November 12 – Resist or Release

by Patricia Roop Hollinger

Autumn in the Cariboo-1

Quaker Meeting was my destination on this crisp, windy fall morning. Trees were swaying; some as though their boughs would break, while others seemingly allowed the wind to give them the ride of their lives. Leaves were swirling in spirals while others floated lazily to the ground below.

“Why that fits the description of how people choose to die,” I thought.

I have outlived many of my family members and peers; thus been a witness to various and sundry methods that death has released them.

My grandmother had a brief illness during her last year. She was recuperating with my mother and took her last breath while asleep during the night. No lingering for her. She had swayed through a myriad of fall seasons, the death of two husbands, and sunnier days, raising four children, in a lifetime of 88 years. She knew when it was time to take her last breath.

Then there are the deniers. Death happens to other people. I witnessed such a death with my second husband. We couldn’t talk about death in spite of the fact that his body was wasting away due to cancer, multiple heart problems, diabetes and beginnings of dementia.

“I am going to live until I am 90,” he would tell me.

The reality only hit him when his M.D. pulled up his chair, got in his face and said: “You need to hear this, for you are dying.”

Was this heartless? No. My husband needed to be shaken out of his state of denial, for death would have the last word despite his protestations.

The leaves symbolized the deniers of death as they hung onto the branches tightly in spite of winds that were battering them to and fro. “No, no, it’s not time yet” they were saying. “We want another day, another week, and another month.”

As a hospice volunteer witnessing the death of the physical/bodily existence is just a rebirth into another form of living. I do not proclaim to have the answer as to why one person dies seemingly peacefully while others struggle with agonizing breathing for what seems like an eternity for the witnesses.

May I leave this life floating and swaying to the rhythms of Andre Segovia’s guitar or Deuter Buddha Nature like the leaves that know when it is time to stop hanging on and just drift into what lies ahead.

Patricia Roop Hollinger: cat lover, musician, gardener, voracious reader, now exploring writing skills in retirement. She was employed at Brook Lane Health Services as Pastoral Counselor/Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor/Chaplain for 23 years prior to retirement in 2010. Celebrated her fourth wedding anniversary on October 30, 2014 to a former high school heart-throb.

November 2 – Was I Wrong to Yell?

by Martha Slavin

road

 “Be kind, be kind, be kind, be kind.”
~ Henry James

I am the last person to yell at anyone but I found myself rolling down the window of my car today and yelling at a young mom to get off her phone and pay attention. She turned around and yelled back that it was none of my business what she was doing.

Actually it was my business.

The road I was driving on was sectioned off for oiling. The lanes for both directions of traffic were very narrow. The young mom was walking along the edge of the road with her two young children while she was talking on her phone. Her daughter kept looking back apprehensively to see if cars were coming their way. At the stop sign, a large pickup truck began to turn the corner, almost getting stuck because the turn was so narrow. The mom and her kids decided at that point to walk in the middle of the road beside my car and the truck. I just couldn’t believe what she was doing and rolled down my window, and yelled, “Get off the phone!”

The truck managed the corner and drove away. The young mom, still bristling from our exchange, looked at me and yelled back. I waved for her to go ahead and she stepped out in front of my car to walk across to the other side of the street. I had no idea what she would do next. She decided to walk along the side of the lane where traffic cones squeezed the road space instead of crossing to the sidewalk on the other side. Once again, I had no idea what she might do so I slowed down and followed her at a safe distance. My husband urged me to go around her even though the lane was narrow. My anger was up though, and I decided not to take the chance, passing her only when she arrived at a safe island in the middle of the road.

Was I wrong to yell?  Yes and no.

No, because sometimes when we make poor decisions we need to be accountable to the ‘village’ around us.

And yes, I was wrong to yell. Yelling doesn’t solve the problem (other than to release some spot of anger inside me). I could more effectively have helped the young mom in a moment when she was confused and frustrated. The angry part of me won out today, and the part of me which is usually filled with empathy had disappeared. It makes me think how quickly we can react in a way that we don’t expect of ourselves.

Martha Slavin is an artist and writer. She does book arts, mixed media, watercolors, poetry, and memoir pieces. She is working to produce chapbooks that feature both her art and writings. She lives with her husband and 2 cats in California

September 22 – Wedding or Bust

by Ardine Martinelli

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Getting married in Reno, NV offered many unexpected surprises. With family and friends coming to our wedding, Frank and I flew into Reno the day before to find a wedding site. We figured it wouldn’t be hard to find a chapel in the heart of Reno–the marriage and divorce capital of the country.

Frank booked the wedding suite at the MGM Grand Hotel. Upon entering our room, we were greeted by a large red heart-shaped bed on a pedestal. I literally bent over in laughter as soon as the bellhop left. Frank and I sat on the bed giggling like two teenagers and flopped back looking up at a large ceiling mirror.

After settling in, we needed to find a chapel for our wedding. We asked at the front desk where we might find wedding chapels and they looked at us with a smile and, I’m sure a silent, “DUH, you’re in Reno.” But they were polite and said, “Oh, I don’t think you’ll have any problem there’s one on every corner, just walk down the street.”

Totally confident we began our search. The first one looked a little too glitzy with a big neon sign flashing over the double doors of wrought iron. Passing this one up, we came upon one with a more subdued front. Walking in we found plastic flowers covering an altar and went up both sides of the small aisle. Cracked linoleum covered the floor. A plastic Jesus hovered over the altar. The fragrance of moldy plastic permeated the place. After three more chapels with all the same decor, I was almost in tears. What did I expect in Reno? Experiencing a severe case of cramps, I just wanted to go back to the hotel and rest. Cramps, plastic Jesus’, neon lights and a red heart-shaped bed were not what I envisioned for my wedding. We slowly walked back to the MGM, unable to face one more “wedding chapel.”

Walking into the hotel I noticed a sign that said Wedding Chapel with an arrow pointing down a long hall. Why not? Following the signs, we came upon the most beautiful double doors made of rich mahogany with elegant stained glass. Inside we found a very sedate chapel, the decor in subtle mauves, grays and blues. The chapel was all I had hoped for, very tasteful carpeting, seating, and no altar. Now the big question, was it free tomorrow? Yes! We scheduled our wedding for 11:00 a.m. and reserved the room in the restaurant for a luncheon to follow. You may ask, “Why didn’t we check the MGM first?” My question exactly! I’m sure there was a reason for our afternoon excursion through the chapels of Reno.

Ardine Martinelli lives in the beautiful NW and loves hiking, gardening, reading, and, of course, writing. SCN has been a wonderful prod for her to continue writing. She is a spiritual director and retreat leader.

September 16 – Oh Say Can You See

by Patricia Roop Hollinger

star

Excitement began to build like a crescendo when playing the Rhapsody in Blue on the piano, as I anticipated the Star Spangled Banner event being held at the Inner Harbor in Baltimore, MD.

My husband and I boarded the bus with eighty or so other residents who live in the retirement community with us, all in varying stages of navigation, some with canes adorned in red white and blue.

Overcast skies did not dim the possibilities that the Blue Angels would be flying overhead–this being the awaited-for event of the day.

Boarding the Spirit of Baltimore became a feat in and of itself. Ah! The staff assisting sighed relief when all were seated with nary a trip up the gangplank.

Loud music blasted from the DJ’s quarters. Most of us this age experience waning hearing abilities even without the aid of hearing devices. The possibility of having a conversation over dinner was ruled out as one of the pleasures of the day.

Ah! But we will see the Blue Angels fly overhead. That is the teaser.

Overcast skies became clouds bursting with rain, not bombs, and it trickled through the roof of the Spirit of Baltimore.

“Be thankful it is not bombs,” I said to myself.

Joe Biden arrived at Fort McHenry in a helicopter. The Inner Harbor was lined with people as far as the eye could see and the excitement was palpable, but the Blue Angels did not fly overhead.

Then, it was time to board the bus and return to the Retirement Village. The plodding back to the bus was even slower than the disembarkment.

We arrived home safely, greatly appreciated and watched the Star Spangled Banner event on our TV, under a dry roof, and with a remote that could control the noise level.

Ah! Now this made it a Star Spangled Event.

Patricia Roop Hollinger is a retired chaplain/LCPC. Hospice volunteer, avid reader, cat lover, music lover and now in pursuit of honing her writing skills.

September 3 – Life Lessons in Mentoring

by Kali’ Rourke

Kali

I started mentoring a first grade girl last year through Seedling’s Promise, a school-based, research driven and metrics based program that has great training and support. I will mentor her again this year!

My childhood family had its share of poverty, dysfunction, and divorce. I even had a Dad who committed suicide in prison when I was an adult. The parallels between me and my Mentee are many. You would think I would know everything I need to about how to communicate constructively with her, but you would be wrong.

You see, I have forty plus years on her. During that time I had a career, married, had children, became a philanthropist, and along the way I became removed from the culture of poverty and crisis. I had to re-learn these lessons. Thank heavens, Seedling’s Promise assumes we will all need that and prepares us to be intentional mentors.

Here are just a few things I learned this last year.

  1. The gifts I bring to my Mentee are hers to do with as she wishes with no expectations from me. Why? Because in the culture of poverty, all things brought into the house belong to the family. When I gave her flowered bobby pins for Valentine’s Day, she told me her mom “put them on the baby.” Untrained me might have said, “But those are yours; you should take them back!” or perhaps even worse, “Oh my gosh, why would you put those dangerous things on a baby?” Both statements would be damaging and would distance my Mentee from me because it would be painfully clear to her that a.) I didn’t understand her family at all, and b.) I disapproved of them. Instead, thanks to my Seedling training, I simply told her that she was kind to share with her sister.
  2. I must avoid judgment of her parents. One of the most damaging things a Mentor can do with a child of the incarcerated is to express disapproval of the missing parent or the caregiver who is present. I helped my Mentee write a note to her Dad in prison. It was simply filled with the unconditional love of a child for a missing parent. (And smiley face stamps, of course!)
  3. I must always respect the pride of the Caregiver. She is the gatekeeper of the mentoring relationship and it exists only with her approval.  I don’t know her story and I don’t have any right to judge anything about the way she is parenting. We are all tempted to jump in and “save” or make them fit our paradigm of success but good mentoring is combining acceptance and role modeling. If you have an effect on a child, it will be because of your friendship.
  4. I am there for my Mentee. Anything else is just distraction, and my focus in this relationship is to listen and do no harm.

What will the coming year bring? I have no idea, but I hope it includes her smiles and giggles!

Kali’ is an active volunteer in Austin, Tx, and serves on several boards and advisory councils for mentoring. She is also a mentor, an Impact Austin Philanthropist and a social media wonk.

August 28 – Floodables

by Kayann Short

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A week after the flood, I woke early. My first thought: Are they gone? We’d heard rumors the day before that the barricade behind which our farm was corralled would be moved further west on Highway 66. The barrier had been hastily assembled to protect our nearby town of Lyons, Colorado, until its evacuated residents could return. Because our farm borders the highway over which the floodwaters rushed, we were caught within the restricted zone, even though we’d had no flood damage and no reason to leave.

I dressed quickly and walked down our driveway toward 66. No traffic on the normally busy highway suggested the barricade remained. We’d been to the checkpoint many times to negotiate with guards as we tried to conduct normal farm business. Officials weren’t happy we’d remained, despite crops and animals that kept us in place.

Now I turned onto the highway and looked to the rising sun.

The road was empty as far as I could see. No gates, no guards, no guns. During the night, they’d disappeared. Nothing remained but grey concrete vanishing into the horizon.

“Whoohoo! They’re gone!” I yelled, pumping my fist into the air that 66 would be open to our farm again. Then I glanced around. The road was clear of trucks and equipment. I was glad no one had seen me celebrating in the midst of our town’s devastation.

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But the highway wasn’t completely bare. In the middle of the road sat a brown paper sack. I’d seen workers handed a similar lunch each morning. Figuring no one would return once the day’s work of rock and rubble began, I took the bag back to the kitchen without looking inside and forgot about it until John came in at noon. “What’s this?” he asked. Curious what some agency had packed for a laborer’s lunch, we found a tuna kit; small bags of treats; pita bread, a pear; and a Twix bar.

As organic farmers, John and I don’t each much packaged food, especially of the plastic cubicle variety. Still, someone’s hands had prepared this meal and some worker would go without. It didn’t seem right to waste food in these post-flood days when thrift seemed a virtue and feeding people was on our minds. Food seemed a gift, whether from the soil or a brown paper bag.

John ate the peanuts; I ate the pita, craisins, and Twix bar. The chickens loved the pretzels. Later, we told friends we’d composted the pear because it wasn’t organic. “Like the Twix bar was!” they teased. We’ve still got the tuna kit. It’s our take-away that life can change instantly, leaving you choices you’d never considered.

When disaster hits, people have little time to grab what’s most important. Loved ones–human and animal–come first; computers, photos, and family heirlooms next to preserve our lives before. But if memories were objects, which would you take as you rushed out the door? I’d take that morning’s call to an empty highway, “The barricade’s gone–and we’re still here.”

OWD_KayannShortKayann Short is a writer, farmer, teacher, and activist at Stonebridge Farm in the foothills of the Colorado Rockies. She is the author of A Bushel’s Worth: An Ecobiography (Torrey House Press), a memoir of reunion with her grandmothers’ farming past and a call to action for local farmland preservation today.

August 25 – Home of Uncommon Histories

by Diane Sward Rapaport

Four years ago, my husband and I sold our home in Jerome, Arizona and moved to Oregon. Jerome had been home for 35 years.

Last May, while visiting friends in Jerome, I received an email from Barbara Beneitone, who lived in the house before the mines closed in 1953: “My Mom, sister brother and I are going to be in Jerome next weekend. Would it be possible to see the old homestead?”

We agreed to meet there. It was the first time I had been back to see our old home since we moved. The yard was full of foxtails and neglect. No one had lived there since we sold it. The Beneitones hadn’t been back since 1951.

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Ninety-one year old Doris and I stood in the driveway. “The house was built in 1926 by Marguerite and Nikolai Domjanovich, my parents,” Doris told me. “They were Croats from Yugoslavia. They lived there with my brother, sister and I. When I married, my husband moved in with my parents, and we had four children. When my sister married, her husband moved in. We were one big happy family living in a little house.

“For the first two years, we had seven people and two dogs living here: my husband, a teenage son and toddler, my husband’s best friend, George and his son and George’s girlfriend–a hippie commune in a town full of them.”

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The Beneitone men were miners. A decent job for them left a mountain of pollution for future residents to cleanup.

The apricot tree their family had planted was barely alive. “We buried our cat under it,” I told Doris. “My husband and I heard the ghosts of the house whispering, ‘Thanks for giving us a cat to be our companion. We’ve been wishing for one for a long time.’”

Doris smiled and pointed to a spot where her family grew beets, turnips, cabbages and carrots. “I made barrels of sauerkraut,” she told me. “The kids loved to eat pigs in blankets–sauerkraut and hot dogs.

“My father made copper railings and set them in iron pipes. It kept is kids from falling over the wall to the patio below.” The railings had tipped and loosened. Where my peace roses bloomed held the coal bin for Doris’ cook stove.

There we stood–two old ladies with uncommon histories, rooted by our memories. Neither of us had any desire to go down the steps. Lifetimes had passed, not to be measured in years.

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We held in common our love of Jerome, the home that meant so much to us, and the memories of our children that scrambled the town’s craggy canyons like goats. We understood without words what it was to feel the tug back of Jerome when we left for life in another city and a different set of people and circumstances.

Jerome is a favored place on earth, and we shared an almost supernatural attachment. For us, this lovely town would always be home sweet Jerome.

Diane Sward Rapaport is author of Home Sweet Jerome; Death and Rebirth of Arizona’s Richest Copper Mining City, published in 2014 by Johnson Books, Boulder, CO. Rapaport is a published author in three fields of expertise: music industry, soil and groundwater contamination, and Taoist qigong and tai chi. She has a Masters Degree from Cornell University in Renaissance Literature.