A to Z 2014

A to Z 2014
A to Z 2014

Saturday, April 12, 2014

G is for Grave Stones



It was a mellow spring day, blue skies, just the right amount of heat, soft white clouds and the wonderful smell of moist dirt after a long, frozen, winter.  I quietly threaded my way around the grave stones, admiring the old wrought iron fence that protected the perimeters of this cemetery

At the back of the grave yard where periwinkle grew wild some of the head stones were so old that the writing once etched on their faces could no longer be read.  But others had survived the elements and I carefully read the words that described the people buried here for eternity.  "Here lies David B. Mier, loving husband and father.  He will be missed" RIP 1876 - 1930 .    Next to him was  Shirly D, Mier, 1880 - 1928 "Sleep on, sweet mother and wife,  And take thy rest, God called thee home, He thought it best.

As I continued my meanderings the epitaphs I was reading took on new meaning as the realization that when a loved one has been laid to rest it is here that we are given one final occasion to communicate to the world the significance that person held in our life. 

Epitaphs take on many forms and are derived from many sources.  Bereaved family members often chose a biblical verse as an epitaph as it may exhibit some virtuous quality that was a characteristic of the decedent's life.
Some chose to write a tombstone epitaph detailing the accomplishments of the decedent's life. Maybe the person was a great doctor who selflessly gave his time tending to the sick, or one who was known for their philanthropy or community service.
Some chose a humorous verse which I found spoke volumes about the dear departed.  For example,   Here lies Ezekial Aikle,  Age 102,  Only the good die young .

When a loved one has been laid to rest the final stage of closure involves the placement of a tombstone or grave marker identifying their grave. It is here that we are given one final occasion to communicate to the world the significance of our loved one.  Don't blow it, make it count, because a hundred years from now someone like me will come tiptoeing through and wonder what the person who lies here was like and what kind of story your life had to tell. 

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

F is for Flower Beds

It's winter. Even with global warming, that still means six solid months of nothing blooming in the flower beds. Four months in which the most exhilarating of all forms of exercise—digging—is impossible because the ground is frozen as hard as a cast-iron pan. An entire season in which there is no happily wandering the aisles of a good nursery.

Winter is tough for gardeners in northern Michigan to endure.   While you'll never catch me saying that I like winter, I do respect it.  I even consider it necessary.  Here's what a winter break does;  It keeps us from getting jaded. Erases from memory the excesses and failures of the year before. Allows us to believe that next year, for sure, it's all going to work—there will be no weeds, no drought, no dead-as-doornails $29 plants.

Winter is part of what makes gardening so addictive—it's a dreamy season of absurd longing and unreasonable hope. Since we can't plant real plants, we gardeners tend to read plant catalogs obsessively, getting a weird vicarious boost from their lush photographs of greenery and blooms.  We make unrealistic plans for the yard, unfettered by the limits of the space  or its soil conditions.
 By replacing reality with a make-believe canvas onto which we can project our own vision of paradise, winter keeps us from becoming too practical. That's important, because gardening is not a practical pursuit. Sure, it will allow us to keep the yard neat or grow a nice salad for dinner, but that isn't why we grub in the dirt on grimy knees swatting mosquitos and black flies.  We do it because we are chasing the mystery and miracle of life, and when we see our crocuses and lettuces and roses spring forth it brings us closer to it.

Winter keeps the gardener reaching for that mystery. And when all those plants we ordered in fits of winter madness actually do show up in the spring, demanding to be planted, the garden really does become more beautiful (or at least more crowded) every year.  In gardening, it's the off-season that makes the game.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

E is for Exorcisim

She managed to convey a deep distain with just a casual shrug of her slim shoulder.  Glittering golden eyes fringed with too long lashes slowly swept the crowd, red lips slightly parted to show perfectly aligned white teeth.  The slight sneer on her face showed no trace of fear as the crowd before her moved rhythmically to the beat of the drums.

As if on cue she raised both arms outstretched to the mob in front of her.  Instantly all went quiet.  Slowly the people parted to make way for the misshapen figure who stumped his way through the crowd toward the figure on the dais.  His gnarled gray hair fell in tangled rope braids around his squat body as he walked forward with the aid of a cane.   Those closest slunk back unwilling to look upon those unseeing milky white eyes. 

 But Yawara was not scared  though she had every reason to be.  Every year one village girl was selected to appease Gojan, the spirit who dwelt in the forest, thereby assuring the well being of the tribe.  She had always known it was to be her and she was prepared.   As the shaman approached, Yawara rose to her full height and stared down at the grotesque priest who approached her.

Blind though he may be he had the inner sight his occupation required.  He had performed this ritual many, many, time but this time was different and his pace faltered as he neared the platform.  Yawara smiled slightly as she saw his hesitation.   Yes revered one, you can feel it too can't you?  The forest spirit has changed and we must adapt if we are to survive.  Without hesitation she lowered herself to the ground and slowly approached the priest who stood waiting as though it was he, not she who was about to be sacrificed.

Spellbound the crowd watched as Yawara pulled a small wooden cross from under her tunic.  "I exorcise Gojan," she cried to the crowd raising the cross over her head, "behold the new spirit of the forest and from henceforth his name shall be God.   

Friday, April 4, 2014

D is for Dwarf


 As a little girl I was captivated by the tale of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.  Cut out figures of the Walt Disney characters decorated the walls of my bedroom and at night, once the lights were out, they became my guardians helping to keep the boogey man at bay.  I can still hear Snow White singing, "Some day my prince will come."

Disney may have capitalized on the characters Grumpy, Sleepy, Happy, and Doc, but he certainly didn't invent these magical creatures.  Ultimately Snow White's protectors were portrayed as benevolent and helpful, but not so the case in Scandinavian mythology where dwarfs are more commonly depicted as unpleasant, stubborn, and distrustful small humanlike creatures. They generally look like old men with long beards and are often ugly or misshapen.

In Norse mythology, dwarfs are usually male and often live in forests, in mountains, or in out-of-the-way places. Dwarfs who dwell in the mountains are highly skilled metalworkers and artisans who have supernatural powers and make special gifts for the gods, such as a magic spear for Odin, the king of the gods and a hammer for Thor, the god of thunder.  Dwarfs also appear in Germanic history, Central American mythology, North American legends, and even Hawaiian lore.

These stories are ancient but still they persist and I can't help but admire the brilliance of the storytellers who created these fanciful beings that are still relevant today.  How about you, do you believe in fairies, elves, and other magical or supernatural creatures?


Thursday, April 3, 2014

C is for Christian Louboutin

Like 99.9% of all women I am a serious shoe freak..  I have a closet full of shoes and it's a running joke with my grandkids who is going to inherit my shoe collection.  Unfortunately my budget is more Steve Madden than Christian Louboutin but a girl can dream can't she? 
So for those of you with inquiring minds, here are a few facts about the famous 47 year old French sole man who is behind the sexy, sky-high, signature red-soled shoes, which have been seen on the feet of superstars including Angelina Jolie, Scarlett Johannson and Jennifer Lopez (who has a song about the shoes called "Louboutins"). Even Barbie dolls have their own custom mini-sized Louboutins.
Mr. Louboutin practices the trapeze and rides around Paris on a bright red Vespa scooter, can often be found at his atelier, where his famed shoes are designed and handmade.  Louboutins can sell from $495 and up, with crystal-encrusted pair costing $6,000.  While fashion overrides comfort (many of his shoes are seven-inch high heels), the designer says that his obsession with high-heeled shoes started on a visit to a Paris museum in 1976. While inside, Louboutin said he saw a sign that had a picture of a high-heeled shoe with an X over it, indicating women were not allowed to wear them in the museum. "It was crossed...like, forbidden, in red," he said. "It was a forbidden sketch."
From then on, the young designer started sketching shoes any chance he got, including during his studies. He was expelled from school at age 16.  He left home, studying design by day and spending his nights as a freelance shoe designer in Paris, making shoes for burlesque show girls before starting his own company in 1989.  The story behind the red sole is that he had a girl working with him, trying on the shoes. So when she was not trying on shoes, she sort of had nothing to do, so she was sort of waiting, and doing her nails, and he thought, why, this shoe has to have a black sole?  So he grabbed her nail polish, and painted the soles. It was then that his signature red sole was born and he claims that his red soles attract men, the way a bull is attracted to a red cape.
I will probably never own a pair of his famous shoes but the next time I see them on the feet of some famous actress I'll bet I am more informed, and now so are you.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

B is for Boredom

When you pay attention to boredom it gets unbelievably interesting.  What is it and why do we experience it?  Do animals get bored?  Do new born babies get bored?   Are goldfish bored swimming around in their little goldfish bowls?

I remember as a kid whining to my mom, "I'm bored, there's nothing to do," and her standard reply was always, "Then go outside and play."  She was smart enough not to 'fix' my boredom, rather she let me find my own inner resources.  Whether she was consciously teaching me a lesson or just getting me out of her hair, the result was the same.  I learned to entertainment myself. 

I recently read that, "boredom is the feeling that everything is a waste of time; serenity that nothing is."  I totally buy in to this theory.  When you live in the moment, you pay attention and appreciate what you are doing.  Even the most mundane task becomes less boring if you practice this.  For example, if you are washing dishes enjoy the feel of the hot, soapy water, hold the glass up to see it sparkle, enjoy the scent of whatever dish detergent you use and when the job is done relish that your kitchen is once again neat and tidy.  Keep your mind focused on what you are doing in the present and don't  let it race ahead to the next thing on your agenda.  Remember, boredom is a state of mind not a state of being.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

A is for Absence

A is for Absence
I  intended to write this piece about the absence of happiness and well being.  You see in February I learned that I had lung cancer which I must say came as a huge shock to me, a non-smoker.  And unfortunately this is not my first experience with cancer.  In 2010 I was successfully treated for breast cancer.

Facing two life threatening illnesses in less than four years would knock the wind out of anyone's  sails, right?  I can't help but feel betrayed by my own body and in very weak moments I wonder why me God?  To add insult to injury, at the time of my diagnosis I was suppose to be leaving for a once in a life time trip to Hawaii with my best friend.  Yup, sometimes life just doesn't seem fair but then whoever said it was?

I changed my ticket destination from Honolulu, Hawaii to Rochester, Minnesota and instead of packing bathing suits and sandals I filled my luggage with sweaters and warm socks (yes, I shed a few tears) and headed to Mayo Brothers Clinic.  I'm currently undergoing six weeks of radiation and chemotherapy and living in Hope Lodge which is a wonderful place that provides housing for in-treatment cancer patients at no charge.

I've been here three weeks now and this is the first time in my adult life that I have been totally alone without family and friends close by.  As I said earlier, I planned this piece to be about the absence of well being because that is how I was feeling but as I began to write I started to view this experience in a new light.

They say there are no such thing as coincidences and I believe that.  I think "coincidences" are our guardian angels guiding us but if you are a skeptic you be the judge:

Coincidence #1 - It was a fluke that my lung cancer was even discovered as I had no symptoms.   I caught a particularly nasty flu virus that was going around at work, went to the walk-in-clinic and a chest x-ray showed something "suspicious".

Coincidence #2 -  A girlfriend of mine arranged for me to meet a friend of hers who previously had lung cancer.  He gave me some very good advice.  Do not waste time with local doctors and small town hospitals.  Go to Mayo Clinic.   It is not something I would have even considered but after talking to him I immediately made plans to do just that.

Coincidence #3 - Because I had been saving money for my Hawaiian vacation I had the funds needed to make two separate trips to Mayo Brothers for additional testing.   

Coincidence #4 - The exact day I began treatment at Mayo Brothers a room became available at Hope Lodge.  They tell me that never happens, it is usually a seven to ten day wait.  I would have had to stay at a hotel until there was an opening which would have been extremely hard financialy.

Coincidence #5 - Well this isn't really a coincidence.  All the love, support, well wishes and prayers from my family, friends, coworkers and acquaintances has totally lifted my spirit.  Never underestimate how much a kind word or deed means to someone who is struggling.

Mayo Clinic is an eye opener.  When I came here I was feeling very sorry for myself but everywhere I look there are people struggling with serious illness and disease.  My problems seem small in comparison when I see a young mother who's child just had a bone marrow transplant or the  newly wed who had a brain tumor removed and is going through radiation.

I saved the best for last.  The other eye opener is how many wonderful, caring people donate their time and services to complete strangers.  Volunteers who walk through the chemo wards offering cold drinks and snacks, the lady who mans the desk at Hope Lodge every Saturday afternoon to "give back" because her husband once stayed there, folks who drop off homemade goodies or hand knitted hats for the residents, and many more.

So what started out as a blog on the absence of happiness and well being has morphed in to a reminder to count your blessings. They are always there, sometimes we just have to look a little harder to find them.