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Posts Tagged ‘coping’

Since the beginning of October, I have had no choice but to spend all my time in bed. I have been unable to walk for more than five minutes at a time, let alone work and earn my keep. Pain has been my daily enemy as I have tried to reconcile and make Him my friend. Slowly, this chapter in my life is coming to an end. Thankful is an understatement. I am taking it slow, working again bit by bit, and grateful the FMLA laws are following me for the time being.

A poem I read in childhood, loved dearly, and memorized, has come back to my mind. I want to share it here with you.

THE LAND OF COUNTERPANE
by Robert Louis Stevenson

When I was sick and lay a-bed,
I had two pillows at my head,
and all my toys beside me lay
To keep me happy all the day.

And sometimes for an hour or so
I watched my leaden soldiers go,
With different uniforms and drills,
Among the bed-clothes, through the hills;

And sometimes sent my ships in fleets
All up and down among the sheets;
Or brought my trees and houses out,
And planted cities all about.

I was the giant great and still
That sits upon the pillow-hill,
And sees before him, dale and plain,
The  pleasant land of counterpane.

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This Tanka is written for my friend, Marita. Thinking of you!

Sometimes…

Under the covers
My body warms with the weight
My mind takes a break
When harsh realities speak
My soul refreshes…with time

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Thank you to Indigo Spider’s Sunday Picture Press for the inspiring prompts. I appreciate the hard work that goes into this and am glad when I have time to participate. Thank you for giving many of us the opportunity to take part in these writing pleasures! I have chosen the picture below to write my story.

Visual Prompt 2 — Untitled by Imke Rusk (http://imkerust.com/)

SURVIVAL STRETCH

Helmut positioned his seasoned body and crouched, yoga-like, into himself as he folded his knees into his upper trunk. One arm he tucked under his chest, the other he stretched and wrapped around the back of his head, cradling it while extending it beyond the space that was his body. The ridge of each vertebrae stretched to the point of relief. He felt the slight arch as he lay, frozen in time, remembering a different life, a time before he knew this survival stretch.

His old fingers felt young again as his mind touched the black and white, the ebony and ivory of his piano. His eyes closed and memory began to play his composition. Melody, chorus, melody, chorus, change up, chorus, melody. He felt the audience lean forward in unison, engulfed in his creation, drawn in by the emotion of his piece.  The burning inside, the intense fervor for his music carried him and embraced his being as his passion intensified, kindling his movements. Always, he felt honored at their standing ovations, at the sense of accomplishment he felt knowing they were at one with him in their appreciation of his work.

Slowly, Helmut disentangled his body from his survival stretch. He was still grateful, all these years later for the empowerment his stretch gave him, for the good memories it was able to bring up, for the ability to hold on to the richness of life he and his family had known at one time in his beloved Germany.  It had been a country of his people, Jews like him with a passion for the arts, an intensity for life itself.

He thought of his father, a talented doctor who often gave his time to those of his kind, his own, while maintaining a prosperous practice. And his mother, ahh, his mother…a beautiful and talented musician in her own right who had nurtured his love for composing and his ability as a pianist. How eternally grateful he was for them. Dachau may have taken their bodies but he would make sure their memories, their souls, lived on.

Helmut checked the calendar on his desk for the date of his next lecture. Chicago, next week, Tuesday. How many lectures had he given? How many schools had he visited? How many questions had he answered? Never enough. Never. Never must they forget.

He smiled as his talented pianist fingers, worn and wrinkled, picked up the picture of his family, taken years ago.  He, his wife and their three children. This wasn’t just a picture. It was a celebration of survival. He and his wife had, miraculously, made it beyond Auschwitz. Their three children were now carrying their family history as part of who they were. They would spread it forward to their children, too. Helmut’s mother’s vivid brown eyes were now being worn by both of his daughters and their musical ability was her gift passed to them. His son walked exactly like his father and his affinity for medicine was a testament of what one can be given.

The piano in the corner of his living room stood ready, beckoning him to sit and touch the lovely keys, no longer made of ivory and ebony, but of plastic. An elephant somewhere was lifting its trunk in approval of the change.

Helmut, too, lifted his trunk, straightened his head, and walked to his piano, in approval of the life he had lived and the choices he had made. Sitting down, he touched different parts of his piano, then closing his eyes, he let his fingers work magic until his ears tingled with pleasure.

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Thank you to Stephanie of BeKindRewrite for her prompts. Again, they were all so good. I chose Children’s Prayers with a slight adaptation. This story deals with something many children have had to face. It is true to life and needs to be told for all those young children who deal with things we adults sometimes forget.

A CHILD’S PRAYER

The sobs were coming from a bedroom down the hall, heart wrenching sobs, then gasps for air, sometimes deep, sometimes shallow.

Gina lifted her head from the pillow, and, listening intently, she turned slowly.  She pulled herself up and swung her feet around to the edge of the bed. This was something she never expected to hear.

Swallowing hard, she thought of the many reasons a mother can never get used to the sounds of heartbreak coming from the heart of her child, especially a five-year old, so innocent and loveable.  Her eyes glanced down and saw the brown teddy bear laying next to her feet. She bent, picked it up and hugged it to her chest.

As Gina entered Evan’s bedroom he looked over at her, tears brimming, spilling from his blue eyes and rolling down his cheeks. He pulled the covers over his head.

“Evan, sweetie, can I sit down on your bed next to you?”

“O.K.”

“Can you tell me why you are crying, why you feel so badly now.”

“No.”

Slowly, a blond head with tousled hair peeked up from under the blankets.

“Is it because Daddy isn’t living here any more?”

Her sweet boy’s head disappeared again and the howls of his heart breaking into a million pieces were almost more than she could stand. She lifted his blanket just a bit and put his teddy bear next to his arm and then lifted his arm over his stuffed friend to hug tight. She listened to more of his sobs and his gasping while he tried to catch his breath.

“You know, Evan, Daddy loves you very, very much. He has always told me how special you are to him.  What is the special name he calls you?”.

Evan lifted the blanket and pulled himself up still hugging his little friend.

”His buddy”.

“That’s right. And, I know for a fact,  he doesn’t call anyone else his buddy. That shows how important you are to him and you will always be his buddy, too”.

“But, Mommy, why did Daddy leave me?”

“Remember the other day when you and I went to the beach.  I told you that Daddy is always going to be a part of your life. You will always be able to visit with him and he will come here to visit you. Daddy will always love you.  He hasn’t stopped loving you. He never will.

“But he isn’t here anymore. He left me.”

“Sometimes grown-ups make decisions that are very hard for children to understand. Remember, sweetie, even though he isn’t here anymore you will still see him often. You can call him anytime and when you start kindergarten soon Daddy will be there, too. He can go to your school just like I can. He will never stop seeing you. Never ever stop.”

“Mommy, can I say a prayer for my Daddy?”

“Of course. Let me hold you and Teddy tight.”

“Dear God – Please help my Daddy to come back home. I like it when he tickles me awake and when he cooks I sit on the counter and watch him. I miss him, God. Please, please bring my Daddy back home to me. Amen

As Gina struggled to hold back her tears, she kissed his tear-stained cheek and give him a huge, tight hug.

“Let me tuck you in with Teddy Bear. You know when you feel very sad you can hold him close and kiss him. And when you cry for Daddy, it is ok. Everyone gets sad sometime. There is nothing wrong with that. The important thing to remember is both Daddy and I are your family and we will always love you THIS MUCH, both of us. I will turn off the light now and when you wake up tomorrow morning you can call Daddy to say hi, o.k?”

“I love you Mommy. I feel better. But I still want Daddy to come home again.”

Gina sat on the edge of Evan’s bed caressing his cheeks, those plump cheeks she loved to kiss, and waited until he fell asleep. She watched as his breathing became slow and regular. Then she made her way back to her bedroom, alone.

She shut the door quietly, threw herself on the bed and wept uncontrollably.

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My Friend

When you shed a tear
my heart brushes it away
When you feel life’s hurts
my soul surrounds your sorrow
When I see your face, I smile

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Thank you to Indigo Spider of Sunday Picture Press for three amazing pictures, visual prompts for the week. I have chosen the second picture. Head over to her blog and join in the fun!

Visual Prompt 2 — Title and Artist Unknown

BRIDGE OF SMILES

Standing at the top of the curved bridge, Jeanne stopped short. Where was she? What was she doing here?  In the water below she saw the reflection of an old woman, someone she didn’t know. Panic spread to her soul. How could it be? She stared at the still water, hardly a movement, except for the blinking eyes on that barely moving old woman. The dark tree branches from the water’s edge gave the air a misty feel. The gray bricks of the bridge and the high round shape of the walkway made a perfect circle for her to peer down under and look through. Maybe, just maybe, if she peered hard enough…

Jeanne squeezed her eyes shut, then opened them and continued to let the water soothe her until she remembered. Him. His laughter. His touch. His warmth. Ahhh, yes, yes. Her tense wrinkled forehead softened. Her mouth curved up into a smile. Yes, there had been good times. Even when there had been hardly enough to eat, and no work during the depression, they still had each other to hold. And children, a house full of busy, noisy children. A passing memory, a whiff of baby lotion, of clean, air-dried laundry and bread baking caused her to look even deeper into the water. What were their names?

Debbie sat on the edge of the bank watching her grandmother, seeing the smile on her face, the smile which had, of late, become so elusive. She looked beyond the bridge, to the other side. All those white granite stones had names on them, family names, and dates. Everyone there, lying deep in earth’s dust had been loved by someone, even if it had only been the woman who birthed them.

She thought of her Grandfather John, his name carved there, too, in the small plot beyond the bridge. He had been a gentle man, a hard worker who never tired of providing for his six children. She had heard stories from her mother about his kindness to others. Debbie had felt his kindness, too. She remembered the times he took her fishing in the river below his house. Each time she insisted on a new hand-made fishing pole from an alder. He always winked at her, saying no, then off they would go, hand-in-hand, to look for the best one to cut. That was such a long time ago.

Coming here, to this bridge had become a family ritual, a place to come to catch a glimpse of a passing smile on a face that had once worn a perpetual smile.  After Grandfather John was gone, no one knew how to ease Grandmother’s grief. It was so hard watching her mind move inward, forgetting things and forgetting people. She often didn’t remember her own children’s names, and none of the grandchildren.

As Debbie looked up her heart swelled with love. This woman she no longer knew well, who had always been so special in her life but was now almost a stranger, this woman deserved the kind of love she had given out all her life. Visits here would continue as long as possible. There was something about the bridge that allowed  her to go back in time, to remember. She saw Grandmother lift her head and look toward the white granite posts.

Looking beyond the water, at the grassy area, Jeanne’s eyes caught the white markers. She stopped smiling. She lifted her head, sadness in her dull blue eyes. Where was she? She looked down at the water again, puzzled, then turned to see a young woman coming forward. She looked so familiar. She didn’t remember where she had seen her, but when she looked at her, she saw her own blue eyes, smiling back.

“Let’s get your sweater, Grandmother, and then we will head home for dinner. We’ll come back again, soon.”

Debbie put her arm through her grandmother’s, touching fondly her paper-thin, see-through skin, and slowly they walked, arm-in-arm toward the car.

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There is a war going on at my house. It’s not a knock-down, drag-out fight. It’s… W-A-R…between me and my computer. The sad thing is, I know I am not going to win!

I consider myself a competent woman in many ways. I did well in school, not at the top of my class, but certainly not at the bottom. I have always had many friends and still do today. They often seek my advice and a couple of them even willed their children to me should something happen to both them. (Thank goodness, nothing did. What was I thinking to say yes. Bringing up two alone was quite enough, thank you)!  As a single parent, I learned early on to pick which battles needed fightin’ and which needed to be left to the wind. I learned how to become more flexible, when I thought I already was. I have always been mild-mannered, often to a fault, and can’t hold a grudge if my life depends on it. My two children are now grown and leading good independent lives of their own. I have had a fulfilling career and worked hard, often, too hard. I am well-respected by those I work with and money hasn’t been too bad, even though it could always be better, but that is a given.

Why do I turn into a sniveling, angry, unreasonable idiot when my computer acts up? I don’t have the answer. My insides start to churn, and I can feel my blood boil. My body temperature goes up and at the same time my blood pressure hits the roof. I’m never sure if it will ever come down again. Physical changes I can handle, but, oh, those other ones are much worse!

My mind does a complete turn around. The easy-going person that I normally am rivals Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, like a turn-taking play, with me playing the villain. If a psychiatrist happened to walk by and saw the transformation, he would hit me with a diagnosis in a flash, since I change almost faster than the words come out of my mouth. The choice words my brain is trying to route to my mouth, those I haven’t heard in ages.  If I am talking on the phone with someone, I can’t remember what I was saying and usually hang up. If I happen to be messaging, I pity the person.  A letter is often followed by several # ###keys in a series of made up words that anyone would know, and, then, I rudely end our conversation, with my unreasonableness showing through when I am offered words of advice.

I text my daughter in a frantic state telling her my computer is rebelling again. She calls back. The conversation goes something like this:

“I have had it. The computer is doing its weirdness again. I can’t get into my bank accounts. I can’t see how far my stocks have plummeted today. WordPress isn’t working. I can’t bill my invoices. And, Facebook, forget it!”

“Maybe it isn’t the computer. Maybe it’s RoadRunner. We have had 100 degree weather lately. Too much for the grid.”

“No, it is the computer. Ever since your supposed network-engineer brother set up the wireless system, it has been going in and out.”

“My laptop was working just fine on your wireless connection.”

“That’s because you haven’t used the connection much. And are you saying that I am stupid, that since it is set up right, I am the one who is doing it all wrong, that I don’t know what I am doing?”

“No, I am saying it might not be your computer or the wireless connection that your network engineer son, who happens to earn double our salaries put together, and who happens to get sent to Amsterdam twice a year by his company to trouble-shoot and straighten things out there, you know, THAT son who set up the wireless network in your home…. obviously, it was too complex for him to set up your router, just so much more complex than his job!”

“All I know is I am sick of it, and I am sick of being called stupid because I don’t know how to set up or fix computers.”

“No one thinks you are stupid. You know that.”

“Well, obviously everyone does. I think this computer is junk. I need to get a new one. Maybe a new one will work better. Or maybe this new router needs to be a better quality.”

“Your computer is working just fine, and, besides, my brother,…your son, has a computer always waiting in the wings so when the one you are working on is fried, he can give you the one he has reconfigured and then take your current one, and change those innards, too”.

“See, I always knew you two thought I was stupid when it came to computers. It is embarrassing, you know, that I have destroyed more computers than anyone I know, and that he has to set me up every couple of years with the one he has stripped and changed around.”

“I don’t think you are stupid, Mom. You have done well with technology. You didn’t grow up in a world filled with technology.”

“You can say that again! We didn’t get dial phone until I was in eighth grade, 1965. My phone number, until then, had always been 114. Now, look at the world! I remember when my grandmother was one of the operators in my home town. She told my mother, once, when she was connecting to see if our number was still busy, that she heard me tell my old boyfriend, Mike John, ‘My grandmother is the operator today, we need to be careful what we say.'”

“See, how can you think you don’t know anything when you have experiences that we will never have. Why don’t you reset your router and modem. On second thought, why don’t you wait for me to do that. I will be over in a little while”

“Aha, I always knew you didn’t trust me. See, proven right!”

“Ok, Anne Shirley. Stop acting like I am the sixth-grader Gilbert Blythe. Get that nose of yours down a notch.”

“Give me  a break. I am just letting you know that I am not as stupid as you think I am. I know you are appeasing me, you are putting up with old-fashioned me. . Don’t even think I don’t know.”

“I am sooo looking forward to our conversations 20 years down the road, Mom.”

“When I am eighty, you mean?  Well,  just shoot me now, why don’t you! But, first, shoot the computer. Everything is the computer’s fault, anyway, you know.”

One day later:

“What the ####. I just lost power. My WordPress is down. Just great!! My story is lost. I need to get it to Indigo Spider by 3:00 P.M.”

“She will understand, Mom. Just email her.”

“A lot you know. I don’t get special favors in life, you know. I wasn’t born a spoiled brat. I told you before, and I will tell you again, computers are ruining my life!

“Yes, Anne Shirley.”

“Like you really understand.”

“Love you, Mom. Hope you get to finish your story. But, I have to tell you, you are OBSESSED.”

“Yeah, right! Remember, I used to change your diapers!”

“Yup, and I REALLY don’t want to go the role reversal route today!”

Yes,  my computer and I will always be at odds. It’s a love/hate affair. (Yes, affair as opposed to relationship. I would never give the computer enough credit to think I am having a relationship with it). I fear these kinds of conversations will come up again as the world of technology becomes more complex. I better dig my heel in and hold tight. It’s going to be a rough ride.

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