Friday, September 7, 2018

Strands of Silver

I thought I would be brave and that I would not cry,
But cry I did,
When I made that call to have my 
strands of silver 
shorn.  

Shorn.
So many images come to mind when I speak the word.
Sheep in the pasture after shearing look so 
Naked.
So exposed.
Powerless,
 they are led to the shearing shed
 where their wool is cut and gathered.

Shorn.
The word can be used to describe depriving someone from power once wielded.

Shorn.
Yes, the days when my hair could be brandished,
Shown off for its natural curl and color,
Are gone.

I held on to those silver curls 
Because I needed to twirl them in my fingers,
Wash them,
Shake them out,
Ply them,
Remember when once they wielded power over all the other girls with straight locks whom looked at me with envy after a day of swimming.

In those days,
Days of my youth,
I did not flaunt my curls on purpose.
In fact,
I did not love them.
I did not embrace them.
I fought them.
I straightened them.
Tape.
Orange juice cans.
Wrapping strands of hair on great big rollers
Before I went to bed.
Blow driers.
Hot irons.
Curling irons.
Reverse perms.
I tried them all methods I ever knew of to try to achieve the looks the other girls had.
I did not want my curls.
I did not want those unique locks.

Curls 
have always been a major part of my identity.




There once was a little girl
With a little curl
Right in the middle of her forehead.
That was me.

When I was older,
I let my hair go silver, and it was a beautiful silver.
I also learned to embrace my curls.



And then,
I began to lose those silver strands of hair.

Strand,
By 
Strand
Hair fell from my head over many days and nights.
Eight years of days and nights where hair fell out.

Silver would cover my clothing.
Silver strands would tangle in my fingers as I washed my hair.
It was a 
Slow
Shedding
Of
Silver 
Strands.

Shorn
By a strange disease,
Scars
Replaced where each of my hair 
follicles once flourished.

Today, 
I ran my fingers through those very few 
strands of silver
for
one last time.
My fingers where tangled in the 
silver strands
that have been deserting me.
 
Silver strands on a headband
I am done.
It is now time 
to wield
 my own power.

Today, I will be 
Shorn
Of these 
Silver strands forever.








Friday, August 24, 2018

A Second Blooming

Stuck
I often struggle with becoming unstuck.
I read in a book about grief that one must guard against becoming stuck in one stage of grief.
Life is the same way.
One must guard against becoming stuck in one stage of life or another.

I have a wise and wonderful advisor and friend in my life.
She recently asked me where I was in my grief journey.
As I often do, instead of directly answering the question, I told a story.
I also showed her a photo to go with my story.  

The photo was of my amazing daisy plant.  It has bloomed itself crazy this year.


When the daisy was blooming at its very finest, a friend came by to spend the afternoon on my back deck visiting.  She asked just what I had done to produce such a beautiful plant.  Honestly, I just planted it in the right location for sunlight and drainage, and I then watered it.  For several weeks, I enjoyed the positive comments that came my way because of Miss Daisy’s performance.

Then one day, Miss Daisy didn’t bloom anymore.

I just could not leave that beautiful plant in her current state.
My Daisy needed a hair cut.
July’s appearance had been stunning,
but by mid-August she just was not looking quite the same.
I knew she looked tired, spent, and all dried up, but
I knew my dear Daisy was not through blooming.

She might not bloom as gloriously as she had earlier, but she was not dead yet!



Sure enough, as I began to clip away at the blooms that were no longer beautiful,
hidden beneath the spent blossoms were
 new buds just waiting to have their chance
 to show up and  bloom in the sun.
The new buds would never see the sunshine, 
nor would they have the room to bloom again
 if I had not
 cut off the remains of the blooming which had already occurred.


After I related this gardening story to my wise and wonderful friend, I said, 
“Let me tie all this together,” 
  You did ask me a question about where I was in my grief journey.
The answer is:
I’m growing.
I’ve learned some very important lessons in trying to remain unstuck.

In order to grow, 
to bloom, 
to not become stuck in grief 
or in other areas of my life which are stuck in the past,
where I have carried unrealistic expectations,
I too must remove those things from my life which no longer bear fruit.

 Holding on to outdated beliefs about how life should be,
practicing old habits that are not productive,
hanging on to things that were once in their glory in my life,
prevent me from moving forward in life.

As every good gardener knows, time in the garden is not just spent on planting.
Time must be spent on deadheading also.
Get rid of the spent blooms.
Give the plant a chance to bloom again.

Real life deadheading is never fun.
It hurts when we experience parts of our lives being pruned and cut back.
We feel as if we have been shorn when we are going through such an experience,
but in the end,
we bloom again when we allow all the dross to be cut away.


Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Summer is Fading Away

On a Sunday morning in late August, sidewalk art caught my eye.  Even though it seemed a bit crazy to do, I stopped to take a photo of an image that provided me with a metaphoric representation of a message I have been unwilling to accept:  Summer is fading away.



The faded sidewalk art must have been so bright and colorful on the day that an unknown artist brightened up a bit of sidewalk by painting a sunflower.  I imagined the artist painting the flower in anticipation of an upcoming festival at the beginning of the summer.  Since that day, many feet have passed over the painted flower throughout the summer.  Its brightness has faded as the paint was slowly chipped way to leave only a faint rendering of the original image.  

Artists do not paint on sidewalks if they wish the art they are making to last long.   As I age, I find that like temporary sidewalk art, I am very aware that summer seems to be the most fleeting of all the seasons.  It is also the season I most wish to extend.  I wish to deny that another summer is ending which means that the days ahead will be less full of sunshine, flowers, and warmth.   

Flowers can't bloom forever.  For everything there is a season.  I can't deny that truth.  I am grateful for each season of the year.  Each is needed in the cycle of life where I live.  I would not want to live where I wouldn't be able to enjoy the changes that each season brings.   I am also grateful for each season of life, but as I age, I find myself asking myself how many more summers I will have where I will be able to do all those things that make summer so special.  

Summer ~ A Time to Be Outdoors

I live at the base of the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.  My walks, while healthy for my body, are even more beneficial for mental health.  

In the evening, as the sun begins to set, I see some spectacular sights. Ending a day gazing at a sky filled with light and shadow reminds me that while I might have experienced both light and shadow throughout the day, it is the light that not shine through but also lifts my eyes upward.  Light pierces the darkness as the day ends, and my soul finds peace as I reflect up the message of hope that shines brightly before my very eyes. 





Each day I look for opportunities for finding the silver lining behind every dark cloud.  We just have look for those silver linings.  I've found that I usually can find them in every situation.


I share my daytime walks with the many wildlife creatures that live near my home.  I never know what creature I may encounter along the way.  Can you see a doe poking her head between these walls and houses as she searches for food or shelter?


As I got closer to this sweet little doe, she seemed so small and vulnerable as she stood behind some bushes.  I noted her skinny little legs and inquired as to her health.  She just watched me with her soft doe eyes as I passed by without making any comment or movement.  I do hope she is well.



As much as I fret and fume over the damage the deer do, I also feel so much compassion for these beautiful creatures who find themselves living in an urban setting which is really not healthy for them.  

Summer ~ A Time for Creativity 

As with every summer, I began this summer with high hopes for the small garden plots I worked to create around the perimeters of my house.  The grasshoppers, the slugs, the rabbits, and the deer all have feasted on my plantings.  Needless to say, my impossible garden did not live up to my expectations, nor did I see my dreams of flower blooming around my house realized. I did manage to get one bouquet from the delphiniums I planted before the bucks showed up and ate the plants down to the ground.  These blooms represent a victory of sorts and my determination that I will grow flowers in this environment that seems to be set against me doing so.  
Many evenings and afternoons were spent on the back deck writing in my journal or reading.  I love summer evenings spent in the quiet solitude provided by my back deck.  


Summer ~ A Time To Enjoy My Man & My Dog


I do think dogs enrich our lives so much.  This special companion is so loved by us both, but there is no denying that Boston is Jim's special boy.  We love taking him for walks.  We are all three getting older, and sadly Boston has developed a limp due to hip dysplasia.  The vet says he must lose some weight.  Hmmmm.   The doctor told us the same thing, so we all three must keep up the walks and start limiting the food.  



Summer ~ A Time for Limited Structure to Schedules

In summer, I find I return to the types of schedules I liked to keep when I was teaching and summer vacation finally rolled around. I like to read fluffy novels that keep me up late at night.  I love going to bed late.  I like sleeping with the windows open so I can feel the cool mountain breeze flow down through the valley where we live and through our bedroom as we sleep.  I love being awakened by the chimes from Mount St. Francis a mile from my home.  I love not having a strict schedule.  I have purposed having a healing, relaxing, and mostly stress free summer.  

I accomplished that by spending a lot of time right here on my very own front patio.  



Summers spent with those you love most in settings that bring joy and peace are the very best kinds of summer to have.

How was your summer?  What did you do this summer?






Monday, August 20, 2018

Blogging Woes ~ A plea for help

I am about to throw in the towel on Blogger!  After blogging for just over a decade, I suddenly no longer understand Blogger at all.  Today, I took a bit of a memory walk down my blogging history timeline.  When I did that, I knew for sure I am not ready to give up blogging, but I also knew I needed to reach out to those of you still blogging on a regular basis and see if you could give me some support and answer some questions for me.

My desk is way too clean, and my computer is lonely because I never touch her anymore.  She wants me to start writing blog posts again.



Here are some of some stats about my blog:
  • I have published 346 blog posts!  That amazes me. 
  • According to Blogger, my first blog post, published June 25, 2008, had nine (9) views.
  • My next post, was not published until November of 2008.  It had 24 views.
  • It was not until October of 2009 that I had any readers outside the family whom actually left a comment on my blog.  
  • My first real follower, or reader, was Jann from www.benchmark60.blogspot.com.  She identified herself as #1Nana.  We became blog friends and later met in person more than once when we joined other bloggers for a weekend on Vashion Island.  We called ourselves the Vashionistas.
    The first Vasionista Gathering in 2012
    Sandi, Deb, Linda, DJan, and Jann
Bloggers blogging at a blogger gathering.
The Vashionistas at the second gathering in 2013
Jann, Sally, Deb

  • After my daughter died unexpectedly in June of 2010, the blogging community became a great source of support.  As I blogged of my experience, I gained not only readers, but great compassionate support from the blogging community.  
  • I have never understood the way spammer affect the numbers of views that a blog would have, but I know that as my views grew into the hundreds of views for one post, that I had spammers because I would get nonsense type comments.  
  • Throughout 2012 and 2013, I regularly had between 400 and 500 views of each post, and I would publish at least 20+ comments for each post.  I would not publish comments that appeared to be spam.
  • The top number of views that I had for any one post, was 14,778.  This post was commented on by 63 people, but I only published about 30 of those comments because of some the attacks that readers made on the comments of others.  This post, a remembrance,  was written after the death Kara Tippets, a dear, and much loved woman, whom had great influence me and so many others as she battled breast cancer.
  • I have used comments moderation since I very first started blogging.
  • My 70th birthday post written three years ago had 988 views.  
  • Travel posts and posts about family in 2016 continued to show high numbers of nearly 2,000 views throughout 2016.
  • Admittedly, I lost interest in blogging in 2017, and stopped posting on a regular basis.  One would expect readership to go down.  The views appear to have been in the 300 - 500 views per post range.  I continued to get a lot of comments.
  • Then, suddenly, the views seemed to stop, as did the comments.
I have never been concerned about numbers of followers, viewers, or readers.  Numbers just never mattered.  I was not using the blog as a source of income.  I did not sign-up for adsense.  I saw blogging as a way to stay connected to the broader world.  I have made friends through blogging, but some of those friends stopped blogging for a variety of reasons.  Blogging takes time and commitment and many just decided to stop spending time on blogging.

Blogging brought many people into my life whom I would never have met any other way.  Many fellow bloggers became great friends.  Many I have never met in the flesh, but we correspond on a more personal basis through Facebook, or by email.  I know many of my blogging friends better than I know most of my neighbors.  In fact, I keep up with their lives more avidly that I keep up with the lives of family members.  Blogging does that.  It is a place we gather socially and share the stories of our lives.  That is what I love about blogging.

In the time that I was being a bit of a slacker with blogging and not reading or writing posts, it seems like the blogging world turned upside down on me.  I no longer understood Blogger at all.   Here is what I have been experiencing:
  • I can no longer post comments on blogs I have read for years.  
  • Not only that, I am getting virtually no comments at all on my posts.  I wondered if my blogging friends were mad at me.  Had I offended everyone somehow???
  • I noticed it seems my posts are no longer appearing on Blogger Reading List.
  • I wondered if I had messed everything up when I switched over to Google+, so I stopped posting using Blogger.
  • Then, I went back to using Blogger only to post and did not use Google+. 
  •  I’m so confused.
  • A dear reader wrote me a private email and told me she could not post to my blog because I needed a gmail address.  (I had a gmail address and thought it was linked to my blog.)
  • I did a bit of reading about the need to switch to make sure I was publishing using https.  Ok, that is when I really get confused!  
I thought I would just be done with Blogger and start all over.  I considered using Squarespace, or Wordpress, or whatever.  I thought of hiring someone to create a website for my blog.  I thought of throwing the computer through the window!  

Finally, I bought an ebook on how to fix the mess I could not understand on blogger.  Now, I need to hire someone to tell me what the ebook is saying!  I don’t get it.  Maybe Blogger has truly left me behind.  Maybe I should just sign off and never blog again, but I’m really not ready to so that.  

So, please, those of you out there among my blogging friends, forgive me for not commenting on your blogs.  If I must comment by using a Google identity, I can’t seem to leave a comment.  

I miss seeing comments on my blog and wonder if comments have been left and then lost in space somewhere.  One woman said that one day, after weeks and weeks of never getting comments, she got all of weeks and weeks of comments in one day.  

In conclusion, if you have read all of this and are still with me, please send help!  What did you do when blogger made all of the recent changes?  Did you change anything?  What am I doing wrong?

I will be forever grateful for any advice you can give me.  I haven’t given up yet.  I hope to be up and running at full speed soon.  It is discouraging to write posts when they seem to be flung to the universe and never make it to readers.  

Thanks again for all of your loyal support in the past.  




Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Reflections on Grief and Gardening

8/08/18
Team 808

This post was written seven years ago when I struggling through my journey with grief after the death of my daughter Julie on May 29, 2010.  
Gardening was one place where I always found solace, comfort, and peace during that time.
The lessons I learned during that time continue to teach me as I continue this journey 
one day at a time.
I am reposting this in Julie’s memory on this day that always reminds us of her.

*****************

If gardening truly is a form of autobiography, then I would have to say that my gardening this year could serve as a metaphor for my life for the past month or so.  Mostly, I have felt that I have been living in a hit or miss style when it comes to gardening, blogging, house keeping, and journaling.  Perhaps, I have an excuse for this style of living.  Perhaps, I do not.

It has been a hectic past four weeks.  Family has been visiting.  I have many trips up and down I25 from Pueblo to Colorado Springs to visit my son while he was staying at his mother-in-law's house, or to keep doctors' appointments.  I have also made my share of trips up and down I25 between Pueblo and Erie, Colorado to babysit grandchildren and help out my daughter Amy in other ways.  And, I've even made a trip up North to work on a professional project with which I have been involved over the summer.

I have struggled with anxiety, stress, pain, and grief throughout the summer.  I am finally feeling better.  I am learning to deal with my stress better.  I'm no longer quite as surprised by the waves of grief that continue to wash over me.  I am learning to expect this as I move forward in the healing process.

Most mornings begin with me reading the newspaper, drinking my coffee, eating my breakfast, and chatting with my man while we sit on our back deck.  I'm grateful for such an unhurried, peaceful way to start the day.  I love the comfort the beauty of my flowers give me.

Today, I did get out of my hit or miss mode and got the roses deadheaded.  I also gave the lavender a hair cut since I had neglected to harvest the blooms when they were in their prime.  I am hoping for a second blooming.

I keep my old Olympus C740 in the shed to use to record work done on the yard and garden.  I also take photos to remind me how a certain bed was planted the year before, or to remind me of lessons I need to learn as I plant in coming years.

Yes, gardening is a form of autobiography.

Autobiographical Lessons from This Year's Garden

  • Spacing and planning ahead



I love my zinnia bed in the front yard,
but
I failed to space my planting appropriately.
I have that problem in life.
I had five kids in ten years.
This is another illustration of my spacing problem.
My kids, and my zinnias, are a beautiful sight to behold,
so
maybe a wild, blooming bunch of them all together is not a problem after all.

  • Think before you commit to something that might be a hard thing to remove in your life.
I once loved the look of Russian sage that grew in hedges I saw as I drove through town.
I planted three for four of them to use as a hedge in my front yard.
My neighbor put weed killer on all but one of them,
thankfully!
I was so upset with him at the time.

Later, I dealt with the reality of that big, land grabbing, spreading plant that I added to my landscape.
I no longer loved it.
It took two years of applications of weed killer,
an ax,
a shovel,
and a strong man
to get rid of the roots that this plant put down.
Finally, it is gone.
It no longer sends out new plants.
I research things a bit more now before I let them become rooted in my life.

Digging out Russian sage
Using an ax to get the job done

  • Gardening and grief

As in gardening, we must make choices in how we respond to grief.
Grief adds many textures, colors, and dimensions to our lives that were not there before.

We have a choice on how we respond to grief.


In the early days of the grief experience, we sometimes think our lives will  never bloom again.


During a time of mourning and grief, everyone turns to something.
Making choices that mask our pain is done because we believe this will make our pain go away.
In reality, such choices can delay our healing.


H. Norman Wright said that after the loss of a loved one
it takes at least eighteen months 
to experience longer stretches of time with less pain.


By trusting God's healing grace,
I find I am moving forward 
in life
and 
in healing.

Grief changes everyone.
Grief is hard work.
Doing the hard work of grief brings the lessons that only grief can teach us.


When we invite grief to changes us,
it deepens us.

It grows our souls.


We find peace.

* Many of the lessons on grief quoted in this post were taken from Susan Duke's book, Grieving Forward, Embracing Life Beyond Grief.

** All of the flower photos were taken today in my garden.
  • The pink rose bud:  Queen Elizabeth
  • The white rose:  Pope John Paul II
  • The red rose: I did not record the name for this rose.  I named it Julie many years ago.  
  • The pink/yellow rose:  The Peace Rose

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

A Trip to Philadelphia ~ Memorial Day to the Fourth of July ~ Part Two

These days, I do not travel alone.  I may go to Utah without Jim to visit my children, but other than that, as I have gotten older and have had a few health challenges, I do not like to travel alone.  Utah is a place where I spent many years living, and I have spent all of these thirty plus years since I left Utah returning at least once during the year for a visit, so I am very familiar with my surroundings there.  It is like returning to my old hometown. 

Also, I have friends and family there, so I never feel adrift when I am there alone.  I no longer drive to Utah alone.  I make the one hour flight so easily that I often wonder why I don’t make the trip more often.   Once I am there, I generally rent a car so I have my independence while visiting friends and family.  

Philadelphia 

This year, I made decision I rarely make these days. I decided to fly to Philadelphia alone so that I could attend conference. When we were working, Jim and I went to different destination spots to attend educational conferences. It was always fun to make those trips where we would learn new things, meet new people, and explore new places.  This trip to Philadelphia was different from many of those professional conference trips that we once made.  The conference I planned on attending in Philadelphia, while educational, was a medical conference where I would learn the very latest about living with and treating a medical condition that I have called Frontal Fibrosing Alopcia.  

Jim always so supportive of me in dealing with this condition, encouraged me to attend the conference.  I wanted to make a trip out of it for both of us, yet when we discussed the trip, we decided that he really would not enjoy being at the conference with me, and since the conference was being held at a hotel at the airport, it would be difficult and expensive for him to make trips into the city from the conference hotel to explore the historical sites found in the city.  We even discussed extending the trip so that we could explore the area together once the conference was over. We thought we might rent a car and drive to Scranton, Pennsylvania, to visit my son and his family.  

Flights, rental cars, and hotels are very expensive in the east during the first of June, so that also was a factor that we considered when we thought about making this trip together.  As it turned out, my son and his wife were going to be packing up and getting ready to move back to Colorado about the same time I would be attending the conference.  In the end, it just made more sense for me to travel alone to Philadelphia.  

If you have read my blog before, you may have read my accounts of living with alopecia.  I first wrote about my journey with hair loss in 2016.  You can read that post here:  Hair: A Journey of Loss.  The most recent I wrote can be read here:  Life Lessons Learned from Hair Loss.  

CARF
Cicatricial Alopecia Research Foundation

I attended my first CARF Conference two years ago in New Orleans.  When I was in New Orleans, I made great friends among the wonderful people whom also have some form of scarring alopecia.  One would never aspire to join the CARF community, yet one is so grateful to have a group that offers so much support when one is hit with scarring alopecia.   It is a shock to be hit with alopecia!  I often welcome new members to the scarring hair loss community by saying, “This is one of those clubs you never wanted to join, but you will find it is one the best clubs you can ever join because it is where you find so much understanding, support, and friendship.”

When I finally left for Philadelphia, I could hardly wait to meet all my friends that I had met in New Orleans two years ago.  Some of these friends, from all over the country, have been there when I have called them on the phone and we have talked for over an hour at a time sharing hope and help when it seemed no one else even knew anything about the disease we share.  We send emails, and we support each other online forums. We have an awesome community!

You won’t see photos of my alopecia friends in my posts because this is a condition many choose not to share with others.  I honor and respect the privacy that others wish to have.
********
I posted the following on a private internet support group page when I first arrived in Philadelphia:

I’m here in Philadelphia attending the CARF Conference. Ben and I have a lot in common. I never thought I’d end up looking like him, but FFA hit me, and now he and I have a real connection. I’m looking forward to learning more about this condition from the shared wisdom of this awesome group of people.



Good old Ben and I really do have a lot in common these days.  We share the same hairline.  Actually, Ben’s hairline is not as far back on his forehead as mine is, and he has more hair in the back than I do.  

My forehead is not even a “fivehead” anymore.  It is more like a “sixhead.”  In other words, I need the width of six finger to measure how far my hair has receded.  This is not the look I was going for as I aged!

*********

Once I landed in Philadelphia, I boarded a bus to take me to the hotel and happily realized that my dear, dear friend that I officially met two years ago was on the same bus.  She was the first person I ever spoke to by phone who also had the same form of scarring alopecia that I have.  We “met” over the net because I wrote a blog post about my condition.  Someone else with this condition read my post, called this friend to tell her to read my post.  Once this person read my post, she commented on my blog about what I written.  I read her comment, and then tracked her down, sent her an email, and then we spoke by phone for nearly two hours!  That was two and a half years ago.  I now count her among my dearest friends.  
*********

I saw little of Philadelphia itself.  Most of my time was spent at the conference.  I hope to write about the conference itself later.  I did however make three short trips into the city.  

The first day I in Philly, one of my friends and I took an Uber into the city, did a little bit of walking, and ate lunch while we caught up with each other about life and about our shared hair condition.  She took a photo of me while we were in town.  That’s me wearing one of my wigs while I am standing in front of Independence Hall.  


I learned from ConstitutionFacts.com, that those wig-wearing men whom frequented Independence Hall when our country was first founded were wearing wigs made of goat and horse hair.  Those wigs were seldom washed properly, smelled terrible, and tended to attract lice.  (Yuck)  That is why these wigs were called  “powdered wigs.” The wig wearer sprinkled a powder that was made of “finely ground starch and scented with lavender” over their wigs. (Was this the first dry shampoo?)

I can’t even imagine how heavy those wigs must have felt, and it makes my head itch to even think of having goat hair or horse hair next to scalp.  Scratch, scratch, scratch.  

Ben Franklin was truly a wise man.  He rocked his bald head.  He did not wear a wig.  

***************

My next trip into the city came when on the second night of my conference my son surprised me with a phone call saying that since the flights bringing his wife and baby to Pennsylvania had been disrupted by late flight connections, she was now flying into Philly.  He and his oldest son picked me up after my conference Saturday night dinner, and took me into town for dessert at Max Brenner’s.  What a fun time that was!  I didn’t think I’d get to see these two when I was in PA, but it turned out we had a special adventure of driving around downtown Philly at night while looking for that special place where chocolate addictions are fed by wonderful concoctions heavily flavored by chocolate. 


*************

On the last night of the conference, after nearly everyone else had gone home, one of my dear friends with scarring alopecia whom I met in New Orleans and then was able to spend time with again in Philadelphia, asked me to join her and her mother on a trip into the city for dinner.  We took a taxi to Reading Terminal Market.  What a fun place!  We ended up eating dinner at a place called Molly Malloy’s.  The hamburgers there were seriously the best I have eaten in a very long time!

It had been raining when we arrived at Reading Terminal Market, but since the rain had stopped when we finished eating, we decided to do a bit of a walking tour of Philadelphia.  



I recognized a few of the landmarks from my trip into town with my son Jonathan, so I suggested we go to Max Brenner’s for dessert.  I thought that Google Maps would help us find the way.  I think I also must have been thinking that the guy on the horse was pointing in the direction we should go.  


My friend took a walk through the water fountain...


We then got out to the street where we were supposed to go, but I learned that I am very challenged about direction in big cities.  Actually, I already knew that.  Also, I learned that when following Google Maps, one should make sure that the “walking” instructions are on instead of the “driving” instructions.  Oppps.  There are a lot of one way streets in Philadelphia, so the driving instructions kept telling us to turn when we should not have turned while walking.  

We were very turned around, and we were walking in the opposite direction from where we wanted to go.  My friend and her mother suggested that it seemed we were heading into a neighborhood that didn’t look too safe.  They were right.  Thankfully, a couple came along, and we asked them for directions.  Yep, we were truly walking in the opposite direction from our destination.

We turned around and soon we arrived at Max Brenner’s where for the second time, I enjoyed a wonderful chocolate dessert.  

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On my last day in Philadelphia, I only had time for breakfast at the hotel before I had to leave for the airport.  I was sure everyone from the conference had left when I went downstairs, but I was wrong.  As I headed to the restaurant, I heard the familiar voices of a few of my friends.  We all were so happy to have one last time to share a meal, some conversation, some words of support.  Departing hugs were given, and we all promised to meet again in two years for our next conference.  

My trip to Philadelphia was memorable for so many reasons.  I reunited with so many friends, and I made new ones.  As I have said before, some of the most intelligent, successful, and beautiful women I have ever met are the women I have met whom also suffer from scarring alopecia.  There are also some men in this group whom have given so much to make sure we have the support and information we need to deal with this disease.  I can’t imagine having this disease without the support of all of the wonderful people associated with CARF.  I’m so grateful I had the opportunity to attend this conference and spend some time in Philadelphia.

More on the conference itself later...

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Small Treasures

As I search for a tablecloth to place on the table, I came across the small treasure of a handwoven cloth I sometimes drape at an angle across the kitchen table.  Carefully folded and placed at the bottom of the drawer, this cloth seldom is used for everyday use.  Needing to be carefully laundered so that the vibrant colors of blue, yellow, red, and orange remain as true as they were on the day I bought the cloth, it remains tucked away so that it won’t be ruined.  Don’t we all have items such as these?

Today, I need a touch of vibrancy in the kitchen.  I need something that makes me think of cultures that are not my own. I need something that reminds me of days gone by.  This tablecloth fits that need perfectly, besides, I decide, beautiful cloths are to used, not just tucked away in a drawer.

While the tablecloth is a treasure to me, it holds no true value to anyone else.  If a neighbor were to stop by, or a family member, the visitor might note the cloth and might even wonder why I had selected it for my table covering.  They might even ask where I got it, or maybe not.  They might think I picked it up one day when I was shopping at Pier One, or World Market.  

I doubt they would ever suspect that I bought this tablecloth in Oaxaca, Mexico, in the Spring of 2005, when I traveled to Oaxaca to earn University credit from the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.  The name of the course was Oaxaca, A Mexican Cultural Experience.  

It seems nearly impossible that it has been thirteen years since I had the amazing experience of traveling to Oaxaca with a wonderful group of teachers from throughout Colorado to learn the wealth of cultural aspects found in Oaxaca.  The class was taught by a Spanish teacher from Colorado Springs whom had spent time in Oaxaca and was familiar with the area and the people.  All of whom took the class were either Spanish teachers or teachers of linguistically diverse students.

As memories of that time came back to me when I spread the tablecloth on my table, soon I found myself revisiting the memories I made by looking at all the photos I took while I was there.  

Photos and mementos.  Those are the small treasures of life.  

I found I even still had the itinerary for the trip!  It is a good thing I have the itinerary  because otherwise, I probably would have already forgotten many of the details of where we went and what we saw.  The first day we were there, we visited the magnificent Montezuma cypress tree known as the El Arbol de Tule , the largest tree in the world.  I didn’t take a photo that captured the size of this tree because I didn’t have a camera that would do it justice.  Instead, I studied parts of the tree and photographed those parts.





We then toured the church nearby called, Santa Maria del Tule, 


Later, we went to an archeological site called Mitla.  When we were near this archeological site, we saw women draping weavings for sale over the fences made of cactus.


Before I went to Oaxaca, a dear friend had told me to make sure I purchased some of the hand woven cloths that I would find.  These cloths draped on a fence were the first I saw.  I did purchase a cloth here, but not the blue one I use as a table cloth.  I purchased that cloth when we did a guided tour of the city of Oaxaca.  In one the parks that we toured, there were many people demonstrating their weaving techniques.  Weaving is a major industry in Oaxaca.

I’ve always loved Mexico, but Oaxaca has a very special part in my heart when I think of Mexico.

This is a photo of Retired English Teacher before she retired!

 Memories flood back of the beautiful colors of the flowers, 


of the beautiful clothing the women wore,



of the colorfully painted buildings where I spent time in the plaza and on the roof top of the casa where we lived for our time in Oaxaca.


I remember the colorful kitchens where the food we ate was prepared, 


by woman grinding the corn used for our tortillas in ancient ways.


The yellows of lemons, the greens of limes added flavor and color to the blue corn tortilla chips that were graciously served to us in a restaurant that offered us a cool respite from the summer sun on the day when I bought this tablecloth.

All of these memories come flooding back to me when I spread this tablecloth across my kitchen table.  

This is not just any ordinary cloth.  It is one of my treasures.  

When I am gone and my children go through my things, will they place any value on this handwoven piece of cloth?  Will one of them think, “I’d like that because I could use it when I have friends over for margaritas and Mexican food.”  

Will they have any idea of the memories this cloth holds for me?  No.  I don’t think they will.  Why would they?  That is just how it is when others look at the small treasures of other people.  They don’t know the meaning that the owner of that small trinket, vase, necklace, ring, piece of cloth, or photograph attached to each sentimental item found throughout the house.  

Photographs, trinkets, pieces of cloth have value because the owner of that item attaches meaning and value to them.  

I treasure this cloth not simply because it is a beautiful colorful cloth.  I treasure it because it reminds me of another time in my life when I traveled to Mexico to be exposed to rich cultural experiences in a place rich with culture.  

I treasure this cloth because it reminds me of a time when I was learning more about how to teach children from  linguistic and cultural backgrounds that were different from mine.  


I had a chance to visit a village school.  As I observed the children participate in opening exercises for the day, I reflected upon how one of those same children would respond to entering my classroom for the first time in the United States.



This tablecloth is just a material item.  On its own merit, it has little value except to add a bit of color to my table. It provides a vibrant background for me to study as I eat my breakfast.


This cloth was handwoven by a woman I never knew whom had incredible skill, great artistic ability, and was able to take colorful yarns and weave them into patterns and symbols that had meaning in her culture.   

Now, that weaving graces the table of  a woman from a completely different culture whom values the cloth as a treasure not just because of its beauty, but it represents honoring the culture and skill of the one whom created this household item.  

I treasure this cloth because it reminds me of one of the classes that I took to earn University credit after I had earned my Master of Arts Degree in Second Language Learning.  This course, Oaxaca, A Mexican Cultural Experience,  taught me so much because I was able to gain new insight into just one the cultures that were represented in my classroom.

I treasure this cloth because it reminds me of the beauty I saw everyday in place I would never have visited if I had not earned an advanced degree and was not in a profession that required me to keep taking courses in my area of study during the years I was teaching.   

I treasure this cloth because it reminds me just how many wonderful experiences I have had the good fortune to have in my life.

Objects found within a home are seldom just objects.  
Usually such objects hold great meaning for the one to whom the object belongs.  

What special treasures do you have in your home that remind you of a special time in your life?