Surrender 111: Honor Society Induction

This afternoon my grandson Dayan and I had our customary Wednesday hang out time after school. We ate Chinese take out while watching episodes of Legends of Tomorrow and Broadchurch, chatting and laughing and catching up on the week’s news. As the afternoon shifted into evening however, so did our routine. Tonight I had the privilege of watching as Dayan was inducted into the National Honor Society. 

  
Dayan, who is a junior at Carl Junction High School, joined 58 other inductees this evening. Before tonight’s ceremony, my grandson was also elected as an officer. He will serve as the secretary of the group, throughout his senior year. 

 

The outgoing officers hand over responsibilities to the incoming officers during a candle lighting ceremony. The National Honor Society encourages the attributes of Character, Scholarship, Service and Leadership among its members and these qualities were discussed during the ceremony. It is very moving to watch as one candle is lit, and then the light is passed from candle to candle, symbolizing the way these exemplary teens share their light. 

  

After a quartet sang a couple of beautiful songs, Dr. Michael Howarth spoke. Dr. Howarth is the Director of the Missouri Southern State University Honors Program. He shared eloquently, encouraging the inductees to use the standards of the NHS and their unique gifts to build their futures, offering their talents to the world. 
 

Each new member of the Honor Society received a certificate of recognition. And then we all moved across the hall to enjoy cake and punch and a time of congratulating these young men and women. 

I am proud of my grandson. As I watch him nearing the end of his high school journey, I marvel at the man I see emerging. He is intelligent and goal oriented. He knows who he is and what he wants to do and the steps to take to reach the place where he wants to be. He is fun and charming and witty. And he is compassionate and fair and accepting of others. I have no doubt that this young man will go far in life, making his dreams realities. 

No matter where his life journey takes him, I also know this…I will always be his Yaya, and my love will accompany him wherever he goes. Congratulations Dayan, on an honor well deserved! 

  
  

Surrender 110: Mad Hatter Vignette

I had fun this afternoon, creating fresh vignettes within two vintage pieces…the wooden sieve that graces the dining room table and the suitcase atop the bedroom chest of drawers. I enjoy expressing my creativity by changing the vignettes often, using an eclectic mix of old and new pieces. 

 

The wooden sieve vignette is simple. It features an antique crocheted doily, a pair of white porcelain birds, speckled eggs in a white footed bowl and fresh flowers in a white pitcher. I love the turquoise metal sign tucked in at the back. It reads, “Believe you can and you are halfway there.”  I believe! 
 

I had a great time creating the vignette in the old suitcase. A couple of weeks ago, my sister Debbie brought me a special gift, a framed print she and my niece made, using a delightful quote from the Mad Hatter. I recently published a blog post that contained quotes from this cheeky Alice in Wonderland character. This was one of the quotes I used, because of my love of tea time, and Debbie remembered. 
 

Using the framed print as the focal point, I created a new vignette, using items I’d never grouped together before. The silky scarf, the gold teapot, the gold tea light holder and all the tea cups recently came from the house in Arkansas, keepsakes that belonged to Greg’s mother. The hand painted vase of the woman’s head sporting a hat was given to me by Leta many, many years ago. It fits in perfectly with a Mad Hatter theme. 

I lit tea lights in the candle holder, and within the stacked tea cups, the thin glass allowing the light to glow softly. Serendipitously, as I played with the vignette, it was tea time. I brewed a cup of Scottish tea, sipping the steaming liquid as I finished the arrangement. I raised my cup and toasted my work, and the Mad Hatter. 

You’re entirely bonkers. But I’ll tell you a secret. All the best people are. 

I’m sure he approved. 

  

Surrender 109: Movie Review: Brooklyn

At last, I got to watch the Best Picture Nominated film, Brooklyn. I’ve attempted to rent the DVD multiple times, yet it was never available and I would go home with another movie from my Best Picture list. Checking on availability when I returned Bridge of Spies, I was told once again that all copies of Brooklyn were checked out. But, Richard at Crown Video, my favorite DVD rental store, offered to hold the next copy that came in and call me. He did as promised. On this rainy afternoon, I had the joy of settling in to watch this much anticipated movie. 

 

Brooklyn stars Saoirse Ronan, Domhnall Gleeson, Emory Cohen, Jim Broadbent, Fiona Glascott, Jane Brennan and Julie Walters. The romantic drama, based on a novel by Colm Toibin, was directed by John Crowley. The movie is rated PG-13, for brief strong language and one scene containing sexuality, and has a run time of 1 hour and 55 minutes. 

Brooklyn was nominated for three Academy Awards, including Best Actress, Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay. It didn’t win in any category. 

Eilis Lacey (Ronan) is a young Irish woman with no future in Ireland of the 1950s. Her older sister, Rose (Glascott), makes arrangements through a priest in America, securing a place for Eilis in Brooklyn. With no prospects for marriage or a full time job, and knowing that Rose will care for their aging mother (Brennan), Eilis makes the heart wrenching decision to leave her homeland and immigrate to the US. 

  
  

With Father Flood’s (Broadbent) help, Eilis takes up residence in a boarding home run by the firm but kind Mrs. Kehoe (Walters). She is also hired as a clerk at the Brooklyn department store, Bartocci’s, and enrolls in night classes at the local college, to learn bookkeeping. 

Yet in spite of all the good that is present in this fresh start in the land of opportunity, Eilis is extremely homesick, missing her family. Her life feels as empty and cold as her first New York winter. Until she meets Tony (Cohen) at one of Father Flood’s Irish dances. 

 

 
Tony, who comes from a large Italian family, brings joy and love into Eilis’ life. He is kind and sweet natured, attentive and fun. Tony takes Eilis to restaurants and movies, to Coney Island to swim in the ocean, and home to meet his parents and brothers. He encourages Eilis to continue her studies, which she is excelling in.  For the first time since she arrived in America, Eilis feels happy and content. 

  

She shares her happiness with her sister back in Ireland, through long letters detailing her new life. Eilis anticipates introducing Tony to her Irish family, but that hope is destroyed. Father Flood brings sad news that Rose has passed away, unexpectedly. Devastated, Eilis desires to return to Ireland for a short stay. Before she leaves, Tony persuades her to marry him, in a simple and secret ceremony at city hall. 

  
Back in Ireland, everything has changed. Rose is buried and Mammy has aged and feels alone. Eilis, who is now perceived as glamorous and successful, is offered a temporary job that could become permanent. And reconnecting with her former friends, she meets Jim (Gleeson), a handsome young man from a prominent family in her hometown. 

 

 
Confused, and wishing circumstances would have been as promising before she left Ireland, Eilis enters back into life in her home country, a life that strangely echoes her existence in Brooklyn. In Ireland she now has the promise of a future that includes a good job, a man who loves her, and family and friends who want her to stay. Her life, her heart, is torn between two countries, and two men. What will she choose?

  

Oh, this was a great film to watch, full of depth and challenges and growth. I had never heard of Saoirse Ronan, but she gave a wonderfully rich performance, and well deserved her nomination for Best Actress. 

I teared up many times, over Eilis’ parting from her family and the emotional pain of her homesickness. One of my favorite scenes, that evoked the greatest stirring of my heart, was during the Christmas dinner served to poor Irish men of New York City. These men who had once worked hard, building the infrastructure of the great city, were now destitute, and weary of life. As the meal concluded, one man stood and sang softly in Gaelic, as a thank you. Eilis’ eyes filled with tears, as did every man’s eyes in the room. As did mine. I couldn’t even understand the words. But I didn’t need to. That beautiful song called deeply to my Celtic roots. My soul recognized the meaning, even if my brain couldn’t. 

Listen to Frankie’s Song HERE

 

Brooklyn was gorgeous to watch, with wonderful 1950s clothing and the depiction of simpler lifestyles. However, the story was not simple. 

Brooklyn showcases the decision Eilis must make, of choosing a comfortable past or an unknown future. The past holds tradition and familiarity, predictability and patterns. It can also limit and stifle and become too routine. The future is fresh and exciting, full of promise and opportunity. It is also unpredictable and risky and can create fear. 

The broad decision that Eilis faces is one that I have faced before and will face again. Indeed, each of us at some point in our lives will stand at such a crossroads. Cling to the past or look to the future? The old country or the new? There are things to love about both, things that nourish our souls and call to our hearts. It’s always our choice. What will I choose? What do you choose? 

  
  
  

Surrender 108: International Haiku Poetry Day

Today is Haiku Day, presenting a wonderful and fun opportunity for expressing creativity. The art known as the haiku is a Japenese poem characterized by three lines of verse containing 17 syllables. 

 
Line one of the haiku employs five syllables, line two uses seven, and line three completes the poem with five syllables. The haiku (pronounced high-koo) is created using sensory language to capture an emotion or image. They are often inspired by nature, a beautiful moment or a poignant experience. Being observant and appreciative of nature and of life is helpful when writing haiku.

I enjoy writing haikus. My children and I used to sit at the dining room table, creating these short poems together. When I discovered that today celebrates the haiku, I was inspired to write a couple, in honor of the occasion. 

  
The river inspired one of my haikus, which is very appropriate since it is my symbol for this year. 

River stills its flow

Reflecting both sky and me

We reveal our depths

  

 

My beautiful garden inspired another haiku. 

Garden awakens

Wind chime sounds gentle alarm

Life stirs in me too

  

These poems came together quickly. In fact, once the creativity began, they popped into my head unbidden. Little purple wildflowers, dark storm clouds, delicate China tea cups, all were fodder for haikus. My first two, shared here, were my favorites. Perhaps someday, I’ll put together a book of haiku and photography. 

For today, I had fun celebrating this ancient art form. Have you haiku’d today?

  

Surrender 107: Feeding the Soul

I was excited today to have no appointments or commitments, freeing me to spend the day puttering in my backyard garden. Spring arrived early this year, and although I’ve spent an hour here and there pulling weeds, the flourishing garden needed a good deal more attention. I was happy to oblige. 

 

  
This is the third season for my personal paradise. It thrills me each spring to see the garden awaken, plants pushing through the mulch. It’s never quite the same garden, year after year. Plants spread, spaces fill in, surprise flowers pop up in unexpected places. That’s the joy of gardening, watching the way that nature shifts and evolves. 

  
 

Today I tidied up the southern border, removing weeds and inspecting new growth. Greg was a tremendous help, reattaching the vintage screen door that fell victim to high winds, chopping wood for the fire pit, mowing and weed eating, and joining me in removing the last of the weeds.  

  
  
The weeding finished, I turned my attention to one of my favorite activities…planting. I have a large assortment of metal containers dotting the brickio and backyard, including wash tubs, buckets, watering cans, boxes, minnow buckets and an old red toolbox. I vary the flowers and color themes each year, which is part of the fun! 

  

  
Because I harvested seed last fall, some of my containers received seeds today, rather than established plants. I’m looking forward to seeing if the calendula, firework flowers and coneflowers germinate and thrive. I also started lavender seeds in a large metal box. Other containers had young flowering plants tucked within them. 

 

  
The oval tub that belonged to my sweet Aunt Annie received special attention. My aunt, who left this earth last year, had a July 4th birthday. As I did last year, I planted red, white and blue flowers in the tub, to honor her life.  

It was a good day in the garden. I have more to do…more containers to plant, a whole section near the Peace Gate to redo, bare spots to fill in. And the north side of the yard will receive creative attention this summer. It’s a process, a journey, a surrender, to the desire to create living art. I anticipate many happy days ahead, spent puttering in my garden. 

Alfred Austin wrote, “The glory of gardening: hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature. To nurture a garden is to feed not just the body, but the soul.” My soul was fed today. 

  

Surrender 106: Beautiful Reflections

After a busy morning and afternoon, it was with great joy that I picked up my granddaughter Aubrey from school. We got to hang out for a couple of hours before joining other family members for dinner at one of Aubrey’s favorite restaurants. 

 

Being with Aubrey is like being with a young version of myself. Watching her, listening to her ageless wisdom, I am reminded of my own childhood hopes and dreams, and of my own gifts and abilities. 

This afternoon we engaged in activities that are meaningful to both of us. We watched Doctor Who together. Like my grandson Dayan, Aubrey loves this amazing series and surprises me with her depth of understanding. We’ve adopted the 10th Doctor’s favorite word, allons-y, which is French for “let’s go”, as our own. We colored together, using Crayola colored pencils in my new Doctor Who coloring book. 
 

It was too nice of a day to spend the afternoon indoors. We wandered around the backyard garden together. I pointed out plants and flowers and told Aubrey the names. She listened attentively and repeated them back to me. At seven years old, she is already interested in planting flowers of her own. I’d like to allow each of my grandchildren to plant and tend to their own small garden patch, if he or she so desires. 

It was as I watched her scamper with ease up the redbud tree that I thought about how Aubrey holds up a mirror for me, allowing me glimpses of the child that I once was. Like me, Aubrey is intuitive and empathic, sensing energy and spirit, picking up on the emotions of others, especially those who are sad or in pain. Unlike the younger version of me, she is unafraid and matter of fact about her abilities, even if she doesn’t always understand why she does what she does. 

 

Where I hid who I was, in fear and confusion, Aubrey simply accepts who she is. She is yet too young to realize how much compassion and healing she has brought to the small child within me. That wee Cindy, bit by bit, has learned to offer her gifts shyly to me as an adult now willing to embrace my whole self. 

I am grateful that Aubrey doesn’t know the fearful, anxious person I once was. The greatest gift I can offer to my grandsons, to my granddaughter, is to model what a fearless, creative, comfortable in your own skin life looks like. It is my great privilege to walk alongside the boys and Aubrey, offering into their lives, accepting their offerings in return. 

As Aubrey is a beautiful reflection of my past, I am a reflection for her, of future possibilities. She reflects understanding and acceptance to my inner child. I reflect hope and promise to the woman she is growing into. I appreciate this lovely child so much. I may just surprise her one day, and climb up to join her in the tree. Oh, the things we could then see together from that vantage point. 

  
 

Surrender 105: Bridge of Spies

This evening was movie night, as I watched the 4th of 8 Best Picture Nominated Films. I once again hoped to watched Brooklyn, holding Bridge of Spies in reserve as my second choice. I came home with the latter. 

  
Bridge of Spies stars Tom Hanks, Mark Rylance, Alan Alda, Amy Ryan, Austin Stowell and Will Rogers. This historical drama, based on true events, was directed by Steven Spielberg. The movie is rated PG-13 for some violence and brief strong language, and has a run time of 2 hours and 22 minutes. 

Bridge of Spies was nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Writing – Original Screenplay, Best Musical Score and in a couple of technical categories. Mark Rylance won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. 

 

In 1957, at the height of the Cold War, a Russian man, Rudolf Abel (Rylance) is arrested and charged as a Soviet spy. In a highly publicized show of receiving a fair trial, Abel is represented in court by Brooklyn attorney Jim Donovan (Hanks). Although the trial goes as expected, with Abel found guilty on all counts, Donovan takes his responsibility very seriously, desiring that his client truly receive a fair trial. 

Donovan’s honesty, and growing respect and compassion for Abel, draws judgment and anger from the across the United States. Even his senior law firm partner Watters (Alda) and his wife Mary (Ryan) don’t understand or support Jim’s desire to see Abel treated fairly. 

 

Although Donovan can’t prevent a guilty verdict, he does convince the judge to sentence his client to prison rather than give him the death penalty. Jim feels that Abel may serve a future purpose, should the need arise to exchange prisoners of war.  

And indeed, the need arises. For while Russians are spying in the US, Americans are doing the same over Russia. U-2 pilot Francis Gary Powers (Stowell) is shot down while on a covert mission and captured. The United States Government asks Jim Donovan to act as a non-government representative to negotiate the exchange of Abel for Powers. 

 

Donovan finds himself in Berlin, as the dividing wall is being built, negotiating with the Russians for the release of Powers, and with the newly formed East Germany government for the release of American college student Frederic Pryor (Rogers). The CIA doesn’t care about obtaining Pryor at that time, only Powers, as he knows critical information. But Donovan refuses to make the exchange unless both Americans are released. 

The lives of three men and the relationships between three countries all rest on the negotiating abilities of one very honest, and honorable, man. If he is successful, the exchange of Abel for Powers will take place across the Glienicke Bridge, more commonly referred to as the Bridge of Spies. 

  
This was a very good movie. I confess that I tend to lean toward James Bond type movies,  when watching films with the Cold War as the subject, full of action and cool gadgets and humor. I wasn’t excited about this Best Picture Nominated movie at all. I’m grateful for my tradition of watching all of the films. I would miss great stories and performances otherwise. 

Tom Hanks was superb in the role of the conscientious attorney, who was ruled by his heart and his sense of honor, rather than being swayed by popular public opinion. I enjoy movies based on true events. Jim Donovan later successfully negotiated on behalf of thousands of captive men, women and children. 

 

It was Rylance’s performance as Abel that was most riveting. He well deserved his Oscar. Artistic, thoughtful, an honorable man himself, Abel did what he was supposed to do, and was willing to accept the consequences. He maintained a peaceful demeanor, never expressing fear or worry. I smiled every time Jim asked him, “Don’t you ever worry?” and Abel replied calmly, “Would it help?” The friendship that grew between the two men, from radically different worlds, was heart warming. Abel affectionately called Donovan “the standing man” in his Russian language, recognizing the values that he stood for. 

I loved the messages contained within Bridge of Spies. The Cold War is over. The Berlin Wall has come down. And yet people are still divided and so ready to judge the differences they perceive in each other.  I choose to have compassion. I want to be honest, and honorable, in my dealings with all people…those who are similar to me, and those who are very different. I willingly offer up any prejudices held captive within me, in exchange for the freedom to love and care deeply for others. 

Being me, fully, I can let others be who they are, fully. We can build a bridge, step by step, toward each other…and meet there, in the middle. 

  

Surrender 104: Missouri’s Tree

As I was driving this afternoon, savoring the warmth and spring sunshine, I couldn’t help but notice the liberal sprinkling of flowering trees in the countryside. The Flowering Dogwood, with its showy white or pink blossoms, is Missouri’s state tree. And rightly so. The tree’s flowers appear this time of year, lagging a bit behind other common flowering trees, such as the redbud or Bradford pear. 

 

The trees are easily spotted, growing wild in the woods. Our trees are just beginning to leaf out and the Dogwoods, dressed in white, stand out among the soft greens of the other trees’ new leaves. 

The Flowering Dogwood became Missouri’s official state tree in 1955. The tree’s wood is valued for making loom shuttles, arrows, tool handles, and other small items that require a very hard, strong wood.
 

Many people enjoy having this decorative tree in their yards. Driving around Joplin today I spotted gorgeous Dogwoods in neighborhoods and parks. I stopped to take a picture of the beautiful specimen above, planted on the Missouri Southern State University campus. 

Pink Dogwoods are common in town, but rarely seen in the surrounding woods. Occasionally I’ll see a tree that has both white and pink blooms on it. 

 

It brought joy to my heart this afternoon, seeing the Dogwoods in bloom. When the woods are dotted with white blossoms, I know we truly have left winter behind. For me, they symbolize rebirth and new life and perseverance. 

And I have a personal connection to this tree. The cane that I used, during a recent sciatica flare up, is carved from a Dogwood tree. It served as support when I needed it and I came to appreciate the smooth, aged wood, for its assistance and its simple beauty. 

Kahlil Gibran said, “Life without love is like a tree without blossoms or fruit.” I’m grateful to have both in my life…love, and trees with blossoms, the beautiful Missouri state tree, the Flowering Dogwood. 

  

Surrender 103: Letting Our Lights Shine

Tonight was Book Club Night, which currently might more properly be called the Non-Book Club. We are in between books, and using our time together to explore a variety of topics. The beautiful thing is, as we take turns hosting an evening and leading the discussion, we are getting to know each other at deeper levels. And we get to shine, as our authentic selves. 

  
Cate asked each of us to bring a poem, a song or a quote to share this evening. 

I led off with Mid Life Woman, by David Whyte, from his book, The Sea in You. This poem touches me deeply as it creates a picture of a woman in her middle years. The opening lines are:

“Mid life woman

you are not

invisible to me.

I seem to see

beneath your face

all the women

you have ever been.”

Although the voice in the poem belongs to a man who has matured into one who can see into the heart and life of the mid life woman, when I read this poem I am invited to see and love myself at such an astonishing level. 

Check out the poetry of David Whyte here, or on his Facebook page. 

 

Margit shared a powerful quote from Marianne Williamson, that begins:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.” 

The line that states,”Your playing small does not serve the world” led Margit to share about her own journey of finding her voice and speaking her truth. Margit now does this with joy and confidence and it was inspiring to hear more of her story. 

 

Cindy shared the poignant poem The Mask, author unknown.  It begins…
“Always a mask

Held in the slim hand whitely

Always she had a mask before her face”

…and ends in a startling way, a cautionary tale, as Cate called it, of what happens when we hide too long behind a mask. 

Cindy led us in discussing why we choose to hide who we are, and the impact that hiding has on our lives. 

  
Kathleen totally surprised us, by sharing a story that she wrote more than 30 years ago. She read it aloud for the first time, this story that very few people know about. 

What courage she displayed, in so revealing her heart. What a precious gift to our little group. We were moved by her wisdom and vulnerability, and by her beautifully crafted words. We were genuine in our approval. We are gently encouraging this dear woman to publish her story so that it may be a gift to the world. 

  
     

Cate closed our time together by sharing snippets from three of her favorite songs. She spoke of her journey and how the lyrics from these songs have touched her life. Messages are all around us, given to us to inspire and guide and reassure. Music is one of the ways in which these divine love notes arrive. 

Cate delighted us with a surprise as well. Fanning out sealed envelopes, she instructed us to select the one we were drawn to. I love activities like this. I truly believe we receive what is intended for us. 

 

Within the envelopes were gorgeous bookmarks that this creative woman had made. The bookmark I selected (pictured below) was absolutely the right one for me, as were the others for the ladies of the Book Club. Karen was not able to join us this evening, but Cate had a bookmark for her too, and we paused to send our missing friend love and healing energy. 

I so value the roles these women play in my life. Tonight I felt we laid bare our souls, speaking with authentic voices. Marianne Williamson writes, near the end of the quote that Margit shared, 
“And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.” 

That’s what we are doing with each other, being who we are, and giving permission to one another to do the same. There were bright lights shining in the room tonight. 

  

Surrender 102: Stitch in Time

Greg’s mother, Leta, was a creative person. Before Alzheimer’s Disease robbed her of the simple pleasure of creating, she often sat in the evenings, busy with her latest project. She crocheted, and did cross-stitch, needlepoint, embroidery and French knotting. 

 

As I’ve packed up the house in Arkansas, I have found drawers and boxes full of craft kits, yarn of all colors and embroidery thread. These items are a testament to her love of creating.  

Tucked among the patterns and material, there are a few completed pieces, such as the canning jar lid cover pictured above. Mostly I’ve uncovered kits that were never opened. 

 

However, I have found several works in progress, needle work that Leta started and never completed. There’s another canning jar lid cover, snug within a hoop, two grapes and the delicate border completed and the leaf partially so.  

There’s a wonderfully done French knot piece, which may or may not be finished. The needle is still attached. I’m not sure what this was intended to be. Leta usually framed these small works of art and hung them throughout the house. I love the way age has turned the white on white needlework a soft cream color. 

 

At first these abandoned works of creativity made me feel sad. They stirred up feelings of loss and impermanence, of sorrow and time running out. 

I chose to reframe my thoughts. These hand made pieces of art, although incomplete, are just as charming to me as the many completed pillows and afghans, framed needlework and cute pot holders. Incredibly, they still carry Leta’s scent, Estee Lauder Youth Dew. 

I could finish the work. I learned needlework years ago. However, I intend to come up with a creative way to display these interrupted works of art. I may frame them or arrange them in shadow boxes, just as they are, hoops and needles in place, work stopped. 

  

The needlework, on display, will remind me of Leta and that she found joy in creating. They look as if she just laid them down and walked away, intending to return. And that’s good to remember too. Life shifts and changes, and ultimately time runs out here. 

These stitches, arrested in time, remind me of the importance of doing what I love to do, while I can, with great joy. What beautiful works of art. What beautiful lessons to receive.