We Are America


The American flag flies proudly on my front porch from Memorial Day to Veterans’ Day each year.  I choose to tuck it away during the winter months, away from the sleet, snow, and winds.  I have always been proud of our country, but for the last few years, there has been a change in the way we function together.  Of course, there were always disagreements, and the political parties seldom agreed, but there was a spirit of compromise.  Without compromise, nothing is accomplished.  We are no longer united, and our divisions become deeper and more volatile as each year passes.

Politicians choose a platform, and refuse to compromise.  If they do change their feelings about issues, colleagues and citizens view this as a weakness, a “flip-flop”, or as an attempt to mislead others.  Intelligent, thoughtful people do change their minds over the years — their insights grow over time.  Our country is better off with leaders who can see both sides of a situation, and use their knowledge and intellect to find compromise over divisive issues.

Personally, there have been two issues, which are still relevant today, on which I have altered my original rigid positions.  When I was young, it was my religious belief that abortion was wrong, and that it should be illegal in our country.  As I grew older, I realized that this was my personal view, but if I looked at it another way, I could see that our country was founded on freedom of religion, and majority rule.  It was not my place to decide that abortion should not be legal.  I still do not believe abortion is right  but I do believe that the majority of people in this country decided it should be legal, and that is how it should be.  Just my opinion.

The second issue, gun control, is one that is passionately debated in our country.  When I was young, a friend of ours was killed when a rifle accidentally discharged as he was removing it from his car.  This was a boy who hunted and was familiar with firearms, and yet he was dead.  For years this colored my views on gun control.  I felt that if there had been gun control, Bruce would still be alive.  And, of course, we have had too many murders, and too many mass shootings through the years.  However, I have thoughtfully considered this subject for a long time, now, and my views have changed.  I still believe there should be strict background checks when guns are purchased, and stricter controls at gun shows.  I still feel that automatic weapons should be outlawed.   I believe gun control is an issue that must be discussed calmly and rationally.  I notice that much of the division over gun control lies between city dwellers and those who live in the country.  People in the city see gang shootings and domestic shootings and think that if gun controls were more strict, we would have less killing.  Those in the country see their guns as a tool.  They hunt with them; they protect their families and livestock from the dangerous wildlife that roam the countryside.  City dwellers are also probably not aware of how long it may take police to arrive on the scene when you live in the country.  If someone is threatening your family, a gun may be your only protection.  There will always be “crazies” in this world who use guns for the wrong purposes, but these same crazies will find other ways to kill if they don’t have access to guns.  We have already seen knives and bombs used in mass killings.  I believe we must recognize the reasons why so many people are adamant about their right to bear arms.  Again just my opinion.

Unfortunately, there are no perfect solutions to most of the issues that face our country today.  However, maintaining your “rightness” instead of listening to all sides of an issue solves nothing.  I truly believe that our country will not be healed until people are willing to talk TO each other about the divisive issues, not AT each other.  We need to really listen to each other and understand the reasoning behind other people’s stands on issues. 

And most importantly, we must encourage our leaders to do the same.  We must not accuse candidates of being “flip-floppers” just because they have changed their minds on issues through the years.  Times change, situations change, and I would certainly hope that the leaders we choose feel free to change their own minds. 

We are all Americans; we all love our country and want a successful, thriving democracy, but at this point we are losing ground.  This inability for parties to work together is tearing us apart.  They must learn to find common ground, and so must we, if our beloved country is to survive.  It begins with us!!

Looking Back at Me


I open an old notebook and I am transported back twenty years.  This is what I had written all those years ago:

“Here, I cross a river…I am standing on the threshold…a new life beckons me on.  My youngest child just turned thirteen.  Gone is the life of earth mother, baby tender, Brownie leader, room mother, a life filled with the sounds of childish laughter, sleepless nights, chicken pox and tenderness.  My new life is transitional — there is still soul tending, character building and mothering to be done — but I am beginning to ponder the choices of my life yet to come.

There are so many possibilities — so many interests and joys awaiting me as I cross this river.  I am like a teen again, wondering, “what will I be when I grow up?”  Sometimes the various pieces of me are astonishing  — these disparate yearnings, joys and abilities.  I stood at the Garth Brooks concert, clapping and singing — loving the beat of the music which moves me to dance and feel wild and free.  Earlier that same day I had been distributing fliers to neighbors in an attempt to thwart commercial development in our lovely old historic neighborhood — loving its quiet, respectable character.  One piece of me is a like a teenaged boy who loves loud cars and speed.  Another piece is the gentle, nurturing soul who will mother just about anything in its vicinity.  There is a piece which loves the beauty and serenity of my flower garden, and the piece which loves to roll down the car window and blast rock music into the air, the piece that loves antique china, silver and linens, and the piece that couldn’t bear to miss the “Dukes of Hazzard” reunion with its “good ole boy” stories and handsome country boys.  And, how can this person who watches over her elderly neighbors so tenderly, and lovingly babysits for a neighbor’s two-year-old every weekend, be such an angry tigress when someone wrongs a child?

Which paths will I follow when I have crossed this river — when my time is my own, my day-to-day mothering is over?  The possibilities are endless — the choices are mine alone to make.  Will I be selfless and choose paths which nurture humankind or will I choose to nurture my own unique interests and joys…or will I somehow blend all the pieces into a life that contains the love and richness I have known throughout my mothering years?”

As I read these heartfelt paragraphs today, I consider my life then, and through all the years hence.  There has been sadness and loss, but there has also been happiness.  One of my most cherished dreams never came true, but I have made peace with that.  The choices I made were most often responsible and nurturing, but beneath this silver hair and textured skin there still beats the heart of a rebel.  Growing older has given me an inner peace which is a blessing, but every once in a while that bit of rebel comes out, and I am so pleased that it has never disappeared.  I call it joy. 



Ode to August


Of all the months of the year, I believe August is my favorite.  There is a palpable change during this month that speaks quietly to those of us who are attuned to nature.  Goldenrod and purple loosestrife begin to bloom along the roadside and in the fields.  The hydrangeas which were small white blooms short weeks ago are now full, cream-colored flowers that fill your hands with their beauty.  

Dawn is coming a bit later now, and the raucous birdsong of spring has been replaced by a quieter twittering here and there as the sun rises.  The air seems heavier, somehow, and cicadas chirp, as if to announce that summer is half over.  The long twilight of early summer is replaced by a swifter nightfall, one of deep quiet, as the birds settle into their roosts for the night and the lightning bugs sparkle in the heavy darkness.

My father always took his vacation in August, so I have many fond memories of the late summers of my childhood.  When my children were young, August was the “last hurrah” of summer vacation — the time to make sure we did all of the things we had meant to do when the long weeks of summer first lay before us.  Even today, it catches me a bit by surprise, as I try to fit in all that I haven’t done yet that I intended to — day trips here and there, special times with friends, a trip to the amusement park with my grandchildren.

The garden changes drastically this month.  The delicate flowers of spring are long gone, the purple coneflowers are losing their brightness, and the Rose of Sharon blooms are dwindling down.  The zinnias are beginning their late summer bloom, the herb garden is in its typical late summer frenzy, and soon the hydrangeas will turn a dusky rose color and will be ready to hang and dry for fall arrangements. 

This is the month to slow down a bit, savor the sunshine, the flowers, and the delicious vegetables warm from the garden.  This is the time to fry up a batch of zucchini fritters, feast on ears of sweet corn, and enjoy the simple, delectable tomato sliced and served on bread spread lightly with mayonnaise.  This is the time to take walks in your neighborhood and really notice the beauty around you, and to watch the squirrels gathering nuts, and to sit on the porch and let night fall heavily upon you, as the katydids sing their song.  This is the month to hold tight to summer, because in a heartbeat it will be gone again.


Finding Happiness




Happiness is defined differently by everyone.  Some people are born with happy spirits, and others spend their lives searching for an elusive happiness.  I was fortunate to be one of those born with a spirit that finds happiness in simple pleasures.  When I was young, I dreamed of a “happily every after,” which never came to be.  My marriage was a difficult one.  We worked very hard at our family business, but never seemed to make quite enough to succeed, and my husband became partially disabled just before recession hit our country and bankrupted us.

I was blessed with three beautiful children, who were the greatest gifts of my life, and now I have been fortunate to be very close to my grandchildren, who have filled my heart with love since the first moment I held them as newborns.  Who can be unhappy when your heart is full?

Somehow, though, as I reach my “golden years” I find that I must work a bit harder at being happy.  My husband’s disability left him with a fatigue which makes any enjoyable outings difficult.  We struggle financially, so even a dinner out is a rarity.  I have begun to have some of the health issues which come with aging, and I find that, even with health insurance, our co-pays and prescriptions take a large chunk of money from our budget.  I listen to friends talking about their vacations and evenings out, and I can’t help but feel a bit envious.  I watch older couples whose marriages are strong and loving, and I wish my own had been better.   

I am, however, surrounded by blessings; as I sit here writing, the birds are singing outside my window, the early morning sunlight touches the lovely trees in our neighborhood, and the air is perfumed with the phlox blooming beside my porch.  I find great comfort in my lovely old Victorian home — she may be a bit frayed around the edges, as am I, but she has been my safe haven for forty-five years, holding all of my cherished belongings and memories.

And so, I try to find my happiness in these simple gifts life offers.  I read and I write; I sit on my lovely porch and watch the birds, squirrels, chipmunks and deer at the bird feeders.  I tend my garden and look with joy upon each new blossom.  I spend time with friends and family.  A simple lunch with a good friend is a joyful event.  Listening to the chatter of my grandchildren fills my heart.  A walk with a neighbor through a local garden or trail can be the highlight of a day.  A meal with my children is always a special treat.  I have found that happiness is not something that “comes to us.”   We must discover it for ourselves in each small moment of our days.


A Wake Up Call to Congress??


On a bright, sunny morning this week, as Republican Congressmen were practicing for a charity baseball game, a lone gunman appeared and began to shoot.  Fortunately, Capitol Police were there, and the gunman was shot quickly, but not before inflicting life-threatening injuries to one Congressman and wounding others.  Media accounts have told us that the shooter was a disgruntled Bernie Sanders supporter.

My hope, and I pray it is so, is that this shooting will have a lasting impact on the way our politicians conduct themselves.  Speeches were made by members of Congress, acknowledging that the relationship between the Democrats and Republicans has deteriorated in the past few years.  Some remembered the days when after a particularly heated argument over an issue, members of both parties would meet socially and leave their animosity behind.  Apparently this rarely happens anymore.  

Our political world has become increasingly divisive, both in the halls of Congress, and during campaigning.  Our government has set aside the art of compromise for the total power of the majority party.  Unfortunately, our citizens have also become increasingly partisan.  The news media, which throughout history, adhered to journalistic rules, has become a stew of slanted stories and innuendo.  The media which does strive to provide us with unbiased truth is often difficult to distinguish from this toxic stew.  The internet and social media have contributed mightily to this partisanship, with half-truths and outright lies about politicians rampant — it is difficult for all but the most discerning reader to know whether something they hear or read is truth or slander.  Our recent Presidential campaign was filled with grade-school level name-calling and bullying which was disgusting.

Our great country has long been comprised by people of markedly different beliefs, lifestyles, occupations, needs, and regional backgrounds.  The college professor often has a very different world view from the corporate CEO.  The low-income city dweller has entirely different problems from the struggling farmer in the heartland.  This is one reason why the House of Representatives is so important to our democracy.  Their districts are small enough, so if they diligently perform their duties, they interact with their constituents on a more personal basis and understand their needs and beliefs.  However, this is no longer meaningful if the majority party in Congress will not include the minority party in its lawmaking process.  The constituents of the minority party lose their voice entirely.

To me, the shooting this week illustrated the great anger and frustration felt by citizens in our country.  Obviously, this was a tragic and horrific illustration, but it should be a wake-up call to our leaders.  Hatred and divisiveness feed the worst in all of us.  We must try to “ramp down” the tone that has infiltrated our society.  Of course, we can all strive to refrain from passing on the hateful rhetoric we hear and read.  That is one step.  However, I firmly believe that at this point, the “ramping down” must begin from the top.  Hopefully, Congress will begin once again to put country before party, to be inclusive rather than exclusive, and to work to solve the problems of the entire country, not just those of the majority party constituents or the largest campaign contributors.




The Many Faces of Mothering


This Mothers Day Weekend, I have been musing about motherhood in all of its forms. On this special day, we celebrate our mothers.  As I look back through the years, I was extremely fortunate.  My mother was loving, gentle, and kind, and she lives on in my heart, though she has been gone from my life for sixteen years now.  However, I was also blessed with a grandmother who lived with us and cared for me with deep love, and an aunt who was always a “second mother” to me.   How much more love and security can a young girl need?

I also began thinking of the women throughout my life who also “mothered” me.  As a young woman, a close neighbor provided much support through difficult times, and even though time and space separated us, when she died last year at 95, I felt like I had lost another mother.  A woman who had never had children of her own — who had spent her life with no inclination towards motherhood, became a close friend and mentor to me when my children were older.  She often told me I was the daughter she would have liked to have, and I still remember her special caring and support as a form of mothering.  As we age, our daughters often begin to “mother” us — I can feel this happening already with my own daughter as she watches out for her father and me.

As I write this today, I am thinking not only of my special mother, but of mothers everywhere — those who give birth to children, those who adopt, those who mother step-children and neglected children and the children of friends and family, those whose hearts break over babies lost and children who died much too young, and those who pour their love out to pets and abandoned animals.

Mothering does not necessitate giving birth to a child.  There are mothers all around us who don’t fit the traditional definition of “mother”, and yet their love, support, and gentle guidance have made the world a better place.

Happy Mothers’ Day to ALL Mothers!!!

The Home of Beloved Hand-Me-Downs


Spring has arrived, although slowly and taking two steps backward for each one forward.  Yesterday I began my yearly ritual of pulling my old wicker out and placing it on the front porch.  I hung the wind chimes, and as I sit here writing this morning, their sweet music floats on the cool spring air.  My old Victorian house has two porches — one wrap-around front porch which is home to my old wicker and my houseplants during the summer, and my enclosed back porch which houses my collection of bird decor, a wrought iron table and chairs, and a wicker set I picked up from a consignment shop.  My newest addition to the back porch this year is a beautiful wreath of flowers and miniature birdhouses — it is a beloved hand-me-down from a friend.

Actually, my house itself is a hand-me-down of sorts.  Before we bought it over forty years ago, it belonged to my husband’s great-uncle.  The moment I stepped inside I was in love with its many-windowed rooms, polished pocket doors, beautiful front stairway and the thought of those whose lives had been lived out within these walls.  From the beginning, I furnished the house with bits and pieces from family members — old bedroom sets, dining room furniture passed down from a great-grandfather; even my babies slept in the crib their father and aunt had slept in years before them.

Through the many years since, I have tended to search at garage sales and estate sales for items to fill my home.  While there is very little monetary value to the pieces I have gathered through the years, they are treasures to me.  The old family pieces — my grandfather’s desk, my grandmother’s hope chest, my mother’s dressing table — fill my heart each time I see them.  My mother-in-law’s cut-glass bowls sit proudly in my dining room in different seasons.  There are family stories behind so many of my possessions — stories I have tried to pass down to my children and grandchildren.   There are memories of my own purchases as I poked through musty old antique stores — the lovely soup bowls which matched my mother’s good dishes, the delicate blue & white teapot and tiny teacups that called out to me one day.  As I walked through an estate sale recently, I held a softly knit shawl in my arms and ran my fingers over the texture, wondering who had carefully knit it and whose shoulders had been warmed each evening in its softness.


There are those who love the sleek and modern, but my heart has always yearned for the imperfect mystery of the well-used.  We were given an old family Victrola several years ago, and as I dusted it one day, I noticed the name “Linda” scratched unobtrusively on its surface; Linda is one of my husband’s cousins, and today the old Victrola has made its way to her home — back to the one who loved it so much she inscribed her name upon it.  As I dust the furniture, wash the linens, arrange flowers in the lovely old vases, and hand wash delicate china, I wonder how many hands have cared for these pieces, and how much laughter and tears they have witnessed through their long lives.  I feel a bond with those who came before me and called these hand-me-downs their own.

For now, all of these old possessions — my cozy old house, my furniture which bears the marks of family life, my old books, my teddy bear collection, my quilts and china and wicker — add warmth and depth to my life.  My own memories, and my curiosities about those who loved these items before me are part of the fabric of my everyday existence.  My hope is that some of my most precious items will be passed on to family members and friends who will cherish them.  If not, though, they will be placed on estate sale tables and picked up gently by those who will treasure them for their beauty and the unknown stories that they carry with them.  In the meantime, this hand-me-down old house has been my shelter and comfort for the better part of my life, and I am so grateful.