Tag Archives: parenting

Speechless

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Silence by Ket Quang via Freeimages

It is the bane of every writer to lose their words. Writer’s block is really a thing and it can be a very scary thing indeed. Being a fledgling writer myself, I am slowly trying to trust the process. But every time I publish a blog post, something that feels akin to giving birth, I feel purged and I panic that I won’t ever have another thing to write about. Writer’s resources suggest a myriad of ways to nudge the writing process. Use a prompt. Write something every day at the same time. Put ideas on paper without judging what is happening. All good advice to be sure but none of them fully assuage the fear that a coherent set sentences may never come to me again. In other words, I will be speechless.

It’s not as though words have flowed freely in every situation in my life. I was speechless both times I gave birth, first to my son and a few years later to my daughter and held them each for the first time. Words failed me when I witnessed my son marrying his long time sweetheart. My throat closed up when I was told of my cancer diagnosis. I was tongue tied when I shook Bruce Springsteen’s hand although I did manage a grin when we took a photo together. But when I had to be Momma Bear or step up to something I felt was unjust I have had no problem voicing my concerns.

As a parent, I felt that one of the greatest gifts I could give my children was permission to speak up and advocate for themselves. I grew up in the 50’s and 60’s when a common adult adage was that children should be seen and not heard. Early on I was given the impression that what I had to say was not as important as what I should be listening to and what I was listening to was that my voice had less power than others did. I don’t blame my parents because at my current age I can fully appreciate that they were doing the best with what they knew and with the information they were raised with. It was ultimately up to me to find my own voice and I confess I am still finding it. During their younger years I constantly advocated for my children because they had yet to find their voices. Even when they did I still felt it was my duty to speak for them until one day they both assured me they could speak for themselves. That day was bittersweet to be sure. I was happy they felt strong and confident to say and do what they had to do. But a large piece of my parenting duties had to be put to rest.

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Speech Bubble by Prawny via Pixabay

When I consider the courage and power it takes to raise one’s voice, I must admit it is an interesting time in history right now. People are finding their voices about so many things that have been silenced for such a long time. Sexual assault. Racial profiling. Religious persecution. People of every age, gender and race are speaking out about things that happened to them yesterday or last year or last decade. The power of speaking out is overriding the fear of being shamed for the secret itself. Ironically, the thing that can render you speechless can also free you once you tell it. None of us could have ever imagined what has been kept quiet for so long. Each day the news brings more and more to light. A troubled young man with a criminal past obtains an assault weapon and enters a church with murderous intent. Speechless. A famous movie producer abuses countless women using his power to make or break their professional careers to get what he wants. Speechless. Politicians and religious leaders and movie stars prey on young girls and boys. There are no words.

I heard a woman speak at a recent empowerment event I attended. She said “a closed mouth does not get fed”. That statement was so profound I have not been able to forget it. Not only does it mean the obvious, that we cannot feed our bodies if we keep our mouths closed but that our spirits too suffer if we do not speak out on the things that hurt or demean us. I truly believe the best gift you can give a person is permission to speak their truth. Do words get corrupted? Yes. Are voices used for evil as well as good? No doubt about it. And yet the worst thing is the silence, the belief that one’s voice doesn’t matter or their story is worthless. They are rendered speechless.

Each day new stories are coming to light as men and women come forward to speak. It’s overwhelming, the scope and depth of the revelations. But it is also an enlightening and empowering time. Time to change the narrative. Time to change the balance of power where the demeaned and disenfranchised are allowed to speak and be heard.  Time to listen.

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Shout by macmao 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.