Journey 100: National Sibling Day

sibling day youngsters

Today is National Sibling Day in the US, a day set aside to recognize and honor the relationships between sisters and brothers. The holiday was originally conceived by Claudia Evart, in memory of her brother and sister who both died early in life. In 2005 the holiday was officially introduced into the Congressional Record.

In researching this day, I discovered that 80% of people in the US have a sibling and that by the age of 11, children devote one-third of their time to their brothers and sisters. That’s more time than they spend with parents, teachers, friends or on their own. Having siblings teaches a child social skills, according to one study done on kindergarteners. The study revealed that children with siblings got along better with classmates than those without. The mix of boys and girls matters too. Boys that grow up with sisters are more sensitive and have better listening skills (You are welcome, Bryan!), while girls who grow up with brothers are less serious.

sibling day sisters

Do we look less serious here? Thanks, Bryan!

Relationships with siblings often outlast all other relationships. Our brothers and sisters are our first, and often our last, friends. We begin and end life with them. We quarrel, compete, wrestle, laugh, love, encourage and support each other. Being the eldest in my family, I was fiercely protective of my younger sisters and my baby brother. We are all adults, comfortably in middle age, and we still enjoy each other’s company, choose to spend time together, play and celebrate together. And I still feel protective of them. Throughout the day, working and teaching, spending time with a grandson and showing property, I thought about my siblings and felt gratitude for each of them.

sibling day Linda

Linda is the sibling closest to me in age, the person who made me a big sister. I can’t really remember a time where she wasn’t present in my life and still she is often my companion, doing firsts, going to movies, hanging out. As small children, I felt a huge sense of responsibility for her and became her interpreter when most adults couldn’t understand her rapid speech pattern. Linda lives life out loud and to the fullest, shares from her heart, loves children and animals. She is Gigi to her four grandchildren and to the rest of the kids in the family, and mom to two grown sons. She is fun, outgoing, loves to laugh. Linda teaches me about being true to who I am, and loving and accepting others, just as they are.

sibling day Debbie

Debbie is my younger sister, by six years. She was so adorable as a toddler and little girl, that Linda and I had to occasionally take her down a notch! She good naturedly put up with our attempts to teach her humility, when she would bat her big brown eyes and ask, “Aren’t you glad you have pretty little ol’ me?” And of course, we were. Debbie is artistic, quiet, but with a wicked sense of humor and a vast knowledge of music and movie quotes. She is Meem to her two grandsons and the other children in the family, and mom to one daughter, who shares her love of Halloween. Debbie teaches me that happiness doesn’t always show up with a smile but sometimes with a twinkle in the eye and a witty remark and a deep sense of loyalty.

sibling day Bryan

Bryan is the baby in the family, the son of my dad and stepmother. He is 14 years younger than I am. I loved him from the moment I saw him. He was a game changer, being the brother in a sibling group that had only contained sisters before his arrival. I spent many happy hours in the summer months, during my teens, playing toys with this bright, happy, inquisitive boy. Bryan was a young uncle to my children, and remarkably, my son and my brother look similar, because they both so resemble my dad….same dark hair and eyes, and same big smile. He is affectionate, fun, intelligent. He is a great dad to his two boys and his stepson. Bryan teaches me about compassion and humor and connection. He still calls me Sister, rather than using my name.

Clara Ortega says, “To the outside world, we all grow old. But not to brothers and sisters. We know each other as we always were. We know each other’s hearts. We share private family jokes. We remember family feuds and secrets, family griefs and joys. We live outside the touch of time.” I love that, especially since my sisters and brother and I are far from childhood. I treasure the fact that these dear souls walk alongside me, knowing me in ways that few people do, willing to fight for me, protect me, encourage me, be with me. And I do the same for them. Together, they have taught me how powerful and unbreakable the bonds of love are. I am honored and blessed to be their sister. I am grateful for them. Happy Sibling Day Linda, Debbie and Bryan. I love you and I am grateful for you!

sibling day Halloween

Having fun, Halloween 2014

Journey 99: Interstellar


It was movie night, primarily because I was expecting stormy weather. The weather never worsened beyond partly cloudy, wind and a few sprinkles of rain, thankfully. I picked up a DVD any way. I missed this film while it was playing in the theater and took the opportunity to watch it. It is not a Best Picture nominated movie. I viewed it for the pure joy of watching and being entertained, and pondering.

Interstellar stars Matthey McConaughey, John Lithgow, Anne Hathaway, Matt Damon, Michael Caine, Mackenzie Foy, Jessica Chastain, Ellen Burstyn, Timothee Chalamet, and Casey Affleck. It was directed by Christopher Nolan, and is based on the screenplay by Christopher and Jonathan Nolan. This sci-fi/adventure is rated PG-13 for intense action and very brief language and has a run time of 2 hours and 49 minutes.

Set in the near future, the earth is slowly dying, devastated by drought and famine. The crops are failing, mankind’s existence is threatened and everywhere, there is choking dust. The remaining population focuses on growing food and surviving. Coop (McConaughey), once an engineer and astronaut with NASA now farms and hopes for a better future for his children, Tom (Chalamet) and Murphy (Foy). A bright, inquisitive child who is bored in school, Murphy is being visited by an entity she calls her “ghost”. Skeptical at first, Coop tells Murphy to rely on science. Yet he too becomes convinced something is trying to communicate, using gravity and an old form of relaying messages….morse code.

Given coordinates by this mysterious force, Coop and Murphy discover a secret base, where it turns out NASA has not only survived, in a world where technology is no longer supported by humans, but is seeking a way to save mankind. Coop and Murphy meet Professor Brand (Caine), Coop’s former colleague, and his daughter Amelia (Hathaway). NASA has become aware of an anomaly in space, near Saturn, that appears to be a worm hole. Passing through the wormhole, explorers find themselves in an unknown galaxy. The team headed up by Prof. Brand has been sending missions through the anomaly for a decade, seeking a planet to relocate the people of earth to. Three planets have been identified as possible candidates for colonization. That’s Plan A. Plan B is to populate one of the planets with hundreds of frozen human embryos, starting anew.

Coop is asked to head up the crucial mission of visiting the planets to determine suitability. The trip is dangerous, yet it’s the only hope for saving the people of earth. And it may take years. Coop is torn. He wants to stay with his children, who are 10 and 15 years old at this time. Yet it is possible a successful mission will give his children a future, for their generation will be the last to inhabit earth, as the crops continue to fail and the drought continues.

Against his daughter’s wishes, Coop agrees to go. Murphy begs him to stay, telling him she’s figured out the message from the ghost in her room. The word is STAY, written in morse code. Heartbroken to leave his children, especially his daughter, Cooper gives Murphy a promise to return, and a watch that is identical to his so that when he returns, they can compare the time. Leaving his son and daughter with his father-in-law (Lithgow), Coop joins the team, heading up the mission into space.

The mission is long and fraught with difficult situations and deep disappointments. It would appear that the three planets were not as promising as hoped. The first planet is nothing but water. Amelia Brand, who is with Cooper on the mission, wants to head to the planet that was explored by a man she loves. Coop wants to go where the data is better. They only have enough fuel for one more visit. Amelia proposes that love is a guiding force, as important or perhaps even more important, than data. Cooper makes the decision, relying on science. The discover that the data on Dr. Mann’s (Damon) planet has been falsified. The fear of dying alone drove Dr. Mann to deception. The team has wasted their last attempt to find a habitable planet.

Time is passing on earth, much faster than it is for the team members in space. Cooper’s daughter, Murphy (now played by Chastain) is the age he was when he left earth. She works diligently with Professor Brand, looking for solutions to save the planet. Occasionally, she and her brother, (now played by Affleck) transmit messages into space to their father, who can receive them but not respond. They assume their father is dead, but send messages anyway. One such message, directed to Brand, tells her that her father has passed away, and with his dying breath, he confessed that there is no hope for earth. They are all going to die. Murphy asks, through her tears, if Amelia and Cooper knew that. Did he leave his children behind to starve and suffocate?

Coop decides to return to earth. He is foiled by Dr. Mann.  With only himself and Amelia surviving on the team, and knowing that years are passing on earth, he decides to slingshot around the black hole that is in this strange galaxy and use the last of their fuel to go to the third planet. At the last moment, Coop jettison’s himself away in a shuttle, leaving Amelia to go on without him, to carry out Plan B on the planet. Cooper enters the black hole, and rather than dying, he finds himself in a multi-dimensional place. He can see his daughter’s bedroom, from the time she was young to the present, all at once as time is overlapping here. Love drew him there, and he realizes that he was the ghost that came to his daughter to send a message. When the word STAY doesn’t keep his younger self from leaving on the mission, he downloads data to the watch that he gave his daughter, using morse code and the second hand on the watch. His daughter as an adult figures out the message and realizes that her dad returned to leave it.

Cooper passes out….and awakens in a hospital on a space station near Saturn. Much time has passed on earth, but he still looks to be middle aged. His message worked. The people of earth were saved with most of them living now on space stations. He has an emotional reunion with his daughter, (lastly played by Burstyn) who is now elderly, and dying. She sends her father to join Amelia, who is carrying out her mission on the third planet, alone.

I enjoyed this movie. I love science fiction, and especially one that has a time travel theme. This one not only explored anomalies in space, it explored big themes such as honesty, humor, survival, love and the connection between a parent and a child. Love was at the heart of this movie. Everything Cooper did was inspired by his love for his children, and the deep desire to see them survive and thrive. Love instinctively led him where he needed to go.  Amelia tells Cooper, “Love is the one thing we’re capable of perceiving that transcends time and space.” I agree. Love is the constant, the fabric of the universe. I am still discovering its depth and its power to transcend.

intersteller 2

Journey 98: BlinkNow…Maggie’s Story


My journey today is to share about another’s amazing journey, and how her courage and love have impacted so many people. I learned about Maggie Doyne through Elizabeth Gilbert, and her Facebook page.

After high school, as Maggie’s friends headed off to college, this 18 year old boarded a plane and set off to explore the world. With only a backpack and an open heart and mind, she traveled through four countries before finding herself in the Himalayas, hiking along the dirt roads of Nepal’s poorest villages. In the midst of this poverty, Maggie met Hima, a six year old girl breaking rocks to sell to help feed her family. Although she was barely surviving, Maggie saw a spark within this child. Most people might feel compassion for the plights of such a child. Maggie decided to take action as well.

She began by helping Hima, sending her to school, paying for her tuition, uniform and textbooks. Seeing the transformation in this young girl’s life, Maggie helped a few more children, and then a few more. The need was great. The children needed a home. Over the next two years, Maggie’s dream of providing one for the children took shape. She used her life savings to purchase land in Surkhet, Nepal. She founded the organization, Blinknow, and with the help of the Nepalese community, supporters from Maggie’s hometown in New Jersey, and people from around the world, the home was built, brick by brick.

In 2008 the Kopila Valley Children’s Home opened its door. Currently 51 children reside at the home, with Maggie as their mother. Her BlinkNow co-founder, Top Bahadur Malla heads up a team of caregivers, cooks, “aunties” and “uncles” who help care for the children. In 2010 a primary school was opened. More than 350 children from Surkhet and the surrounding area are getting an education, many of them the first in their families to ever go to school. Beyond schooling, the children are provided with health care and a nutritious healthy meal each day.

On the BlinkNow website, which you can visit HERE, is this quote:

At BlinkNow, we believe that every child in the world should be provided with the most basic needs and rights – a safe home, medical care, an education and love. And with that, they will grow up to be adults with a social conscience and the skills to continue our mission of ending the cycles of poverty and violence in our world. We believe that in the blink of an eye, we can all make a difference.

Elizabeth Gilbert, who has shared Maggie’s story previously, is making a difference as well. She threw down a challenge this week. If people would donate $10,000 to BlinkNow, her favorite charity, she would sing Total Eclipse of the Heart during karaoke at The Diamond Horseshoe Club in NYC, and post the video. Her challenged stemmed from her desire to push herself beyond her own comfort zone, by singing karaoke. When people asked for evidence of her singing, she came up with this challenge, pledging to match the donations, dollar for dollar. If somehow $20,000 was raised, she’d also sing a rendition of Faithfully, by Journey.

As of this morning, more than $30,000 has been raised for the children of BlinkNow, with more donations pouring in all day. A very generous donor has agreed to contribute an additional $50,000, meaning that so far, more than $110,000 has been raised for this very worthy charity. I made my donation as well, touched by the heart of this teenage girl who didn’t walk away from suffering and poverty, but rolled up her sleeves and asked, “What can I do?” And…I want to see Liz’s karaoke video! It will be posted tomorrow and I will update this blog post with it. Donations are still being accepted HERE until midnight tonight, if anyone feels so led to contribute to make life better for these kids. Type the world KARAOKE in the special instructions box, as Liz is still matching donations. And of course, regular donations are accepted by BlinkNow at any time!

Maggie says, “What have we done as a human family that our children are living this way? More importantly, what can be done to reverse the course?” The children of the world are our future. All the children. I am grateful to have learned of Maggie and her kids, and the BlinkNow organization. In the blink of an eye, we can all make a difference, indeed.

blinknow children

Liz singing karaoke

Journey 97: Secrets of the Heart

untethered soul heart open

It was Book Club night again! How I appreciate this wonderful group of ladies who are willing to share and look within their souls, ask questions and grow. We covered chapters 6 and 7 this evening, titled “The Secrets of the Spiritual Heart” and “Transcending the Tendency to Close”.

Although the entire book is life changing, I love these two chapters especially, as they reveal the phenomenal power that the heart has to open and stay in a place of love and growth….or close and allow energy to become blocked, creating problems in life. I had time to re-read chapter 6, in preparation for the club meeting. And as I drove around town showing property I listened to chapter 7 on Audible, on my phone. It is amazing the difference in reading the words myself, and hearing the words read. Different truths and “ahas” stand out when I am listening, so much so that I often believe the audio edition has words included that are not in the book. I’ve checked many times….the book and the recording are identical.

Reading The Secrets of the Spiritual Heart opens my heart even more with each pass through the chapter. Michael Singer shares that the heart “is one of the most beautiful and powerful energy centers, and one that affects our daily lives. An energy center is an area within your being through which your energy focuses, distributes and flows. The heart controls the energy flow by opening and closing.”

My heart is open and energy is flowing easily and readily when I am experiencing love and being present in the moment. When something happens, for example, someone says something to me that I dislike, my heart closes, and the flow of love stops. My initial reaction is that I no longer like that person, at least, in that moment. The truth is, all through our lives, from our babyhood on, we have been experiencing situations that hurt us and cause us to close our hearts, over and over again. That energy doesn’t go away though. It gets stuck, in the region of the heart, and because energy must move, it circles around and around. We can push that looping energy away, to the back of our awareness, and there is stays….until something triggers that old hurt, that old fear, that old energy. Then the old but still very real energy, which tries to pass through the heart energy center again, is felt and experienced, creating the same emotions that the original hurt or fear caused. Until that energy is at last released, let go, it will continue to be felt anytime a similar experience triggers it.

One only has to be out and about in Joplin, when the tornado sirens sound, to immediately see this truth in action. That energy of fear that occurred as a result of the 2011 tornado gets triggered by the sound of the sirens wailing. The fear stirs and people react, big time. That has been true for me as well. I am still working through those layers of energy, releasing the fear, allowing it to pass through, each time the sirens sound or a severe weather alert appears on the tv. Currently, I experience a mild anxiety, felt more as restlessness, whenever the weather gets severe. I hope to eventually react in an alert, yet calm way, without fear, without anxiety, without that “flight or fight” surge of adrenaline.

Transcending the Tendency to Close is a wonderful chapter that teaches exactly what the title says….moving past, growing past, the tendency to close at all. Two experiences cause the heart to close: resisting and pushing energies away because we are bothered by them, or clinging to energies and keeping them close because they make us feel good. In both cases, we aren’t allowing the energy to pass through and we are wasting precious energy by blocking the flow, rather than just enjoying life.

Closing down is a way of trying to protect the heart from further hurt, further fear. The problem is, if the heart is closed down, all energy has a difficult time getting in or out. Closed is closed. Our joy is limited even as our pain is limited or confined. Singer points out that to be closed is to stop growing. He shares, “Once you close, you have to make sure that what you protected doesn’t get disturbed. You then carry this task for the rest of your life. The alternative…is to give yourself the ultimate gift by deciding not to do that anymore.”

I gift myself by watching what causes me to want to close….and stopping myself from doing that by relaxing and opening my shoulders and heart area and letting the energy pass through. And by being aware of what triggers old energy. I admit handling the triggers is much more difficult. I tend to want to react, and wallow in the old energy, the old hurt…rather than allow the energy to be felt, to be experienced again and then allow it to pass through. I am learning. And trust me, life brings plenty of opportunities for learning and growing, opening and releasing.

Michael Singer says, “The reward for not protecting the psyche is liberation. You are free to walk through this world without a problem on your mind. You are just having fun, experiencing what happens next.” Imagine, not allowing anything to cause a closure of the heart, a restriction of energy. That is what I desire, to stay open, and never close. To allow love and joy to flow through me, filling up and lighting up my heart, and then flowing out to touch those around me….without ceasing. That is experiencing life…and finding freedom, indeed.
untethered soul pic

Journey 96: National Tartan Day

tartan day get your plaid on

What a perfect holiday to celebrate, for me! I don’t know how I missed this celebration last year, however, I am happy to have discovered it in time for this year.

Tartan Day is a recognition and celebration of Scottish heritage. It is celebrated on April 6th each year in the United States. April 6th was chosen to commemorate the date that the Declaration of Arbroath, the declaration of Scottish independence, was signed in 1320.

It is estimated that there are more than 6 million people in the US who claim Scottish descent. Although the first Tartan Day was celebrated in New York in 1982, little was done to follow up the event. In 2004 the National Capital Tartan Day Committee, a group of Scottish-American organizations, lobbied the House of Representatives. The following year, House Resolution 41 was unanimously adopted that designates April 6 as National Tartan Day.

Four years later, President George W Bush signed a Presidential Proclamation. The proclamation reads, in part:

Americans of Scottish descent have made enduring contributions to our Nation with their hard work, faith, and values. On National Tartan Day, we celebrate the spirit and character of Scottish Americans and recognize their many contributions to our culture and our way of life.

Scotland and the United States have long shared ties of family and friendship, and many of our country’s most cherished customs and ideals first grew to maturity on Scotland’s soil. The Declaration of Arbroath, the Scottish Declaration of Independence signed in 1320, embodied the Scots’ strong dedication to liberty, and the Scots brought that tradition of freedom with them to the New World. From the evocative sounds of the bagpipes to the great sport of golf, the Scots have also left an indelible mark on American culture.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim April 6, 2008, as National Tartan Day. I call upon all Americans to observe this day by celebrating the continued friendship between the people of Scotland and the United States and by recognizing the contributions of Scottish Americans to our Nation.

tartan day close up

I celebrated the day by listening to Red Hot Chilli Pipers, a rock bagpipe band, as I drove in the car. And this afternoon, I added my clan tartan to my outfit by draping a tartan scarf around my shoulders and securing it with a thistle brooch. I am a member of the Maitland Clan, which includes Lauderdales. I had the privilege of visiting Lauder, Scotland last year and touring the home of my ancestors, Thirlestane Castle. Distant cousins still occupy the castle today. The plaid I wore this afternoon is actually the Lauder Tartan. The Maitland Tartan is private. I am allowed to wear it, but I must order it online and my membership in the clan will be checked. The shops in Scotland, while they carried many, many other clan tartans, could not carry mine. One of my journeys this year will be to purchase my first Maitland Clan Tartan, in a scarf or shawl or throw. Someday, I’ll own a Maitland Tartan kilt!

Trisha Telep, in her book “The Mammoth Book of Scottish Romance”, humorously wrote, “Any self respecting Scot knows that a good tartan is the solution to everything: it tells you where you are, where you belong, who your friends and family are. Forget the Vikings: those guys just can’t hold a candle to a delicious battle-weary warrior whose fighting skills and wicked sex appeal have spawned a thousand Scottish heartthrobs.”

I smiled over the image that sprang to mind of those delicious battle-weary warriors. And decided it was time to watch another episode of Outlander! I love the part about knowing where you are, where you belong, who your friends and family are. The clan and its tartan are about connection and being a part of something larger than myself, something with ancient roots that sink deeply into the fertile Scottish soil. That’s my clan, and my people. Those are my roots. That’s my homeland. I am Scottish. I am happy to be.

tartan day cindy

Journey 95: An Eclectic Meandering Path

day of reading

Today was Easter Sunday, and a cool, rainy one at that. It was the perfect opportunity for a day of reflecting on Life and Joy, feeling gratitude for the One who defeated death and tore the veil in two, and spending time reading in a wide variety of books. With various cats nestled in my lap throughout the day, and both iced and hot tea at my side, I had a sweet time of rest.

In keeping with the laid back day, I am writing a simple blog tonight, sharing a quote from each of the seven books that I read in today. I am a multiple book reader, preferring to have several books going at the same time. Rather than finding that practice distracting I find that the themes in the books often flow together in unique and amazing ways, often meshing together to highlight a message through repetition or combining to elevate my awareness. I normally grab the book that I feel drawn to in that moment, so it was a special treat to have time to read in seven.  I continued in five books that I had already begun to read, and started two new books today. Five are non-fiction while two are fictional tales.

Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon Book 2 in the Outlander Series

I’m loving this series set in Scotland and France during the 1700’s. As I read in this book, I begin to speak with a Scottish accent…in my head! In this quote, Claire is explaining to the head of the local hospital why her husband allows her to volunteer. It made me smile.

“’So, you are not only a milady, you are with child, but your husband does not object to you coming here? He must be a most unusual man.

‘Well, he’s Scottish,’ I said, by way of explanation, not wanting to go into the subject of my husband’s objections.’

‘Oh Scottish,’ Mother Hildegarde nodded understandingly. ‘Just so.’”

Trowel & Error: 700 Shortcuts, Tips & Remedies for the Gardener by Sharon Lovejoy

A great find at Cracker Barrel, this book is full of wonderful advice for gardeners and home spun remedies for creating and maintaining a healthy, vibrant garden.

“Go outside today (pajamas permitted) and visit with your plants. Just a few minutes of this quiet time of reflection and inspection can change the way you look at and tend your garden. You will begin to discover not only problems, but also the small miracles (often overlooked) quietly unfurling, blooming and hatching everywhere around you. Cultivate wonder in your garden, and expect the unexpected.”

Love from Heaven by Lorna Byrne

I have had my awareness raised and my eyes opened concerning the presence of angels as God’s messengers of hope and love to mankind, as shared by this precious woman from Ireland. This is the fourth book that I have read of hers and I am touched each time by her messages.

“When we allow ourselves to love life we get energized mentally and physically, and start to see more purpose in our lives. We become happier and healthier people, more able to cope with whatever life throws at us. We become more compassionate and loving, less judgmental.”

The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert

I have read a couple of non-fiction works by Liz. This is my first novel by the author of Eat, Pray, Love. I’m enjoying this story about a young woman who is a botanist. In this passage, 16 year old Alma has been assigned the task of organizing the estate’s library.

“She was also physically strong enough to carry about the heavy crates and boxes. Too the weather was so poor in 1816 that there was little pleasure to be found outdoors, and not much benefit to be gained by working in the garden. Happily, Alma came to consider her library work as a kind of indoor gardening, with all the attendant satisfactions of muscular labor and beautiful unfoldings.”

Love the Home You Have by Melissa Michaels

I have enjoyed following Melissa’s blog, The Inspired Room, and looked forward to digging into her first book, which just released. It offers simple ways to embrace your style, get organized and delight in where you are.

“Home is right where you are. As for those dreams you have about what a home should look like? They can come alive wherever you are, in any size, shape or style of house, with all its limitations and frustrations, once you embrace who you really are, what you love, and your own authentic style at home.”

You Can’t Make This Stuff Up Life-changing Lessons from Heaven by Theresa Caputo

Yes, this is THAT Theresa Caputo, also known as The Long Island Medium. I have attended two of her live events and I am blessed by her ability to share messages from Spirit with those who are grieving or lost in their journeys. This is the second book of hers that I have read. The chapter I read today was titled, Nobody Wins the Blame Game.

“Address a situation and move forward without being defensive or slinging blame. You can make every excuse in the world, but how will you make things better?”

A Religion of One’s Own: A Guide to Creating a Personal Spirituality in a Secular World by Thomas Moore

I so appreciated Moore’s book, The Re-Enchantment of Every Day Life, that I moved on to this book of his when I completed it. I am not fond of the word “religion”, preferring the word “spiritual”, however, I like this quote:

“Religion is our creative and concrete response to the mysteries that permeate our lives.

When you are religious in a deep way, you sense the sacred in things, a faint and mysterious pulse. Both in the world and in yourself you catch sight of the numinous, a hint of something more than human. In developing a religion of one’s own, it’s important to cultivate an eye for the numinous, a sacred light within things or an aura around them, the feeling that there is more to the world than what meets the eye.”

What a beautiful and a restorative time of reading. The interwoven themes today centered around being who I am and doing what I love, which includes all things Scottish, gardening and puttering around my home, and letting go of what doesn’t serve me on my journey. Thomas Moore says reading is a spiritual practice. I agree. I had the privilege and joy of practicing much spirituality today.

day of reading with cats

Angel’s turn to curl up with me


Journey 94: The Imitation Game

the imitation game

I declared a movie night for this evening. After a busy week it seemed a good time for some down time. One of my favorite ways to accomplish that is to watch a movie. I chose to relax with The Imitation Game. This was film number five out of eight, nominated for Best Picture.

The Imitation Game stars Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, Allen Leech, Matthew Beard, James Northcote, Mark Strong, and Charles Dance. The film was directed by Morten Tyldum and is based on the book, “Alan Turing: The Enigma” by Andrew Hodges. The biography drama was rated PG-13 for mature themes and has a run time of 1 hour and 54 minutes. The Imitation Game was nominated for 8 Academy Awards including Production Design, Best Original Score, Film Editing, Best Director, Best Supporting Actress for Knightley, Best Actor for Cumberbatch, Best Picture, and Best Adapted Screenplay, for which it won its only Oscar.

Set during WW II, this is the true story of mathematician and cryptanalyst Alan Turing (Cumberbatch). Turing, and his amazing and brilliant team of code-breakers, are in a race against time to decipher the German messages that are sent out during each day through Germany’s communication machine, named Enigma. Considerable unbreakable, the British government assembles the team to do the impossible: break a code that a machine creates…and changes every day. Doing so will not only end the war, it will save millions of lives.

Turing, who is not popular, heads up a team of mathematicians and statisticians that includes Hugh Alexander (Goode), John Cairncross (Leech), Peter Hilton (Beard), Jack Good (Northcote) and the only female on the team, Joan Clarke (Knightley). Turing is misunderstood and threatened by the commander in charge of the project, Denniston (Dance), and secretly aided by government official, Stewart Menzies (Strong). Turing has a mind that is beyond brilliant, and yet he lacks social skills and the ability to comprehend sarcasm and subtleties of language. He fights to keep his place on the team as he develops a machine to decode another machine. Given one month to make his machine, nicknamed Christopher, work, the rest of the team at lasts pulls together and supports Turing in his efforts.

Joan not only has a complex intelligence, she also helps Turing understand social interactions and how to make friends. They form a close friendship around their mutual respect for each other and their work to break the Enigma code. Even though Turing confesses to a team member that he is a homosexual, he asks Joan to be his wife, to appease her conventional parents and keep her with him, working on the project.

With time running out, the team breaks the code, using the seemingly insignificant German weather message that goes out every morning at 6:00 am. Using the common words that are in each message, “weather” “heil” and “Hitler” Turing’s machine is able to decipher each day’s messages. The team works closely with Menzies, using statistics to determine which messages to act on, and which messages to ignore. If they had acted on every piece of intelligence that they received, the Germans would have been alerted to the fact that their unbreakable code had, indeed, been broken, and they would have changed their tactics. With a detachment necessary to make such decisions, the team fed vital information to allies and their own government, slowly but surely changing the course of the war. It is estimated that their work shortened the war by at least two years, saving approximately 14 million lives.

In 1951 Turing, now a professor at Cambridge, was arrested for indecency, a charge against homosexuality, which was a crime in the UK at that time, and given the option of imprisonment, or chemical castration. He chose to be injected with drugs rather than imprisonment so that he could continue his work on his machines. Turing died one year later. The film indicates suicide. Research I did after watching the movie suggests his death was caused by accidental cyanide poisoning as Turing worked with an apparatus for electroplating spoons. In 2013 the Queen Elizabeth posthumously granted him a pardon. Alan Turing is today recognized as the father of computer science, his machines the forerunner for the general computer.

This was a beautiful film. I have not watched as many “based on a true story” movies this year, as I did last year, and these stories always inspire me. I am amazed to found out the whole story of how World War II was won. It was a combined effort of countless military people, on the ground, in the air and at sea, commanders and high ranking decision makers….and a little group of six people who excelled at solving impossible puzzles. Their story was kept secret for more than 50 years.

This is, at heart, a story about being who you are, even if who you are is very different from everyone else. Sadly, even those who are different will attack one who lives at the extreme edge of what is considered normal. I strongly dislike injustice and prejudice, of any kind. A movie like The Imitation Game brings me into a raised awareness of the uniqueness of ALL people, no matter how different they appear to be from me. I teared up many times, watching Turing’s internal conflict over struggling to fit in…and not caring whether he did. Cumberbatch and Knightley both gave outstanding performances and deserved their nominations.

The words that became the theme woven throughout the film, repeated at least three times by different characters, were these: “Sometimes it’s the people who no one imagines anything of…who do the things that no one can imagine.” What a powerful reminder that greatness lies in all of us, and is expressed in many ways. Such souls may crack unbreakable codes… or ring up purchases at a supermarket while offering out of their hearts. All of us have the ability to make lasting contributions to society and change the world, staring with our own small space. Walking away from this movie with the conviction to extend grace and respect to others, all others, while freeing myself to offer out of my own passions and talents, honors the man Alan Turing. I am grateful for his life. I am  imagining what I could not imagine for myself, before.

the imitation game quote

Journey 93: Afternoon Tea with William


What a treat today, to be invited to afternoon tea. My cousin not only graciously extended the invitation but prepared the tea and the sandwiches. I contributed mini scones and William completed the meal with thin chocolate wafer cookies, called biscuits in the UK. 

It’s been a busy and emotional week. I can’t think of a better way to relax, and at the same time feel refreshed, than by sharing a pot of hot tea. William even had a tiny pitcher with milk at the ready. 

I formerly called this young man, son of my dear cousin Mindy, by the name of Harry. I realized as we navigated together through the shifting and sometimes challenging landscape that appeared after Mindy’s passing, that he was referring to himself as William. I like to call my family members and friends by the name they prefer the most. William was using his legal first name. I have shifted to that name as well. And it is a fine name, meaning “strong, resolute warrior-protector”. What great qualities. I see William growing into those with ease. 

This afternoon, we chatted and caught up on each other’s news and journeys. We talked and laughed and sipped our hot tea. This ritual became a daily practice when William, Mindy and I visited Scotland last year. This son was very indulgent of his mother and me as we wandered about each city and village that we visited, searching for the perfect spot to have tea. The memory, though tinged with sadness, makes me smile. 

Sitting across from him on this day, I smiled as well. William has grown through so much these past three months. I’m very proud of him. And very touched that we shared this tradition today. I sensed Mindy nearby, her love and pride almost tangible in the room. She approved of the fare included with our afternoon tea. As did I. I returned to Joplin uplifted and restored in body and spirit. Thank you, dear William. 


Journey 92: Fireworks for Uncle Dale


Today my family on my dad’s side gathered in Tulsa, OK, to honor and celebrate my uncle. Dale Sheridan Aaron was another pillar in my life, a tall, kind hearted man, husband to my dad’s sister, Aunt June. They married before I was born and so I’ve known Uncle Dale all my life. 

In spite of that long relationship, and hours and hours spent in his presence as a child, playing with my five Aaron cousins, I learned things about my uncle today that I did not know. I didn’t know that his hometown was Cassville, MO, and that his family had a feed store there. I didn’t realize he had three brothers AND three sisters. Or that he loved to fish for trout in Arkansas. I knew he served his country in the Navy but I learned today that he served as an aircraft mechanic. 


What I did know about this dear man was that he loved his family. He and my aunt were married for 62 years and they earned the title of Lovebirds due to their obvious affection for each other. Dale loved his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. From them I heard words like hero, superman, wise, protector. My uncle was a quiet man, known to have a toothpick in his mouth most of the time, unless someone in his family was bullied or menaced…and then a lion-like fierceness emerged to subdue the threat. 


I also remember my uncle as a hard working man, spending years in the insurance and newspaper industries. As I entered my teens, Dale opened fireworks stands just outside the city limits of Tulsa. I was so excited when he offered me and my younger sister Linda jobs helping out in the stands, selling a variety of fireworks. He never knew this, but I was so honored to be asked and I wanted to do an excellent job working for him. I set up a mock firework stand in my dad’s house and practiced waiting on customers and making change.


Linda and I spent several happy summers employed by Uncle Dale and working side by side with our cousins. What fun times those were, selling fireworks and having light-hearted and serious discussions with my cousins about life, about the opposite sex, about growing up. I had my first lessons in business, working for Uncle Dale, lessons that ignited an entrepreneurial spirit within me. I also had my first encounter with the law!

After long hot hours spent inside a wooden stand, open to the scorching July heat, my cousins, sister and I would run and play in the big open field nearby after dark. There was a huge billboard in that field and we created a crazy game. Some of us would climb up onto the billboard platform while those remaining on the ground threw lit bottle rockets at us. The idea was to dance and duck and dodge the rockets without being hit. On one of my turns on the ground a bottle rocket that I had just ignited got away from me and shot out into the busy street, exploding beneath a car. It wasn’t just any car. It was a police car. The officer immediately wheeled into the parking lot. My companions scattered and I stood, trembling, wondering what my dad would say when I got to make my one phone call from jail. Uncle Dale strolled out to meet the officer, toothpick in his mouth. I don’t remember what was said, other than I was warned by the officer to be more careful. As he drove away, I turned to face my uncle, wondering if I was going to be scolded or worse, fired. He chewed on his toothpick, looking at me with a twinkle in his eyes. His lips twitched into a smile, and without saying a word, he turned and walked back to the stands to close up for the day. I’ve never forgotten that night and how my uncle handled the situation and showed compassion and humor toward me. 


After a beautiful service the family gathered at the cemetery for a military graveside ceremony. It was very soulful to watch the removal of the American flag that shielded the casket. We stood silently as Taps was played, the haunting tune synonymous with farewell, and as the flag was folded by two Navy Honor Guards. Tears ran down our cheeks as a young man knelt before my sweet aunt and presented her with the flag, his voice cracking with emotion as he expressed gratitude for my uncle’s service. We concluded our time together with a meal back at the church. It was a precious time of sharing stories and reconnecting, hugging and promising to stay in touch. 


       Aunt June and three of my cousins. 

I thought about my uncle on the drive home. I love the connection we shared around the 4th of July and the firework stands. Ironically, my Aunt Annie, whose life we celebrated yesterday as we laid her to rest, was born on July 4th. Which led my mind to my garden. There is a flower called the Gomphrena Firework Plant. It’s showy blossoms resemble fireworks as the explode in the sky. I will plant those flowers in my garden, to remind me of Uncle Dale and those fun summers when he was my boss. 


When fireworks light up the sky, they bloom, like flowers, opening in explosions of color…powerful, beautiful, fleeting…and then they are gone, leaving an after image that slowly fades away. Life is like that. We bloom, opening, growing, expanding outward, our brilliance lighting the way for others before we fade, leaving memories that linger for a time. Uncle Dale, your light was magnificent and beautiful. I’ll never see a display of fireworks without thinking of you. I am so grateful to have had you in my life. I love you….and I’ll see you later. 


Journey 91: From Annie’s Garden to Mine

Annie teen

On this bright and beautiful spring day, my family gathered to celebrate the life of my dear aunt, Anna Lou Reynolds, affectionately known as Annie to those who knew and loved her. Over her lifetime, that was a huge number of people. I was reminded today that my aunt called friend anyone that she knew longer than 15 minutes.

I knew her for much longer than that, of course. She was a constant in my life, my mother’s older sister, mom to three of my cousins, Uncle Ralph’s adored wife. Although these relatives lived in Kansas, near Wichita, we spent much time together throughout my childhood and my teens. My sisters and my cousins and I were raised in close kinship, much as my children were raised with their cousins and my grandchildren now spend time with my sisters’ grandchildren.

I always knew everything was going to be fine when my Aunt Annie showed up. Fun times shadowed us throughout the visit, and stories flowed freely each evening around the dinner table. My aunt talked with her hands, gesturing to punctuate her sentences, her soft southern drawl as distinctive as the glint of humor in her eyes. I watched her a lot, unbeknownst to her, the eldest child in her family, older sister to my mom and my uncle Ben. I’m the eldest child too, and watching how she interacted with her younger siblings, my mom especially, set an example for me as my own sisters and I grew up.

Annie with bird

Annie loved her husband, her children and her grandchildren, her extended family, gardening, and being creative. She was always an animal advocate, loving many dogs, cats and birds during her life. Each time we visited her home, I was curious to see what new pet she had acquired, what new plant was blooming under her care. She, like my mom, was a wonderful story teller. Lying in my cousin’s basement bedroom as a child, I loved listening to the muffled rumble of voices in the dining room above. The comforting sound of Aunt Annie and my mom and Uncle Ralph talking and laughing soothed me into drowsiness. Peace descended along with sleep, knowing these stalwart people in my life were still awake, keeping watch in the night.

Annie Mom and Grandma

Aunt Annie and Uncle Ralph had a long and lively marriage. They seemed well suited, even to my childish notions of what romance was. Their love never faltered but seemed to grow stronger over the years. They raised their son and daughters, welcomed grandchildren. His strength complemented her sweet temperament perfectly. Uncle Ralph left us seven years ago. We all know he has been patiently waiting for Annie to join him, a blink of time for him, long months and years for her.

During the beautiful eulogy for my aunt, written and read by Annie’s younger daughter, my cousin told of a dream my aunt had last fall. She dreamed her dear husband Ralph drove up in a new, shiny black car. In the backseat, Annie’s mother and stepfather waited. As Ralph smiled and opened the door for her, ready to seat her in the car, Annie decided to run back inside the house, to leave a note for her daughter, who has been my aunt’s caretaker since her stroke 18 months ago. To her great disappointment, Annie woke up in her bed, confined still in a body that was failing her. She wept that morning. My understanding cousin, seeing her distress, told her mother that should her father return for her in his shiny black car, it was okay to leave with him.

Annie and Ralph 2

We know that happened. My uncle returned for his bride, his Annie, last Thursday. As we shared stories and tears today, shared love and respect, several of us had beautiful images of the two of them, healthy, young, strong, dancing together on streets of gold, reunited in joy. A love like that knows no bounds, lasts for eternity, overflows to us here in the earthly realm to warm our hearts and give us hope.

After a lovely time of celebration, the family returned to Annie’s house for a meal together and goodbyes before we departed. I walked with my mother, sisters and cousins in my aunt’s yard, admiring her flowers, feeling her presence, wishing we could have spoken about this shared passion that we have for gardening one more time. My sweet cousins gifted me, along with my mom and sisters, with metal containers to bring home. I have loved using metal buckets, washtubs and watering cans as receptacles for flowering plants of all types. I now have an oval tub on my brick patio that belonged to my aunt. Knowing how much her mother would enjoy passing along transplants from her garden, the cousin closest to me in age dug up Irises, in purples and yellows, and a hardy sedum plant called Autumn Joy, to give to us.

Annies tub

I am beyond touched by my cousins’ generosity. It means SO much to me to have plants in my garden that came from Aunt Annie’s yard. She tended these plants and now they will be tended by me.  I will smile each time I see them. Their beauty will remind me of hers, their presence a reminder of my cousin’s graciousness. I already know what I will plant in the oval container. I will share that in future pictures.

Annies irises

As we stood at the grave site, Paster Don spoke of the transformation that Annie has undergone, like a caterpillar who has emerged from her cocoon at last, as a gorgeous butterfly. She is free. She is made new and her spirit soars, whole, complete, beautiful. He closed our time of celebrating and saying goodbye, for now, with these words:

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things. Phillipians 4:8 NIV

What fitting words for Anna Lou Reynolds, recently of this earth. In the wind that swirled around us, I could feel her caress, hear her voice, sense her joy. Until we see you again, Aunt Annie, tend your new garden, twirl and dip as you dance, watch over your loved ones. I am grateful for you. I love you.

Annie and Ralph