Musings and Amusings

Posts tagged ‘family’

There Is A Crack In Everything

“Ring the bells that still can ring.

Forget the perfect offering.

There is a crack in everything;

That’s how the light gets in.”

Thanks to Susan at Garden of Eden for this quote which is part of Anthem by Leonard Cohen.

Ever since Saturday morning when I read Kelli’s moving post and haiku about her family ties and her own adoption, I’ve been haunted by unsettling emotions.

Kelli wrote about her adoptive family in such loving terms; so full of confidence in belonging; pragmatic in her decision not to seek out her birth mother, yet clearly forgiving and appreciative of her birth mother’s decision.

I think it is Kelli’s statement that her adoption occurred in the 1970’s, and her haiku thanking her birth mother for carrying Kelli for nine months, that struck a chord with me. In our youth we gloss over, and bounce back from, events that only through the lens of life’s experiences do we realize have left lasting impacts, scars or emotional cracks.

I hesitated to refer to Kelli’s post, and asked her permission before doing so, because I don’t presume to comment on her birth mother or the circumstances surrounding Kelli’s birth.

But reading that 1970’s date was a jolt to my heart. Putting me smack dab in my college dorm in 1969-1972, a time when a perfect storm of mixed social messages, blossoming sexual appetites and unappealing consequences made me and many others behave and make decisions in ways we were too immature to handle.

Despite the burgeoning sexual revolution, ‘good girls’ – at least at my Midwestern university – were not supposed to want or engage in sexual activity. Because it was frowned upon, we could hardly make our first-ever visit to a male gynecologist; admit we were having sex; and ask him for birth control. Neither did we insist on condoms since diseases weren’t yet a significant issue, and carrying a condom implied an intention we weren’t willing to admit.

So we had sex; crossed our fingers; and waited with bated breath for our periods to appear. If they didn’t, we marched down the dorm hall to our Resident Assistant’s room and tearfully confessed. Fortunately for 95% of us, our teary confession was enough to get the blood flowing within a couple days.

While I made that dreaded march to my RA’s room a couple of times, I was very lucky to be in the 95% who never faced the choices of a young, terrified, unwed, pregnant college student. None of those choices would have been easy at the time. In retrospect, I find them even more untenable.

Abortion wasn’t yet legal, and carrying a baby to term as an unwed mother was not socially acceptable. Neither was raising a child as a single parent. Marrying for the wrong reasons was no more palatable.

If I had gotten pregnant in those years, I would have begged my RA to help me arrange an abortion – partly to spare the shame of telling my parents and partly because I would have mistakenly thought it a quick, inconsequential fix. Even though abortion was illegal, the channels were established and many girls used them.

Today, all these years later, I tearfully acknowledge how much I would have regretted choosing an abortion. Yet carrying a child to term then giving my baby away would have been unbearable. Either decision would have weighed forever heavy on my heart; I’m not sure I would be able to forgive my younger self.

Where am I going with this? I don’t know, except to acknowledge the bravery of women like Kelli’s birth mother and gratitude for adoptees like Kelli who forgive.

I was a lost child without guidance in those years, and I feel for every female – and male –  past and present who finds her/himself in difficult sexual circumstances.

Today’s sexual mores and pitfalls for young adults are no less confusing and risky than they were in the late 60’s. If anything, they might be more convoluted. Without debating specific issues like abortion or sexual assault on campus, I believe that young adults of all genders are as much at risk as I was of being thrust into situations in which they are ill-prepared to make decisions carrying lifelong consequences.

Research is providing more insights into how and when our brains develop, and why our teens and twenties can be fraught with impulsive behavior that, especially when hormonally driven, can be destructive physically and emotionally. I used to think young adults have become far too pampered (and I still do), but I also have come to realize how utterly vulnerable we all were/are at that age.

Cadence Meets Keyboard in 2015

How many of you have taken piano lessons?

Do you remember Song of the Volga Boatmen – the plodding tune by Russian burlaks (barge haulers) who hand-pulled barges full of merchandise up river, against the current, from one village to the next?

“Yo, yo heave ho!

Oh, yo, yo heave ho!

So pull together;

Forward still we go.”

Published in book of Russian folk songs in 1866

Little did I know, when I picked ‘Cadence’ as my 2015 inspirational word, how that folk song – full of cadence – would emerge from my fingers once again.

You see, for Christmas I asked for – and Hub gave me – a keyboard.

Fifty-six years after I last touched a piano – or any other musical instrument – I got a hankering to make music. And fifty-six years after my last piano lesson, Song of the Volga Boatmen is STILL in the beginner books as the first lesson for learning minor key.

Taking piano lessons in third grade was not my idea of after-school fun. One year – at Mom’s insistence – of bi-weekly treks to Mrs. Hall’s for an hour of finger drills, when I yearned to be one house over, staring at identical twins Paula and Patty Bunning.

Being half of an identical duo held far more allure than striking half notes on the upright.

Why now – after all these years – did I decide to re-visit piano?

Art by Sammy D

Art by Sammy D

Blogging is the key.

  • The key to cadence
  • The key to keyboard

Writing – for me – has been about finding rhythm in my words.

When my writing flows, I can tap a tale; jazz up an anecdote; pirouette my way through a puzzling muse. There’s cadence in my dance.

If I could still attend dance classes, I would. My joints have said “enough”’.

If I could begin singing lessons, I would. My jaw says “not a chance”.

But I hear beats and music all around me. Outside me, it’s choirs singing through your words and artistry. Inside me, it’s piano tunes whenever I tap out another blog post on the computer keys.

The final nudge was hearing that Raqi had to learn notes on a keyboard for her singing lessons.

Is it possible I can play simple duets with my beloved granddaughter?

To Mrs. Hall’s credit, I retained far more of her teaching than I expected, and I’ve already made decent progress with beginner tunes.

As for the keyboard itself, there are so many buttons to press and dials to twist, I don’t have enough years left to learn how to use them all effectively. Keep in mind, I was born before the ‘what’s–this-button-let’s-press-it-and-see-what-happens’ generation.

No sweat – either Raqi will press them or I’ll hire a keyboard mentor.

Right now, I’m filled to the brim with righteous cadence whenever I read the notes correctly, co-ordinate my fingers, press the ivories and Music Happens!

Yo, yo heave ho!

volga boatmen

Barge Haulers on the Volga; Oil by Ilya Repin


All’s Well That Ends Well

imageMeet Quinn (mannequin), Raqi’s new BFF – at least until next-door buddy Em gets home from visiting her grandparents on the other side of the Continental Divide.

Despite my reservations, our sewing sessions went remarkably smoothly without me cracking open the gin bottle. My wingman, Hub, came through like a champ using his superior eyesight and abstract thinking to figure out the bobbin-loading diagrams, maneuver his fingers in the very tiny space to thread the machine needle, and leaving both of us looking like savvy sewers in Raqi’s eyes.


Coincidentally, I found this paragraph in a book shortly after our sewing project was completed:

Until fairly recently, needle skills were considered an important part of a girl’s education. Girls learned a variety of stitches and embellishments that they would need later as the seamstresses of their families.”

Map Art Lab by Jill K. Berry & Linden McNeilly

No wonder our Mothers and Home Ec teachers put so much pressure on us to become qualified seamstresses. It was considered a life skill for females. And no wonder it created lingering anxiety for those of us who couldn’t measure up!

Thankfully, I had no expectations of Raqi’s mastery nor did she. She didn’t even want to open a pattern; she simply wanted to maneuver pieces of fabric around the mannequin in a semblance of a top and skirt; click the machine dial to sew a variety of fancy stitches for about 15 minutes; glue on some Velcro fasteners and call it a fashion success. One she can’t wait to show Em.

On that high note, I reflect on other unanticipated, pleasurable surprises of 2014:

Number 1 on that list – YOU. A year of you, me and us – gleaning words of wisdom, snippets of inspiration, and validation of our shared humanity through your writings, photos and illustrations. Chuckling, commiserating, comforting each other along the way.

Blogging relationships are every bit as complex, delicate and rewarding as in-person interactions. They are at once uniquely public and intensely personal.

When I assess my 2014, I find it has been one of my happiest, most contented years, and I attribute much of that positive feeling to how my daily world has changed because of blogging. My own writing gives me challenging satisfaction, but it is the warmth and sense of belonging with all of you that is the greater reward.

Other small joys of 2014…

527Golfing with Dad. Only in Michigan would a round of golf with cart cost $20, and include a historic-brick-home clubhouse, a red barn cart storage, a course cultivated from cow pastures and hayfields, and baby turtles newly hatched in the sand trap marching their way to the nearby pond.


Every Praise sung by Hezekiah Walker. Of the multitude of crap that flows through my Facebook page, this one stuck. I want to sing it, dance it, pray for some progress in healing our racial divides.

My traditionally favorite Christmas movie – Love Actually. Many of my alltime Brit favorites – Hugh Grant, Bill Nighy, Colin Firth, Keira Knightley, Emma Thompson – just pure ‘love, actually’ with a whole bunch of laughs and dance wiggles thrown in.

Two other excellent movies: Chef and 100-Foot Journey

imageBooks I read and 5-starred – a sampling; by no means a complete list:

Waging Heavy Peace by Neil Young
Loved It!! It reads like a stream-of-consciousness blog taking me back through several iterations of Neil’s musical career and my own life chapters influenced by his music. At the same time, it’s very much a ‘future vision’ outlook on environmental and music projects Neil is determined to bring to fruition.

Light in the Ruins by Chris Bohjalian
Chris is one of my top five all-time novelists (with his Idyll Banter essay book an equally compelling read). I am constantly amazed to scan his list of works and note the variety of locales, topics and characters he imagines into being.

Set in Tuscany during and a decade after WWII, this novel is a lush family saga with historic significance and intrigue, complete with Chris’s uncanny ability to fully develop his female characters. Having toured Tuscany with a guide who was steeped in WWII history of that region, I felt I was transported right back to those verdant hills and ancient villas.

Proof of Heaven by Eben Alexander, M.D.
I am loved and cherished. I have nothing to fear.
I don’t know about ‘proof’, but I liked finding a book that mirrors my long-held beliefs.

My Promised Land by Ari Shavit
Flummoxed as ever by centuries of unresolved Middle East conflicts, I chose this one based on several reviews by noted Middle East experts. I started reading this a couple days ago.

How to Climb the Eiffel Tower by Elizabeth Hein
I met Elizabeth, who blogs at during the 2014 A to Z Challenge, and her novel was published this year. Click the link to read a synopsis of the book. Based on the quality and organizational skills Elizabeth exhibits on her blog, I expected a well-written novel, and it is. Elizabeth maintains a good pace; has created realistic, complex characters, and she excels at writing dialogue. I especially enjoyed her rounding out Lara’s character by including substantial work-related scenes and relationships, which added context to the other parts of Lara’s life.

Well there you have it – 2014 in a nutshell. Throw in a slew of good bike rides, a few rounds of decent golf and repeated handfuls of chocolate – even using New Math, that adds up to a well-rounded, highly satisfying year.

I’d be remiss not to mention how much I love my constant companion and dearest friend, Hub. He makes every day special just because he’s part of it.

imageSee y’all in 2015 !

Santa, Pack a Seamstress. PLEASE!

In the ‘What Was I Thinking’ category, I bought Raqi this child-size mannequin


and these It’s So Easy (even an idiot can do it) Simplicity patterns

image image

and filled a sewing basket with shiny pins, assorted needles, pink pin cushion, measuring tape, colorful ribbon, spools of colorful thread, my button collection, black snaps and Velcro strips.

Raqi has been designing and hand sewing rudimentary clothes for her dolls, and she asked for fabric and a mannequin for Christmas to make herself some clothes. Her Mom told me she bought Raqi a ‘beginner’ sewing machine, so I jumped on Ebay to look for a mannequin.

As I was dressing up the mannequin in a scarf and skirt to put under the Christmas tree, lightning struck.



Who is going to help Raqi thread the sewing machine, translate those mind-numbing pattern illustrations, measure and cut the fabric, sew in a straight line?

All my childhood trauma of my complete and utter failure as a seamstress came flooding over me. Mom made all our clothes and fully expected my sister and me to follow in her footsteps. She tried to teach me, cajole me. She even threatened to disown me from the realms of Home Ec majors who’d paved the way in my family.

I can’t make head, fingers nor foot-pedal sense of bobbins, nap, salvage, pinking shears. I can’t even fold the patterns up once they’ve been unfolded, not even with those permanent fold lines seared in that tissue-like paper.

Panicked, I emailed Parker: “Can YOU sew?”

Her response: “No, I thought you could.”

Running through my non-existent list of Plan B’s, I thought of Charisse, Raqi’s next-door-neighbor-Super-Mom who French-braids hair; makes daily meals for six from scratch; paints Halloween faces with the skill of a makeup artist.

I emailed Parker: “What about Charisse? Does she sew? If not, can she learn overnight?”

Parker’s response: “Charisse is out of town. You better bring gin.”

Merry Christmas to all my dear friends, readers, fellow bloggers and your families. May your Christmas celebration be as blessed and loving as I know mine will.

O Holy Night.

Words Don’t Flow But Spirit Shines

Ten lords a leaping; six geese a laying…

One Sammy tangling…

Christmas Tangle


If you’re tired of tangles, I understand!  That seems to be where my Santa spirit resides these days, and I enjoy the calming effect more than trying to harness words that elude my grasp. Plenty of time to crack the writing whip in the new year!








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