Monday, February 28, 2011

A Grandparent's Time Machine

Yesterday was an Amélie day and it induced quite of bit of heart leaping in her Nonna. 

I love going to church with Amélie.  She’s just old enough that she knows how to behave well and she watches everything with a keen eye, mimicking down to the last detail.  She kneels, she folds her hands to pray, she watches the priest and she shouts things out like “Hi Jesus!” or “Thanks be to God.”  She makes me smile without fail.

Yesterday, we went to one of our parish churches that we don’t normally go to but the time of the service worked well with our schedule for the day.  So of course, she was particularly interested in the statues in the church because they were new to her.  After some keen observation and yelling out “There’s Mary,” she looked to the back of the church and noticed a second statue of Mary which resulted in “Oh Nonna, TWO Mary’s” as if to say that life doesn’t get any better than this! Everyone chuckled around us but they chuckled even more when church was over and she walked by the priest and said, “Bye Jesus” and then she looked up at me and said, "And Jesus Loves Me!"  Wouldn’t you just love to crawl inside the mind of a child and snoop around – just for a little while?

Amélie is in her princess phase.  She knows the names of all the Disney princesses and after church today, she thinks that Mary is one of them.  On our way home from church, she had a very serious two-year-old conversation with me about Mary being a princess.  I tried to explain to her that Mary is not a princess but the Queen of Heaven.  Have you ever been in an “argument” with a two-year-old? As I was driving and trying to dissect her rationale in my mind, I remembered the crown on Mary’s head – a new look for Mary to Amélie.  To Amélie, anyone with a crown is a princess.  And to top it off, I have surmised that thanks to the mean old queen in Snow White, princesses are much better than Queens . . . in Amélie's mind!

As the day went on, we continued into princessdom as Amélie asked to watch her princess sing-a-long video which of course her Nonna had to agree too even though it’s burned into my memory after hundreds of viewings.  Watching it usually requires Amélie dressing up like a princess, twirling and dancing all over the living room but it’s evidently not quite as much fun without Nonna’s participation (at least she doesn’t make me dress up)! And later still in the evening, the little princess asked to snuggle in bed with Nonna instead of getting into her bed……which again, Nonna had to agree to. 
Dance with me Nonna!

Princess dancing requires the appropriate attire!

Being a grandparent is like owning your own personal time machine that you can climb into whenever you decide to.  Dancing and twirling around the room with Amélie takes me right back to all the dancing I did in my living room with my kids over the years and I get a warm fuzzy feeling all over.  There’s a great quote by Maya Angelou that I think of often when I think about my family.  Maya Angelou says, “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." An excellent guideline for parents because kids forget most of what you say and they inevitably don’t remember all that you’ve done for them…..but how we make them feel seems to stick. The good news about that quote is that it works both ways. . . we may not remember everything our kids said or did (and we don’t necessarily want to!) but remembering the way they made us feel, beginning with the day they were born . . . those feelings will keep us warm in our old age. If I'm blessed enough to live into old age with an intact memory, I hope those feelings will always transport me back to some place where I was dancing, snuggling, hugging, doing something that caused me to melt just like an M&M that’s held tightly in your hand . . .back to a state of awe.  What a gift that would be.

 Today my granddaughter and her enthusiasm for everything in life invigorated me and made me glad to be alive.  And just at a moment when I really needed it.  I don't think there is any better than a twirling two-year-old!

Amélie twirling.....
 If you don’t know the song, Thank God for Kids by Kenny Chesney, check it out on iTunes. 

Thank God for kids there's magic for a while
A special kind of sunshine in a smile
Do you ever stop to think? or wonder why?
The nearest thing to Heaven is a child
When you look down in those trustin eyes
That look to you, you realize
Its love that you can't buy

Thank God for Kids

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Turtles and Mansions

President's Day was a beautiful day in California.  The sun was washing over everything and everyone who wanted it - the temperature was perfect.  It was a glorious day to be outside.  Plus, Wisconsin was recovering from a snow and ice storm from the day before so this made the day even sweeter.

Greystone Mansion and Park has been on our list for a while.  Greystone was built by Edward Doheny, an oil tycoon, who discovered oil in Los Angeles in 1892.  Can you imagine?  Greg and I had just visited the Getty Museum a couple of days earlier and seeing Greystone made Greg remember one of Getty's memorable quotes about success: "The Formula for success: Rise early, work hard, strike oil.” Doheny definitely got Getty's memo because in 1926, Doheny had 3,135 extra dollars (see correction below) to build a little mansion for his son, Ned, Ned's wife, and their four children.  If you look up the equivalent for $3,000 by today's standards, it translates to $78,000 (see correction below).  Now someone is going to have to explain this to me because you could never build this place for $78,000 in today's world. Maybe the "good ole days" really were better.  In any event, the family finally moved in two years later but within four short months, 36-year-old Ned was found in the mansion in a murder suicide with his long time trusted family assistant, Hugh Plunkett.   Hmmm - seems like there's a story there.  Since then, it's been used for filming countless movies including another bizarre death story with Meryl Streep and Goldi Hawn (Death Becomes Her).  (Correction to this original post . . . Greystone's website has a mistake involving numbers, commas, and periods and the house actually cost $3,135,000 to build in 1926 which would be 78 million by today's standards according to my Brainiac husband.  Makes a lot more sense but that is still way more money than one person needs in my opinion!)

Mr. Doheny made the most of his money.  The mansion is spectacular but you could lived in a tent on the grounds and feel that you were inhabiting a little piece of heaven.  My "heart leaping moment" of the day came at the turtle pond.  The rectangular formal pond was lined with neatly trimmed box shrubs (my favorite) and the far end of the pond seemed to be calling for someone to just come and sit.  What was even more beautiful though were the amazing bronze turtle sculptures that were perfectly placed in the pond.  Greg and I stood and gazed at them in amazement at the detail . . . until the head of one of those turtles moved.  Aha, they weren't bronze, they were real turtles sunbathing on bronze lily pads.  Wow!  I wanted to be a turtle just for a moment.  What a life.

We watched the turtles sunbathing for the longest time.  They just sat there, looking like statues, with their little heads stretched as far out of their shells as they would reach - the tips of their noses pointing straight up toward the sun.  Every turtle in that pond, probably 15, were all sun seekers- all except one that kept swimming around on the bottom hiding from the sun under the floating moss.  He never came up for the sun.  The most he would do was stick his little nose up out of the water for a brief second to catch some air and then he would dive back into the dark waters.  I kept thinking about the turtles all week. Why weren't they all seeking the sun?

I've been dealing with the issue of "cutting" at school for several months with some middle school students.  It's hard to understand and bizarre to most adults - cutting yourself to deal with your feelings - but it's a phenomenon among young teenagers today.  This week was dominated by these students when most of them began cutting again - this time in the classroom.  If these students were turtles, they would be the ones swimming under the moss, hiding from the sun.  My job causes me to constantly be perplexed by the question of why some people seek the warmth of the sun and others lurk around in the darkness.  So the rest of my week was spent trying to get my swimmers to come up for more than air and to sit on a lily pad and bask in the sun.  Can't say I was very successful but maybe if I can figure out how to do this, it'll be like stiking oil.  I already work hard and get up early.  So when I stike that oil,  I think I'll build a $3,100 mansion with a turtle pond  - only sun-seeking turtles welcome!

Just for fun, here are some links to my favorite movies that were filmed at Greystone:
The Bodyguard
Death Becomes Her
Hanging Up
America's Sweethearts
The Holiday

And some oldies that I haven't seen but probably worth a look-see:
The Loved One with John Gielgud
The April Fools with Jack Lemmon and Catherine Deneuve
Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte with Bette Davis

Monday, February 21, 2011

Family Tree

As it turns out, I'm not the only person who can melt at the site of a tree.  On Saturday, we went to the Getty Museum and there was a special exhibit of tree photographs.  It was awesome.  I wish I could upload every photograph and share them with you!  There were amazing shots of men at the foot of the giant redwoods in California in the mid 1800s and men cutting down the giant cedars near Seattle in the early 1900s.  There was a photo of trees, paths, and snow in Washington Square Park from the 50s.  Greg said he'd seen it when he was a little boy and he remembers thinking that he wished he could live in New York City.  Be careful what you wish for!

There was a photo by Diane Arbus of a 1960s living room set for Christmas.  Greg and I remembered that horrible tinsel that we used to throw on trees.  My mother would walk around for months finding that stuff.  It hid in corners and stuck to things and you couldn't really vacuum it all up because it would clog up the rollers of the old reliable Electrolux canister vacuum with the power beater attachment.  The same door-to-door salesmen must have traveled all over the Midwest because when Greg and I got married, I realized that we both grew up with the same set of encyclopedias, Electrolux vacuum, and Saladmaster cookware.  One time a guy came to our door selling some kind of fish supplement.  My dad invited him in and bought the whole kit and caboodle for my mom because he thought they would give her more energy. 

The two photos that I spent the longest time gazing at though were taken in 2009 by a South Korean artist, Myoung Ho Lee.  His series of tree photos mix nature with the man made.  He takes a large white piece of material and suspends it in front of trees and then shoots the photo. My favorite was a night shot with back light so that the shadow of the tree looked like it was imprinted on the material.  Here's a link to some of his photographs:

Trees have been the symbol of life forever it seems.  We use it to describe our families and remember our ancestors with our family trees.  They are giant playgrounds for our kids.  My daughter, Ashli, still loves to climb trees like her mama.  Her name is derived from the Old English word for ash wood and means "one who lives in the ash tree grove."  Did I know that she would love trees when I named her?  Adults have had sit ins on their branches so that corporations won't cut them down.  Dads build houses in them so their children can have secret clubs with their friends. 

In Genesis, we read that "out of the ground made the Lord God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil."  When I was a little girl, I learned with my sister that the sap that gets on you from climbing a pine tree is nearly impossible to remove.  It ends up looking like black tar which makes it impossible to lie to your mother about where you've been.

The Celts considered trees living entities that possessed infinite knowledge and wisdom. They represented the cycle of life, death, and renewal and they based their Zodiac calendar on trees unlike the zodiac we are all familiar with.   Since my lovely daughter is one of my two followers at this time, I looked up her Celtic Zodiac.  Her tree is a Hazel tree which is part of the birch family.  Her zodiac says that she is perceptive, clever, has good reasoning power and that this sharpness of intellect makes her an excellent debater and writer as well as a wonderful planner and organizer (even down to the smallest detail).  Do you know my daughter with her two sets of twins? 

Hmmmm.....I just looked up my Celtic Zodiac and my tree is the ash tree! I am the "full moon" type of ash because my birthday is at the end of the cycle.  My mental goal as a full moon ash is supposed to be "to learn that problems and questions are not exclusive to an individual . . .others also ponder."  Does this have any relevance to my career?  Now I am fully aware that when we as humans read any kind of Zodiac, we grasp on to the things we want to validate us, and toss the other words away, but I do find all of this at least interesting given the Celtic roots that are in our family.

In my family, my ash tree came from a hazel tree (my mom) and an oak (my dad).  My brother and sister are both elder trees.  The elder is said to be the tree that was used for the cross that Christ was crucified on and St. Patrick used an elder branch to drive the serpents out of Ireland.  When planted close to a home, it is believed to protect and give immunity from evil.

And today my ash tree is surrounded by vines that are good at binding and clinging (my husband, Ashli and Ty),  a hazel tree which was said to be a reminder to trust and listen to tuition (Brittany), holly that is strong and protective (Torie),a rowan tree whose blossoms are members of the rose family (Matt), and a willow  that  is said to help soothe those who are hurt (Don).

My grandchildren are hawthorns that bring good luck (Logan and Lindsey), three alders that are said to evoke courage (Peyton, Carson, and Dylan), another willow to sooth (Amélie

If you'd like to read your Celtic Zodiac, here's a link:

Two pictures that set my heart to leaping today; the winter trees (yes, California has seasons) at the Getty and two palm trees silhouetted against a blue neon building that we saw on our way home.  

The groves were God's first temples.  ~William Cullen Bryant, "A Forest Hymn"

There is always Music amongst the trees in the Garden, but our hearts must be very quiet to hear it.  ~Minnie Aumonier

I like trees because they seem more resigned to the way they have to live than other things do.  ~Willa Cather, 1913

Climb a tree - it gets you closer to heaven.  ~Author Unknown

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Pussy Willows and Police Cars

It's been a fairly normal week in the department of "busy" but blogging between Valentine's Day and today wasn't part of it.  I looked for my inspiration everyday just as I had promised myself a week ago that I would, but time to write?

Thursday I had one of those IPod moments right at the start of my day again.  I loaded myself into the car and the IPod shuffled to the Beatles singing P.S. I Love You.  The first thing on my to do list for the day was to mail the valentines to the grandkids . . . . two days late.   And the first words I heard after I got into the car were "As I write this letter, Send my love to you."  Seriously . . . I have been toying with the idea for the last week that IPods have brains or something but I've now decided they are like that dog statement.  You know, the one that says people start looking like their dogs after a while  . . . I think it's the same thing with IPods.  You and your IPod become this new being that is so interconnected that the IPod knows exactly what you are thinking or experiencing and provides exactly the right music for the moment.

Well this was the calmest moment of my day.  If you have been listening to the news, you know that the words Wisconsin, education, and chaos are all being linked together in the same sentences this week.  On Thursday, over 400 teachers in my school district called in sick to protest the agenda of the new governor toward teachers.  But everyone in my school was present and we had a "normal" day.

The bulk of my "normal" day was spent the way I spend every Thursday . . . in problem solving meetings with parents and teachers.  That day I held 7 hours of meetings for 7 sets of parents.  These meetings are always draining because we focus on the academic or behavioral issues that the student is having, try to get down to the core of why those problems are happening and then come up with a plan that the school and the parents can implement.  A lot of parent education goes on during these meetings and I am constantly reminded that you don't get an instruction manual nor do you have to have a parenting license to have a child.  Some of the plans we come up with during these meetings - like go to bed earlier, get up earlier, say no and follow through - may seem like no brainers to middle class parents, but these meetings become AHA moments to our parents.  That's not to say that really big problems like learning disabilities, emotional disorders, poverty issues, abuse and other dysfunction in families, aren't confronted too.  But regardless of the subject, our parents generally walk out feeling a little more empowered and not so alone in the daunting task of parenting.  These meetings are vital to the education of my kids even though they are mentally exhausting to me.

But that wasn't all of my day . . . betwixt and between these meetings, I worked with an elementary student who had tried to commit suicide; called in an abuse report on a student who was beaten by a sibling; counseled a cutter with over 40 cuts both forearms and ankles; and helped three middle school girls fill out and file financial aid applications for a private high school because their parents don't speak or read English. I scarfed down some lunch at 3:30; helped conduct a requirement meeting for our 5th and 6th grade parents from 5:30 - 7:30; and then worked in my office until 9:30 to catch up on paperwork and listen to my voice mail.

I finally walked out of school to my car that was parked on the street because our school can't afford a parking lot and just as I stepped on top of a mound of icy snow to get to the driver's side door, my foot broke through the snow and I fell down onto the street - - just as a police car was driving by.  How many people think that the police car stopped to see if I was ok?  A great end to a 14-hour work day.  Well in any event, I drove home, limped into my house, cleaned myself up and sat down to read the news of the day.  This is the headline I read:

Walker to gut MPS, break up UW, education leaders say

And these were some of the comments attached to the article:

"Great job Scott Walker. Stick it to those lazy union entitlist thugs. They had an easy ride for too long. I don't feel sorry for teachers when the average pay in WI for them is $107,000 a year and they get to retire at 55 with multi million dollar pensions."

(Note to my reader . . . I don't make $107,000.  Long story on how people get this number.
And note to my children: I guess I was supposed to retire last year so I'm gonna do that now and with my multi million dollar pension, I am buying you all houses and Lamborginis!)

"Teachers get full time pay for part time work. The tax payers cannot afford their lavish benefits for the minimal work they do." 

(Note to my reader:  HUH?  I missed another memo I guess!)

Kind of discouraging to read after one of my pretty typical days.  Inspiration?  Reaching deep right now.

I started writing this blog because I realized that I needed to start seeking out the inspiration that is surely there in each day that I "get up and go" . . . because I am starting to feel discouraged with life.  I've been doing this job for 10 years now and while the day that I described may sound very unusual and "out there," my husband heard the chain of events and said, "Oh so it was just a normal day (except for falling onto the street while the police car passed by!) My brother said he didn't know whether to laugh or cry but added "blog it!:   But I didn't start this blog to complain about my life......I started it because of my AHA moment that the things that caused my heart to leap when I was 20, still do.  So......

Flashback to 1975 when I was working in a day care center and getting my degree which has led to those big bucks and the multi-million dollar pension that people seem to believe I get.  A little 4-year-old boy by the name of Algernon Iran Harris was in my class.  I loved this little guy.  He had an afro so big that there is no way he should have been able to walk upright. One day, I did a very politically incorrect lesson by today's standards on Indians and their headdresses. Al stuck about 15 feathers right into his afro rather than gluing them on the headband like he was suppose to.  He grinned from ear to ear and told me he was so smart . . .I think he was.  Another time, I brought a pussy willow to school to go along with a book we were reading.  One of Al's little friends stuck the pussy willow up his nose and then tried to dig it out with his finger but instead, pushed it farther up inside his nose. This resulted in Al telling me that his friend's nose "ATE" the pussy willow and a quick trip to the emergency room ensued.  I remember when I got back to the classroom with Al's friend, pussy willowless......Al threw his arms around me and said, "I love you Miss Melinda cause you a helpin' ma friend."

Helping children must still inspire me as much as it did then or I wouldn't keep doing it.  My dad always told me "to whom much is given, much is required."  I've never been able to get away from those words which I heard at least once a week growing up.  My siblings and I were given so much growing up.  How can you not give back to families who aren't as fortunate and why are some people so unappreciative and downright mean-spirited toward the people who are doing that work?  Would they really want my job?  It's sometimes hard to stay encouraged.  

I drove to the airport last night and anticipated a beautiful flight because the full  moon was glowing.  I stopped and mailed the Valentines first . . .three days late.  Now I'm looking out the window of our LA apartment, soaking up the sunshine, listening to chirping birds, and enjoying the sight of another tree against a beautiful blue sky.  Some days inspiration is just a glance away and easy to find.  Other days, you really have to search for it. 

How blessed are we?  The view from El Cerrito Place in Hollywood, CA.

Monday, February 14, 2011

My Romance

Starting the car this morning, my IPod shuffled straight to My Romance by James Taylor - how does that happen?  Do IPods have brains or calendars or little barometers that are especially for measuring your sappy mush level for the day?

Then to top it off, just as James declares that his "romance doesn't need a thing but YOU" . . . the phone rang and it was my tiniest Valentine, Mr. Xander, calling to say "HIIIIiiiiiiiii!" So by the time I got to school, my makeup needed redone!

Here's a Valentine video especially for my California boy and any one else who is truly, madly deeply in love.  It's not James, but it's almost as good. 

Happy St. Valentine's Day!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Church or The Wizard of Oz

It wasn’t hard to find inspiration today – I was surrounded by it.  The problem now is in choosing one thing to write about.

I made the trip to Indiana yesterday for a very special occasion . . . my sister’s “remarriage.”  My sister separated several months ago from her husband of 35 years.  When my sister left, she gave my brother-in-law a list of things that he needed to address – not a laundry list that would bring her back but a list that he just plain needed to address so that he could be a healthy individual.  My sister filed for divorce and started learning how to be on her own.  She had never done this before because she married at a young age and went straight from our family home to a life with a husband.  While she was busy carving out a life as a single woman, God was at work behind the scenes with my brother-in-law. My brother-in-law not only read her list, but took it to heart and started whittling away at it.  I believe that my brother-in-law is the only man I have ever heard of who has actually listened as his wife was walking out the door, took it to heart, and then started checking things off.  This is inspiring all by itself.

But the inspiration doesn’t stop there.  Not long after my sister had received the date for her final divorce hearing, she became a bit obsessed with getting a pair of boots back that she had left behind.  She texted her soon-to-be ex-husband and asked him if she could have them.  There was some back and forth and pulling and tugging and basically “don’t inconvenience me” attitudes but for some reason, my brother-in-law finally decided to take the boots to my sister.  The return of the boots led to an entire night of talking and discovering and talking and discovering and talking and crying and praying and rediscovering.  Not long after this, I received a text that said “would you be my matron of honor again on February 13th.  Sounds crazy, doesn't it? 

To say that standing up with my sister and witnessing her vows 35 years after the first time was inspiring is really a bit of an understatement.  To watch two lives come back together stronger and more passionate and committed than ever before after the dirtiness of the whole divorce process had taken over, was a miracle.  If you can’t be inspired by the witnessing of a miracle like this, you either have a heart of stone or you are dead.  I’m so inspired by my sister and brother-in-law and their courage to step forward in a direction that they really didn’t expect to be headed in.  Once the divorce train gets started, it very rarely stops and reverses directions.  I’m so proud to be her sister.

The ceremony took place in the church that we grew up in.  Our church was the center of our family life as we were growing up.  We were at church Sunday morning, Sunday night and Wednesday night without fail as well as any other time there were special events or services going on.  Church took precedence over everything else in our lives – even The Wizard of Oz.  In this time before Netflix, TEVO, and six million cable stations that run 24/7, The Wizard of Oz was shown once a year in the fall and always on a Sunday night.  I don’t think we got to see the entire movie until we were teenagers because church always cut into the beginning of the movie.  My sister and I used to beg to miss church in lieu of Dorothy and the Wicked Witch . . . surely God would understand.  But our parents were unyielding when it came to their faith and its importance in our upbringing.  And today as my brother and I stood with our sister at the front of the church, I looked out and saw our parents sitting in the pew like I’ve seen thousands of times before in my life.  But today it took on a different meaning for me.  When I looked at them, there seemed to be this flashing neon arrow over their heads shouting out “THIS is what faith looks like.”  That vision has been there all of my life but never before today has it been more evident what my parents have sacrificed and given for me and my siblings.  They have been our rocks.  Anytime that my brother, my sister, or me have flailed around in uncertainty, there they were – holding out their hands so that we could anchor.  They have smiled over us, cried over us, prayed over us . . .  thousands of times that we have known about and probably tens of thousands of times that we haven’t known about.  What would I and my siblings have done without these two people who have shown us everyday what commitment to God, to your spouse, to your children, and to your community look like?  How would we have known how to do anything without their daily influence in our lives?  I guess I realized today in a very new way, that they have inspired me in every nook and cranny of my life and dear Lord, I am so thankful.  I stood on the stage that was very much about my sister and her family but was so surprised to realize that this day was even more about my parents and the foundation they worked so hard to build.  Gazing upon their sweet faces that to me haven’t aged a day, made my knees go weak. 

It was hard to leave my parents today.  I would have liked to have just curled up next to them on the sofa and fallen asleep while my dad stroked my hair and called me “punkin” and my mom urged me to lay down on the bed if I was going to fall asleep.  But as I reversed the path I took yesterday on Highway 41, I found myself praying that I have and will be as much as an inspiration to my children and grandchildren as my parents have been to me.  It’s something to shoot for.     

Just as I approached Milwaukee, my youngest daughter called me to tell me about her day in her new assignment on the burn unit.  She was so excited and spoke with such tender loving care about the patients she helped today.  My heart did a somersault, because I realized that the seeds that my parents planted are still blooming. 

When we do the best that we can, we never know what miracle
is wrought in our life, or in the life of another.
-Helen Keller-
Original wedding party in 1976: I am second from the left; my sister Denise, the bride; Our Brother, Andy is the Junior Groomsman on the far right.

My Mom and Dad when they were dating

Mom and Dad's wedding picture

Saturday, February 12, 2011

In Awe in Indiana

At 4:15 this morning, my yappy little Yorkie and I jumped into the car, put my IPod on shuffle, and headed south toward my parent’s house in southern Indiana.  I have always dreaded this drive, especially by myself. But getting up before dawn seems to make it more bearable in light of the fact the most of Chicago is still asleep by the time I see the Sears Tower.  There’s something so magical about the twinkling lights of Chicago at night and an empty freeway.  Add the Beatles, Van Morrison, and the Carpenters (sorry) and life just doesn’t get any better. 

Sometime around 6:30 AM and south of Chicago, one of those magical moments when the stars just line up happened  . . .   The Eagles started serenading me with “Ol’ 55” . . .

“And now the sun’s comin’ up
I’m riding with Lady Luck
Freeways, cars and trucks
Stars beginning to fade
And I lead the parade.”

. . . and over my left shoulder, a gorgeous red rubber ball started to rise over the snowy covered Indiana horizon . . . immediate goose bumps.  My heart skipped a beat.

I started thinking about all of the times I have traveled the corridor on Highway 41 between Chicago and my parents’ home in southern Indiana and of all the different occasions.  In the earliest trips, there was a whiteout snowstorm that turned me white knuckled because my infant twins and their toddler sister were in the backseat.  As the kids got older, I was forced to memorize the lyrics to all of the Raffi songs while throwing red licorice over my shoulder into the backseat to keep everyone quiet.  And when they weren’t quiet, there were the threats of abandonment in a cornfield.  The memories rushed in but what struck me more today was the fact that years later, I was still finding myself inspired by the scenes that kept filling the view from my windshield.  How is it that you can travel the same road over a span of more than 20 years and still be inspired by the sites?  Is there anything more striking than a bare naked tree standing alone in a snow covered field?  It takes my breath away, causes my knees to shake and my heart leaps.   

I’m 56 years old and one of the things that surprises me most about being this age is that the things that caused me to melt when I was 20, still do.  The problem is that I get so busy in the rush of life that I sometimes miss the awe.  But alone in a car with my IPod, a yappy Yorkie and the Indiana flatland that slowly turns to hills, I quickly remember the importance of being inspired by something everyday. 

I’ve decided to start writing today because once again I’ve been inspired by one of my children . . .another consistent source of inspiration for me for the last 30 years.  My daughter has started blogging.  We both talk about writing and we have started entirely too many great projects that are still sitting in our computers half finished.  So I’m going to act on the inspiration of my daughter and see how I do.  Today’s road lesson is to slow my day down, look for the inspiration of the day and then write about it - those moments that will make my heart leap if I will only take the time to look.

Today once again, trees inspire me.  Some stand so straight and tall and others are tilted with the weathering of the wind over the years.  At 56, I wonder if I’m still straight and tall with my roots firmly stretching down into the soil of my past or am I starting to tilt with the wind.  Regardless, my love affair with trees continues.  Some things never change. I’ve swung from them, climbed them, laid underneath them while wishing I could paint like Georgia O’Keefe.   I hope that when I’m 80, I’ll still feel my knees shake when I gaze upon a tree.  My IPod shuffles to Sara Evans . . .

“In a world that keeps turnin’ and movin’ so fast
When you can’t hold on to nothin’ and nothin’ seems to last
It’s so good to know that love still remains
Oh, ain’t you glad that some things never change.”

The view from Highway 41 North of Terre Haute 2.12.11