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Last night I tried to outrun Father’s Day.  It didn’t work.

I have always been a “Daddy’s girl.”  My father was not just Daddy – he was my hero, my role model, my North Star.  When he died very unexpectedly (anaphylactic shock) in January my brother’s response was “The King is dead.”  It felt that way.  Our childhood had plenty of drama and tumult with our mom’s health issues (of all types) – but Dad was always there, always steady, solid, reliable.

I still can’t believe he’s gone.

So when the calendar turned to June, the grief I’ve been slogging through got pretty thick and murky.  I have been waiting for this month, especially this day, Father’s Day, to pass.

I don’t watch TV so I haven’t been assaulted with ads there, but the radio has been nonstop with “Buy, buy, buy!” messages about this day. So last night, with time on my hands and a heavy heart I decided to outrun it.  Had I felt better physically I would have outrun Father’s Day on my motorcycle, but after 3 days of being sick enough to lose 3 lbs that didn’t feel like a safe or sensible option.  So I hopped in my car, drove up to Country Club Road – my refuge – and then took off on side roads, just pointing Molly Moonroof (my car) north.  North – you know, as in North Star.  So that was the first Dad sighting as it were.  Hmm.

Then I drove by the Scandinavian cemetary (Dad was half Norwegian). When the heck did they put THAT in there – hadn’t noticed that on my rounds before.  Sign for a barnstorming event (Dad was a World War II pilot).  Well, hello, Daddy.

Open farm fields, corn starting to grow, old tractors.  How did I think driving through rural McHenry county was going to be an escape from the guy who grew up in rural Doon, Iowa on a farm?  Even the scent of cow poop, pungent in the early evening, reminded me of our grandparents farm – and Dad.

Decided to make one stop on my outrunning Father’s Day trip.  There’s a little General Store in Greenwood, Illinois that looks like a store from the early 1900s except it has modern food in it.  In fact, it looks a lot like R&L Foods in Doon, Iowa, now that I think of it. I had discovered this store whilst out for a motorcycle run last year, and just recently stopped there while out riding with my good friend Candace.  Last year I bought an Izze soda pop there, but on Thursday, with Candace I discovered they had my favorite candy bar – Bun maple candy bar.

You see, when I was a kid in Ft. Wayne, Indiana Monsignor Manoski, the pastor of our church and thus connected to my school, St. Joseph’s, was friends with the guy who owned the Bun candy bar company.  Every year when we came back from Easter weekend we would have Bun candy bar on our desk. But one year, when we were out at recess on the playground, a small plane flew over the schoolyard and dropped candy all over the playground!  Bun candy bars falling from the sky!

That sense of a benevolent male, watching over me – that never felt like God to me (whom I picture more as a warm, loving chubby grandma) – but it sure felt – and feels – like my Daddy.

I guess it wasn’t my beloved Daddy – or even Father’s Day – that I was trying to outrun, but rather this deep well of grief accompanying his loss.  And my best friend said it best when i called last night for consolation.  She said “Many of us grieve not having fathers while our fathers are still alive.  Father’s Day was problematical for me – how best to honor and celebrate this man who was my father and yet so NOT a father?  But you.  You really DID have the best father in the world, so his loss is huge.  But you can celebrate how wonderful he was and how lucky you are.”

And that is what I will do.

So on this Father’s Day, for all of you who are missing YOUR dads too, I offer this lyric from Bob Dylan:

“I’ll look for you in old Honolulu
San Francisco, Ashtabula
Yer gonna have to leave me now, I know
But I’ll see you in the sky above
In the tall grass, in the ones I love
Yer gonna make me lonesome when you go.” ~ Bob Dylan

Dad with his 4 kids

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Through a series of synchronicities I ended up having an “Angel reading” on Monday night.  Now as “out there” as I may seem to some, I am actually as left-brained as my current employment (IT consultant) would lead you to believe.  Okay, so I thought I was going to a numerology reading which may strike people as equally ‘out there’ – but to me there’s a STRUCTURE behind that.  Angel readings? Not so much.  But since I intuitively trusted the woman in front of whom I sat (Terrie Crowley), I forged ahead.

I’m glad I did. Because wherever the guidance she was giving me came from, it was very helpful.

It got me to thinking about the ‘genealogy’ of emotions.  Getting to the heart of the matter.

THE SURFACE
I’ve noticed a propensity of late on my part to tout the virtue of toughness – in myself, with my big honking Harley, and in others.

THE ROOT – GENEALOGY

The parent of toughness is vulnerability

The twin sister of vulnerability is fear

The parent of vulnerability and fear is lack of trust

RESULT

So, knowing that genealogy, rather than wave my sword about like Durga or Kali, I can first protect what feels threatened within me (protecting the vulnerable – which is what my namesake, Diana, is all about).

Seeing the vulnerability and fear I can then ask “why do I not trust God/the Universe/All That Is to have my highest good in mind?”

To that end, Terrie assigned me a task – assigned as though a one-time task, but, which I can see could continue to be helpful in times of trouble:

Write an “evidence journal.”

She said to step away from “my story” and just look at events in my life for all the proofs of how protected and loved I am.  Trauma by trauma, story by story, miracle by miracle – just record the facts that support the philosophy on a favored bumper sticker I once had:  “Expect a miracle.”

The first thing that sprang to mind truly does seem miraculous.  When I was not quite six years old my mother had a heart attack.  My sister was just 4 and our brother 3.  No other adults were home.  My mom sat on the floor, her lips turning blue, and told me to go get help.  We had just moved to Indianapolis a few weeks before and didn’t really know people.  And hey – I was not-quite-6-years-old!  But I walked out, found a lady bringing in her clothes from the clothesline as there was an uncharacteristic snowstorm in October – she had come home from work solely to do this task.

And – she was a cardiac nurse.

Yes, there are forces out there watching over us.  As it turns out, I have always believed in angels, and in saints and in forces beyond my left-brained knowing.  I love the quote from the Talmud:  “Every blade of grass has its angel that bends over it and whispers, ‘Grow! Grow!’”

So I’ll work on that Evidence Journal.  When I find myself wanting to chastise someone to ‘toughen up’ I’ll instead check out what feels scary to me.  (However, I’m fond of my toughness and won’t totally abandon it either!). 

How about you?  Have you done ‘genealogical research’ on your emotions or reactions to life?  What did you find?  And what about that trust thing?  How do you weigh in on Einstein’s famous quote:  “The most important question a person can ask is ‘Is the Universe a friendly place?’” – Well, is it? 

As always, I really want to know!

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Wistfulness


It’s Memorial Day – and as I noted in this post, it’s not meant to be about barbecues (which is not to say we don’t have them), but rather remembering those who have died in service to our country (or state, city, neighborhood).  I make it my own little “Day of the Dead” remembering also those who have passed before me.

Yesterday I was (yep) at a barbecue/music jam party. I was so excited to be there ‘on my own steam.’  My dear recently departed friend Becky was a musician – as is her surviving partner – and through their great kindness I have been invited to a lot of music parties.  You see, I’m NOT a musician, but if I could come back again and had one wish that would likely be it – to come back as a great musician (preferably a fiddle player with long curly hair – that would work for me).

The people at the party are all incredible musicians.  They’re in my general age group – so we sing a lot of old folk/country/light rock songs from ‘back in the day’ and some songs from WAY back in the day, like “Hard Times Come Around No More” which I found out was written by Steven Foster (1860s).

I noticed as the evening went on how our merry little Motown songs and other silly stuff,  was getting more and more replaced by more reflective music.  Wistful music. About aging, loss and sorrow. Not mournful – just that sweet wisftulness – oh, if only…

After we did this great Kate Wolf song (here performed by Nanci Griffiths) “Across the Great Divide” one of our gang mentioned that was a signature song for our friend Kim who unexpectedly died a year ago December.  So we decided to do a song to commemorate our friend Becky, whom cancer robbed of us a year ago in February.  To my continual amusement, Becky loved the Bee Gees.  So of course, the first lyric that came up was from “New York Mining Disaster” – “in the event of something happening to me….” but then settled into “Massachusetts” instead.

Rich sang a song about aging which I didn’t recognize as a song, but sure as all get out recognize as a phenomenon.

Kent and Debbie’s elderly dog with dysplasia limped into the room.  He and Kent looked at one another so soulfully.

Rich’s song talked about the hands of the clock flying around.  About how you look in the mirror and wonder ‘whose is that face?’

My friend Jeanne’s son-in-law was no doubt as surprised as his wife and infant daughter when he abruptly died in a Marine helicopter training exercise last year.  My friend Myra was stunned when her husband Barry (with his co-pilot) was the first casualty of the first Iraq war.

As I do with the abrupt deaths of Becky and Kim, those who have lost dear ones in war or in service to their country must have moments of “what would life be like now if {loved one} were still alive.”

And sudden or not – we’re all on that train.  Mostly, we distract ourselves from that sure knowledge.  But there are times when it seeps into our souls.  The ephemeral nature of life and love. The importance of being fully present RIGHT NOW.  How precious human incarnation is.  The importance, above all else, of love.

When I was a kid, my mother would point out that on Good Friday from 12-3 (the hours at which Jesus was purportedly on the cross) it would always be gloomy weather outside.  I’ve long noticed a propensity for Memorial Day weekend to be cold and/or rainy (this weekend in Chicago definitely DOES not fit that trend).  Our songs last night took a turn towards Wistful.

Our walking around selves may try to trick us.  But the soul – and the deep heart’s core – remembers.

Be love today.  Honor all the fallen by doing something kind, good and true in their honor.  Make a difference.

 

 

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Happy Mother’s Day to all the wonderful mothers, grandmothers, aunts, stepmothers, pet moms and all who nurture, guide and protect the young – including single or stay-at-home dads who do traditional ‘mom’ duty.

This was my mother’s favorite holiday. If you took Christmas, her birthday and St. Patrick’s Day (she was VERY into being Irish) and rolled them all together, I’m not sure they would have equalled Mother’s Day for her.  As she was dying, I asked her, “Mama, what was the happiest part of your life?”  She replied: “Oh, that’s so easy – when you kids were little.”

Then I asked, “What was the hardest time of your life?”  For a woman who had been ill nearly all her adult life, had several miscarriages and a stillbirth, had endured not only the death of her parents but of several of her siblings including 2 younger ones, I felt there were lots of contenders for this dubious honor.  However, she replied “The day your youngest sister left home, for then my hands-on mothering ended.”

Like all humans, my mom was not a saint.  Just like you and me she had her human foibles.  I told her, that last weekend I saw her alive that she had been a perfect mother.  She, very typically, replied “Oh, Diane, don’t be ridiculous – that’s not true.”

But whatever their human foibles  – and even with moms who truly were ‘bad’ moms – the archetypal role of “mother” looms large.

Some of us are blessed to have more than one mama.  Perhaps a stepmother, as I have (my Dad remarried when I was about 50, so Gloria wasn’t a hands-on ‘mother’ stepmother, but a beloved stepmother none the less).  Perhaps you were adopted and have both a mom and a ‘birth mom’.  Maybe you were raised in a multi-generational family in which your grandmother, aunt or big sister helped raise you.  Maybe your mom is gay and partnered and so you have two moms.  And maybe your mom works or is gone and your Dad is doing a lot of the mothering tasks as well as traditional dad tasks.

A caveat here:  I am not a mother myself.  So I can’t speak at all about what it’s like to be a mom.  But as a daughter, sister, aunt, and friend – I have watched a lot of moms in action and I think the cliché is actually 100% true – it seems to me that parenting is both the most important and hardest job in the world.  Goodness knows I have enough problems trying to ‘raise’ two kittens into reasonable cats!

I hope that all of you moms, stepmoms, birth moms, dads-acting-as-moms, grandmas – all of you who love, nurture, guide, protect and raise children – have a wonderful day. That you feel loved, appreciated and happy that you have children in your life.

And for every sentient human, may you be grateful today for your own mother, for the archetypal Mother energy (Mary, Quan Yin, Durga, et al), for the nurturing and love you have received – from your mom or anyone who made a big difference in your life as a child.

And for “The World’s Tallest Elf” (my mother’s endearing name for herself), for my beloved Grandma Scholten, and for my Dad, who, due to my mother’s illnesses did a lot of ‘mom-like’ parenting as well:  Thank you.  No gifts, cards, flowers or thank yous will suffice – so instead I’ll do my best to pay it forward, being kind to children now as a thank you for all you did for me.

Happy Mother’s Day, all!

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Just the other night I was chatting with a friend about happiness.  I told her that I had a vivid memory of a party – one of, oh, I’d say, a thousand parties (seemed like one per night) in my youth.  I was probably about 24 at the time.  I was standing in a kitchen – whose house? who knows? – with my foot up on the seat of a kitchen chair.  I was drinking Guinness out of a bottle, talking to Denny Lindsey, just laughing my ass off.  The house was filled with laughter, loud GOOD music and people I loved.  It was winter and I had on blue jeans, a flannel shirt and some hiking boots.  I was filled to overflowing with joy – pure joy.  And I thought “I’m gonna always remember how happy I am tonight.”

You know, close to four decades later, I still DO remember that.

And so what an interesting little bit of synchronicity that less than a week after recounting this story, I was on my goddaughter’s Facebook page and saw a post from her uncle – Denny Lindsey.  So I sent off a “friend request” and tonight we connected on Facebook.

Looking at the pictures of his family – I was close friends with his sister, my goddaughter’s mom, and with Denny and their brother Geoff – brought back a flood of memories.

And it got me thinking of the great, incomparable gift that old friends are in our lives.  Especially friendships that aren’t just longstanding – but the ones that began in our formative years.  People who knew us when we were significantly forging who we have eventually become.  Who, in fact, helped shape that becoming-ness.

So welcome back into my life, Denny Lindsey.  And thanks to all of the companions of my youth.

Though there can be a danger that friends from our past can’t see who we are now, blinded as they are by who we once were, the ones who DO see the changes, but also remember the changeling – those are rare and precious jewels and should be cherished appropriately.

How about you?  Are you blessed by people who knew you “back in the day”?  Is it fun to reminisce?  Do they see you as you are now?  Do you see THEM as they are now?

I’d really like to know!

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I saw yesterday on MSNBC.com that Levon Helm is in the final stages of dying from cancer.  For my younger readers, he is the drummer, vocalist and (some would say) soul of the iconic Boomer rock group “The Band.”  He’s been battling throat cancer since 1998 (a peril for a singer) and staged a remarkable comeback a few years ago – trying to raise money for medical treatments he started up “Midnight Rambles” which turned into rousing successes, some follow-on solo albums and tours.

His signature song, “Ophelia” says:

“Ashes of laughter
The ghost is clear
Why do the best things always disappear?”

Because life is ephemeral.  A gift.  A passing dream, perhaps.

My friend Sean’s 7 year old daughter has been distraught because she’s figured out she will eventually die.  She’s smart enough to have tied this scary thought of mortality to aging – so now she wants no more birthdays.

I think we all feel like Makayla at times.

We are mortal beings – “put on this earth a little bit, to learn to bear the beams of love” as William Blake said.

Today I’m sending love to Levon Helm’s wife and daughter and all of us who loved him.  May your passage be easy, Levon.  And heaven is about to get one hell of a drummer.

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I started my new contract IT job yesterday.  I was talking to my dad about it Sunday, and started to tell him some hesitations I had.  I had barely begun to voice my fears/negative expectations when my wise father said:

“Diane, stop!  Don’t even begin to think that way.  Go in with an open mind and positive expectations and do your best.”

Isn’t he smart?!

I also have added the injunction to go in with an open heart.  Warmth towards my fellow-travelers on this part of the journey.  Sure knowledge that they are teachers are on my path (else they would not be there).  And that, like me, they are complex beings – filled with joys and sorrows – and a wee bit of baggage that has nothing to do with me.

I got to work and all the usual technical craziness of a first day on the job as a contractor were non-existent.  My new company obviously has onboarding contractors down to a science – it was so easy!  And I get to sit across from my friend Sam!

Even reading the 85 page technical design document (after lunch, no less!) was much more interesting than dull.

Miracles happen when I show up willingly and with an open heart.  I am grateful.

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