Thank you for stopping by my blog.

I write day after day because I discover extraordinary lessons from ordinary life experiences. I record my visual portraits of everyday life filled with something sacred in hopes that my reflections might bring an insight that blesses my readers.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

There are advantages to not having a sense of direction.

The advantages of being lost.

            There is one part of my brain that I am sure has never developed.  I have no natural GPS system.  I have been lost forever.  I have no understanding of north or south as a compass might indicate. 
            I was reared in a small southern town, Clermont, Florida, which had one or two stoplights.  I knew if I turned left out my porch door that I would end up at the drug store or movie.  It was simple and I felt safe.  When we moved to the North, we lived in a Franklin, Ohio. Franklin had four or five stoplights.  I relied on Daddy to take me to the library, school, my favorite ice cream shop, and my friends’ homes.  I never learned any directions except north was Ohio and south was Florida.
            Then, I went to Athens, Ohio for college and realized that I was always off course.  I couldn’t find my classes until I had repeated the path countless times.  I paid no attention to journey paths because I was enjoying the flowers, the hills, the beautiful architecture, and looking at students that I hoped to know. When I married, we moved to New Orleans. I had no hope at finding my way in that cobble street busy city.  Denny took me everywhere because I couldn’t find the French Quarter or Jackson Square by myself.  Even when he would drop me off for a shopping trip, I would walk and extra hour or two finding my way back to where he dropped me off at the CafĂ©’ du Monde, which we made our meeting point for chicory coffee and beignets. 
I never panicked when I went astray in London.  I just saw more than other tourist.  I got so turned around in Westminster Abbey that I got locked in one of the underground prayer chambers for over an hour.  I prayed and had a very special time with God. All was well with my soul when a monk came into the chamber and was surprised to find me.  Once I got disoriented in Ireland and went into a barbershop to ask directions.  A stout, pink-cheeked Irishman met me at the door of his shop and asked, “ Have you lost your way, lass?”  I learned in life, there is always someone somewhere who knows where I am.  They give me directions, and I eventually find my way. 
My west on my compass represents adventures.  I see more than other people because I end up in unplanned places like coffee shops, antique stores, museums, or boutiques. My east often brings me to old bookshops, alleys with lovely petunia plantings, and park benches to view beauty I may have missed if I went directly to my destination.  I enjoy being lost in Savannah, Ga. because I end up in a beautiful park square no matter which wrong turn I make. I take time to admire the statues and read historical plaques filled with information that are new nuggets of information to me.  Getting lost has reaped some great benefits in my life, including teaching me a little history.
My south is hysteria, not fearful hysteria but the laughing kind.  I get tickled when I make a circle and don’t realize it until I return to my original starting point.  It is kind of like finding my way and that gets me laughing inside and out, and then I begin again to search for the art museum I am trying to locate in Seattle, New Orleans, Washington D.C., Chicago, and other big cities.  I never miss an art museum, but I get a lot of exercise finding it.
 I know my north is “others”.  Yep, I sometimes feel a little panicky in a run down area that I have carelessly meandered into and ask God for help.  I remember being lost in southern England along a river.  I met a man that was extremely contorted because he was so bent over.  I told him I was lost because I had lagged behind my group because I felt moved to write a poem, and now I needed to find my hotel. He gave me simple directions that I have followed until this day.
“Take time to look up and be grateful for all you have.  I hurried through life always looking down because I was thinking of how I could control something, or complaining about others, or being critical of my family.  Now, I physically cannot look up and realize how much I am missing in my life time.”  I have never forgotten that stooped over man’s advice.  My north is my God, who gives me directions and guidance when I take time to ask Him.  So, being misplaced never bothers me because my ongoing search for a destination has introduced me to some interesting people and places that I would have missed if I had not been misplaced, that’s a nicer way to say lost, don’t you think? 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Discover what is new and unexpected.

The Art of Life
Photography by Rick Stieve

“You are the laboratory and every day an experiment.  Go and find what is new and unexpected.”   
                                                                                                            Joel Elkes

I have tried to honor the singular explorer within by choosing something new to experience every decade of my life.  I’m uncertain when I decided on this experiment, but I know that in my twenties I pursued marriage and teaching, in my thirties rearing children and becoming a woman of faith, in my forties being an active part of Young Life and Bible study ministries, beginning ballet ,and seriously focusing  on writing, in my fifties traveling abroad, going on missions, and being on the Midwest Writers Committee planning all year for the summer workhsops, and in my sixties writing a book and learning to oil paint.  These internal goals gave me impetus in summoning my energies toward one or two goals as well as learning to balance the art of living each day with joy and understanding of how much relationships affected the quality of my life. 
I am at the end of this goal decade and have finished my book on integrating schools the first year of my marriage and teaching career.  The years were 1967 and 1968.  It has taken three concentrated years to find five of my students and some of the staff to interview and check that my memories were accurate and research the climate of the sixties.  Three winters of focused writing and editing created my first book.  This week after five to twenty edits on each chapter, I am finished!  I have birthed an overdue baby.  It was long and tedious, but I am ready to seek an agent and publisher.  I have been brave enough to land at the end of what little I know.  I feel like a fledging freshman turning in her first research paper.  Because of this stretch, I breathe new air, understand that the Holy Spirit went with me every step of the way, and wonder what is possible for my future.  Another experiment of practicing something new brings me wonder and life.  For this I am grateful.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Learning to Die

Day of Dying by Sandi Baron
The priest had been called from his vacation in Ireland to come home because his mother had passed.  He realized that she had been dying of Alzheimer’s for so many years that this was truly a blessing for her and him. His retelling of her death last Sunday reminded me of my mother.
For any of us, who have lost a parent to Alzheimer’s, we understand that the end is a blessing.  I remember as Mamma went through each stage of this dreadful disease, I wondered how long before she didn’t know me.  She brushed her hair with her toothbrush, feared her showers, and asked me who she was and who I was.  I found some wonderful last memories through the gift of art.
 I would visit her in the nearby nursing home, and take her a tablet to draw me pictures.  She would take the colored pencils in hand, and using her determination to create, she would draw a butterfly, a flower, a tree.  They all were upside down.  I supposed that is how her brain was seeing things at that time.  A few weeks later, she asked if we could paint.  I would hand her the imaginary blue cobalt tube, and she would act as if she were loading it onto an invisible pallet held in her hand.  Next, she asked for viridian green, then cadmium yellow, and light red cadmium.  How could she remember these names when she couldn’t remember how to eat?  She would paint in the air her imaginary landscapes of the sea, or a sunset, or a beach.  I loved these times of air art.  She was happy and content.
Then, after about ten years of watching this disease progress, the week of dying came.  She had taught me since I was seven years old, how to sit with the dying.  She would tell me it was the last and best part of living.  She told me to listen and feel and I could see and hear Jesus at the bedside.  That was a lot for a child, but she explained that others were afraid to sit with the dying, and I should be honored always.  She asked me if I wanted to go with her while Uncle Morris was dying.  I knew Mamma wanted to teach me something so I went.  She would whisper to me what was taking place so I would not be frightened but understand the death process.
“See, he is picking at the covers.  It is a hard decision to leave his family.”
“Why does he have to leave, Mamma?”
“It is near his designated day to go to heaven.  He knows it will be so much better and no pain and Jesus is calling him.”
“I don’t hear him.”
“Quiet, Sandi, listen with your heart.”
After many long hours and three days of sitting with Uncle Morris, Mamma whispered, “He is going through his confessions and forgiveness.  It won’t be much longer.”
“Will God forgive him?”
“Oh, yes, and anyone else that asks for that forgiveness.”
I learned so much from Uncle Morris’ deathbed experience.  Through the years, I have been privileged to sit with many others on their last part of their earthly journey. I could hear my mother’s words and was honored to be in the presence of Jesus, pray for the one dying, and listen with my heart.
This time it was Mamma who was dying.  I sat and watched her changing facial expressions, her small, knotted hands, and her closed eyes.  I was intense because she had taught me each phase that I was watching.  I knew not to touch her because she had explained touching during the final hours made the loved one cling to this world and was an obstacle in allowing them to slip into the spiritual world. I had loved on her, hugged her early in the morning and told her goodbye and that I loved her. I told her my sister, Betty, and I would be fine, and we would take care of each other.  I wanted to give her the right of a peaceful passage in these last few hours, so I just sat and watched, prayed, and read the Psalms out loud to her.
It was a tranquil time for her and a bonding time for my sister and me.  We knew we were in the presence of the Almighty.  Mamma’s day had come.  Her last breath was light and peaceful.  Jesus showed her the way, and it was a blessing for all of us.