THE PEACE THAT PASSES UNDERSTANDING

In my younger years I never realized what a blessing peace is.  Maybe it was something I just took for granted, because I don’t recall getting to riled up about anything.  That came later when I was married to an inept but prolific criminal, mother of four…no make that five…children, one of them an unruly adolescent locked inside an adult body.  Can you guess which one that is?  Anyway, I realized I tend to zig zag all over the place in my writing, just a glimpse of what goes on in my brain.  The point is peace was replaced by a kind of stoic robot like state, which I thought I needed to maintain for my survival so that I could survive long enough to guide my children into a safe adulthood.  No one suspected how frazzled I was and how close to becoming entirely unraveled.  Thankfully I haven’t been in that place for a long time, but I have rarely experiened the peace that passes understanding either.

It is something I would love to have, and it’s a promise from the bible.  “I will keep them in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on me,” but I find I have to be really intentional to approach that tranquil state of being, because it’s certainly not my default setting, and maybe it never really was.  The years when I was raising my children were fraught with so much uncertainty, poverty, fear and tension.  I think those years marked me and altered my DNA somehow, and I’m still in the process of recovery all these years later.I am the first one to say we are in control of so little and that we can’t rewind time, but do I behave that way?  If I did, would the small blips on the radar screen of life unnerve me the way they often do?

Sometimes I have to really press in for peace instead of it being my place of residence.

 

 

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I’ve been talking about starting my own writing group for a long time, and it looks like I will finally be taking the plunge.  I enjoyed my writing group in Santa Clarita before I relocated to Los Angeles, and I’ve tried two of them out here.  I have written about the first one already, so I won’t revisit that.  The second one is led by a rather unorthodox fellow.  I want to say more about that, but I feel a certain restraint when I’m talking about someone else on my blog…darn it!  There are about ten other members that seem to show up pretty consistently, but I can’t be totally sure, because I haven’t gone the last couple of times, and the group is new.  A very nice, laid back lady opened up her home to have the group meet there rather than its initial spot, which was the Westchester Panara Bakery, but that was kind of noisy and not really condusive to a discussion on writing (Really good sandwiches though).  One of the group members announced that he writes on an erotica website, plus the group meets on Sundays.  Okay…have you guessed?  I am a God Girl, so I just didn’t think this group was a good fit.

My group is starting with only three of us, but I’m sure it will grow.  All three of us are Christians and grandmas to boot.  I think we all consider ourselves writers who are Christians rather than Christian writers.  I make that distinction, because I don’t want us to feel totally constrained and confined in our writing.  On the other hand, I doubt if any of us will be trying our hand at porn.  My group could start as early as next week, and I’m looking forward to it.  Lately I have been reading almost obsessively.  I have all these books on my Mac Kindle.  I purchase many of them, but I also subscribe to a blog that features many free downloads, which sounds good when you love to read like I do, but then I feel I MUST read all of them.  Quite a few are daily devotionals, and, even though they are short, that can really add up.  If I’m going to call myself a writer (and I am), I have to do at least as much writing as reading.  Today I was on a writer’s blog, and he mentioned four must-read books for writers, and then I felt compelled to order those, so now I will be READING about WRITING.

I really need this writing group to keep me accountable, and I need to make a pinky promise that I won’t buy any more books for a long time. I am cautiously optimistic this will work out.  Living in a home that contains two very young grandchildren, I need the creative outlet.  I also have two more grandchildren that live ten minutes away, and I see a lot of them as well.  Kids can easily suck up 95 percent of your energy, so by commiting to this group, I am also making a commitment to myself to nurture something as precious as a newborn baby.  I’m ready!   

 

 

 

Around Easter I ordered an organic turkey with the idea of serving it for Sunday dinner.  This turkey was no lightweight.  In fact, it weighed in at a whopping 23 plus pounds.  I have never cooked a turkey that large before, and there was a reason for that.  First of all, it is challenging to find a roasting pan large enough to hold such an enormous speciman of poultry.  Smaller birds also seem to be more flavorful, and the larger the turkey, the more challenging it is to manuever in and out of the oven.  Anyway…this bird seemed to have an exceptionally large bosom, and the pan I thought would be adequate was not even remotely so.  This necessitated a trip to the 99 cents store, and while the flimsy aluminum pan was large enough to hold the turkey, it got all bendy just having the turkey placed in it while it defrosted in the fridge.  Have you ever tried to take a pan of sizzling, drippy juices and weighty bird out of the oven as the lightweight pan buckles and caves in?  It’s even worse than attempting to brine a turkey full of water in a plastic trash bag (okay…we won’t even go there with that episode).

I just had a birthday and Mother’s Day is this Sunday, so I decided to throw a late birthday/early Mother’s Day turkey dinner with all the trimmings.  At this point, Big Bird had been taking up a lot of space in the freezer for a month, and who knows how long it had been frozen before we rescued it  (okay, I know…ideally the rescue would have happened before the turkey met its demise).  My recent birthday and Mother’s Day seemed liked an ideal time to invite friends and family over to celebrate with a feast of turkey with all the trimmings.  My dear pal, Alondra, offered not only to provide her radical mac n’ cheese and stuffing but also to “prep” the turkey.  She arrived earlier today with her huge electric roaster in hand and rubbed the turkey with various spices and garlic infused olive oil.  She inserted a stick of herbed butter and an apple in the cavity of the turkey and plunked the whole concoction back in the fridge.  I got to sit at my dining room table and just watch her work and chat.  There were moments when I felt like I should get up and at least hand her items or something, but not enough to actually do it.  It was awesome!

That Alondra can really cook and she does it in large quantities, because she has a big family and hosts a lot of holiday gatherings.  She says it’s therapy for her, and that works for me.  All I have to do is have my visiting son take the heavy turkey out of the fridge at 6:a.m. tomorrow and plunk it in the electric oven where it will basically roast itself on a low temperature for about six hours.  Later on Alondra will bring the trays of stuffing and mac n’ cheese over and they will be popped into the oven.  YUMMY!!!!  

Thanks to Alondra my 35 guests, many of them children, will enjoy a succulent feast, including my garlic laced mashed potatoes and gravy, which will be my only contribution.  I have other people bringing some other dishes, and I will write about that later, but for now, Alondra has saved me from slaving away over a hot turkey.  Thanks to Alondra.  I guess that’s what friends are for!

 

 

 

I am reading a book by a woman who downsized from a three-bedroom home in the suburbs to a house no larger than a shed on wheels.  The current home is teeny but has a lot of eye appeal and attention to detail.  Amazingly (to me, anyway) this woman built the house herself.  She did have substantial help from friends and a knack for procuring sustainable items such as some beautiful recycled wood and a quaint perfectly sized front door.  She was also able to park the house in the backyard of some friends who live in a safe, residential neighborhood.  For most of us, the transition from average size to teeny might be a little more challenging.  I think there are many of us who find the tiny home movement fascinating, if not all out mesmerizing.  Being a fervent admirer of natural beauty, I have always proclaimed that I’d rather live in a small house surrounded by acreage than a huge house hemmed in by other homes and a nonexistent outdoor area.  My idea of entertaining lends itself to picnic tables, lanterns, a fire pit and fireflies.  I have to admit I never thought much about scant sleeping quarters, how to rustle up the grub in the mini kitchen or potty facilities.  My imaginings took me no further than a quaint, rustic abode with an adorable little porch all of it nestled right in the center of nature.  The author of the book goes into a lot more detail including how she took her home from a pile of scraps to a cute and cozy cottage fit for a little lady and her demure dog., 

In order to make this scaled down environment livable, she had to let go of many possessions that if not absolutely necessary certainly enhanced the interior of her larger home.  This is another appealing idea for me, at least 75 percent of the time.  Yet there is still that 25 percent of me who drools over the largeness and opulance of a home with a huge kitchen and copper cookware hanging elegantly from hooks above a gleaming Viking stove.  In this fantasy friends and family gather around a massive marble island, munching on appetizers with plenty of elbow room to spare.  The lovingly appointed guest room is a welcome harbor for out of town guests, and the master bedroom sports a king-sized bed and an expansive wooden fireplace.

The lady in the teeny house has no mortgage and a utility bill that tops out at $8.00 per month.  That is definitely not the case in my present home, let alone a spacious mini mansion is an upscale neighborhood like…say…Calabassas.

All in all it would probably be unrealistic for me to actually take the steps to be the owner of a tiny home.  The only way it might be feasible is if one of my daughters and her family purchase the luxury dream house and allow me to live in my own tiny space in their oversized backyard brimming with fruit trees, pots of herbs and space for the adoring Golden Retreiver I’ve always wanted to own.  Of course I would have access to the perks of the large house, the organic produce in the garden and the privacy of my own comfy cottage at night as I snuggled all warm and peaceful on my quilt covered organic cotton mattress under a canopy of stars.  Then I wouldn’t have to decide if large or small is better.  I would have the best of both worlds. 

 

SEX TRAFFICING SYMPOSIUM

Yesterday I attended a sex trafficking symposium at the Museum of Tolerance.  The event was put on by the YWCA and lasted for over four hours.  There were a number of politicians there including Kamala Harris, Attorney General for the state of California, Mark Ridley Thomas, the mayor of Compton (an African-American woman who is one of the youngest mayors in the nation) and many other elected officials.  There were four panels consisting of four or five speakers on each.   There were also two survivors of sex trafficking, bold, passionate, beautiful women inside and out.  One is the director of the Los Angeles non-profit agency “Saving Innocence” and the other is the founder and director of MISSEY in the Bay area.  These were the speakers who really captured my attention, and I wish the event could have been interactive, because I had questions I would love to have asked them.

I realize that it is imperative that we enact policies that will protect the women and children who are considered little more than commodities, but putting a human face on this issue is what pierces the heart.  The two survivors, Kim and Nola, were such articulate well-educated and driven women who work tirelessly to put the broken pieces of lives back together.  They say when a broken bone heals, it is stronger than ever, and I can only hope with my whole heart that this is the case for these devalued women and children.

I learned a lot.  Gang members who once dealt drugs are abandoning that line of revenue to recruit women and children.  Once the drug is consumed, new product must be secured, but human bodies can be used over and over for many years until they are no longer profitable, but that takes a long time, especially if you begin with a 12-year-old.  Sometimes the perpetrator then attempts to gain a ransom from the families of the victims in an effort to drain every last drop of profit from them.  I will now be more aware of situations that don’t quite add up such as a vacant home with a lot of traffic coming and going where victims may be forced to service “clients.”  We were also taught that the customers who solicit sex with minors are not to be called “Johns.”  They are to be known as pedophiles because that’s exactly what they are.  May of these boys and men come from the same type of homes as the girls they victimize…children who are not told they are valuable, precious and worth protecting.  In some instances, the parents themselves are the very ones who are trafficking them for their own gain.  It boggles the mind, but it’s true.  

A march against sex trafficking is scheduled for today on Western Ave.  It was supposed to rain today, but instead it is a bright, sunshiney day, the perfect day to gather together and march.  I like to think that the God who weeps at human injustice had a little something to do with the change of weather.

I am thankful God has lead me to keep this issue close to my heart.  I have already sent an email to Kim from Saving Innocence, and I will be keeping my eyes peeled for ways to help in this fight to save those who have no voice.  Lord, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for the divine opportunities that will continue to come my way. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

THE MEANING OF DREAMS

I have recently told God that I am open to having spiritual dreams.  I think the scripture says that your old men (women too, I’m sure) will dream dreams and your young men will have visions.  If that’s the case, I am unlikely to have visions, but one can always hope.  For a while I was diligent about keeping a pad and pen on my night stand, always at the ready to record significant dreams even if I woke up in the middle of the night, but I never actually did it.  I have had a few dreams where the meaning seemed clear, but, for the most part, I have no idea what my dreams are trying to communicate to me. Often, as I awake, I only have a vague recollection of what I dreamed, or if I do remember, I always think it will stay with me, and I can wait till later to go over it in my head or write it down.  I don’t know why I think my brain will retain the dreams in all their splendor.  Usually I can only recall bits and pieces and even though I try hard to recapture the main parts, it all seems to fade away like an elusive mist.

Last night I dreamed I was walking outdoors in the early evening.  There seemed to be a threat of rain in the air, and I wondered if I should turn back, because I hadn’t brought an umbrella, but, for some reason, I wasn’t that concerned and decided to proceed down the street.  It was a narrow street, which seemed to be lined with trees on both sides.  I remember the scene seemed exceptionally beautiful with the darkening sky and a few blooms still clinging to the trees branches.  Sure enough a light rain began to fall as the night grew darker.  I wasn’t dressed for damp weather, but since it wasn’t a hard rain fall, I still was not concerned, and, for some reason, I wasn’t cold.  I don’t even recall getting wet.  I was just captivated by the beauty of the evening and filled with contentment as I continued to walk along.  I have no idea what my destination was supposed to be.  

After walking for awhile, other people began to appear as the street widened.  They were all going towards a charming house that was slightly elevated from the street.  There was a small lemon tree in front of the house with the largest, ripest fruit I had ever seen.  Some of the lemons had fallen to the ground.  There seemed to be a couple in the home, but they did not come out.  Everyone was reaching for the lemons.  There seemed to be enough to go around.  I took a few from the ground and also picked a few from the tree.  I noticed there weren’t that many left on the tree, and I thought it would be rude to pick more and not leave what was left for the inhabitants of the house.  I got the feeling these were not ordinary lemons.  They were perfect specimans of what a lemon should look like…bright yellow, large, perfect shape and not a mark on them.  A woman that was picking them had a plastic bag with her, and I asked if she had an extra one.  Apparently she came prepared, but I had no idea I would encounter this tree on my walk.  She had a pleasant demeanor, but at first she said no to me, so I attempted to hold the lemons in my hands without dropping them, and I turned to leave.  A few seconds later, she said she had found another bag, and I put the lemons in the bag, which made them far easier to carry.

When I turned to leave the house seemed to be higher off the ground than I had noticed when I entered the front yard, and I wondered how I had gotten up there, since coming down seemed to be challenging.  I looked for another way down…perhaps stairs or a ladder? Most of us were preparing to leave the property at that point, and someone told me that the couple in the house was newly engaged.  I believe the month was October.  I was glad for them, but I remember feeling envious and wondering if that would ever happen for me, and then the dream ended.

 

 

A FRIENDSHIP FEAST

I’ve moved around a lot in my life.  When I was a child, I had no choice.  My parents moved from England to Canada, Canada to Michigan and Michigan to California before I was 11-years-old.  Friends don’t stick through that kind of mileage.  It’s not like children can navigate oceans and distant states to get to you even if time didn’t erase memories from young minds.

As an adult I shed jobs, boyfriends and locations frequently.  When I did attempt to stay in touch with former co-workers, our conversations usually went something like this “Hi ______”  “This is Barbara”  “I used to work there two months ago.”  We had lunch together a few times, and we had a conversation at the Xerox machine about Stan, the annoying guy who smells like garlic and flosses his teeth at his desk.”  Revolving jobs usually meant revolving friendships, which never went very deep…I was definitely not the girl who had lived in the same house since she was a baby with neighbors whose roots went as deep as that ancient oak tree with the tire swing attached to its solid base.

I have had one friend for a million years.  Her name is Donna, and we met at Sun Valley Jr. High when she was 13, and I was 14.  We bonded over the fact that we both hated P.E. and sat in the bleachers, feining cramps and asthma attacks in order to get out of doing jumping jacks whenever we could get away with it.   Her family had moved around a lot too, so we relished finally having a close friend we could depend on.  Alas, about a year later, Donna’s family moved to Phoenix, then Reno and finally Las Vegas, where she remains to this day.  We did visit each other, but that day to day closeness we had cultivated could no longer flourish with all those miles between us.  I’m just grateful that we remain friends, mostly through telephone contact, till this day.

It does get harder to make good friends as you get older, especially once you’ve retired.  Even if you are intentional about trying new things and putting yourself out there, it’s not the same thing as sharing a neighborhood or a dorm room.  I guess I became resigned, but here’s the miracle…lately God has been dropping new people with similiar passions, dreams and goals into my life.  Some of them are young, and some of them are not.  They come in many shapes, sizes and ethnicities, which makes it all the more fabulous.  They are at different stages of life, but each one brings a different fragrance to the garden.  

I am thankful for this beautiful bouquet of ladies.  I hope to get to know each one of them better…to learn from them and to teach them what I have learned over the years.  One day I will write about each one of them individually, because they each have a worthy story to tell.