misperception of the brain would bring out a nastiness that could only be acted out toward someone that person knew would always forgive them and always love them regardless.
They say love and hate are very close—Her father acted out toward her somehow knowing she would always love him; always forgive him.
I totally get this. I see it time and time again even without brain trauma! We often act in ways to our families that we wouldn’t think of acting toward anyone else. We often treat them in less than loving ways because we know they will put up with us! Our families are stuck with us.
My father knew I would always love him.
His childhood created these tendencies in my father and his brain cancer and surgery heightened the critical words, sarcasm and detailed direction on how to do everything right. My sister was the target during our childhood; it would appear it was my turn. I further developed a profound understanding of hurting people and the ability to forgive.
Often those who least deserve love, are in deepest desperation for it.
They bleed.
Our time here is short. Not like the fruit fly short, but truly just a blip in the grand plan of life. So, the next time there is an annoying person buzzing in your ear, soaking up some of your glass of life’s finest, wounding you with words, overstaying their welcome in your world or tempting you to react in a crazy way; just remember this: they bleed too. You never know what’s going on behind the exterior they show the world. And the little bit of sweetness you share with them, might just possibly be their last.

Behind the cover of “grace”

The RiverOne of my favorite stories about my first fiction novel “grace” is about the cover. I had completed the manuscript and was struggling through the cover images for it.  A few years prior, I moved to the Scottsdale condo community where I currently reside. All my neighbors and community pointed out that I was closest neighbor to Heidi Rosner, the artist.  I knew nothing about her except that she was very well liked in the community and was an artist.

For the record, I don’t believe in coincidences and I am a somewhat private person. Yet, God kept nagging at me to talk with her about the cover.  Up to this point, we had only brief conversations and interaction as she spends much of her time at her other home in California and I was working three jobs at the time. Nonetheless, opportunities kept presenting this one particular day when I should have asked her, but I chickened out.

I was returning from getting my mail and Heidi approached me!  We began a light conversation: “What have you been up to?” “Not too much.  You?”  blah-de-blah–I mentioned to her I was self-publishing a book in the near future and sure enough, the chance came up for me to ask her what medium of art she worked with. When she told me she was a painter mostly focusing on landscapes and florals, I was urged to question her if she would be interested about doing a book cover.

“Well, tell me about your book.” Heidi asked.

I stammered on about the southern Oregon setting, the four friends that it centers around and their struggles with life, death, forgiveness, faith, etc.

“So what’s it called?” She asks.

“Grace,” and when I answered with this, I was not expecting her response.  Her lips quivered, jaw clenched and tears filled her eyes. “Are you okay?” I was stupified. What had I said???

“Julie, I have been feeling my mom’s presence with me today.  Really.  All day just feeling her talking with me.  She passed away just a few weeks ago. I recently returned from her funeral. Her name was Grace.” (this is a paraphrase but pretty darn accurate!)

Now it was my turn to have the lips quiver, eyes fill with tears, etc.

And that was how “the Heidi Rosner” agreed to do the cover of “grace” with her amazing painting of THE RIVER.

PLEASE COME AND JOIN IN THE “CELEBRATION OF GRACE” AT A FREE COMMUNITY EVENT!
JUNE 1ST AT ASU’S SKYSONG CONVERGENCE ROOM (SE corner of McDowell Rd and Scottsdale Rd)
Enjoy a free continental breakfast and hear a reading from “grace”
A book signing and Raffle will follow.
Event is FROM 10 AM TO NOON
(for more info check details at AZCentral.com, Phoenix New Times.com and on the events page at K-LOVE.com)
“grace” will be available at the event ($15.20 for SC, $33.75 HC and $5.00 for the e-book) and also at Amazon.com and other online retailers.