Friday, July 29, 2011

You Only Have One Life --

But if you live it well -- one life is enough.
The task of clearing out my mothers home has been daunting.  What to save -- what to toss?  A lifetime of letters, photos and keepsakes that all seem too precious to discard.  Tangible big moments and ordinary days. 
I asked my mother's advice on how to approach this chore and she said the most amazing thing.  She told me "Don't worry about letting go of any of it.  The house or the things inside.  I've used them up."
She told me she has spent the last few months rereading and touching her life.  Sitting in chairs, eating off plates, and looking at the artworks in her home. 
She said "Goodbye" and let them go.
What a lesson  to me.
Me who polishes and clings.  Me who thinks I own a thing or two of value.
My mother who is now in a nursing home never says; "I wish.............." because she did.
She crafted a home full of memories.  She cultivated dear girlfriends.  She packed her bags to see the wonders of the world and she made her bed.
She used up this life given to her .  And she is still using her days to teach -- me.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

"A Friend Remebers Your Song and Sings It Back To You When You Forget"

As we have cleared out my mothers home preparing it for sale I have found her life's paper trail in boxes tucked into her tidy shelves.
Boxes of letters, cards and notes.  Books filled with quotes she has gathered and articles from long extinct publications.
They are a mirror of my mother.
They speak well of her.
Her humor, service, loyalty and her faith.
I have gathered them up and shipped most of them home to be sorted and assembled into a book of comfort for those whose lives have been graced by hers.
But nursing homes are places where it is easy to forget who you are.  The world gets small and is full of rituals that begin to strip you of your sparkle.
So each evening while we visit I take stacks of her paper trail and read them to her.
Her eyes begin to focus.  She sits up straighter in her bed.  We count our blessings while recalling memories.  And because she is Loie -- we laugh hard.
A couple of highlights from last night:
"You don't stop laughing because you grow old -- you grow old because you stop laughing."  Michael Pritchard
"You know you're old when you've lost all your marvels."  Mary Browne
I leave my mother's care on Thursday and it makes me tear up to even type that.
I struggle with feeling I'm abandoning her.  But she is safe and secure and I have others depending on me.
When I wondered what will fill her evenings now I thought -- I'll bundle up little packages of her life (old notes and letters from loved ones) and send her a packet each day to reminisce over each evening (After Wheel of Fortune of course!).
A life well lived deserves to be reviewed and celebrated.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Guerrilla Love -- Taking It To The Streets

My friend's son told me a story that caused me to reflect on the quality of my unconditional love.

A family in his neighborhood was away from home last week when a crew came to put their home in foreclosure and evict them.
The neighbors watched with aching hearts as their friend's tangible lives were set out on the street and lawn. One of the neighbors who hosts a Bible study began to rally the neighbors and find temporary homes for the displaced stuff.
She stood in the yard like a NYC traffic cop and directed who was to rescue what and ultimately the house was empty but so was the yard.
Now that is an impressive demonstration of loving your neighbor.
But what she did next exhibited a rare example of Guerilla Love.
She ordered pizza for the men who were on the crew that moved everything out.
When it came she fed those men.
The leader said; "Lady I've been doing this job for years and NO one has ever even been cordial to us let alone feed us lunch."
All she said was she is a Christian and wished them a good day.
I wonder if our church would fill up if I preached more sermons like that?

Equal one fine meal!
I watched Oprah one afternoon and she waxed poetic about the turkey burger at Donald Trump's private club in Palm Beach.
I was intrigued but we just hardly ever jet down to Palm Beach and go to "the club."  OK never in our wildest dreams.
Imagine my delight when I found the recipe last week, made them that day and loved them.
From God's lips to your ears....................
Mar-a-Lago Turkey Burgers

Recipe from Jeff O’Neill, Mar-a-Lago Club
*Note this recipe makes 8 half-pound burgers. A half-pound burger is very large! You can easily half the recipe and get 6 good sized burgers. I cut the recipe down to work with one 20 oz package of turkey and it yielded 6 large sliders.
2 tablespoons canola oil (I used butter)
1/2 C finely chopped celery
3 Granny Smith Apples, peeled and diced (I grated my apples)
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions
4 lbs ground turkey breast (I used 85/15 ground turkey)
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon black pepper
2 teaspoons tabasco sauce
1 lemon, juiced and zested
1/2 bunch parsley, chopped
1/4 cup Major Grey’s Chutney
Saute the scallions, celery and apples in the canola oil until tender. Let cool. Place the ground turkey in a large mixing bowl. Add sauteed items and the remaining ingredients. Shape into eight 8-ounce burgers. Refrigerate for 2 hours.
Season the turkey burgers with salt and pepper. Place on preheated, lightly oiled grill. Grill each side for 7 minutes until meat is thoroughly cooked. Let sit for 5 minutes. Serve on your favorite toasted bread, pita, or hamburger bun.

Saturday, July 23, 2011


This morning my girlfriend Linda asked me where I always go when I'm in NYC.  Well, my bag has not been flung onto the bed long before I walk over to the Anthropologie store to see how the windows are adorned now.
The artistry is unbelievable!
Each store is given a loose theme and a type of material for the content and the designer at that store is let go to create.
Here are some examples:
Balloon art.

Tissue paper and clothes pins.

Wine corks.

Coffee filters.


Wow!  To see ordinary objects in extraordinary ways.  Now, that's FUN

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Open Heart -- Open Mind

My girlfriend Sandra who serves at the City Rescue Mission with me sent this and it felt like God was sitting across the table with a hot cup of tea in His hands leaning my way. My heart  needed to hear this.

Al Boyce is a former writer and reporter for The Associated Press. He lives in Raleigh, NC.
"I had a decidedly bad attitude the other day.
In the morning, I was taking a homeless man to a clinic for his bad back and found myself drumming my fingers, thinking, "How late am I going to be to work?"
The man called while I was in a meeting at work to have me pick him up and bring him back to his camp and I was thinking, "Great, I've interrupted this meeting and now I'm going to miss lunch." There were problems at work, problems I couldn't fix for some reason. I was being rather snippy with people.
On the way home, I was scheduled to give another homeless man a ride so he could stay at our house and be close to where he was working the next morning. Heavy sigh. I'd have to make sure he had dinner as well as fixing something for the kids.
After dinner, I was tired, wanting to be left alone. A voice (it sounded like my own) suggested I treat myself to some frozen custard a couple miles from the house. I loaded my son in the back seat and off we went.
Halfway there, on the other side of the road, I could see a large, unkempt-looking man hitchhiking. That's pretty unusual in the affluent neighborhood I was driving through. Part of me thought, "Thank God I'm not going that way. I don't have to give him a ride." But I realized that, 10 minutes later, I'd be coming back.
'God,' I found myself praying, as I watched car after car passing that man by, 'Please let someone else pick him up. You know I'll stop if he's still there on the way back. But Lord, I'm just tired. Send someone else. I need a holiday.'
Yes, a holiday, my mind echoed. That would be great... I got my frozen custard - to go - and started driving back, eyes scanning ahead on the roadside for any sign of the hitchhiker.
There he was. Car after car ahead of me drove blissfully by the man. My car coasted to a stop next to him. He climbed in.
He didn't look good. It had been a very hot day -- over 100 degrees -- yet he wasn't perspiring. Just breathing heavily.
'Where you going?' I asked. 'The hospital,' he breathed. 'I need to get my blood pressure checked.'
God, I thought, please tell me you aren't going to give this man a heart attack in my car!
The hospital was less than a mile away. I dropped him at the entrance, helping him out of the car and making sure he felt able to get inside.
"God bless you and your family," he said. "I never would have been able to walk here."
Then he extended his hand and said, with no trace of a smile:
'My name's Holiday.'
I got this silly grin on my face. I could just picture God rolling His eyes at this punch line that spoke to me on so many levels.
"My yoke is easy, my burden is light," He was telling me. God wasn't ready to stop calling on me, but he was merciful enough to provide a blessed sign of his providence without pushing me over that edge I felt like I was treading. 
God saw my frustrations, my weakness, and chose to acknowledge them WITHOUT abandoning His agenda. He even did so with a sense of humor.
I tell this story and others about seeing God's hand, and people will ask, "What do I have to do to see God myself?"
When you break down the story, you see the answer.

1) You believe in God.

2) You believe God works through you.

3) You believe God knows what you are going through and will answer your prayers when you are tired and out of sorts.

4) You look for God's answer to that prayer everywhere, not just where you expect to find it.

5) You obey God even as you search for His providence.

As a result, you may get to feel God's loving presence, His mercy, even His humor.
The ultimate answer? EXPECT GOD. He's always there, and the more you see His hand, the better you get at recognizing it.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Que -- The Soundtrack "Stand By Me"

One of our family's  favorite movies growing up was "Stand By Me".
Who can forget 'The great puke-arama'?  We had a ball using our VCR to slow motion forward and reverse the results of the tainted pie eating contest.
Even today just hearing Duh -duh-duh - DUH....... makes me smile.

When the night has come

And the land is dark
And the moon is the only light we'll see
No I won't be afraid, no I won't be afraid
Just as long as you stand, stand by me
If the sky that we look upon
Should tumble and fall
And the mountains should crumble to the sea
I won't cry, I won't cry, no I won't shed a tear
Just as long as you stand, stand by me

I heard a story on the radio from Chuck Colson's daughter Emily about the challenges of raising her autistic son Max.
Shopping in public with Max has been one of Emily's most dreaded scenarios.  She never knows when he'll have an emotional melt down and cause a scene. 
One day they were in Whole Foods and Max threw a fit.  He literally  fell to the floor and kicked and screamed. 
Shoppers looked on with blistering glares.  Emily could read the messages in their eyes.
"You are the mother -- get your child under control!"
Knowing that Max was to big to pull from the store and that an autistic child can not be reasoned with, bribed  or threatened like most children she just positioned herself between the ever widening circle of judgemental shoppers and looked down in shame to avoid their stares.
After a few long moments Emily saw a pair of feet standing next to her own and heard a woman's voice say; "I'll stand here with you as long as it takes.  I'm right here by your side.  Tell me if I can do anything but I'm not leaving you."
Eventually Max wore himself out and the gawkers resumed their shopping, forgetting the whole scene.
But Emily never forgot.
I will never forget the feet that have stood by mine these last eight weeks as I have tended my mother.  If you are reading this -- Thank You.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Get Out!

It is so easy to see all of the things going down hill these days. 
But, I have seen little "God winks" in my daily travels this week.
The reminder of the joy of good hard work.
The summer sky from a friend's porch.

Servant's hearts.

"Ordinary things done with great love."  Mother Theresa

Teamwork projects.

Wise reminders.

And a little irreverence thrown in -- "See no evil -- speak no evil -- hear no evil -- have no fun."

Thursday, July 14, 2011


I have loved "reading" (audio book) this book about the books Pat Conroy has read. More than any book Pat Conroy  has written.(Except "The Water is Wide")
His perspective of a book as a parachute in a troubling time has made me reflect on my reading life too.
Pat's book has caused me to roll down a highway laughing out loud during a summer of murky trials.  He reminded me that a good read can be one of the best stay-cations.
His moving retells of books like "War and Peace" almost make me think I could, would should read it too.
Oh, yeah, 1081 pages plus dyslexia plus zillions of characters equals a door stop.
But, his poignant illustrations of the power of a timely story have reminded me of the books that helped form me.
Pippi Longstocking lives!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

What is a Goatwalker?

I wish I knew but one thing I do know -- in Louisville Kentucky at my friend Sue's church -- it means one heck of a good time.
The second Saturday night of each month the members of her church have "The Goatwalker Cafe".
1.  Transform their store front church into a coffee house.
2.  Bring homemade desserts and set up a menu board posting the choices.  Have church members take orders and serve the tables. 3.  Go pick up the folks at the local homeless shelters.
4.  Set up the stage with a piano, microphone, and a big table for props.
5.  And fling open the doors.

Here is a list of the variety of entertainment from last Saturday night:
*A magician did a few magic tricks.  The big finale was cutting a fresh lemon and producing the card a homeless man had pulled.

*A little girl told five of the funniest jokes.

*An eldrely man played songs from the 1920s on the piano.
*A dulsimer recital.
*And a guitar performance accompanied by a homeless man in the audience playing the spoons.  Awsome!
Actually since the members of Sue's church are mostly hippies no one could tell the visitors from the members.
They don't get into their BMWs and drive into the city to help the poor.  They have choosen to live there and be a friend to man.

(The servers and kitchen help)
Here is an example of their worship style.
On Easter Sundays they have a balloon drop, confetti shower and it ultimatly ends up in a conga line snaking through the asiles to worship music.
These folks know how to party.
Tony Campolo says --

When Jesus came into the world, he declared that he had come that his joy might be in us and that our joy might be full. Consequently, it's not surprising that when people asked him what his kingdom would be like ‐ this world that he wants to create ‐ he said, "My kingdom is likened unto a wedding
feast. A wedding feast and I'm the bridegroom and as long as you have a bridegroom around, you party." That was his word; it was to be a wedding feast.
Now I have to tell you that Jesus was Jewish, which is the next best thing to being Italian. Sometimes people ask me if Italians are so wonderful, why didn't Jesus come as an Italian? Well the Bible says he came to humble himself. But, Jews and Italians and Palestinians, all Arab people, the Greeks, all who
live in the Mediterranean area, we have one thing in common. We know how to throw weddings. I mean there is nothing more joyful, more celebratory then an Italian, a Jewish, a Greek, or an Arab
wedding. I mean, we mortgage the house, we take the money out of the bank, we bring in the band, we go on and on.
Jesus said that's what my kingdom's like ‐ my kingdom's likened unto one gigantic party.I invite you to the Christ who will give you joy because your sins will be forgiven. Who will give you

joy because he commissions you to share that joy with other people. And when the dark times come and the sorrows of life overwhelm you, there will be joy because you will know that beyond the present time is the glorious future, the glorious gift that God has in store for all who trust in him. He
makes it into a party time! Into a party time! Into a party time! So people, the next time they ask you
at your church what time is it? I want to hear you shout back: "IT'S PARTY TIME!"

Thursday, July 7, 2011

"If travel makes you broad and suffering makes you deep.... I think I'll go to Paris." Judith Viorst

I was speaking to a professional group in San Francisco several years ago on my topic of "Funny Business -- Humor for the Workplace."  I'd given it my all and relished the opportunity to retell some of the funny experiences of my personal and work life. 
After I concluded, the regular group of attendees came up to me to:
1. Tell me I look exactly like their Aunt Flossey -- I wouldn't believe it!
2. Tell me their funny stories (Some of which were so hilarious that they sometimes slipped into my future talks)
3.  Thank me for reminding them of what they already knew but in the pressure cooker of daily life had forgotten.

I still remember the kind and patient woman who waited to give me a gift.  The gift of her perspective.  She explained to me that her dear husband had died suddenly a year earlier and went on to say; "Nothing is funny to me yet.  But each night when I say my prayers I ask God  -- Lord teach me to laugh again but don't ever let me forget that I cried."
Found this at today.
Love a lot of this Artist's work.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

A Cracker Jack of a Meeting

Sometimes I wonder if one of Dante's levels of hell is a boring meeting where all of the attendees have too much to do and would rather be anyplace but there?
I learned years ago to shake things up a little and have a box of
Sitting at every place.  It helps "The suits" too loosen up --  Become a kid again and everyone leaves with a lovely prize.
If we spend the best part of our day at work we better learn how to have F*U*N*

Friday, July 1, 2011


I have lots of hang-ups but I guess the one that evokes my most visceral reaction is clutter. 
I look in my closet at all of the hangers and wonder why I can't find anything to wear?
I heard this great idea for clearing out the clothes clutter.
1.  Hang all of my hangers backward on the rack.
2. Each time I wear something hang it back up the right way.
3. At the end of six months everything that is still hanging backward goes to the Goodwill.
Ahhhhhhhh I can feel the wide open spaces already!

“Life is not home yet, it is an ark.”
Henri Nouwen