Category Archives: hope

Tattoo

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20170613_192600I have a confession to make. I just got my second tattoo. It’s the symbol of a  lotus flower with it’s roots deep in the mud. I chose that symbol based on the Buddhist belief that without mud you will not get a lotus flower. In other words, the beauty of our life is grown out of the proverbial mud we must slog through to find what is truly important in our lives.

As a younger person I never thought I would be one to get a tattoo. Tattoo’s have certain stigmas attached to them. The person who decides to get one must be wild and even a little dangerous. There are actually some tattoos that scare the heck out of me and I would never want to meet that person in a dark alley. For some reason the tattoo says more about the person then any other attribute. But mostly it is the fact that those with tattoos agree to have a small needle jab ink into our skin to create some amazing works of art that seems to set those without tattoos apart.

Tattoos have been around since the beginning of the human existence or at least for several millennia and possibly longer. Mummified skin has been found in countries spanning the globe and in almost all societies. Tattoos could be status symbols, amulets against evil or for safe childbirth, the product of religious ceremony and culture or the result of the drunken longing of a homesick sailor for his mom. They can also be a symbol of personal rebellion against the status quo or maybe a badge of honor after a life changing experience. If life’s battle scars make one a warrior then maybe getting a tattoo to mark that battle is like a signpost on the road of that person’s life. I have seen tattoos that illustrate the struggles and triumphs that person must have experienced. Of course I have seen just as many butterflies, flowers, skull heads and hearts, random symbols that can only have personal meaning to the one wearing them.

Our family faced a crisis when my son was in high school and it was news that devastated us and thrust us into an alternate reality where the norm was long hospital stays, endless drug therapies and days on end when family members resided in different cities as we fought off that specter. We had just begun to recover from that year long event when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. We faced another year similar to the one before but this time I was angry and determined to avoid the disruption we had previously experienced. That was easier said than done. Halfway through the 8 month treatment, I was not so defiant as I fought just to stay above water day to day. My son had moved on to college by that time and carpe diem was the philosophy I watched him follow. So I was not surprised when he called to tell us he was getting a tattoo. Nor was I concerned. In my mind, we had just had the very hard lesson for the past

IMG_1491 (1) two years not to sweat the small stuff and getting a tattoo was definitely in that category. My daughter started her tattoo journey by celebrating her high school graduation and then again for her college graduation.

I got my first tattoo the year after I finished breast cancer treatment. It is the Celtic symbol for healing and that’s just what I wanted for myself and my family. I often forget that I have it because it is located in a place I only see in a mirror. But I recall the prayer I offered up when that ink was being needled into my skin. And I think of the prayer I offered up when the lotus was being tattooed on me as well. Now that is in a place I can see daily so that I can remind myself on those tough days that at the end of it I am likely to find a lotus blooming. Or at least have the faith that there will be one.

Everyone has scars, the worst of which are often hidden. Perhaps tattoos are a way for some to reflect the focus, the work, the energy it takes to move beyond those scars to continue on that long and winding road of life. Tattoos are not for everyone, no doubt. There are many other ways to mark the signposts of our lives or symbolize the fights we have survived. Or to celebrate life’s beauty or the birth of a child or yes, to honor your mom. My family has chosen to wear tattoos and we all have at least one. Maybe that does make us rebellious or wild. I am okay with that if some get that impression. I see it more as my children marking the signposts of the life they have lived and are living, including that time we all traveled together to the edge of the abyss. Thankfully, there was a gloriously blooming lotus flower waiting for us there.

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Photo by vibrantskys via Pixabay

 

A Thousand Cranes

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Photo by jwskks5786 via Pixabay

My son and daughter-in-law have just returned from their honeymoon in Japan. In their account of their amazing and extensive travels, they told me about the Children’s Peace Monument at ground zero in Hiroshima and the young girl who inspired it. Suddenly familiar memories came flooding back. In the early 80’s I was enthralled with a fusion jazz band aptly named Hiroshima. They sang a song about a thousand cranes based on the true account of a young girl named Sadako Sasaki who survived the initial bombing of Hiroshima only to sicken and die from radiation induced leukemia seven years later. Sadako believed the ancient adage that if she could fold a thousand paper cranes she would be healed. Although she was unable to finish the thousand cranes, her friends and family continued her work and spawned a global peace movement.

When 9/11 happened I remember vividly sitting down at the dinner table that night, saying a prayer for the victims and crying. My children were 9 and 13 at the time and needless to say there was a lot of confusion and worry about what was happening and could something like that happen to them. There were many conversations in the days that followed about fear, death, mortality and living your life as you choose despite the fear or the terrorists would win. Since that life changing day, I have burned candles daily with that same fervent and innocent faith of Sadako Sasaki that my prayer for peace and safety would be answered.

Sadly, devastating bombings have continued since that fateful day in August of 1945, one just last week in Manchester, England. Today in Kabul. Yesterday in Baghdad. Paris, Cairo, Brussels. No place is immune. Sadly children are once again victims. Our human sorrow seems to be never-ending. We are at the mercy of those who believe in a cruel and evil god. It is not the god of people who love their children and families and work hard to build a life together. This god has no faith. This god has no religion. This god has no heart.

If I could fold a thousand cranes to fly into this evil and sweep it away with the power of two thousand wings, I would do it even if I grew too old and my hands too stiff to fold. I will never stop fighting for a safe world for my children to live freely and love openly and raise their own children and build a happy life.

20170525_203049In an account following the A-bomb drop on Hiroshima, the crew of the Enola Gay, the plane that carried that devastation, recall being caught in the shockwave of the explosion that rocked the plane and knocked them off their feet. They looked back over their shoulders to see that huge white mushroom cloud unfold. They understood what they had done but could not imagine the extent of the horror their mission wrought. The irony is not lost on me. Drop a bomb to stop a war. Adults start wars but it’s always the children who suffer for those sins.

I think of today’s suicide bombers who detonate themselves and forfeit the chance to look back over their shoulders and struggle with what they have done. Instead I believe they come face to face with their evil god and only then realize the magnitude of their mistake.

In the helplessness of yet another tragedy, I steadfastly light my candles every evening and offer up a prayer for peace on earth. For harmony even among differing beliefs and for the chance for all children to grow and realize their potential. For the safety of my children. For the safety of all children, young and old. For the hope that the power of the peaceful will eventually override the power of hate. That we will finally achieve that nirvana here on earth. Peace.

Transitions

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Tree of Change by Kimberly Vohnsen

It is said that the only constant in life is change. The world turns and us with it. We all change roles and jobs and sometimes partners. I never realized my life would spin so fast when often it felt as though time moved so slow. But these days there are moments when the world swerves so rapidly I feel I must grab onto the nearest proverbial light pole even as I wonder who that older woman is reflected in that storefront window. It doesn’t seem fair that the moment I begin to truly appreciate something in life, time snatches it away to make it suddenly a thing of the past.

Transitions are never clearer than in the faces of our loved ones. My children’s baby faces have morphed into the faces of young adults that sometimes cause me to double take. I can still see them in there, those beloved cherub cheeks and laughing eyes. But their expressions are those of older, wiser beings. On the other end, our elders are slowly leaving us and I realize I am becoming one of the next generation of elders. How can I still feel so young when all of the signs tell me otherwise? I color the white from my hair every eight weeks because I don’t recognize that emerging face under the fading hairline. I am certain that vanity is only a small part of that but perhaps I am just denying that face in the mirror. It’s not right to try to stop time but then I do not always see it that way. I see it as me aging on my terms. Other times I feel as old as the hills, dragged down by my own worry or guilt or just plain fatigue.

Still as I glance over my shoulder I sometimes wonder who that tall handsome young man is about to marry his long time sweetheart or that beautiful young woman navigating love and life in this brave and scary new world. They can’t be mine. I am far too young. They are far too old. I have not fully accepted that this transition and the hundreds of other transitions before this have occurred but there is no disputing the evidence.

Yet transitions are good too, they can be very good. They can spin one from a scary, stressful life situation to a calmer one and thank goodness for that. Like changing horses on a Ferris wheel, the ride can be bumpy or smooth. And here is the beauty of life’s transitions. For better or worse and despite of or in spite of all of my life’s transitions, I am still alive. I have been gifted with two children, a boy and a girl, a man and a woman. Two I can teach and two I can learn from. Two I can love and two I can fear for. But I am not ready. I’m not ready for this life transition. They cannot be gone from my cozy, safe nest so soon. But that is how change happens. Constantly. Dispassionately. Relentlessly. Sometimes I struggle to keep up.

In what felt like a blink of an eye, I was pregnant, I gave birth, I was a young mother, I was an older mother, sometimes a good mother and sometimes a not so good one. Then it was time to send them out into the world. Now I need to look to myself as they look forward into their own lives. That’s a transition too. When I was a childless young woman I only thought about myself and my needs and then for the past three decades I thought about my children’s needs. The world turns again. The human experience is a thorny and wondrous thing. How did I get to this place? That journey is a reflection for another day.

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Passage Through Time by Gerd Paulsen

For now I gaze at the Pacific sky, at the fast moving clouds that blink with brilliant moments of sun illuminating the spring awakening. Another transition. I wash my glass until the red wine stain is gone but like all residue, it leaves a shadow.  Our past leaves the residue of all of our experiences as well, our thoughts and deeds, our actions. Our sins.

I can mourn these transitions or I can celebrate them. I can dance to the music of transitions; David Bowie’s “Changes”, Al Stewart’s “Time Passages” and I can toast them with my residue stained red wine glass. But secretly I am still coming to terms with all of them. I am grateful for all the moments with my children I have been gifted with and I will try to let go of that little kernel of sadness and loss lodged next to my heart as I move forward. Perhaps the next transition will take care of that.