Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Night Thoughts

Yesterday, my twenty-seven year-old son, Joseph, sent me his upcoming itinerary to South Africa and Malawi. Joe’s doing another documentary and this will be his fifth trip back to a continent with stories that seem to call out to him to film.

Of course, this lead to my being awake at 2:15am tossing and turning, worrying about his trip, him being there a month, some of the sketchy places where he will be filming. I know he knows what he’s doing, but I’m his mother. And a mother always worries…

As the clock turned to 3am straight-up, I was reminded of my mother’s sage words the night before I had my first child thirty-four years ago:  “Sleep well, Heather, because this will be your last night of good sleep for the rest of your life.”

Swell, I thought.

Would I feel more comfortable with Joseph working a 9-to-5? Probably. But, that’s not going to happen. Really, it’s all about his passions and goals – not my comfort. And are there any “safe” places anymore? He’s an adult. It’s out of my hands. “This is the goal,” a friend once said to me “to raise them to be independent.”

Sometime around 3:20, I thought about all those other mothers out there with sleepless nights. Those brave mothers with adult children in the armed forces…the police force…an adult son or daughter walking the beams of a high-rise under construction…mothers whose children are journalists and photographers in war-torn areas.

Then, I turned to one of my calming prayers. That didn't seem to do the trick.

At 4:05, I debated just getting up, as I ticked through the details of Joe’s itinerary as if that would give me some peace.  It only made it worse. What if this? What if that?

What did give me peace were the words of James A. Garfield.

       Light itself is a great corrective. A thousand wrongs and abuses that are grown in
                         darkness disappear like owls and bats before the light of day.

At 6am, I rose and padded through the house to my computer in the sunroom. I reread Joe’s itinerary.

        “I’m excited,” he’d written. I could feel the energy he gets when he is doing what propels him.

        “And, so am I for you…” I typed, then, pressed send.

Found this doodle on the notepad by the kitchen telephone after Joe stopped by the other day.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Love Was in the Air

My husband, Hank, and I are still doing SoulCycle together on the weekends. We’ve hung in there with our “together” hobby. I tease him, though, that I’ve created a monster. He likes to leave early to get there, and makes sure we get signed up for class for the coming week.

Hank’s more social than I.  He’s a joiner. Loves to work the room. Loves group anything. Knows the names of most the staff and instructors where we ride. He’s all set up and ready to ride when I’m the last to hop on the bike.

Last Friday, Hank had signed us up for a 5 o’clock afternoon ride. It was hotter than the hubs of hell outside.  I’d just read about the latest senseless shooting, in a Munich Mall, and a fire had broken out in Santa Clarita sending up plumes of smoke and painting the sky with an eerie look of doomsday.

We’d just returned hours before from Ojai and the last thing I wanted to do was a 90-minute spin ride with a DJ.

The only thing compelling me was what Hank, in the know around there, advised me of what was to happen after the class.  “Ok, this is pretty special.” I agreed to go.

The class was packed. The energy was on high and the DJ was in full throttle. We all knew what was up. All, except one of the two instructors on the podium.

I kept my eye on the door as the class neared the end. I’m sure everyone was, in anticipation. The door burst open with a throng of well-wishing regular attendees crowding into the room with cell phones, raised above, to capture the moment.

The male instructor on the podium, his legs slowing for the cool down, looked around quizzically. “What’s going on!!?”

The crowd parted and in came his partner.  The instructor’s smile grew wider. “Why are you here!!?”

His partner went to the podium. The room fell silent. “A year ago, I felt as if the world had fallen out from under me. And, then,” he looked at his partner, “I met this man and fell in love.”

From there, he spoke eloquently for a few minutes of their relationship. He looked at his love. “I want to spend the rest of my life with you,” he said. Then, he proposed marriage.

Whoops of cheer rose from the crowded room as he presented him with a ring.  There were true tears of joy for the couple. Such emotion. Such devotion. Such love. They clearly had found each other.

Chris was overwhelmed, excited, and so, so happy. “Yes! Yes!”

The other instructor had Chris’ mother on the i-phone to witness the proposal and handed Chris the phone.  “Mom! Mom! Look,” he said, pointing to his partner. “Meet your new son!”

The only other engagement I’d experienced was my own. To see a couple so in love, so ready for commitment…A commitment that is their right as loving adult human beings.

I forgot about being tired. The heat. The fire. Munich. Because for that moment, it reminded me, as do so many things, that love is still alive and well.

And, love is moving forward.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

The Stitch that Binds

On Fridays I work at Hodge Podge in San Marino. It’s a gift store connected to A Stitch in Time – a needlepoint shop.

Before I started working there eight years ago, I took up a needlepoint project just to “sit at the table.” That’s where all the action takes place.

The women who gather here are all about celebrating the milestones with their craft, whether it’s a Christmas stocking for a new member of their family, a wedding ring-bearer pillow, or a simple tree ornament.

Needlepointing for the holidays is big. Halloween pumpkins, the winter stand-up villages, Easter Eggs, Menorahs, 4th of July pillows…

This Friday, a needlepoint class is going on, led by a guest teacher from Kentucky whose southern charm is infectious. “When in doubt,” she tells a student with a lilt, “Ah always use the basket-weave stitch.” The tables are littered with canvases, threads, reading glasses and stitch guides. It’s noon and the bright-colored chairs are empty. The class is taking a lunch break at Tony’s down the street.

There’s a knitting group up on the table at the back of the shop. Normally, they are up front at the large table to the left. Yet, the knitting table is bustling this morning…baby sweaters, a blanket for someone in need, a long scarf - more gifts made with yarn.

The knitting teacher is encouraging. “You’re doing great,” I hear her say to a woman frustrated with a complicated pattern.

Over in “Hodge,” the gift section, I open a box of new gift items to be priced when my phone dings another Breaking News Alert. I don’t want to look down. It’s all been so much lately. I’m still back in Orlando trying to absorb that when more mass shootings have since occurred. 

My mind retreats back into the store and I glance across to the wall of needlepoint canvases. Pastoral scenes, beach themes, animals, flowers… Shelves to the right are bursting with soft, color-coordinated yarns.

A regular customer walks through the door with her finished still life – a project she’s framed after working with our resident needlepoint teacher. Everyone in the shop takes a look.  There are lots of oohs and ahhs. The customer is beaming.

In the background, the female DJ on the soft rock channel is talking about wanting to just get away from Facebook, Twitter…the whole thing, she says. “Lately, it’s been too much. The violence these days. It's everywhere. I need a break.”

Indeed, it’s a complicated world. But, some things do stand the test of time and the Internet.

Through world wars, revolutions and through good times, women have gathered together in a community to knit or to needlepoint. Crafting handiwork that seems no matter what, survives the test of time. Looking forward to the future. A new baby. A wedding, a holiday, or just to have something beautiful to admire.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

The Pastor's Wife

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My husband, Hank, thought he was getting a beach chic for life. Yep, back there in 1977, I had straight blonde hair, wore flowery dresses made of soft fabrics that flowed. I wore Mexican off-the-shoulder blouses, lived in the beach town of La Jolla, and even went swimming in the ocean.

But, as the years flew by, this former beach chic has grown into a woman who isn’t wild about sand. And, when I actually do go, I dress for the beach as if it’s an all out war against the sun – which, for me, it is now. Gone are the flow-y dresses and the long blonde hair. Now, I wear fitted clothes and have a cropped hairstyle that feels just right.

Hank’s love of all things beach is still strong, however. Where he loves to pound the sand. I prefer to pound the pavement. Out in the ocean is where he feels at home – a human fish, a sleek body surfer, dashing in and out of the waves, arms stretched wide.

I’ve no understanding of waves or ocean currents. I don’t know about ground swells or close outs. The whole surfing thing scares me. I keep my phone by my side to get his call when he’s out of the water. “All good,” he’ll say. His voice is charged with delight. It always is when he gets out of the water.

I don’t relate to this hobby of Hank’s. He’s got a body surfing blog, checks waves on webcams, and often drives an hour and a half on a Sunday morning to his favorite surf spot. When our sons, both avid surfers, come to dinner, it always comes around to surf talk.  Last summer, Hank bought our son-in-law, from Cleveland, a new pair of Duck Feet fins. He’s in the fold.

But, here’s the big benefit for me. Besides having a husband who has a healthy hobby, I get to be brought into the world of his surfer friends. People whose work and lifestyles are all different from each other. People with whom I probably would never come across - people bonded simply by their love of body surfing.

Last night was a reunion party for the group that went on the Nicaragua body surfing trip this past March. It was potluck and hosted by a couple on the trip. Everyone was interesting, welcoming, and fun in a beautiful setting with the Pacific Ocean as our backdrop.

One surfer had made a video of the trip and I found myself enjoying it even though I didn’t know that “Boom” was the surf spot, and I’ll never understand the surfer nickname thing.  

At the end of the night, Chris, one of the surfers, known as “the doctor,” thanked me for encouraging Hank to go on the trip.

And, I thanked “Pastor Hank” for introducing me to some real cool surfer dudes and dudettes.