Category Archives: Family

Monsoon of Mercy

At dVerse Poets Pub today, Abhra tells a tale of the monsoon season in India. The “prompt” for the day is fairly vague, so I drew from Abhra’s story about how the hot, dry summer is followed by the monsoon. And I tapped into the discussion in the comments to Anthony’s post Pub Talk: Poetry and Making a Difference. I’ve written this as a Kyrielle because I’m finding a like this form a lot. It has just enough repetition to suit me.

Monsoon of Mercy

Sin and shame deeply scorch my soul
Freedom from consequence my goal
But my choice left me dry, not whole
Healed by Your monsoon of mercy

She was the victim of my choice
Never will I hear her small voice
Yet in His arms she can rejoice
Healed by His monsoon of mercy

Now there is no condemnation
Only grace for Your creation
Regret remains a grave fixation
Healed by Your monsoon of mercy

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Slips Away

I’ve been thinking a lot about my sister Peggy lately, perhaps because her death is the subject of the first chapter of the book I’m working on. Yesterday the refrain for this Kyrielle came to me and then I finished the poem this morning.

Slips Away

Quiet descends on deep darkness
My soul housed in this jar of clay
Groans bitterly in God’s winepress
Her soul slips silently away

Regrets of wasted time oppress
Why did I wait another day
I am here now nevertheless
Her soul slips silently away

Over memories I obsess
Jesus come save her soul I pray
His peace descends on me to bless
Her soul slips silently away

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Let Me Carry You

The other day I was reading some entries in The Poetry Dictionary by John Drury. I know, that sounds pretty nerdy, but I love learning new poetry forms and trying them out. I found a new form called the Kyrielle. It is a “French four-line stanza form in which each line contains eight syllables and the fourth line is a refrain.” There are three different rhyme scheme options for this form. Eventually I want to try all three, but just have one to offer for today.

This particular Kyrielle is written for my fellow blogger Bryan Lowe at Broken Believers blog, which I sometimes contribute to. I’ve been posting there this week to help him out because he’s struggling with a severe bout of depression. I’ll be posting this at his blog later this week, too. If you think of it, please say a prayer for him. His ministry to the broken is important and he could use the extra prayers and encouragement to keep it going.

Let Me Carry You

You lie alone broken and weak
Unsure if you will make it through
Seeing a future dark and bleak
To Jesus let me carry you

Your daily troubles set in stone
Seem heavy with unchanging hue
And though you think you’re all alone
To Jesus I will carry you

You struggle to remember love
Ev’ry feeling painfully blue
I will bring God’s grace from above
To Jesus let me carry you

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You Can’t Go Back to Tuesday

I’m working on my book proposal today. I posted the draft Prologue last week. I’m determined to finish the proposal this week so an editor friend can review it before I submit it to the publishing house editor who requested it at the Faith & Culture Writers Conference. I had a breakthrough this week when I realized the Chapter 1 I’d drafted started in the wrong place. This is the beginning of the new Chapter 1.

I’m planning to include a poem on the title page of each chapter. The poem for this chapter is one I wrote a week after the events recounted here.

You Can’t Go Back to Tuesday

Last Breath

Breathing
in, out again
no other sound so dear
except if you spoke, one more time,
I’d hear.

I sat in that suffocating little room with my sister Suz, my brother-in-law Dick, and the shell of my sister Peggy. When I had arrived earlier in the day I wouldn’t have known it was her in the bed if Suz hadn’t also been there. I hadn’t seen Dick in 28 years; he’d changed, kind of looked like Grizzly Adams after a month in the woods alone.

And Peggy, she didn’t look like anyone I knew. The last time I’d seen her she didn’t look too bad. She admitted the cancer was back, but she covered up how bad it was pretty well. And she had been hopeful, ready to fight and win again. But she wasn’t going to win this time—she would breathe her last in that tiny, sterile room with just the three of us there.

I’d woken up that morning with plans to go to the dentist in the morning—even though I was dreading it—and then in for my annual mammogram and breast MRI. On Friday I was going to go visit Peggy in the hospital. I was told she’d probably be feeling better by then.

But Suz called early that morning and said Peggy had taken a turn for the worse. “You should come as soon as you can. Dick said she was pretty bad.”

I called my cousin Noryce to tell her what was going on with Peggy and to just talk. Noryce always has good advice and knows just what to say.

“I don’t know what to do. I have these two appointments I have to keep, but I want to go see Peggy. Maybe I can just wait until tomorrow to go,” I said. “I should have just gone to see her on Tuesday.”

Noryce, in her infinite wisdom, replies, “You can’t go back to Tuesday. What are you going to do today? What’s the worst that could happen if you cancel your appointments and go? What if you wait to go until tomorrow and she’s already gone?”

She knows the story of when my dad died and I wasn’t there. He had called me and said, “Come see me.” But it cost money to fly to Desert Hot Springs where he was and we didn’t have a lot of money at the time. So I bought an inexpensive ticket for two weeks out. He died a week later. I will always regret that decision.

So I called the dentist to cancel my appointment, worried that they would be upset and charge me for the appointment anyway. “Don’t worry about it. Go see your sister. Give us a call when you’re ready to reschedule.”

Then I called the hospital to cancel my mammogram and breast MRI. They were even more understanding given that my sister was dying of breast cancer. I don’t know why I was afraid they wouldn’t be.

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Eucalyptus on the Wind

The scent of eucalyptus calms me, brings me a sense of peace and tranquility. Essential oils enthusiasts say it’s supposed to be energizing, but it doesn’t have that effect on me.

Growing up in Southern California, I lived one block off the main drag into Ramona and that main drag was lined with towering eucalyptus trees. I don’t recall actually smelling the trees then and I’m sure the fact that they gave off such a wonderful odor didn’t register in my childish brain. But now the scent brings me back to that idyllic time in my life.

It was a time of bicycle rides on dusty dirt roads to the library or to a friends, mud pies and Easy Bake oven cakes, and swimming in the above-ground pool in the back yard. Those were the days of hamsters and sunshine and warm Santa Ana winds, of forgetting my jacket at school because it was so warm by the end of the day that I didn’t need it, even in the middle of winter. They were the days of arranging all my stuffed animals into jump-rope pens like I was a zookeeper.

To be sure, all was not perfect then. There was the kid down the street who teased me relentlessly. There was my sister who yelled at me a lot, and hated purple simply because it was my favorite color.

My sister was a big part of my life then. I always refer to her as “my sister,” as if I only have one. I have three sisters, but Berta was closest to me in age, just three years older, and the only one I remember living in the same house with. I have a brother, too, who is 17 years older than me. I usually refer to him as “my brother Tom.” I’m not sure why he and my sister Peggy and my sister Suz always get their names added, and Berta is just “my sister,” but that’s the way it is.

Objectively speaking, life was good.

But I did learn some things during those early years that stuck with me through much of my adult life.

I learned that cancer sucks. Twice my mom went into the hospital with cancer, once with breast cancer (which her sister had died of) and once with uterine cancer.

The first time, I was allowed into her room and ate her Jello so she could come home sooner. The second time, they put her in the maternity ward because the cancer ward was full. Kids weren’t allowed in the maternity ward, so I had to stay alone in the waiting room. And I worried. But she survived both bouts with the dreaded disease, which did get her in the end, but that’s a story for another chapter.

Another thing I learned was that books are the best things ever. Every other week I would ride my banana-seat bike to the library, fill my handle-bar basket with books, and head back home past the eucalyptus trees to hole-up in my room and read. I spent a lot of time in my room reading even when the sun was out (which, frankly, was most of the time). When my two-week check-out was up, I’d head back to the library. To this day I am dangerous in a bookstore because I can’t seem to walk out empty-handed. (I gave up on libraries several years ago because I would forget to return the books and have to pay fines for overdue books. It killed me to pay the library for a book I couldn’t keep.)

I learned that saving money is a crock. One year my parents gave my sister and me $10 a week allowance. We would drive down to the Savings and Loan every week with our personal passbooks and deposit half our money in the bank. I thought I was saving for whatever I might want some day—some big ticket item that I otherwise wouldn’t be able to get or maybe just a bunch of books. Then one day my dad drove us to the Savings and Loan and had us withdraw all our money for the family vacation. I didn’t even want to go on vacation and have to ride in the back with my sister. It was a long time before I learned the value of saving money or felt in control of the money I saved.

I learned that fresh vegetable are delicious and canned ones are disgusting. But that growing fresh vegetables is hard work. We had a garden that spanned the whole width of our half-acre lot. We grew green beans, carrots, radishes, cucumbers (and dill), tomatoes, and more. We ate canned vegetables sometimes when the fresh ones were gone, but to this day I can’t eat canned peas or green beans.

But most important to my story is that I learned no one wanted to hear me cry. When I was little, I had a temper like a small hurricane. I didn’t like to be teased and would become angry and cry if anyone teased me. I was always told, “Go to your room and cry. No one wants to hear you crying.” So I did.

But the temper tantrum didn’t end there. You see, the way our house was designed, my bedroom was, I think, supposed to be a family room. It had two doors opposite one another so that it functioned as a hallway between the dining room and the back hallway where the bathroom and other bedrooms were. When I was sent to my room, I would run into the room and slam one of these two doors. Because of some principle of physics that I don’t even remotely understand, the door would not completely close and the slamming would cause the other door to fly open and hit the closet. So then I would run over and slam that door, with the same result, until my mom yelled, “Quit slamming those G** damned doors!”

The belief that no one wanted to hear me cry or to witness my temper tantrums stuck with me for a long time. The way I’ve always interpreted that statement is that no one cares how I feel. When bad things happened to me later in life, I told no one because I didn’t think they would care. When I was the most depressed, I kept it a secret because I was ashamed of feeling so bad and didn’t want to waste anyone’s time.

It turns out that many of the things we learn as kids just aren’t true.

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Almond Jam Thumbprints

Back in 2011 I took the WordPress Post-a-day challenge. To accomplish my goal of posting every day for a full year I developed several theme days, one of which was Recipe Friday. Since then I’ve posted a few recipes, but it’s been quite a while.

Last year I had to change my diet to a gluten-free, dairy-free diet, something I should have done a long time ago. That has required me to find or develop recipes that I like, but that my family can and will also eat. At first it was very difficult, but over the past year I’ve embraced the gluten-free, dairy-free eating habit.

I decided I wanted to share some of the recipes I’ve found, developed, or modified from one of my old recipes. To kick it off, I’m sharing a recipe I found online for Almond Horns, but that I’ve rewritten to include the important directions that the recipe I found left out and I had to figure out on my own. I’ve decided I’m entitled to take credit for this one even though I started with someone else’s recipe. These have been a big hit everywhere I’ve taken them, even with people who happily eat both gluten and dairy.

Almond Jam Thumbprints

Ingredients:

2 egg whites
1 8-oz can almond paste (I use Solo brand)
1/3 cup finely ground almonds or hazelnuts
1 cup sugar
1-1 1/2 cups sliced almonds
1/3 cup jam (any flavor)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Beat egg whites to almost soft peaks. Slice almond paste into thin slices. Add almond paste, ground almonds or hazelnuts, and sugar. Beat until well blended with a hand mixer. (I suppose you could make this in a food processor, but I don’t have one so I used the awesome hand mixer my husband got me for Christmas). The dough will be sticky. Drop by teaspoonfuls into bowl of sliced almonds and coat with slices. Place cookies an inch apart on a parchment paper or Silpat lined cookie sheet and press down slightly.

Bake for 20 minutes. Then using the tip of a teaspoon, press a small depression in the middle of each cookie and fill with a dollop of jam. Continue baking for another 5–7 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool. (Resist the urge to eat one before cooling because the jam will be very hot! Trust me, I’ve tried it.)

These are also delicious without the jam. Just bake for 25 minutes. I’ve also made these with melted German chocolate bakers chocolate drizzled on top.

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Kind Words and Iron Doors

It’s Day 29 of NaPoWriMo. I have mixed feelings about the month of celebrating poetry coming to an end. On the one hand, it’s good to have the motivation to write every day. On the other hand, some days it’s nice to not feel compelled to write. Today I’m hanging onto the one hand, and I’m completing a poem that was inspired by a Facebook post I saw yesterday. It’s off-prompt, but that’s okay.

Kind Words and Iron Doors

A Turkish proverb says
Kind words will unlock
an iron door

Often this is true
and so we ought
to speak kind words
always willing to open
an iron door and let peace in

But some doors
iron or otherwise
are sealed from the inside
by bitterness and hatred
so strong even the kindest words
won’t make them budge

These doors to the heart
can only be opened
by forgiveness from within
by the occupant’s choice
to step outside
into a world of grace and peace

5/21/15: Shared for dVerse Poets Pub Open Link Night.

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My Clerihew for NaPoWriMo

The prompt Day 25 of NaPoWriMo is to write a Clerihew, which I had never heard of before. But I thought I’d try it. Even though they are apparently usually written about famous people, the prompt gave permission to write about someone not famous. So I decided to write it about someone I believe will be famous someday as an animator.

Benton
My favorite son
He replies wryly
“But I’m your only”

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She Hates Purple

She hates purple
simply because
it was
my favorite color

or maybe it’s because
I stole
her coveted role
as baby of the family

Who knows why
I only know
it’s hard to be resented
for something you can’t control

Yet I must let it go
forgive
love her more than
I love purple

(Which, incidentally,
isn’t my favorite anymore)

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What Shall I Do?

Shall I watch you
drink the Kool-aid
when the nectar’s
free for all

Shall I watch you
peer into the abyss
when I can see
you’ll surely fall

Shall I watch you
pour water in your tank
when I’m certain
it’ll make you stall

Shall I watch you
attempt to escape
when there’s danger
beyond the wall

Or shall I warn you?

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