Saturday, September 26, 2009

Mother Love

I just woke up from a crazy, crazy dream. I was rushing through my church – late for sacrament meeting. I was looking for the bathroom but chanced to go into a room that was crowded with the women of the church. Curious about what was going on, I took a chair in the back row. There was an air of anticipation. Suddenly another woman bustled into the room and there was commotion. She was clearly distressed that she was late, and she apologized. One of the other women said, “Don’t worry. We didn’t even think you’d be alive.”

The woman who was late said, I didn’t think I would either. No one did. Let me tell you what happened.” She had a big bandage wrapped around her head and face, and I intuitively knew that a big part of her face was missing – hollowed out. She proceeded to tell her story:

“None of the doctors or church members could help me here. I went to another place where they have the buddy system. God was first in line to talk to me but I yelled, ‘no! my twins want to talk now. You'll have to wait.” As she spoke these words, she started to unwrap the bandage and her face was not just completely healed, but radiant – more beautiful than ever. She was healed. She would live.

I was suddenly overwhelmed with the sense of the power of love between mothers and their children. The mom put God on hold because her little twins wanted to talk first, and the twins, through their pleadings to God (this was not a dream where events were linear), were able to heal their mom when no one else could.

I woke up a few minutes ago sobbing. I’m not really sure why, but that dreamed moved me and filled me with a strange sense of something. I think we may take our Mother Love for granted sometimes – the power of it, I mean. It is fierce and nothing -- absolutely nothing -- comes first (not even God in this dream).

And I’ve never really thought about the power of the love that a child has for her parents. The pleas of the woman’s twins saved her – it restored her very flesh and blood, which was somehow eaten away. She lived because of the intervention, pleas and faith of her children.

As moms, we are remarkable people with a love for our children that is something to be reckoned with. But we should never forget the power of Child Love. It can save lives.

Friday, September 11, 2009

A Full Nest; a Bursting Heart

Just for today, my nest is full. And it feels good. Well, honestly, I've hardly had any time to pay attention to my nest. I've barely seen my nest, in fact. I have been busy helping other people with their nests and am enjoying a flurry of meetings, outings, errands, quick phone calls, hurried hugs, texts and emails, belly laughter, and a few tears. I am saying "yes" to life. At least for today.

What I've learned: our life is exactly what we create. We choose. We can have just as much happiness as we're willing to embrace. We can chose to isolate and feel sorry for ourselves, or we can reach out and find fellow souls who yearn for connection, friendship, good works. I am blessed beyond belief with the people who have wandered, stumbled (literally), swooshed, or barged into my life. I have learned from them all and have loved nearly all of them. I have seen myself and others with kinder eyes.

I've been doubly blessed by the little people who are part of my life for two hours every Sunday. There's nothing like the enthusiasm, raw energy and curiosity of children. They are amazing teachers.

I am blown away by the strength of my family, with my parents forming a rock solid foundation of faith, gratitude, and unconditional love. My sisters sandwich me in love and good humor. My children keep me on my toes (and on my knees). And Darryl. What can I say? He is the glue that holds me together. Sprinkle all that with the amazing wonderfulness of my nieces, nephews, and bros-in-law, and you have a big, squishy cocoon of security and solace.

So, I am on a pink cloud. Just for today. I never would have imagined writing this a week ago. Indeed, I was in a dark place that I didn't think I could crawl out of. But it is amazing what prayer, exercising faith (I say "exercise" because it doesn't come naturally for me), and asking for help can do. My heart is bursting with gratitude. Just for today.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Empty Nest

What to do with an empty nest?
Fill it with shopping or trips to the library?
Pile it with tasty dishes from new recipe books?
Toss in hours of pouring over old photo albums?
Clean it and scrub it?
Rearrange and refurbish?
Blast music so loud that I can’t stand to go in it?

Does one keep the nest empty?
Guard it from intrusion?
Make it a shrine or a refuge from loneliness?
Or turn away and never look into it?

The days are dwindling when my nest is intact.
Nighttime is impatient with her dark embrace.
Anxiety’s cold hands grabs at my ankles.
Doubt teases my mind and fills with fear.

And I wonder and worry:

Did I teach her what she needs to be independent?
Does she know who she is and where she came from?
Did I nurture her self confidence?
Did I tell her often enough how wonderful she is?
Does she know she’s loved unconditionally?
Does she know her true worth?
Can she stand tall and strong and make her voice heard?
Are her wings strong and sturdy?
Her sense of direction keen?
Is she ready for flight and adventure and independence?

Whatever I did or didn’t do, I know in my gut,
In my heart,
In my mind
…my bird is ready to take

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Tribute to Atlas Shrugged

I wrote this in 1990 after reading Atlas Shrugged for the second or third time. My big confession: I never finished the book. I couldn't bear to be without John Galt.

A Tribute to Atlas Shrugged

Empty wall, bare wall.
Open just for a moment and
let me walk through you.
Show me a place unlike the
world where I exist.

Show me the factories of
Henry Rearden, the railroads
of Dagny Tggart. Show me Wyatt's
Torch and Galt's Gulch.
Let me walk through the a'Anconia mines,
and sail the ships of Danneskjolk.

Let me see those that the world hated,
yet could not do without.
Let me talk with the immovable movers
and listen to the Concerto of Deliverence.

Idealist, you say. Dreamer.
Yes, let me. I will dream.
Just once I want to explore the
world of idealism, progressiveness.
People with self-esteem and independence.
People who love themselves.
People who will not sacrifice their values.

These men and women who
have left a world where men
damn existence...and damn the Earth
yet dare not question their code.

Let me dwell with those that believe
that your life belongs to you,
and that good comes from living it.
Let me join those who have turned their
backs on the sacrificial altar of socidety.

Let me unite with those who have
found a better morality to live by

Let me be part of them for just a while,
And I will return through the wall from
whence I came.

I will not live in their world
but their world will live in my heart.

Donna Black
October l990

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Off to College . . .

Empty Nest

What to do with an empty nest?
Fill it with shopping or trips to the library?
Pile it with tasty dishes from new recipe books?
Toss in hours of pouring over old photo albums?
Clean it and scrub it?
Rearrange and refurbish?
Blast music so loud that I can’t stand to go in it?

Does one keep the nest empty?
Guard it from intrusion?
Make it a shrine or a refuge from loneliness?
Or turn away and never look into it?

The days are dwindling when my nest is intact.
Nighttime is impatient with her dark embrace.
Anxiety’s cold hands grabs at my ankles.
Doubt teases my mind and fills with fear.

And I wonder and worry:

Did I teach her what she needs to be independent?
Does she know who she is and where she came from?
Did I nurture her self confidence?
Did I tell her often enough how wonderful she is?
Does she know she’s loved unconditionally?
Does she know her true worth?
Can she stand tall and strong and make her voice heard?
Are her wings strong and sturdy?
Her sense of direction keen?
Is she ready for flight and adventure and independence?

Whatever I did or didn’t do, I know in my gut,
In my heart,
In my mind
…my bird is ready to take

Donna ’09

Green Before Green was Hip

I found a book of poems I wrote 29 years ago. Turns out I was green before green was all the rage. That was back almost three decades ago when I was wise. I think I'm living backwards and that, with me, foolishness and ignorance come with age.

A Letter

Asses, fools, men.
They think the world was made
For them.
That every bird, cloud and
Blade of grass
Was made for the comfort of a
Big, fat ass.
That every creature
North and south
Was made to stuff in
An ugly mouth.

So, live it up and have your fun
Because, dear fools, your time is done.
Imbeciles that you are –
You didn’t realize that your birth
Was for the caring of the Earth.

You ugly, destructive, selfish mob,
Earth’s life and beauty you have robbed.
Because of your careless, endless lies,
Prepare your meager minds to die.
Your punishment – now that all is checked –
Is to live on this planet that
You yourselves have wrecked.

Sincerely yours,
Mother Earth

Drink Up This Day

Drink up this day
In all its deliciousness,
In all its fullness.
Breathe it in.
Listen to it.
Feel it.
Bathe in its uniqueness.
Twirl in its warmth.
Embrace its energy.
Soak up the moment.
When its over only the
Gentle glow of memories remain.
Donna '09

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

This Too Shall Pass

I am so glad I don't feel this way anymore, but "With Age" describes where I was in 1992. Those were dark years!

With Age

My panoramic view of life
collapsed into a Petri dish.
Where I once saw endless possibilities
I now see blockades, barriers, obstructions.

Where a myriad of colors once
danced across the horizon,
I now see ugly streaks in
shades of gray and brown.

Where I once saw glorious eternity
reigning in its splendor,
I now see only today as it clutches my
ankles and drags me down.

I once had an endless reservoir
of energy,
and now it seeps and oozes
through my blighted body.

Respite comes when splatterings
of illusions and fantasy
briefly cast dazzling colors
upon my bleak picture of reality.

Donna Franklin ‘92


Insight is never free;
growth is never painless;
self knowledge comes only
with many tears, mistakes,
with fear and with pain.

But find the courage and
the strength, and the
darkness will open to
brilliant light. The
heavy burdens will lift
and eyes and heart will open.

The green fields and flowers
of your dreams will escape
your imagination and
become reality.

Be willing to feel the pain,
to shed the tears,
to fight the darkness.
That is the only way to find
your true self.

donna franklin '97

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Reflections of the Middle East

I walked in the chilly morning air through the shadows of Petra.
I heard the clamoring of chariots through Petra’s slot canyon.
I felt the spray of the Sea of Galilee as we sailed at night.
I was wakened by the call to prayer in the dark morning hours.
I heard the roar of the river at Tel Dan.
I dipped my toes into the sea at Caesarea Philippe.
I walked among the red poppies at Beit Lehi.
I strolled through the herb-scented pastures of Nazareth.
I glimpsed the ancient marble streets of Damascus from a Golan Heights’ hill top.
I smelled the fragrant almond groves around Tiberius.
I sat among the ancient olive trees of Gethsemane.
I sloshed through the wet streets of the Old City, the smell of fresh falafels filling the air.
I bartered with good natured shopkeepers over the price of baklava, tapestries and scarves.
I was jostled by children on their way to school in the streets of Old Jerusalem.
I was dizzy with the scent of heavy spices in the Jerusalem marketplace.
Sunlight stung my eyes when I left the quiet cool of the Garden Tomb.
Juice ran down my chin when I bit into a just-picked orange.
My pulse quickened as I stood where Jesus was mocked and scourged.
My heart wept as I joined the throngs of Orthodox Jews at the Wailing Wall.
The rosy sunrise kissed my frozen face as I stood on Mt. Sinai.
I awakened a sleeping camel on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea.
I purchased warm sesame-coated knotted bread and hot falafels on the streets of Old Jerusalem.
The wind dance through my hair at the ruins of Caesarea Philippe.
I descended into the tomb of an ancient Egyptian King.
My feet felt the grit of the sands around the pyramids.
My head spun and my pulse raced in the crazed traffic of Cairo.

An ornery camel challenged by balance on the dark trail up Mt. Sinai
I stepped into holy places at the temples of Kings at Karnak.
I faced the sphinx and stared her down.
I walked along the Nile in the early morning hours.
I sat at the Damascus gate watching peddlers prepare for their day.
I dodged strange trash collection vehicles darting in and out of Jerusalem alleys.
I made eye contact with Bedouins herding their sheep.
I watched packs of wild dogs running wild in the Jordanian desert.
I saw Egyptians tend to their crops just the way their ancestors did a thousand years ago.
I longed to stroll invisible through the streets of the City of the Dead.
I bobbed, covered in black mud, in the salty waters of the Dead Sea.
I sat on the Mount of Olives and listened to stories of Jesus.
I sat – sunshine on my neck – in the spot where Jesus taught his apostles at Banias.
I climbed the steps where Jesus walked to his trial.
I stood in the shade listening to the waters of the River Jordan.
My heart broke as I wandered the solemn rooms of Yad Vashem.
My eyes gobbled up the pinks and greens of just blooming almond groves in the Golan Heights.
I smooshed through crowds down narrow stairs to see Jesus’ birthplace.
I stood on the stone road where Roman soldiers flogged Jesus Christ.
I saw the fiery orange sun dip between the pyramids.
I exchanged smiles and hugs with Egyptian children eager to practice their English.
I wandered through fields of red poppies at Beit Lehi.
I sat in the scalding sun at Masada.
I smiled at the rough-handed wood carver in his Bethlehem olive wood store.
I touched the ancient, war-pocked walls at Old Jerusalem.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mommy's Day

Here are two poems Kate wrote when she was in second or third grade. They still warm my heart and bring a smile.


Moms will walk across the desert
to help you sleep.
They will swim over the ocean
to help you not to weep.
They will climb a mountain tall
to pick you up when you fall.
Moms are wonderful people
who we will always remember and love.

Mommy’s Bed

Sometimes when it’s late at night,
I have a terrible fright.
I grab my blankies, go up the stairs
and say goodbye to my teddy bears.
I crawl into my mommy’s bed
and cover up my sleepy head.
The pillows are so fluffy–it’s not at all stuffy.
They sheets are so smooth that
you can easily snooze.
“Go away!” I say to my sleeping brother –
this is my mother!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

To All the Second Mothers

As Mother's Day approaches, I want to say thank you to all "second mothers" -- those amazing women who help us raise our children. The women who are there to comfort, guide, direct and discipline when we are not. What would we ever do without them?

This is something I wrote for Ellen McGraw many years ago. Ellen was a second mother to Kate when she was very small. Her home was a safe harbor, a place of love, a treasure chest of joy.

To Ellen and all other Second Mothers – Happy Mother’s Day and thanks from the bottom of my heart!

Second Mother

You wipe the tears and give
the hugs.
You feed the body and
the spirit.
You hear the laughter
and the cries.
You see the potential and
cherish the child.

A second mother,
a treasured link
in the eternal circle
of Kate's life.

Love knows no boundaries
or genetics or biology.
Who says a child needs
only one mother!
Ah, you have been
Second Mother to many.

And you are loved and cherished,
valued and prayed for,
counted on and cared for
by many, many
Second Children.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Vision of Life

Let me see life through the eyes of Christ.
Let me see people with eyes of unwavering love--
unconditional love.

Let me see the world through the eyes of a child.
Let me find wonder in the smallest flower,
the common oak tree, the evening sunset.

Help me to see each living creature as a miracle--
precious and irreplaceable. A piece of a beautiful and
complex puzzle -- one I don’t need to understand or analyze,
but simply enjoy and cherish.

dblack ‘99

Monday, May 4, 2009

I Love Four Year Olds

I love four year olds. I love their enthusiasm and their confidence.

In Sunday School, Sister Watson told the kids she was going to teach them about something that was sort of complicated. And it was a big word. She said she didn't think most of them would know what it was --"ordinance".

Joshua is four years old. He started popping up and down in his seat and raising his hand high above his head saying, "Oh, I know. I know!" He was practically falling out of his chair with his exuberance. "I know! I know! We put ordinance all over our Christmas tree." I love four year olds.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

There's No Glamour in Those Shots!

I took Kate to Glamour Shots at Tyson's Corner today to get her senior picture taken. I was stunned to see some of the 4x6 foot portraits they chose to hang in the gallery. One was a 40-something year old woman facing the camera and on all fours donning a red teddy, breasts spilling out. The second photo was of a woman about 8 months pregnant. She was standing up in a fancy living room with her blouse unbuttoned below her breasts and her huge naked stomach bursting forth.

Don't get me wrong-- I think it's very cool when a woman wears sexy things for her sweetheart-- I just think it should stay between the two of them. I think pregnant women are beautiful. In fact, I have pictures of my big bare belly when I was hugely pregnant -- but I don't really think strangers would find it very attractive.

And wouldn't you just die if you were a teenager shopping with your girlfriends and walked past Glamour Shots just to see huge photo of your mom in her red "come hither" teddy? How humiliating would that be? What do you think those women were thinking when they said, "Sure, please do hang that photo of me (in your front window where thousands of strangers will see it)." Seriously, I had nearly three hours to sit and contemplate that question, and I still can't come up with a single answer.

Honestly, I was afraid to look at the proofs of Kate when her photo session was over. Luckily, the pictures were lovely and worth every uncomfortable minute of sitting with belly lady and teddy chick.

p.s. I won't even tell you about the big photo of the goth ballerina -- and I am not kidding.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Jerusalem, Thou Art So Far Away!

Oh, Jerusalem, thou art so far away! I've been home for over a month now but never wrote about our delightful adventures together! Time and distance have slipped in between us, and I don't think I can do your splendor justice. The sights and smells and sounds that were nestled snugly in my mind have been nudged out by worries of college choices, a court case, new church responsibilities and swine flu.

When I first got back from your Holy Land, I'd dream about you almost every night. It was like extending that magical trip, but now I can't dream about you no matter how many pictures I look at or how hard I shut my eyes and concentrate on your sacred places.

In the words of one of your favored sons:
"If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning. If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy."

A Swearing Mood


Dammit. There's just nothing I can do about it; I am in a swearing mood. I just woke up that way. I can't blame it on hormones. I can't blame it on weather. I blame it on the genes I inherited from my mom. My mom's family is notorious for their cussing. When my mom (Wannie) was a baby, her dad used to rock her to sleep with the dear little ditty, "Son-a-bitchin' Wannie, son-a-bitchin' Wannie". I remember when Grandma Hunt to used to chase us out of her kitchen after we raided her cookie jar with, "Come back here you little shits!" And when Mom asked Aunt Vena, "Don't you want to be married to Ed for eternity?", Vena replied, "Hell no! I've been putting up with son-of-a-bitch for too long already."

So, really. Is it any wonder that I occasionally wake up in a mood to cuss? If your Mom used yell at you and your cousins to "come and shit your goos on" (get your shoes on) so we can leave", maybe it leaves an impression. If your dad said, "Let's get the whole fam damily here so we can go", maybe it sort of sticks. If one of your family's favorite card games was "Dammit to Hell", maybe you'd be prone to swearing. If you're grandma was introduced to a famous star (who will remain nameless) in Vegas and said to him, "You're sure a handsome son-of-a-bitch", maybe you'd be prone to cussin'. Maybe if your mom referred to your oldest sister (who really was an awful teenager) as "your royal hind-ass", you'd be inclined to blurt out a bad word once in a while.

When my niece Ellie was about three and someone asked her what Grandpa says, she'd say, "Shut the damn door". I rest my case. It's in our blood.

So, if I occasionally wake up in a swearing mood, perhaps you'll understand. But let me assure you, that those genes I inherited from my mom's family are the same genes that gave me an explosive imagination and more creativity than I can handle. It gave me a sense of humor and a wild, adventurous spirit. It's given me a thirst to connect to people, to learn about other cultures, to talk to strangers and invite them to supper, to jump into the thick of life with no regret. So . . . to Grandma Hunt, to Grandpa Oz, to Aunt Vena and to Mom: Thanks, dammit! Thanks a lot.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Prom Bomb II

I've tried and tried to post the ONE picture of Kate in her prom dress, but to no avail. This program refuses to let me. Kate had an absolutely glorious time. Turns out that Micheal's mom was at the house where all the kids met for picture taking. She gave Kate a big hug, told her she looked beautiful and that it was worth the wait. She took lots of pictures.

Kate's dress (which cost $45 to get fitted) was not so fitted after all. The bodice kept falling down, so Kate spent half the night holding it up. The prom was at the Capitol Hill Hyatt - within the shadow of our Nation's Capitol. The theme was Viva Las Vegas and they served an all you could eat buffet for dinner and then another for breakfast. Pretty snazzy.

We'll take the dress back to tailor and hope it's fixed by the time Prom II arrives on May 22. Yes, she is wearing the same dress! I know I've complained a lot about this whole prom thing . . ..but really, isn't it just too wonderful that I have a lovely, beautiful daughter who is going to two proms with a wonderful young man? Isn't it great that we can afford a dress and all the other accouterments for such an event? Isn't it a blessing that I have friends who can listen to me complain and then laugh at make me and give me perspective? It is. And I am blessed.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Prom Bomb

What an insane week it's been getting Kate ready for prom! After going to over a dozen stores, we found a dress. It had to be tailored and I miraculously found someone to do it in one day (extra bucks go a long way). Yesterday evening Kate took the metro to Bethesda to get a spray tan. She got there to discover she had to have a parent sign a waiver, so I told her we could go this morning at 9 a.m. (before the shoe shopping, hair and make up appointments).

We got there before I discovered that I left my purse at home. Thankfully, Kate had enough money to pay for the tan, and I cleverly distracted the lady so she forgot to ask me for a photo ID. But...that meant we had to go back home before our shoe shopping.

We actually found the shoes pretty quickly -- and some lovely jewelry. We were doing so well, in fact, that we stopped for lunch. It was over pizza that I realized we hadn't bought Michael a boutonniere, so we rushed home and I made calls to a florist for a 2 p.m. pick up.

Kate's dress was supposed to be done at 1 pm. It was in Silver Spring. The lady called to say the dress was done but they'd lost the shawl. Oh well, it was 92 degrees and Kate could do without a shawl.

The trip to Silver Spring was uneventful, but College Park (a.k.a. location of the florist) was a nightmare -- it was Maryland Day.

I got home just in time for Kate to go to her hair appointment. After she left, I felt bad: it was HOT and her car has no air conditioning. The updo and the makeup would surely wither before she got home. I rushed to the salon and traded cars with her -- only to realize her gas light was on and her tank was completely empty. So...$31.53 later I was finally home.

I lost track of time when the doorbell rang. It was 6:30 and Michael was at the door. Sadly, Kate was not. She was still getting her make up done. Four couples were waiting for Michael and Kate and kept texting him as we chatted for FORTY minutes waiting for Kate, who claimed she was ten minutes away.

Shortly after 7:00, she rushed in, dashed up the stairs, got dressed, grabbed her backpack (she's sleeping at Nikkis) and ran out the door. I only got to snap a single picture and hardly even had time to look at her in all her beautifulness. I won't see her until "the morning after" when all that's left of the magical senior prom is a wrinkled dress, wilted crossage, smeared make up and groggy teenager.

So, I'm feeling used, abused, and disappointed. Good thing this was Michael's prom and that her prom is in three weeks. Maybe we'll have our act together!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

A Dream Come True!

In Chinatown in NYC, there are some little places you can slip into after a long day of shopping when your back is screeching in pain and your feet are swollen and sore. These little oriental massage places charge $20 for a half hour of pure heaven. They are dark. They are cheap. They require no appointment. They don't ask for your name. You get a heavenly massage while fully clothed and listening to exotic oriental music. In short, they are my idea of heaven, and I always look forward to my secret indulgence when I go to New York.

Imagine my surprise -- my complete delight! -- when I was prom shoe shopping with Kate today in Silver Spring and found a similar place -- but this one in a mall! I quickly forgot our mission to find some strappy silver shoes and said to the friendly man, "We'll take two 30 minute sessions." Before I knew it I was on a massage table fantasizing about slipping out of the office once a week during lunch to get a massge. I thought of how many bagels and VitaminWater 10's would equal a massage. Before I knew it, I was so relaxed I was drooling through the head rest. Now, that was a half hour of pure heaven!! I was ready to conquer the shoe shopping mission. I think I can handle just about any challenge when I can see a massage in my future. The heavens are smiling today!

Oh, these guys are open from 10:00 a.m. until 9:30 p.m. seven days a week. Could there be any better news?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Teenrager Hell

I have spent the last TWELVE days devoted to Kate. Getting the house ready for a weekend friend and running them all over. Taking Kate to the emergency room on Easter, followed by a day off work for follow up visits to doctors. I took four days off work to take Kate and three friends to NYC for two days, followed by a road trip to North Carolina and Virginia to look at colleges. We spent hours in North Carolina malls looking for a graduation dress. I spent Sunday and Monday trying figure out how we could possibly pay for Virginia Tech.

Last night Kate told me that Micheal's prom is this Saturday and she needed a dress. So I left work early and fought rush hour traffic and rain to take her to TEN (count them) stores. She could not find a single dress she liked. Not at Macy's. Not at Bloomingdale's. Not even at Lord and Taylor. So, I was exhausted and hungry and my gas light went on in heavy traffic on the beltway when Kate cranked up the radio and declared that she is the unluckiest person in the world. OMG!! Really? Did she just say that? I am officially exasperointed (a cross between exasperated and disappointed). If she is the unluckiest person in the world . . .well, you can only imagine where my thoughts go from there.

Let's see, when does her freshman year start?

Monday, February 23, 2009

Getting Ready

In less than two weeks, Darryl, my parents, Joni & Kevin, and Jeanne & Max, and I will be heading to Israel for 18 days! Holy cow! I've known about this trip for about six months, but it always seemed so far away. Now, it is just around the corner and I am hoping I can be ready.

I feel like I'm preparing for a long, around-the-world voyage instead of an 11 hour flight across the Atlantic. Besides packing for a variety of activities and climes, just figuring out all the logistics of leaving two teenagers, a cat, a house and my job for almost three weeks has been daunting.

I keep checking the list of things the travel agent tells us to bring: 9 volt batteries, sewing kit, gloves and scarves, scriptures and reading material, $100 in small bills, $400 in large bills for tips and VISAs, copies of passports and credit cards, swimming suit and water shoes, long underwear and sunscreen -- duct tape wrapped around a pencil. Really? Doesn't this sound like a crazy list considering we are only allowed once suitcase that weighs less than 50 pounds? How can we pack for temperatures that will vary from 30 to 80 degrees? What if I didn't get the right converter or (gasp!) don't make a good choice on my reading material? And which binoculars do we bring? Which camera? Do I go for quality or portability? The chances of rain are pretty small but do I want to risk getting caught in a storm unprepared or taking up extra space for a poncho that I may never need? Will there really be laundromats in Jerusalem that will happily do our laundry for us one day?

And, on the homefront: Yikes! I am leaving two (wonderful) teenagers for almost three weeks. Of course, I'll stock up on groceries and leave some money, but what have I not thought of? It's not like they can just give me a call and I can be home in a couple of hours. These are kids that may or may not know how to handle an over flowing toilet, a clogged drain, leaking gutters. More likely, they will not empty the trash cans before the reek to high heaven, will not bring in the mail and the recycling bins, won't clean out the litter box.

So, this is another opportunity for growth. I have had nearly two decades to teach these young people to be independent and self reliant. I have done an inadequate job. It is so much easier to do it myself than to take the time to teach them new skills. What a mistake. It seems like they were four years old a week ago and that I had all the time in the world to work with them. Now they are nearly adults.

It's time to trust them and to turn it over to God. After all, they ARE His children, and I'm sure he'll keep an eye on them so I can enjoy my once in a lifetime adventure to Israel. Keep your fingers crossed and good energy flowing our way!

Friday, February 20, 2009

MVA Woes

Don't ever mess with the MVA gods -- you know, those ever so grumpy people who sit behind their desks at the Motor Vehicle Administration and determine if your three hour wait ends in a sigh of relief or a huge dose of frustration.

As I cleaned out the glove compartment in our 18 year old Honda, I came across the registration and realized it would expire this week. Knowing we'd be in Israel until the end of March and that Kate is just dying to drive, I thought I'd go on line and do a quick renewal. Haha. Not so fast. You see, John is still listed as the owner (I'm a mere a co-owner) and so they send the stickers to him. Well, he is MAD at me, and so it's not bloody likely he'd pass on the stickers to me once I paid the $138 reneewal feel.

Wanting to make sure I got all the pertinent information and wasted no time, I called the MVA to find out what to do. After a 15 minute wait, a real person answered and said that all although I couldn't make changes on line, I just needed to come in and tell the people at the MVA to use the address of the co-owner. Piece of cake! John also lost the title and so never gave it to me (as stated in our divorce agreement of 11 years ago) and so for just $20, I could also get a duplicate title.

Feeling organized and optimistic, I left work at 3 p.m. today and headed to the nearest MVA. I should have lost a bit of my sunny attitude when there were no parking spots, but undaunted, I carried on. I didn't lose my good attitude while waiting in a winding, ever ending line. I didn't lose hope as I sat for two and a half hours on tortuous metal chairs as number after number got called. FINALLY - I47 was being served at counter 2. Whooo hooo!

My spirits were crushed once the very serious and "I have no time for you, lady" attendant looked at me over her glasses. It didn't matter what the people on the phone told me; it didn't matter that I'd been in line for almost three hours; it didn't matter that it was now 5:35 and I was one of the few people sitting behind the locked doors of the MVA:

1. I can pay for the renewal ($138)
2. I cannot change the address; John has to come in and do it in person
3. I cannot get the title unless John signs it over and comes to the MVA in person.

I was seriously bummed, but knew it didnt' matter what I said to Ms. MVA. they are trained to have no feelings, to show no empathy, to be stone faced and immovable.

When I told Darryl about my woes, he glanced up and said, "You know, you shouldn't sweat it. We'll be lucky if the car lasts another year." Oh, yeah, I forgot that the car is two years older than it's new driver. DUH!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Hitting Hard

Tonight was girls night out. There were twelve of us. We had dinner at my friend's house who lives in Bethesda -- in a house big enough to have a dining room with a table that comfortably seats 20. By outside appearances, it looked like it often does when a few or more of us get together. Twelve well dressed, coifed women. We are a group of friends who range in age from 25 to 67. We are from mixed socio-economic circumstances -- from single doing the Capitol Hill gig to retired on a fixed income; from upper class married with kids to a divorced entrepreneur. Times are tough, friends. Here's what is happening in this microcosm of the U.S.:

-friend 1: had to charge her $135 antibiotic prescription because her insurance doesn't cover that drug.
-friend 2: had to settle for getting 1/3 of her $220 prescription because she's between jobs, has no cash in the bank, and her credit card is maxed out
-friend 3: is about to lose her catering business, which was thriving to the point of craziness a year ago
-friends 4 and 5: have both lost their jobs and are desperately looking for new ones
-friend 6: is doing a lot of pro bono work but can't find a job that pays her bills
-friend 7: had a $1500 car repair bill she didn't want to put on a VISA; called to see if she could borrow against her 401K. She was told no because there was only $315 in the account. In January of 2008, the account had $68,000

The fact is that these women are all well educated, experienced and highly employable. But that's not the saddest thing. The saddest thing is that we're the lucky ones. We are feeling the pinch, no doubt, but we are not walking the edge like so many other families. We are not about to fall off into the abbys of helplessness and desparation that so many face.

At the beginning of the month, I drive by homes where the people have been evicted. All their possessions thrown in thoughtless, sad heaps in the front yard for anyone to rummage through. It's such a violation. It makes me especially sick to see the toys and little clothes. What will happen to those families? To those children? How many are too ashamed to let others know, to ask for help?

If you are reading this, you may want to thank the Creator that you are in a warm spot and have electricity. So many of our problems are dwarfed by those of so many around us. Please keep them in your prayers.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

We Had a Good Run

It's happened. Everyone told me it would, but I somehow thought I miraculously avoided it. Nope. I have a teenage daughter who is not that thrilled with me. Ugh, the rolling of the eyes. The smirks. The "whatever"s. Too much. Sometimes she tolerates me with an unwilling smile. Other times she just cringes. Almost all information is grudgingly given . . . sometimes to the point of her exasperation. I can't seem to get anything done fast enough or good enough. Pretty much everything I do is stupid or a waste of time. I laugh too much, I talk to loud, I walk too fast. Bottom line: I exist and that's annoying right now for my 17 year old girl.

When did this happen? How did it happen? Did I do something to cause it? I waste time asking myself these questions, but mostly I think the answer is pretty simple: Kate is growing up and has cut the apron strings. And, I guess that's what we all want, really. Right? Well, we had a good run. A darn good run.

In truth, I must have thought about this long ago. I found this poem I wrote when Kate was four:

Kite Flying

You, my dear, are like a March day.

Clear and sure as the Azure sky above.

Sweet as the scent of Spring’s first blossoms.

Chattery and excited as the newborn robins.

You're as free and colorful as a bright, new kite.

So, go my darling! Fly away and explore.

See all that you can.

And when I see that you are flying

high and straight and sure, I’ll cut the string and

set you free…

But always, I’ll be watching, waiting with

open arms to catch you and hold you close

when you tire and need a hug.

Donna 1995

Thursday, January 22, 2009

I'm a Big Purple Bird!

I have a mental list of things I'd never do -- you know, things that would be too embarrassing, risky, tacky, pushing the comfort zone. I have a LONG list. So, how is it that I agreed to don the costume of a big purple bird with a gigantic beak, huge yellow feet, and big frilly tail? How is it that I not only walked among the crowd of 4,000 people in this awkward, uncomfortable contraption but shook hands, waved, did the high five and the fist bump, gave out countless hugs to excited children, and shook my bootie? Who knows! Perhaps watching "Yes Man" a week prior to the event had some influence. Maybe it was just enough to make me tip toe out of my comfort zone. Who am I kidding? It was not a timid tip toe out of my comfort zone -- it was a gigantic leap out of the zone. But I did it!

Here's what I learned: kids are enthusiastic, open, inquisitive; boys like to high five, punch and pull tails; girls like to hug; and parents love to snap photos of their kids with any random character. More importantly: if you're gonna wear a huge bird costume with a clunky, heavy head and gigantic feet, you must absolutely have ready access to lots of water, Tylenol, and heat wraps to deal with the accompanying excruciating headaches, sore neck and back muscles and shin splints.

Am I glad I did it? You bet! I've never been so darn popular. I had people waiting in line to shake my hand or hug me. I had hoards of kids running up to hug me saying, "Digit, I love you!" I had my photo taken a hundred times.

It felt so good that the next night at one of the many receptions/parties I went to, I donned a bright red cowboy hat that had a flashing blue star on it. It was sooo tacky! Gosh, who knows what I'll do next! So, my recommendation to all of you: Just Say "YES"!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Staying in Touch

With all the technology -- cell phones, email, Facebook, My Space -- why is it so darn hard to stay in touch with those we love the most? Drives me crazy. It takes seconds to connect, and yet so often I don't. Each time I call my sister, Joni, we can talk non stop for a good hour. It feels so good. I laugh, I jabber away, I listen, and I feel so reconnected and close again. I vow never to let so much time slip away again. And yet a month later, we're doing the same thing. Crazy, isn't it?

We miss so much of the little things (and sometimes the BIG things) that are a part of our lives. For instance, today I got to learn about this crazy, insane dessert Joni was making that required eight boxes of pudding, insanely shaped cookies with gum drops, and cupcakes. Took her hours to make. Is it critical information? Is it really that important? Maybe not. But it reminded me of the wonderfulness of my sister. How she dedicates her life to her family, how she daily renders unselfish service, how she courageously makes outrageously crazy desserts for a bunch of teenage girls -- all with a great attitude and a smile.

I am again missing her. And missing the great times we have when we are together -- hours of non stop talking, gut splinting laughter, endless eating and shopping, recalling our growing up year, comparing our goofy (and lovable) husbands and our kids who can drive us nuts. We talk about our challenges and new found wisdom and sense of serenity, and the faith that God is taking care of us and those we love the most.

I get the same feelings of joy and connectedness when I call my Merri and Donna, and I wonder how I could possibly stand not connecting for so long.

Loved ones -- you are always in my thoughts and prayers, but I am going to try harder to connect to you voice-to-voice more often. You enrich my life, you make me feel loved and important, you help me gain my perspective, and you make me laugh. You are good medicine!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

An Emotional Day

I didn't expect it at all, but from the moment the Obamas emerged from the White House after coffee with the Bushes, my tears didn't stop. I love that our country has such a peaceful transition of power. I love the dignity and grace with which the Bush's welcomed the Obamas into the White House. My heart went out to President Bush as he left the White House for the last time -- thinking of all the eight years of toil and shortcomings, and being unappreciated and unpopular by the majority of his country's citizens.

I felt excited for the Obamas and thought how overwhelmed they must be at the prospect of their new life of challenges and burdens. I thought of those beautiful, innocent girls who have so much to learn and experience.

I thought of the hundreds of thousands of people who sacrificed to come to Washington, who stood for hours in freezing temperatures, who stood shoulder to shoulder with strangers to sing, to celebrate, to stand in support of our new leader.

I was especially touched by the letter Jenna and Barbara Bush wrote to the Obama girls, which was published in the Wall Street Journal today. It was heartfelt and filled with wisdom, wit and and sincere goodwill and a touch of humor.

My prayers are with each and every one of them -- Mr. and Mrs. Bush as they spend their first night as regular citizens; President and Mrs. Obama as the begin to shoulder the awesome responsability of the First Couple, and all the citizens from every walk of life who have expressed their hope and their support for a man who has inspired our hope and our dreams for a better tomorrow for all people in all nations. God bless the President; God bless America; and God bless all our brothers and sisters on earth.

Monday, January 19, 2009

A Few More Pre Inaugural Photos

Pre Inaugural Peek!

I just couldn't stand the thought of living so close to the Nation's capitol without seeing the Inaugural preparations with my own eyes so I woke up Kate at 8:00 this morning and asked her if she wanted to ride the metro downtown to see the preparations. Always up for an adventure, she said "yes"! It was a mere 27 degrees outside and so we dawned our warmest clothes, grabbed our cameras and headed out.

The metro parking lot was practically empty, and so that was a good sign. The subway soon filled with excited groups who were headed in the same direction. We sat by a group of teenagers from Arkansas who were here with their teacher to witness this historical inauguration. It seemed like Christmas -- everyone was filled with goodwill and laughter -- and it started snowing!

We got out at Union Station and started our trek around the Capitol. The first thing we noticed were the protesters out in front of Union Station. The next thing we noticed were the countless rows of porta-potties. We heard there will be over 5,000. That sounds like a lot, but if you consider there will be over 1,000,000 people, it doesn't seem like nearly enough!

We saw a lot of camera crews wandering around, groups of people from other countries, security guards with bomb dogs, and groups of national guards. We saw all the signs that will direct all the people tomorrow. We saw all the red, white, and blue bunting and flags, and we saw the platform and chairs set up on the west side of the capitol. We saw the flags lining Pennsylvania Avenue. We even heard them trying out the sound system -- and it sounded GREAT!

We snapped a few photos, eavesdropped on a few conversations, and got ourselves back to Union Station to get warm -- but not before we saw the fife and drum musicians playing their songs.

Once inside Union Station, we grabbed a hot chai and croissant. We were so happy we made the effort to go downtown today -- and are very happy we won't be there tomorrow with a million people. All that standing around in the freezing cold weather -- and waiting in a seemingly endless line for the porta potty!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

I'm Back!

After my hiatus, I am back and ready to blog. I've got a post pending, but have to wait for the pics to be ready to post. I missed blogging!