Then and Now

Two of my three children are November babies, one born when I was thirty and the other five years later. November has always been my favorite month of the year, and having these blessings arrive so near Thanksgiving still thrills me to consider.

I might have been slower, less into pondering than most thirty-year-olds because although I felt reluctant to leave my precious infant at First Baptist Church in Conway, I knew she’d be fine—safe, fed, cuddled. And besides, I picked her up mid-afternoon each day and made sure she knew that I loved her. Her father thought she hung the moon, and her older sister was smitten, too.

Five years passed before our son was born, and by that time, I’d begun to question the wisdom of leaving a child in daycare so soon after birth. I mean, he was only six weeks old when I returned to the workplace! I began to wake in the night dreading the very thought of taking this precious infant into the cold January weather and driving fifteen miles to leave him at FBC in Conway. He was my baby, my responsibility. When a kind neighbor who loved babies offered to let him stay with her for a week or so, I said yes.

Still. I began thinking something ain’t right. Thoughts of going back to work before my body had healed and putting my children in someone else’s care cast a pall over the Christmas holidays.

On the plus side, I was fortunate. I had a job I loved with regular hours and great benefits. The children had an excellent doctor. So did I. And we had insurance. And the daycare at First Baptist was excellent. My daughters still talk about Miss Irene’s beef stew and share fond memories of Mema.

We took down our Christmas tree, packed away the decorations, and at some point during the first week of January, I put on my big girl pants and waltzed back into the classroom. My daughters were in kindergarten and third grade by then, but the baby was with a neighbor. I tried to push the thought out of my mind, not because the neighbor was unsuitable but rather because I was his mother and wanted to be there to watch him breathe.

If I had to describe my mindset and behavior, I’d say I was more like an automaton with lots of energy rather than a thinking, philosophizing person. I knew women who went back to work when their infants were a week or two old, often leaving them with their mothers or a friend. Their choices were more limited than mine. When their children were sick, the moms missed work, and if they missed too many days, their employers found more reliable employees. I was fortunate. I had some sick leave I could use. Once a “friend” was rumored to have said, “And then there’s Jayne, out with a sick child again.” Ouch.

My awakening began the semester I began teaching Human Growth and Development. I recall the instant I realized that most European countries valued babies, children, mothers, and fathers more than we did in the USA. And the Nordic countries were especially generous. Their family leave plans were amazing, and some countries paid mothers AND fathers. When I think of free health care for the families in other countries, I feel sick and relieved at the same time—sick that so many families in America have nothing, nada, zilch and relieved that I have Medicare…and downright gleeful that some places in the world provide childcare, maternity AND paternity leave, and free medical care.

An hour ago, I looked up some stats and was floored to learn that parents in Sweden are entitled to 480 days of paid parental leave when a child is born or adopted. Brace yourself. “The United States is the only industrialized  country that doesn’t offer paid leave….While some companies offer this benefit, only about one-quarter of U.S. workers have access to it.” www.theskimmcom Dec 22, 2021

And lest I forget, maternal and infant mortality rates are still high in America. Despite being one of the wealthiest countries on the planet, children and mothers continue to suffer. Earlier this week, I read an article in The Guardian predicting that maternal mortality rate will rise without Roe.

I don’t have answers to these dilemmas, just thoughts and concerns and questions. Can a person be pro-life and yet turn away from the one of seven Americans who go to bed hungry every night? Can a person be pro-life and anti-immigration? Does pro-life include taking care of the homeless, volunteering in soup kitchens, and donating to organizations like No Kid Hungry?

I’m no longer an energetic automaton but a curious, pondering senior citizen, one with lots of questions, very few answers, and a willingness to learn.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com
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The Old Man

When I first saw Dreams from My Father in the local library, I was hiding out in the young adult section—quiet and empty in the early morning hours. I was on a timeline and didn’t want to be interrupted, but each time I looked up from the computer, the photos on the book’s cover seemed to be staring at me from the shelf. When I finally relented and got up to flip through the pages, I was hooked. Yet that evening as I began reading it, I soon realized that I wanted more—the adult version, more complete, detailed, and descriptive. I ordered the Kindle edition and began reading right away.

A Story of Race and Inheritance

Below is my review on Amazon.

“Already an admirer, my respect for Barack Obama grew immensely while reading this book. Not only is he a skilled and gifted writer, he’s also a storyteller with a mind for details and flair for engaging the reader. His descriptions of an African dawn: “To the east, the sky lightens above a black grove of trees, deep blue, then orange, then creamy yellow. The clouds lose their purple tint slowly, then dissipate, leaving behind a single star. As we pull out of camp, we see a caravan of giraffe, their long necks at a common slant, seemingly black before the rising red sun, strange marking against an ancient sky.”

“It’s a book about race, yes, but it’s also about family, inheritance, culture, background and how those factors (and more) combine to make us who we are. While most people know Obama’s father was Kenyan and his mother an American from Kansas, most don’t know that much about how they met and later parted ways, his Indonesian stepfather, his white grandparents, Toot and Gramps, with whom he lived in Hawaii during his youth….I’m no biographer, but I do know that Obama’s life was much more complicated than mine.

“How?” ran like a thread through each chapter I read. How does a person develop the strength, capacity, confidence, and character to serve as the President of the United States? It’s an office available to only one person at a time and one that had never been open to a person of color. Learning about his experiences with his family of orientation, especially his grandparents, his time in Indonesia, his college years, the devoted years as a community organizer, and his time spent in Kenya becoming acquainted with brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, and a grandparent added additional pieces to the puzzle.

“What the book did was remind me once again of how many ways there are to live, love, and serve as we navigate our ways through life. There are no shortcuts to excellence.”

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Liminal Places

I’ve been doing more reading than writing for the past several months. Journal entries, largely about Covid, social injustice, and the “craziness” of the world are updated a few times a week.

Today I’m sharing a review of Suleika Jaoaud’s Between Two Kingdoms. The writing is smooth, descriptive, honest, instructive–in a word, amazing. When flipping through the book, I came across a passage near the end in which she describes Pine Ridge Reservation in such a detailed picturesque way that her words took me back to our drive through there a few years ago. What I remembered were cows, cows, and more cows grazing beside the road. I felt depressed at the sparseness of the landscape, and my attempts to describe it are embarrassing compared to Jaoaud’s.

A brilliant and brave writer, Suleika Jaoaud takes takes her readers along several journeys: from wellness to sickness, from cancer to health, from love to loss, and a literal road trip (solitary) across the United States. The writing is honest and sometimes brutal, especially those about her hospital experiences that describe pain, nausea, fear, and isolation. There’s no “feel sorry for me” message, but rather an effort to tell the truth—no candy coating.

After her a successful bone marrow transplant, Suleika was okayed by her doctors to go on a one hundred day road trip as long as she was back in by a certain date. Having lived in New York City, she’d never driven and didn’t have a drivers’ license or car. She got the license, learned to drive, and a friend let her borrow an automobile. Off she went to visit people she’d “met” through letters. This trip followed preparatory pilgrimages to India to leave a friend’s ashes and to Vermont to think through reentering the land of the well.

She quotes Susan Sontag from Illness as Metaphor: “Everyone who is born holds dual citizenship, in the kingdom of the well and in the kingdom of the sick.” To me, the crux of the whole book is that metaphor. Whether going from sickness to health, single to married, married to divorced or widowhood, student to graduate, we all stand at a threshold, longing to cross over yet feeling uncertain and perhaps a bit afraid of the unknown. In a podcast shortly before the paperback edition was published, I listened to an interview in which Jaoaud referred to those in-between spots, the thresholds, as liminal spaces, and immediately I saw applications to everyone’s life. We all change, and to get to the other side, we have to step over the threshold(s).

The book doesn’t have a happy ending in the traditional sense, yet the author appears to be grateful that she’s learned to move forward taking her experiences, good and bad, with her. Moving forward is different from moving on, and thanks to Suleika Jaoaud, I now see that.

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Wintering the Cycles of Life

One advantage of the pandemic was the near cessation of the sometimes harried coming and going and getting and spending of my heretofore adult life. Home more often, I turned to books for entertainment, enlightenment, companionship, and sheer pleasure. On the recommendation of friend, I ordered Wintering for my Kindle and have referred to one thing or another in it on a near daily basis since late December. It’s that good.

Here’s the review on Amazon.

“A year and a half into a worldwide pandemic that showed no end in sight was wearing me down. As “the season” approached, I found myself floundering about for a way to express what I was feeling AND offer suggestions on how to embrace a dark, cold winter made even more secluded and solitary than usual. When I came across a review of Wintering, I immediately bought three copies, a Kindle version for yours truly and hard copies for friends who speak the same language.

“Originally, I was attracted by its name and premise. Wintering is more than surviving a cold, sometimes brutally brumal, season of the year when the days are short and the trees are bare. It’s a time of year both humans and animals experience. The latter do it much better than we; they prepare ahead of time and accept it as a season of inactivity and hibernation that offers transformation. We, on the other hand, are often caught off guard by plunging temperatures, icy roads, and solitary pursuits.

“But Kathryn May shows the reader another way of looking at wintering. She describes it as a time of going inward, of using introspection, solitude, self-care, and hygge to weather the season of doubt, angst, disillusionment, SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), chaos, loss…..and all the other negative emotions. She cooks, adds fairy lights and candles, explores nature, plunges into icy water, visits the sauna, reads…and eventually leaves her job at a university.

“What I like best about Wintering is the beautiful way Kathryn May uses language to describe what so many feel at what (I/they) hope is the tail end of the pandemic. Plus, I always love a book in which I learn something, and in Wintering, I learned not only new vocabulary words but also more about history, books, animals, insects, different cultures, and festivals—to name a few. Because of May, I finally understand Stonehenge and know what dormice are.

Wintering is a book I’ll return to again and again, especially when I need reminding that life is not linear, but cyclical and ever changing

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Go in Peace

I was introduced to Louise Erdrich’s work in an interesting way. One of my brothers told me about The Night Watchman, so I downloaded a sample and was immediately drawn into the story. But there were already several books in my queue, so I procrastinated adding another.

But the universe had other plans for me. The next morning I recognized Erdrich’s name on a book already on one of my bookshelves. Curious, I took the book down and looked inside. Out fell a business card belonging to the son of someone in my writing group. Strange, I thought. He’d never been in my home. His mom had, though, and unbeknownst to me, she’d left the book for me a few weeks prior. It was LaRose.

What could I do but read the first chapter? With a scene so well written, intriguing, and almost beyond belief, Erdrich had my attention right away. Little did I know what a fan I would become after meeting LaRose and the lives of two families intertwined with each other and with the larger community…and with many who’d come before.

After reading LaRose, I read several other of Erdrich’s books, the most recent being The Sentence. Different in tone from the other novels, I think it might be my favorite. It was easier to follow, humorous in many sections, and filled with fascinating, well-described characters whose lives intersect with meaning…even a ghost name Flora.

I reviewed it on on Amazon and am sharing it here. Meanwhile, I’m pondering the many themes of social injustice, socio-cultural differences, and the world of spirits.

“Here’s how much I enjoyed The Sentence: I found myself thinking so much about Tookie, Pollux, Hetta, Jarvis, Asema, Flora, jingle dresses, and fry bread that I downloaded the Audible version too. Read by the author, the “spoken word” was particularly meaningful, even fun at times, because of Erdrich’s voice inflection, speech rhythm, and emphasis she placed on certain passages. After listening, I often went back to the Kindle version to reread entire sections, especially those relating to the George Floyd protests, bookstore experiences with Flora, and several about nature, Pollux, and Jarvis.

“Because of having read several of Erdrich’s books, I was prepared for the first chapter. Like the others, it was a bit unsettling and set the reader up for what was to follow.  Tookie, the main character, agreed to do a favor for a friend (big mistake) and ended up serving time in prison. She’s released early and marries the man who arrested her, Pollux. They’re Native Americans living in Minnesota who seem to be living somewhat ordinary lives and then Wham! There’s Covid, a Presidential election, the murder of George Floyd, and protests relating to his death. About this time, Pollux’s daughter Hetta and her newborn come to live with them for a while. Life happens.

“Here are a few of the things I particularly liked about The Sentence:

• Experiencing these major events through the perspective of Tookie and others increased my insight about other people’s struggles especially those of color. “Indian after Indian and Black after Black and brown after brown person….”

• There’s some backstory, but for the most part, the action of the novel takes place within a year’s time. Plus, every reader could identify with one or all of the major themes and/or  happenings. Is there anyone who hasn’t been touched by COVID-19 in some way?

• I learned some new words and terms, i.e., deliquesce and the difference between All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day. I also learned more about Native American culture.

• Her description of people, places, and things: “I’m a little sad when the shapes of the trees are revealed.” And how about another short phrase: “There was the residue of joy in their tattered yard.” I’ve seen yards like that.

• My consciousness was raised. I love reading novels in which I learn something. I’d heard of Philando Castile, but not Zachary Bearheels, Bad River Ojibwe, Charles Lone Eagle, or Jason Pero (among others).

• The relationships and ties that bind people to one another, both past and present, the material world and the spirit world. There’s even a ghost involved, Flora. Or was she a spirit–as Pollux might think?

“Things I dislike about The Sentence: 0, nada, nothing. I liked everything. I hope you will, too.” Until I get my muse mojo going, I’m re-reading and other people’s work and feeling inspired and edified by their words and ability.”

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Connections, Past and Present

While the title might sound like a sweet post about loved ones gathering for a family reunion complete with hugs, memories of beloved grandmothers and crotchety uncles, and a plethora of calorie-laden casseroles and rich desserts, it’s not. It’s a review of another one of Louise Erdrich’s novels, The Plague of Doves. Though different in format and tone, some of the characters are the same, and so is Erdrich’s brilliant prose. The quotation marks are there because I copied and pasted the review from Amazon (couldn’t get the link to copy).

“If you want to feel every emotion known to man, read this book. The opening section, “Solo,” is absolutely harrowing. I gasped.

“If you’re looking for something light with an uncomplicated plot, don’t read this. At first, I thought it was a book of short stories, but then I made myself pay closer attention to names and timelines and discovered connecting threads, not only within the novel but also between at least one other Erdrich book, The Round House. I wondered for the umpteenth time how something like this work could come from someone’s mind.

“Although confusing at times, The Plague of Doves is guaranteed to make the reader think and feel. No doubt about it—he or she will learn about life among a group of indigenous people whose lives are related, past and present, while pondering the mysterious “whodunit” aspects of a murder that takes place at beginning of the book. Four people were believed to be responsible for the murder of a family, but only three were hanged. Why is that? And who really did it?

“What I liked about the the novel is what I admire in all of Erdrich’s books: her writing. It’s rich in the sense that so much detailed information about people, events, and places seems to flow so naturally and easily onto the page. Plus, I got to meet some characters from other books (like Mooshum, Clemence, and Geraldine).

“What I didn’t like about the novel was its complexity. But deliberate engagement with the “story” and links between people and their history clarified just about everything. Amazing book!”

Confession: I still don’t know who killed the family. If you’ve read the book and know who the murderers are, let me know.

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Liminal Spaces

Do you feel it? A bit of anxiety about what the next chapter in the Corona Saga holds in store for you? I’m ready to step forward, sometimes tiptoeing and sometimes stomping across an imagined line in the sand threshold. Thresholds, those liminal spaces between what is and what will be, can be intimidating.

I sense change and awakenings all around me. But can I say goodbye to all that’s been the way of life for the past eighteen months? When sheltering in place began, I leapt into it, mainly because of necessity and fear. A high school friend was one of the first casualties, a man with resources to provide any and every medical treatment needed to survive.  When I read that his doctors planned to try proning in the hope of helping his lungs better function, I needed no other evidence to know the virus was a serious one.

That same month, March, I missed my grandson’s baptism. Rephrase: I missed the up-close-and-personal event, but because of Zoom technology, I was able to look, listen and even interact with everyone present, including people in other states. Soon thereafter, I attended conferences and meetings virtually. A close group of friends who’d met once a month for years was hesitant about meeting in person. Being senior citizens, we opted to skip lunch and keep the meeting—virtually. Church was different, too. No meetings except at-home ones and then gradually, doors were opened, and masked people were ushered to their seats in ensure social distancing.  Now people sing using hymnals instead of electronic devices. Sunday I sat in a chapel and felt a different vibe around me. What’s that noise? I wondered and realized it was the sound of people greeting each other and chatting a bit.

When I look back over the past eighteen months, I realize how different life became in a relatively short period of time. Many restaurants went out of business, some because of lack of sufficient staff, other because of so few customers, and still others because of unknown (to me) reasons. We tried Chili’s pickup option, and although the process worked well, it felt weird to walk in a side door and huddle there in near darkness with other masked and distanced diners, especially when glancing at a quiet, empty space that in earlier days would have been filled with sounds of laugher and conversation. One of my brothers had a hip replacement—and no visitors. His sweet wife, a retired nurse, left clothes and toiletries with a security guard. Schools and their routines were upended, leaving many children behind in the process.

By the time May, 2021 arrived, people began feeling safer. Until the Delta Variant arrived, that is. Still, knowing that the vaccine offered a certain layer of protection, we began venturing out beyond our comfort zone. In July, we went to three days of a weeklong national barrel racing competition with thousands of others, and truthfully, I felt as safe there as I did on the afternoon we got away for a few hours in quiet, sleepy Plains, GA. Was I getting careless…or just more at ease? We even stayed in a motel and ate out in restaurants, crowded ones.

Now it’s mid-November, and the holiday season is upon us. We’re hosting Thanksgiving dinner for seventeen at our home, ages ranging from six to ninety-seven. Despite vaccinations, I’m still a little worried, anxiously excited or excitedly anxious. At some point, we have to take tentative steps toward the future, yet I find myself more timid about walking forward than I was in early summer. I’m peeking out from behind a door, trying to figure out how to navigate the threshold.

In a recent Life Kit podcast, Suleika Jaouad, writer and motivational speaker, provided a novel way of approaching reentry into society. No stranger to isolation, Jaouad spoke of her complete isolation while suffering from leukemia. Once cured, she was released with no one to tell her which meds to take or when to take them, what foods she could or could not eat, when she was to rest or sleep. She was on her own and floundering. She decided to do go on a yearlong road trip as a way to move forward while keeping what lingers.

Jaouad knows existing in the in-between state where many live isn’t easy and advises people to ask what they want to carry forward from the experience—not just COVID but any kind of loss, trauma, or upheaval. People can’t just automatically dust themselves off and say, “Wow, that wasn’t fun. Sure glad it’s over.” They need time and space to imagine what life will look like going forward.

Right now I’m in a liminal space, right at the threshold of what’s next, feeling antsy and anxious and more than a little unsettled. Jaouad feels we’ll forever be marked by Covid-19, just as we’re forever marked by other unsettling life events. How will we handle it?

Knowing that you can’t go back, only forward, how will you manage a successful reentry into life after COVID?

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From a Baptism to a Baby Shower

Moving Forward

Before March of 2020, I thought of zooming as moving rapidly along a sidewalk or road, on foot or in an automobile. Sometimes I’d even zoom in for a close-up of a photograph. But that month, zooming took on a whole new meaning.

On the afternoon of March 21, 2020 I walked around my neighborhood with a dilemma: drive to Myrtle Beach the next morning to witness my grandson’s baptism or Zoom the event from my sunroom. Perplexed, I called a friend for advice. The grandmother of ten, she knew I should be there in person, yet she also knew COVID-19 precautions had been put into effect, not only at the church but in virtually all gathering places.

We finished our conversation, and I continued my walk, still uncertain about what to do. My son planned to set up Zoom, a virtual way of meeting that would allow me to participate in the event—and even give a talk. But I was unfamiliar with Zoom and found it threatening and scary. Nevertheless, the next morning found me sitting in front of my Mac, trying unsuccessfully to connect to the meeting. After a few stressful moments, I decided to use my iPhone, and within seconds I was in a church in Myrtle Beach, the only in-person individuals being my son and his family and the other three grandparents. Social distancing was in effect.

Since that was the first time I’d zoomed a meeting, I didn’t know I could access a gallery and see all the other attendees who were “present” in Utah, Georgia, and other locations in South Carolina. I could see only the aforementioned eight people sitting in the Myrtle Beach Ward. I witnessed the baptism and heard talks and prayers from homes in three states, though, and that was reward enough for me. Amazing, in fact.

It was a remarkable experience, sort of like a visual conference call, and I told Ethan, my grandson, that he’d probably made history as the first person baptized via Zoom in his ward. As spring turned to summer, church was held in members’ individual homes, and by mid-summer there was a tentative move back to church reopenings enforced with social distancing and mask wearing. And now, mid-November, things are almost back to pre-Covid status. Almost.

From April until the present, Zoom meetings have become regular occurrences. I’ve participated in conferences, classes, and meetings, and although it was awkward at first, Zooming was soon as common as Facetiming (if not more so).

But last week, I participated in a different kind of event using Zoom, a baby shower. The mom, her mother, the hostess, and a couple of other people sat in a living room in a nearby city. All other attendees showed up in a virtual gallery. As I played the games and watched the young mother open a few gifts, I thought of how wonderful it was to be able to celebrate the upcoming arrival of her baby. At the same time, I wondered if it was to be if not the last, then one of the last official virtual gatherings for me.

I’m ready for up close and personal comings-together, the kind when you can look around a room and see people interact, hear them laugh, ooh and aah over gifts without turning on a microphone or raising your hand.

That said, I’m finding myself a little anxious about reentering the real world. Are you?

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Does Justice Prevail?

I left my writing group yesterday filled with resolve to beef up my blogging–or to at least get back to it. This summer, I’ve been reading a lot, writing a document titled Corona Chronicles (original, huh?), spending as much time with friends and family that these crazy times would allow, and watching the feeding habits of the birds in our backyard. Like you, I’ve had some glad experiences–the birth of a bonus grandchild–and sad ones like the passing of a young relative.

Before I ramble too much, I want to touch on reading, a pastime I see as foundational to writing. Of the books I’ve read this summer, three that have touched my heart, jerked me out of my naiveté, and taught me about Native American life among the Chippewa were written by Louise Erdrich: LaRose, The Round House, and Love Medicine. Last night I finally reviewed The Round House on Amazon and decided to share the review here.

“It’s been three weeks since I finished this novel, but I still remember how the opening grabbed me with its foreshadowing of events to come. It’s a Sunday afternoon on the reservation, and Joe, a young teen, and his father, a tribal judge, realize their mother and wife should be home. After receiving a phone call, she’d gone to meet someone about a file, and it was totally out of character for her to stay away so long without letting Joe or his father know her whereabouts. When the father says they’re going to find her mother, Joe feels encouraged; his father said find, not look for.

“Joe’s hope is short lived. His mother has been brutally attacked and raped and goes into a semi-conscious state, almost catatonic. This act of brutality and the search for the perpetrator is the underlying theme of The Round House. Although the Natives of the community know who attacked Joe’s mother, nothing can be done about the crime because of an antiquated law prohibiting punishment of whites.

“Throughout the novel, an interesting cast of characters enter the scene, my favorites being Joe’s buddies, especially Cappy, Sonja, and a compelling middle-aged woman named Linda Wishkob. Linda was born a twin whose parents, the Larks, were agreeable to letting her languish and die in the hospital. Her life was saved by a Native woman who raised her with her own children. Somehow the reader feels this fact must be important. And it is.

“The novel is suspenseful from the beginning, and the tension continues to build until the last page. There’s money involved—and social injustice, loyalty, friendship, and courage. Does justice prevail? Yes and no. You be the judge.”

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From Cookie to Oreo

Blame it on Kathryn and Brenda, two writer friends. At lunch today, we confessed to a shrinking desire to write and vowed to up our game. We chatted about a variety of topics to pursue, and mine was evolution of a person, culture, religion, pastimes….

A friend told me about Father Richard Rohr’s series of meditations Meditations@cac.org and encouraged me to subscribe to the site. “It’s right up your alley. You’ll love it,” she said. And she was right. I especially like the prayer that accompanies the daily reading. I’m sharing only the first two sentences today. I love them, and honestly, who hasn’t felt the truth of the second line about more of reality being revealed?

Loving God, you fill all things with a fullness and hope that we can never comprehend. Thank you for leading us into a time where more of reality is being unveiled for us all to see. 

A few weeks ago the meditations theme for the week was evolution. I thought Now that’s going to upset some people. But after I began reading, I realized it was not about our human origins but about how we evolve as individuals over our lifetimes…and the same for cultures. Everything changes. Words, literature, traditions, styles, occupations. Count on it. Nothing stays the same.

I thought of myself. I was a once a cute baby, and for a couple of years, my parents’ only child, the first of four. They were only nineteen when I was born, an age that seems crazy young from my vantage point today. While it’s true that there are plenty of young people that age who have children, but it’s rarer than it was a half century or more ago. Fewer babies are being born today, and interestingly, teen pregnancy has declined substantially (at least in the United States).

But that’s not what I meant to write about.

I want write a little about a person’s evolvement/evolution throughout life. We’re infants who can’t even get speak or get our own snacks. We can vocalize our discomfort by crying, and it’s pretty effective in the short run. At some point toward the end of the first year, infants begin using actual words, an achievement that makes our wants more specific. Following that, instead of saying cookie, we can say Oreo or Saltine. That happened to me. In my baby book (something mothers often kept decades ago), I read, “Jane says so many new words that I can’t write them all down.”

My mother enjoyed telling me about how Daddy would say, “Make her talk, Margie. Make her talk.” Apparently, I didn’t need too much encouragement because soon, he would say, “Make her hush, Margie.” Too late, Papalops. I learned the power of words at a young age, and although I’ve never been particularly loquacious, communicating and connecting are two of my favorite activities. This might be a good time to mention that generally speaking, girls speak sooner than boys and have larger vocabularies…something about language centers in the brain and how they’re wired differently according to gender.

A couple of weeks before my second birthday, my brother Mike was born, an event that changed the family dynamic. Two years later, Ann joined our family, and three years after her birth, another brother, David, came along and completed the circle. We still had lots of evolving ahead.

Years passed, and I went to elementary school and learned to read like most other American kids. Made friends. Went through the lunch line in an orderly fashion. Wore skirts and dresses since girls couldn’t wear pants to school then. Except on the coldest of winter days, that is. Then we could wear corduroy slacks beneath our skirts. I was, like all the kids I knew, clumped together with the same group of students for a whole year, all day. But then middle school came along, and we attended classes with different people. You might have English with Buddy but not math, biology, or history. Plus, the teachers differed as did the classrooms. But that dress code—it didn’t change.

I’m already over my self-imposed word limit of 600 words so I’m closing my laptop. But you know something? I’m into this evolution concept. As the grandmother of children all the ages I have been, I can easily see their physical, cognitive, social, emotional, and spiritual growth and enjoy speculating about their tomorrows.

What about you? How have you evolved? Can you see it happening?

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