Thursday, November 30, 2017

First Flight

When I was nine my father and step mother got separated and went on to get divorced. My Aunt Joyce came to Fla where we were living at the time to care for us. It was decided to send me to Bryn Athyn Pennsylvania to stay at my aunts house for a few weeks until it could be decided what would be done with me and my sisters.  I was to fly by myself!!! It was my first air flight. I flew to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania from Miami, Florida  on Eastern Airlines which is no longer an airline today. The airport in Miami was really small. A long, one- story building with a parking lot for cars on one side and a parking lot for Airplanes on the other!! seriously I think it just wasn’t as popular a mode of travel as it is now.
I remember getting dressed up to go on this flight. I wore white patten leather shoes with white socks that had lace at the edges. I had my favorite outfit on...a hand me down from Maren Sharpsteen. It was a skirt and top outfit. The skirt was white background and the bottom of the skirt was lined with purple and blue tulips...and the same on the sleeveless top that buttoned up the back ...the bottom hem lined with tulips all around...I also wore a soft white cardigan sweater. I felt so grown up.

My aunt Joyce and my sisters took me to the airport. They stood waving at the exit door of the building as I walked out onto the tarmac with a stewardess, mounting the steps to the plane and looking back at them with a smile and a wave...I got in the airplane and realized that everyone on the plane except me and the stewardess were men and they were all smoking...back in the day when you could smoke on a plane...thankfully not anymore. I loved the flight. It was fun. It was bumpy though because there was a rainstorm...amazingly enough I didn’t get sick...not even felt sick!! I was too excited to be sick.
When I arrived in Philadelphia the stewardess walked with me to the entrance of the Philadelphia airport then a lot smaller than it is now!! and my Aunt Doreen and Uncle Rey were waiting for me there and took me home to Bryn Athyn.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Making a Difference

I seriously don't believe that anyone escapes the feeling that you are alone. The reality is that we are alone. We come into the world alone and into the waiting arms of someone who loves us just because we were born to them! We leave the world if we are lucky surrounded by those that have loved us, but basically we leave alone. But in truth we are not alone! There are myriads of others having this shared experience of LIFE . I think the purpose of this life is to share the path with those we find around us.
Our parents are our first gift of love. Some of us grow up with our siblings. The idea is of course is sharing the experiencing of childhood, family and community.  The next gift in life is finding someone to share the growing up with...a friend, sibling, cousin...what have you, a bestie! Then the next gift is finding that special someone when we are older to marry and start the process all over again. That is a very bare basic look at life.Alls well that ends well. Ha! Unfortunately not every one has an ideal life. 
While we are growing up we have all kinds of experiences that are different than others. We may grow up in an intact family.  We may grow up with a single parent. We may grow up with two families because of a divorce. We may grow up in a family where there is another member who is adopted or one that is  challenged in a physical or mental way...we may grow up moving all over the country, having to make new friends in new places and learn different ways or languages. We find ourselves in varying circumstances all throughout our lives.  Hopefully the thing that pulls you together now and again whether it is a trip, a shared mealtime, someones birthday, wedding, funeral, is family. I think family is a core part of your being.
Your first friends. Family. The place you can go if you need a hug or a listening ear. Sometimes its your siblings, grandparents, sometimes it is your aunt or uncle, a babysitter, your parents, your best friend but by in large there is always someone in your family or extended family that will set down everything for you and be there to listen while you share your experience, will hold you while you cry and really listen to you pour out your feelings. 
The hurdle to get over is letting yourself be vulnerable enough to share how you are feeling. My yoga teacher calls it getting into your "feeling body". 
The first step is recognizing that though we are alone we do not have to be alone. We can go for a walk. Getting outside and seeing all the beauty around you is great therapy.  Make a phone call to a trusted person.  Talking is a great elixir for the heart and mind.  If those things don't work...sit quietly and listen to your body...not your mind. 
Experience in every part of your being what you are feeling. How do you feel in your belly.? How fast is your breathing? What do your fingers feel like? Your toes? Are your eyes darting? Are you holding everything tightly? Now go to your thoughts. Can you calm the thoughts that are taking you outside of your body?   Bring your breath to each part of your body and gather the information that is there for you ...reign in all the thoughts and try to sit and just breathe in and out for at least 10 minutes..You may feel like crying and there is nothing wrong with having your feelings! Cry. Cry for as long as you need to...then if you can, write down what was going on for you in a journal. It does help to be able to put it down on paper and then go back and see the journey through your journal at a later datel.
Once you have done that, the potential for sharing it with another is even greater.  I have three friends that I know I can call and will call me and just cry without them trying to fix anything...they are listening to my heartfelt sobs and holding me...for that time. It is a deal we have with one another. We talk later...but we let the feelings out. No shame. No judgement. Just listening.
There are many ways of sharing with others writing, calls, talks, walks, therapists who are paid to help you through certain harder times all these require for the most part is taking the first step. Sometimes that is too hard to do and the feeling of gratitude towards a loved one that makes an effort to contact you is always a relief and feels warm. 
I think that expressing oneself in the written form is one way , we can make a difference in someone's life. I often find that I read something on Facebook that really helps me make a shift in my thinking...and gives me courage to share some things with others myself.  You have had the experience of reading something...or hearing something like music that someone else has shared and suddenly I find I feel less alone. The knowledge that someone else out there feels similar or exactly the way that we do...or even differently what counts is that they were vulnerable and put it out there...and it made a difference in the life of both...the giver and the receiver.  

Wednesday, February 22, 2017


At ages 63 and 65 we are retired. Motherhood is no longer central to my life. I no longer run a Cafe or Bed and Breakfast.  I have an over active critic in my mind that continually tells me, I am not being productive enough or that I am not very useful. I have time on my hands. I must find something to do that is useful. Making a home for my husband and myself has value in itself but it doesn't keep me busy all day. It is also useful to have a place that all our children feel comfortable coming home too...and where the grandchildren will want to come visit too.However it doesn't feel like enough to leave it at that...what else should I be, could I be doing?
One of the reasons we moved back to the states was to re-develop our family relationships in all aspects.  We started out helping Edmund's mom for a year and a half. It was nice  reconnecting with her and helping her as she aged. It was great seeing friends and some of our family there in Bryn Athyn but we both felt time slipping away. We needed to find a place of our own to make a home where we could nurture our relationship with each other, our kids and our grandchildren. We were on the same page. Time to do something about it.
We both loved the wide open space of the west and Colorado was home to Edmund's great grandparents at one time so we moved our belongings and set up our home in Divide, Colorado.
Watching my busy husband building things around the property these days leaves me feeling as if I should be doing something as well or something more than I am doing...which begs the question, what am I doing?
It has been a few months since we moved into our new house. We have done a lot of personalizing our space in each room. We painted. Had new hickory flooring put in, hung curtains and pictures. Edmund built shelves for my plants, a special spice rack for the kitchen and numerous shelves and cupboards for our kitchen as well. I have re-organized our living room so finally it "feels" good to matter where I look in the room. Success.
Someone recently wrote me and said, "you two are so industrious" this compliment gave me a warm feeling, but was accompanied by other feelings that it is all done what else is there to do? What is it I am meant to be doing?
So I ask the question: what is it I love to do? Hmmm.  Things for my husband, my family. cooking/baking, gardening, sewing, crafting, reading,writing. Writing. So here I am sharing my thoughts again.
It will be a couple of more months before the last frost up here in the mountains of Colorado so gardening in the yard is on the back burner other than planning for it and starting plants in the greenhouse.
Today I was talking with a friend about our upbringing and how we are kinda 'programmed' to think about two questions. What is the use? meaning,  what is the value of what I am doing, of what use will it be to me or someone or society? That is the question.
Our kids are grown with lives of their own, jobs that keep them busy and a couple of them have young families of their own to care for themselves. Because some of them have young families traveling isn't as easy for them as it is for us. We are lucky that we can travel to see them all. We love our times with family, grandchildren and friends.
It is so much fun to watch our kids parent.  Parenting styles have changed with the times . We are learning so much in the process too! It is exciting to be around the grandkids no matter their ages...getting to know them all is a gift.
As our kids grew and developed new relationships and married their needs have changed over the years.  They moved from the east coast to the west coast and some back again to the east coast.  Keeping up with everyone from a distance isn't always easy, but we keep at it. Thank goodness for technology which has allowed for an ease of communicating through Skype, texting and even Facebook.
From being somewhat central in their lives when they were importance in their lives is more peripheral now and actually probably has been for a long time. It is only now when I am not working any longer that I feel the distance more. Life for all of us has changed. So we have been figuring out how to strengthen relationship with our kids while at the same time giving them the space they want and creating a busier life for ourselves.  The empty nest syndrome is tricky.

So refocusing is my focus! Looking for ways to expand my interests. Reinventing myself if you will, finding new ways to develop myself. I am hopeful to find some different things to be involved with in our area and in the process have more to share with everyone.  I don't want to get a job because it would tie me down too much but I have thought of volunteering in some way in our community. We will see what presents itself. Eventually it would be fun to start a book club. And it is a good way to get to know others. And in the spring I will take up walking again.
Balance is as always the key.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Showing up for Life

Last week, my dear, sweet, husband had a "warning stroke" formally called a transient ischemic attack or TIA for short. In the space of a few minutes our normal daily life changed.
The not so quick version is he had had what he calls "squiggles " (kinda like floaters but elongated) in his eyes that afternoon and usually a nap will make it go away. We have always attributed it to eye strain. So instead of a nap he decided to drive an hour and pick up some things to continue working on our living room. We had just had our new wooden floors put in and Edmund was doing the finishing work.  First stop was the flooring place just 30 minutes away. Stopping there to pay for the great job they did. He walked in sat down and as he was trying to talk to the guy at the desk, edmund realized that what he was trying to say wasn't coming out of his mouth it was he says as if he was "speaking in tongues". Edmund thinks the guy thought he was mentally challenged and was very patient and kind to him.  Finally got the transaction done and edmund left, got in the car and drove home to me frustrated because he could not think remember things and peoples names.
I wasn't expecting him for another 3.5 hours so I was shocked as he walked in the door...but more was the look on his face...I asked him who died and he said "No one yet. " That concerned me.  He took off his shoes and came into the living room. He asked me to come talk to him and not freak out. That heightened the concern. Then he told me his little story. wow.
I said we're going to the hospital. He said no he would take a nap. I said "No you are going to go to the hospital."
" No that is ridiculous. I am going to take a nap. "
So I asked him who his brothers and sisters were...he couldn't name them or their spouses. I asked him my kids names he could only remember one, I have 7 kids. I asked him his parents names...a very long pause and he  finally was able to do that. He was concerned cause he couldn't say the Gettysburg address which he proudly can do any other time. So I called his nephew who is an ER doctor in Philadelphia and talked to him.  We are in Colorado. He agreed we should go to the hospital. He talked to Edmund and a few minutes later we were on our way to the hospital 15 minutes away.
He had test after test each coming back with relevant, but not so good news. They found a small aneurysm in his brain and Bigeminy which is an irratic heart beat...and his triglycerides were higher than they would like and the PFO which is the small hole in the wall of the atrium of the heart that usually closes day after we are born, had never closed. 2% of people have that problem and it allows unoxygenated blood to flow into the left atrium from the right without going through the ventricles  and out to the brain/ that is not good.
Concern continuing to build in my mind, the decision was made for Edmund to stay in the hospital for the night under observation. That night his breathing was so irratic that he had to be on oxygen.
All of this was happening and all of our surroundings were new to us.  We didn't have our own Dr. We didn't know the hospital. We didn't have family close by and we were just beginning to make friends in the area having moved here to Divide, Colorado in September.
I had contacted one of my kids and started an email thread and called my husband's older daughter and spoke to her. So we were connected...and they reached out all our kids that was good to feel surrounded by their loving concern.
One of our new neighbors called me out of the blue and said she was on the way home from work would I like her to stop and get anything. I told her no thanks we are actually in the hospital and she came to check on us and brought us something healthy to eat. So so thoughtful.
The next day more tests and following two dr consults we were released with prescriptions and appointments for follow ups  in the next few weeks. Taking the medicine.  Rested for a day. Back to regular routines.  Being retired that is easy. Fielding calls and so grateful for family reaching out to us and caring how we were doing. Still four days later and last night what had happened hit me like a ton of bricks. I had a total panic attack. Edmund was a gem. He cared for me, calmed me down staying up beside me late into the night until I finally was able to sleep.
This experience and our families ability to keep showing up for us brought the power of love and family right to the forefront of our lives.  We are so grateful for this warning and the ability to more fully care for ourselves. Keep showing up for one another. It is a beautiful thing from this vantage point. I am so grateful for and blessed by all of you in our lives.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Musings from The Mountain House

Much has happened since I last posted here on my blog.
We sold Rhodeside, our home in Costa Rica, in May of 2016.  It is worth noting that we were both ready to leave Costa Rica. This plays out in life much differently for my husband and myself and I suppose that is the topic of my post this morning. 
Edmund said he was ready. He talked about it for two years before the day that he finally said, "Ok Gwen, I am done with Costa Rica and want to go home to the United States of America."  He doesn't seem to "attach" so much emotion to the place as I do. Even though he worked day in and day out for 17 years on our property. His name, Edmund, means protector of property! quite fitting I would say. And a fine job he did of it as well.  He loved it while he was there. In a sense, he is more in the moment than I am. He is always looking forward...what comes next? I used to catch him looking at planes as they flew over head...he would say to me..." sometimes I just want to be on one...going somewhere else...seeing the world."
He explained all the necessary information regarding the water lines, tanks and pump house to our neighbors who would now be in charge. He paid all the bills. Did all the necessary things to accomplish the legalities of the sale. Then like the cowboy he is, saddled up his horse Rain and took a  long, farewell ride on her up the mountain and down into the pasture lands watching the sunset on horseback on last time.  The next day we went for a long ride together on Lucky and Rain. In fact we rode every morning that week racing around the pastures and mountainsides having the time of our lives on horseback before we left Rhodeside. He walked the line of the property. He walked up the ridge at sunset having private time with his emotions as he is want to do. He experienced the sad emotions of leaving some of his long time Costa Rican "Tico" friends when they came to say Adios...those last hugs were heart wrenching for me to watch as he let them know he would forever be grateful for their friendships.  The last morning he put our luggage in the car and one last time called out to me "Come on girl...get your shoes and socks on! and 'git in the truck' off we went...a bittersweet ending...Edmund smiling and winking at me... Ciao Costa Rica! Hello USA! 
I had packed 8 suitcases and in the course of two trips to Philadelphia from Costa Rica during that spring had everything we wanted ready, knowing we could buy what we didn't have and might need in the USA, the rest we donated to the needy in surrounding communities or left for the new owners of our home.
Leaving my dear, faithful horse, Lucky was the hardest part for me...infact quite heartbreaking.  Edmund always tries to tell me that Lucky just loved me because I fed him...but it is much more than that...he knows me. He trusts me. Raising him from birth, no matter how much time goes by between visits, he knows my voice and comes immediately. Lucky nudges his nose into the crease of my neck and shoulders and licks my face and my shoulder...he lets me wrap my arms around his neck and kiss him...he licks my arms (i know he loves the salt he finds there) and I always bring his favorite snack,  cut up watermelon. I gave Lucky to our horse coach, Mel who has always coveted this noble horse. He loves him almost as much as I do. 
The heaviness in my heart that morning was not just leaving Lucky, we were leaving the place I had worked tirelessly along side of my husband for 11 years encouraging beautiful gardens from the earth, fruit from our trees, flowers and plants to transform our property, eggs from our chickens, some neighbors into friends and a retreat for weary travelers. 
Do not get me wrong. I really wanted to leave Costa Rica. It was beautiful but isolating.  Being closer to family, grandchildren and friends was our goal and a move to the US was just the ticket to accomplishing that goal. So here we our Mountain House, as my grandson dubbed it, in Divide, Colorado...where I wrote this post looking out my window at Pikes Peak. 

Mother's Day

Having seven children I qualify to celebrate Mother's Day. Mother's Day is a day set aside by the commercial industry and fed by media blitz' once a year to make money. Incredibly beautiful sentimental cards abound on line and in stores. Personally, I like the ones children make themselves. Each year teachers in most elementary schools spend time helping the children make little gifts or cards for their mothers. The subtle message of these  projects are recognition and gratitude. One hopes that children are taught recognition, affirmation and gratitude daily at home as well.   Some schools have special events put on for the mothers inviting them to the school for the morning.  Recognition is really all mother's day is about. Recognition for the daily work that being a mother entails.
I have mixed feelings about mother's day. I wish sometimes that it had never become the commercial holiday it is today. Don't get me wrong, I like the recognition, my heart feels full when my children say wonderful things about what they feel about me and my influence in their lives, however, I like it even more when it comes on its own without the pressure of having to do so because it is a holiday.
Children of their own accord at some point in life,without any help from the media, most likely will acknowledge the work their mothers do to help make their lives function they way in which they do.    I pull out favorite cards that were made years ago for me treasuring the little notes and illustrations. My heart swells and ok my eyes tear up.