Saturday, November 20, 2010

Thanks Giving

Norman Rockwell - Freedom from Want
Each year at this time, I have written about the holiday we know as Thanksgiving.  In the past, I have discussed how special our traditions are and how, if we try, everyday can be Thanksgiving.  So, this year, I wanted to write something different; something no one else had written; something that didn't have to do with Pilgrims, or feasts, or even the history of Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade.

Trouble is there isn't anything that I could write that hasn't already been said.  I would just say it differently.  In saying it differently, I wouldn't take anything away from what had already been said, right?  It would just be different.

Once again, I am faced with the truth that keeps repeating in my life.  We can use different words to say the same thing.  It doesn't mean one person is wrong and the other is right; it only means that they arrived by different paths.

It reminds me of the last time I took the train to Maine to see my grandbabies.  As we entered Boston, which is a hub, I noticed all the various lines converging at North Station.  The trains were coming in from different paths and branches, but they were all ending up at the same destination - Boston.

In life, we all travel different paths, too.  Sometimes, our paths intersect or run parallel to other travelers on Life's journey.  Sometimes, we feel as if we are traveling completely isolated from everyone else, much like a train traveling through the frozen tundra or along the side of huge mountain.  In spite of all that, however, we all end up in the same place.

Life is a circle; the end is the beginning is the end. 

As we gather for thanks giving, let us ponder the fact that we are all in this life together.  Let us give thanks for those who travel along similar paths as well as those whose paths seem so distant from ours.  Let us remember that while the words we use to give thanks may differ, the meaning is the same!

Oliwni, Shukran, Hahóo, Danke, Go raibh mile maith agaibh, Shukriya, Hvala, Graçias, Merci, Toa Chie, Thanks!


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Friday, November 12, 2010

Intuitive Parenting

A Sick Child Brought Into The Temple Of Aesculapius
by John William Waterhouse

Before I was a young mother, I worked for a pediatrician.  He was the quintessential Norman Rockwell physician, complete with messy desk and rotund figure.  He "knew" his patients in a way doctors today never do.  If he needed to spend an hour with a family, he did.  Everyone else waited, understanding that when it was their time, he would do the same for them.

I learned a great deal from this man.  The most important thing I learned was to trust my own instincts, as a health professional as well as a mother.

When my girls were school age, I knew intuitively when there were issues that needed to be dealt with concerning their health.  For instance, when one of the girls was struggling with reading and writing, I knew she had a learning disability.  Also, when one of my girls kept having difficulty keeping up with class or conversations, I intuitively knew she had some sort of neurological problem.  

In both instances, I was correct.  

My daughter did have a learning disability, which, once recognized she was able to master.  

My other daughter did indeed have a neurological problem, petit mal seizures.  Once on medication, she was able to keep from staring off into space and loosing time.  She eventually outgrew the problem, as is the case with most children who have petit mal. 

Petit mal causes the brain simply to shut down for a few seconds to a few minutes, much like a computer that is trying to download something but has to pause because it isn't streaming correctly. Usually, it is not even noticeable, which is why it often goes undiagnosed.

I bring this all up, because I want to share the story of another mother who has struggled with the medical establishment to find help for her daughter. I first became acquainted with Chynna Laird through Women on Writing.  Today, I am part of a Women on Writing blanket tour for Chynna.  
Chynna has written a book about her journey - Not Just Spirited: A Mom's Sensational Journey with Sensory Processing Disorder. The book is a memoir of Chynna's fighting for a diagnosis when countless doctors told her that her daughter was just "spirited". 

Chynna shares the heartbreaking reality of mothering a child with a severe "No touch" rule. She calls it "Mothering without touch." Although Not Just Spirited is the perfect match for parents of children with SPD, the determination and victories shown in the book will encourage anyone parenting a child with special needs or working to overcome an obstacle in their own life.

When I first read about Chynna and her struggles, my heart went out to her.  I understood her frustration with a medical system that didn't listen to what a parent was telling them.  I also, cheered on her tenacity to keep looking for answers so that she could help her daughter grow to her fullest.

One of the times I had become very angry at the inability of doctors to listen was when my daughter was in high school.  She was on the cross-country team, and a cheerleader.  She kept complaining of pain in her leg.  When the doctor finally x-rayed her leg, he told me she only had a muscle strain.  Looking at the x-ray, I pointed out what looked to me like a tiny fracture in her femur.  He told me I didn't know what I was looking at; that it was a growth plate.
Two days later, my daughter jumped up on a trampoline, fracturing her femur in a horrid break that required a steel rod to be placed in her leg.

The following year, she began complaining that she had the same discomfort in the other leg.  Again, I fought to have her leg x-rayed, "knowing" that her other femur was fractured.  When I, once again, pointed out the fracture on the x-ray, the doctor turned, saying, "What do you expect.  If she is going to do sports, she'll have stress fractures."  

Needless to say, that was the last time I took her to him.

The point I am trying to make here is that parents should be listened to with respect.  Yes, doctors go to school for many years to become experts in their fields, but parents are experts, too.  They are experts in parenting.  Most parents know their child in ways that no one else does.  Rather than discredit what the parents is saying, medical professionals need to add it to their list of considerations before making a final diagnosis.

Not only would this form of medical care save time and money, it would also save needless pain and suffering by both the child and the parents as they struggle to get solutions to the questions for which they intuitively know the answers.


Chynna has also written a children's book, I'm Not Weird, and resource book about SPD , At-Home Strategies for Managing Sensory Processing Disorder: A Guide for Parents . She is now working on another book White Elephants. When not writing, Chynna is a mom to her three young children and a student working on her BA in Psychology.

If you comment on today's post you'll be entered to win a copy of Not Just Spirited. To read Chynna's post about parenting and a list of other blogs participating in Chynna's Blanket Tour visit The Muffin at -


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Thursday, November 11, 2010

Poems of Remembrance

The sentiment of our nation has changed greatly over the past 50 years.  Back in 1960, I attended my first Veterans Day service.  The Girl Scouts, my troop and others,  marched in line with the Boy Scouts, the Fire and Police.  We hung wreaths on street signs along the way to the old graveyard, which dating back to the Revolutionary War. The streets along the way were lined with people who clapped, taking off their hats and covering their hearts as the flag passed by.  At some point, someone read a Veterans Day poem.  I think it was, "Flanders Field." Everyone got red poppies to wear.

Then, the 70's hit, dividing our country and splintering families, communities and lives.  For each advance we made during that time, we lost something, too.  Assassinations became commonplace, war could be fought from the comfort of the couch, death tolls were the appetizers for evening meals.  

Veterans Day was still celebrated.  Sometimes, my Dad and only a few of his comrades were present to place wreaths and remember.  The young men and women returning from Vietnam scarred and crippled in mind, body and soul, attended the gatherings, standing on the edges.  Their faces bearing witness to their loss of innocence. If someone read a Veterans Day poem, I don't remember it.  I do remember on one occasion someone played Taps on an old bugle.  It echoed against the high stone walls of the old grave yard.  Tears fell from the eyes of all those present.

During the 80's and 90's, I was an officer's wife.  Veterans Day was observed on SAC bases (Strategic Air Command) with great pomp and circumstance.  The "Missing Man" fly over left me weeping for days, as I remembered classmates that never made it home from the jungles of Vietnam.  During these observances, speeches were made, medals given, and Veterans Day poems were read. But, this was to be expected on an Air Force Base.  Off base, there was still a mixed bag of appreciation and scorn.

Now, however, it feels as if everyone has found a way to understand that the dedication of men and women to the service of their country is one of the greatest gifts a human can give.  Also, there is more of an awareness that this day, set on the eleventh day of the eleventh month was originally created to celebrate the making of Peace, not war.  It was a time to honor those who has struggled to bring Peace to the world.

I have a long history of military members in my family.  My grandfather was in the Army during the WWI; my dad was in the Navy.  Uncles from both sides of my family served.  My brother followed our Dad's example and joined the Navy, serving on an aircraft carrier in the Mediterranean during 80's.  My youngest daughter is married to a Navy corpsman.  

This is history that has informed my understanding of the military and its members. This is the history that has created the blend of patriotism and peacemaking that brings me here today.  

Lest others forget, we remember...the sacrifices, the dedication, the courage of those who lived before us.  With gratitude, we remember.




In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Linda M. Rhinehart Neas (1992)

The letters of your name
Are but a small portion of an alphabet
Of a million letters…
All etched neatly
On this polished rock.

There is no joy here…
But there is love.

It has permeated the ground
And wraps around those standing here
As they view the endless list of names
Whose faces are their own.

Walls will crumble.
Flowers left behind will wilt.
Photos will fade into yesterday.
Only the love lasts forever.

Carl Sandburg (1918)

Pile the bodies high at Austerlitz and Waterloo.
Shovel them under and let me work—
I am the grass; I cover all.

And pile them high at Gettysburg
And pile them high at Ypres and Verdun.
Shovel them under and let me work.
Two years, ten years, and passengers ask the conductor:
What place is this?
Where are we now?

I am the grass.
Let me work.


from the Sonnet Sequence 1914 by Rupert Brooke (1915)

If I should die, think only this of me:
That there’s some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England. There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
A body of England’s, breathing English air,
Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.

And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.


Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
of sun-split clouds, — and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of—wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air....
Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark nor even eagle flew—
And, while with silent lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

Alfred Lord Tennyson (1809-1892)

Sunset and evening star
And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
When I put out to sea,

But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
Turns again home.

Twilight and evening bell,
And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
When I embark;

For though from out our bourne of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crossed the bar.

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Saturday, November 6, 2010

The Joy of Writing

 "Two roads diverged in a wood, and I --

I took the one less travelled by,

and that has made all the difference"
                                  The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost

The Poem-A-Day challenge has just completed its first week!  Wow!  Time does fly when you are having fun.  Truth is, it IS fun to write poetry each day.  I am enjoying getting up as early as I can to write, post and comment on the work of the other writers.

This morning at 5 a.m. I came up with a great idea.  Throughout the month, I challenge readers to post a line of poetry that really touches them. Make sure you give the title of the poem and the author's name so others can read the entire poem if they wish.

There is a joy of writing that can also be found in the reading.  Words heal, words encourage, words are balm for the soul.

Share you favorite words.  At the end of the month some lucky reader will win a signed copy of my book, Winter of the Soul.


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Friday, November 5, 2010

Gratitude for Poem-a-Day Challenge

Once again, I am taking the Poem-a-Day (PAD)Challenge.  If you don't know what that is, visit Robert Lee Brewer.

This is the third year I have participated in the PAD challenge. What I like about the challenge is the task of writing a poem to a prompt within 24 hours.  Of course, you don't have to write the poem in that time, but I have chosen to do it as a way to hone my craft.

For years, I thought I could only write poetry when I was inspired, rather like Divine intervention. Poems would come to me without my consciously working to write.  I would literally get the entire poem in my head, scramble around to find a pen and paper and then write the poem down in its entirety. Taking the PAD challenge has given me another viewpoint.

Last year when I finished the challenge, I pulled together the poems I had written, weeded out the so-so ones and published my second book of poetry.  Gogo's Dream: Swaziland Discovered is a fundraiser for Possible Dreams International (PDI).  The profit on the sales of the book go directly to PDI. The idea to do this never would have happened had it not been for the PAD Challenge with Robert Lee Brewer's suggestion to write on one topic throughout the month.  

This year, I am simply writing poems.  If they end up being thematic, then the Muse is at work.  I am enjoying the process of writing a poem each day. 

Special Note to Teachers:  If you have been looking for multicultural poetry or if you have multicultural poetry resources, please visit PoetryEd Wiki.


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