Pausing on Palm Sunday

It’s Palm Sunday, 2015. Palm Sunday falls on the Sunday before Easter and commemorates the triumphal entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem.  In many churches, parishioners carry palms representing the palm fronds brandished by followers of Jesus as he entered the holy city to celebrate Passover.

Palm Sunday Be Brave Lose the Beige
Palm Frond quilt by Carol Taylor

While not terribly religious, and having subscribed to a variety of faiths during the course of my 61 years, Palm Sunday is one of my favorites on the Christian calendar.  Perhaps I enjoy a good triumphant processional. Perhaps it’s the exaltation and rejoicing.  It’s kind of the 5 minutes between the 40 somber days of Lent and the crucifixion 5 days later.  Not to sound unduly pessimistic, but life and all its complications can leave one feeling at least a little weary.  So when we chance to experience our five minutes of exaltation and triumph they are all the sweeter.

I’m experiencing my five minutes in Baltimore Maryland this Palm Sunday. I’m spending the weekend with my daughter Tracy who is performing in a community theater production of Almost Maine.  So I’m experiencing the triumph of her stage success.  I’m simultaneously rejoicing in our relationship.  Rarely are parents ever on equal footing with their children, but if we are lucky enough, we can catch glimpses of the adults they’ve become.  My husband and I often say maturity is under-rated especially with regards to children.  I arrived in Baltimore feeling broken down.  An infection had taken possession of my sinuses; I’m hobbling on an ostensibly rehabbed knee; and feeling weighed down by family drama.  I fretted I would make a poor companion for my daughter.  Instead, Tracy has scooped up my sagging self, providing stability in the midst of my instability. In short order I was sitting in an exam room at an urgent care clinic with antibiotics in hand. Her sympathy and empathy has been healing and her insight into family dynamics helpful.Such a revelation to see role reversals between parent and child.

Aware I’m partial to Palm Sunday, Tracy constructed her own service for us to share this morning.  Her Jewish heritage and love of Buddhism, coupled with liturgy from Congregationalism (my faith of choice), produced the sweetest of services.  Our twosome housed our worship in an empty Episcopalian sanctuary (the church of my youth). As much as I’ve enjoyed past Palm Sundays, I’m not sure I recognized the symbolism of the day until now. Though short-lived, Jesus’ celebration, coming between deprivation and death, must have been balm to his spirit. Maybe Palm Sunday is a reminder for us to pause, savor, and celebrate those special moments appearing as an oasis between work and worry. I’m happy time with my daughter gave me such an opportunity.

Palm Sunday Be Brave Lose the Beige
My daughter in Almost Maine



Furniture Flashbacks

I’m sitting on the sofa in our beach condo. This summer will be the 21st anniversary of owning this condo in beautiful New Smyrna Beach, Florida.   Our beach place has been a sanctuary for my husband and me, a place only 60 minutes from our full time residence but oceans away from problems and anxieties. The sea breezes manage to penetrate the schedules, to-do lists, and deadlines that live inside overworked brains. Concurrent with the joy, however, are the pangs of guilt over owning a place encroaching on the habitats of wildlife and contributing to beach erosion.   (The joy has obviously trumped the guilt considering our longevity here.)

As I sit on this sofa I remember it once inhabited our Orlando house. That is what happens to the furniture in our lives- it transitions. When we bought our red leather sectional, this saffron sofa, festooned with foliage and blue piping, was hauled down the highway to our beach home.  The former furniture here swapped geographies ending up in our son’s Winter Park art studio. It’s funny how furniture can tell the story of our lives, tangible mile markers. The rocking chair currently occupying our beach bedroom was bought when my son David fractured his kidney on a playground in the second grade. I spent so much time in one at his hospital bedside I wanted a rocker for home. My son is turning 32 tomorrow, is married and a new Dad, and moved his own life to Chicago. Now, accompanied by the lulling sound of the ocean, the chair is used to rock my grandchildren to sleep- another mile marker in my life.

Living room at beach condo
Living room at beach condo

A Tail of A Cat and a Dog

Within the past 3 weeks I lost two grandpets.  And what amazing pets they were.  Annie was a ginger tabby with a poof of red fur atop her head.  Rusty was an apricot tinted labradoodle with a really big schnozzle (nose).  (I can’t stand the fact I’m forced to use the word “was”.)  Rusty was originally raised by a single parent, namely my daughter-in-law Katie.  She fretted about Rusty’s future relationship with prospective boyfriends,  they were so attached…that is until David arrived on the Chicago scene.  Rusty and David quickly became BFFs.  There are countless photos of the two of them in ice forts, paddle boarding on the Halifax River, a boy and his dogand swimming in the ocean at dawn.  Rusty was responsible for the purchase of our very own labradoodle puppy, so taken were we with this grown up labradoodle  zen dog. David counted 26 states in Rusty’s geographical repertoire.  He accompanied David and Katie through many academic transitions.  He started off at Ohio State with Katie, moving to Chicago for a master’s degree, and a doctorate at Perdue.  As if those degrees were not sufficient, he trekked to Tempe Arizona for yet another doctorate and then on to Atlanta for an internship.  Such a credentialed canine was he!

Tracy rescued a traumatized and homeless Annie and her kittens from an inner city school in Baltimore.  Once the kittens were safely ensconced in found homes, Annie became Tracy’s faithful feline.  Dogs often win the best pet contest over cats.  I might have agreed with that assessment until I met Annie.  She shucked the “distant”, “reserved”, “independent” labels typically attributed to cats.  She was Tracy’s constant companion, helping with laundry, enduring water droplets as she waited patiently for bath time to end, accompanying her on airplane trips to Florida, and listening attentively to her owner’s blog posts and podcasts.

My reason for loving these animals has more to do with the comfort and companionship they provided my children, especially during some dark hours.  Rusty was truly David’s best friend during his lonely, transportation-deprived year in Atlanta.  Annie was the one Tracy reached for after especially scary nightmares when she lived alone in a basement condo in downtown Baltimore.

Tracy's cat Annie

The way they loved these pets says a lot about the kinds of people my kids have become. Tracy’s rescue of a homeless, defenseless creature speaks volumes about her compassion. She is a hero in my mind. David’s abiding love and commitment to Rusty’s needs laid a predicate for the kind of father he would be to his newborn baby girl.

Thank you Annie and Rusty for caring for my kids when I was too far away. We’ll never forget you.

Rusty mentored our puppy
Rusty and our labradoodle puppy, Jozy



God’s Time Frame

I traveled to Chicago to be with my son and daughter-in-law to await the birth of their first child.  Ok, so maybe I was a little over anxious…like I was afraid if Katie went into labor it would take me too long to get a flight from Orlando to Chicago to be there in time for Maya’s arrival.  I did get that part right.  A few contractions and five pushes later, that baby was out cocooning with her Mom and Dad.  But…prior to her red carpet entrance, there was the waiting.  I was 8 days early.  I’m never early for anything.  I took up residence at a Best Western in Evanston, Illinois.  Every day I would go to the front desk saying, “I think I need one more day”.  The front desk clerks and breakfast room staff became fast friends, exclaiming, “That baby’s not here yet?!  All in God’s time, honey.”

God’s time-frame gave me an unexpected gift…time with my son and daughter-in-law.  David’s career obligations, geographical distance, and impending fatherhood, hasn’t left him extra time for connecting with his Mom. We are alike in our love of play.  And play we were able to do this week of waiting for Maya.  A soft, powdery snow descended on Chicago the day of my arrival.  Living in Florida all my life, this climate change was novel for me.  We spent hours hiking (or really crunching) on snow-covered trails; we walked on Lake Michigan, the ice was so compact.  (“See David, I always said you walked on water”, I teased my son.)

Not accustomed to sitting still, this week permitted me to do just that.  My daughter-in-law, nestled into her sofa, knitted her way through countless mini-contractions as we watched old movies and reality television shows.

Maya (named that after a strong female character in one of the movies we watched) arrived on January 20th at 12:30 in the afternoon much to the delight of multiple grandparents and many friends. I wasn’t able to stay much longer after her birth. I anticipate many visits in the years to come. But I’m profoundly grateful God’s time-frame allowed me to spend this precious time with my kids as they perched on the precipice of parenthood, a time that will never be again.

Warmed by her newly knitted blanket
Warmed by her newly knitted blanket
Baby Maya and Mom
Baby Maya and Mom
Snow time with my son
Snow time with my son



Life With One Hand

Well, I’m figuring out life with one hand.  I had surgery to replace the joint in my right thumb.  Years of pottery must have taken its toll, leaving bone on bone and pain after pain.  I started thinking about how opposable thumbs were a key differentiation between humans and animals, a thought persuading me to submit to arthroplasty surgery (an intimidating label). I at least want to be one step removed from my animal lineage.

I’m at last through 2 casts and 47 days into this 3 month process.  It’s been surprisingly painful.  I’ve had several procedures over the past several years- carpal tunnel, removal of a parathyroid gland, arthroscopic knee surgery, biopsies, and a couple of neuroma removals.   (Wow, just looking at this list makes me feel sorry for my poor husband who has had to assume extra household and business responsibilities, as well as nurse-maiding an invalid) but none quite like this.  I’m accustomed to having quick energy at my disposal (relentless energy as a dear friend once proclaimed).  With what smacks of arrogance, I’ve prided myself on my ability to accomplish much in short periods of time.  Perhaps I’ve been known to lose patience with those slower than I deem acceptable (particularly drivers and store clerks).

Well, I’ve been resoundingly put in my place, or rather unable to leave my place.  My exercise routines have been significantly disrupted; typing on a keyboard, a key part of my work-life is awkward and uncomfortable; I’m unable to carry a “lazy-man’s load” up and down stairs or to and from the garage; and I tire easily.  This experience is requiring me to live in place.  I wonder if the universe is wagging its metaphysical finger at me, forcing me to do less and “Be” more.  Well, the jury is still out on that one, but perhaps multitasking is not the meaning of life after all.cast