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Monthly Archives: September 2011

 

When I say that I am grateful for shelter, here I am speaking of that which offers protection from what ever it is that threatens to destroy or maim us. Whether it be family, friends, a chapel or place of worship, prayer or words from our holy writings, I am speaking of those things that offer respite from life’s vicissitudes we all encounter at one time or another. Those places that we retreat to, or seek out, when we need to get away, clear our minds and heal our souls. When I think of shelter I think of our apartment or house, a place that protects us from nature’s elements. I also think of the bookstore where I can sit and write or read and nourish my mind. But today I reminisce about a place under beautiful Cherry Blossom Trees, their fronds reaching to the ground, where I could steal in under its branches, sit in the cool of the shade (even on the hottest of days) and be sheltered from sight, a place where I often meditated. Given the crisis of the past week, I am grateful for the shelters we find, places of prayer, places to ponder the meaning and purpose of our lives, the places of retreat that give us space to regroup, refresh, then re-engage. I am grateful for our many shelters in life.

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In today’s world, human society has squeezed out the natural world in many ways. Through technology and other modern advances, people no longer have to work the land for their food, or cautiously venture into uncharted territory alert for whatever wildlife might lurk there (remember the Wizard of Oz: “Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!”) Our children grow up with a distorted understanding of where food comes from, or how our clothing is constructed, or why certain ingredients go into the substances we use every day. Go to the store and buy whatever you want. Drive the paved highways and byways to reach your destination. Who of us understands the ecological balance in this world, and our impact on that balance. Nature preserves were created both to keep certain areas protected from human encroachment, and to educate. If one takes the time to wander through a preserve, they are found everywhere, it won’t take long to begin to see the signs explaining what she (or he) is seeing. How does a bog sustain life? What kinds of life can one find in a bog, and why is it important? Do bears really live in the woods around here? What do they eat, and do they ever wander into our neighborhoods? Why are they important? Wow! I never felt a beaver tail before! They sure do make a loud noise! I didn’t know there were so many creepy crawly things living in a pond, and did you see the turtle sunning itself on that log in the middle of the lagoon? The exploration and questions are endless when one visits a nature preserve. And if you aren’t particularly in the mood to learn that day, preserves provide beautiful walks and paths through a natural setting. When I am stressed out, a stroll with my camera through a preserve refreshes my spirit and clears the brain. I am grateful for nature preserves.

I know that I expressed gratitude for Sabbath Peace recently, and this is very similar. But this Shabbat the peace, the rest, took on special significance. Last Monday evening my dad suffered a life-threatening abdominal aneurysm. The further the week progressed, the more we realized the gravity of the situation. By Thursday it had sunk in for all of us that Dad was fighting for his life. We Futch’s have raised denial to an absolute art form, not necessarily a bad thing; it’s what helps us keep our heads up when life seems insurmountable. We laugh a lot. We are a cheerful lot through thick and thin. But by Thursday we were all worn, especially Mom who never left Dad’s side, and David and Sandy, my brother and sister-in-law, who stayed with Mom and Dad, made phone calls, talked with doctors, managed to squeeze in work, and more. The rest of us were in far-away states and could only sit by our phones, pray fervently for our father and friend, and wait for news. We had become fearful for Dad’s life, and with good reason. Doctors were honest in their assessments as they gently presented our options. Throughout the week flurried phone calls back and forth began early in the mornings and continued late into the nights each and every day. Normalcy ceased and crisis management governed our days. But Thursday evening the situation began to improve, and Friday dawned brighter as Dad’s color began to return to normal,the swelling from various procedures and blood leaking into his abdomen began to subside, and everyone~doctors included~regained hope for Dad’s recovery. By Friday we sighed a sigh of relief. . .somewhat. Friday is the day I prepare for the Sabbath, and this Friday was no different. Phone calls interrupted but the preparations continued through to completion. Minutes before candle-lighting which ushers in the Sabbath, I made my last calls home to my brother and then my mother. Dad had a few “hiccups” through the day but for the most part it was a good day. He is definitely improving. But for this daughter who would be out of touch with the family for the next 25 hours, there remained some angst over Dad’s condition. Blessedly, earlier in the day I received a welcome phone call from one of my best friends ever, and her voice was music to my ears. At the sound of her voice my eyes began to tear as I felt the release of pent-up emotion and my resolve begin to dissolve. Rochel Leah reminded me of the power of prayer and the many people around the world who are praying for Dad. She also reminded me of the strong connection we have with G-d as we light the Shabbat candles ushering in a time of holy rest. Rochel Leah urged me on reminding me that whatever the outcome, all will be good. She would be lighting candles, too, and when she lit, she would have Dad in mind. Shabbat is a time each week when we step away from the cares of the world, a time to smile and rejoice for the world that we have been given to live in with all of its hills and valleys. When I light the candles I lay down my cares and worries and enter into another realm. This Shabbat I visualized laying down my cares for Dad, switched to an attitude of gratitude, thanking Hashem for the man who is my Dad. This Shabbat we enjoyed good food, shared a meal with friends we hadn’t seen in years but who attended our wedding, walked in the sunlight on a glorious Saturday afternoon, and slept soundly during an afternoon nap. We went to the synagogue to daven/pray prayers of thanks and learn a little Torah. Life on this Shabbat was restful, joyful, revitalizing. When Shabbat drew to a close, my cares were where I had left them, and I picked them back up as I headed into a new week. But now there was energy and hopefulness that before was lagging. I picked up the phone to call home and get an update, but now I felt rested. As I write this post, I am acutely aware of many things for which I am thankful even in this post. But to sum it up, I am humbled and grateful for the rest that Shabbat provides for those of us who observe its laws. I am also grateful for a good report from home as I begin a new week.

GG (Genevieve Grace), my granddaughter, calls this “Bubbe’s chair.” Little does she know how many hours I spent rocking her father (and both aunts) in a rocking chair. There is something soothing and relaxing about rockers. My children long ago outgrew being rocked to sleep, or soothed from some hurt in “Mommy’s lap” in a rocking chair. I’ve had a rocker in my home since I had my first child. When the movers arrived at our home to load the truck to move us to OH, I originally planned to have the rocker put in storage. While it sat in the middle of the bedroom as other furniture was systematically removed from the house, one of the movers, Ron, urged me to have a seat and rest; my work would continue long after they, the movers, were gone. I sat in the rocker, Pele in my arms, closed my eyes and began to rock. I felt my muscles relax and a calm descend as people scurried around me moving this and that. When it was time to load the rocking chair, I asked Ron to pack it with the things that were going into the apartment. Although our small apartment is a bit crowded now, the rocking chair stays. When all is in chaos, I sit, close my eyes, rock, and all is well with the world. I pray a lot sitting in this chair. The rocking motion helps me focus. I drink my morning coffee here, and sometimes I’ll read, or gently rock as I watch the lively natural world outside my window. My husband, too, likes to sit and rock as he fills me in on the events and adventures of his day. I don’t blame him because I know how comfortable it is. I also know that just like GG says, this is “Bubbe’s chair.” I am grateful for rocking chairs.

Last night the phone rang late ~ too late. I sensed something was wrong. I didn’t answer it right away, rather let the caller leave a message. After all, I was probably being melodramatic. About ten minutes later however, I couldn’t let it rest and anxiously checked the phone messages. David, my brother, with urgency in his voice told me to call back immediately, the it was imperative that I return the call. I found out that Dad had an abdominal aneurism rupture. He was rushed to the hospital and was in surgery as David and I spoke. David’s parting words were “this does not look good.” I called the kids then I began praying. Prayer is a huge part of my life, not just in emergencies, but every day. When things like this happen however, there is an added fervency, one prays with intense kavannah. Around 1:30am I got the call that Dad had done well in surgery and had responded excellently to the skilled surgeons and other medical personnel as they repaired five ruptures. He is now in ICU at Jewish Hospital in Louisville, KY, and the prognosis looks good. But last night we didn’t know what the outcome would be. Today I find myself paying attention more, to life, to people, to voices, to family. Everyday we walk this earth is a gift. My dad has been given the gift of more days and we’ve been given the gift of more time with Dad. I love you Dad. I am beyond extremely grateful that Dad pulled through emergency surgery to repair a ruptured abdominal aneurism.

 

Someone in Maria’s family shot this photo while they were all vacationing together in Arizona. I love this picture. They look so happy (and tanned!) This past weekend Tim, Maria and Genevieve visited us in our new place. We are all excited that after years of nomadic wandering, Richard and I are living a mere two-hour drive from our son and his family. We laughingly tease that we are far enough away not to get into each others’ business, close enough to visit when desired. It was a glorious day for us. The sun shone bright, the breeze blew gentle, and the laughter wafted far and wide. My children have grown into fine, responsible young adults. That was always my prayer for them. As much as I miss them when they are gone, I remind myself that they have exceeded this mother’s hope and prayers that they become mature, responsible, thankful adults. My daughters still live far away, and who knows if they will ever live within the two-hour radius this momma fantasizes about. But they, too, are a joy to watch as they navigate their adult years and raise their children. So in true empty nester style, I am grateful for my adult children, and always grateful for  visits from the kids!

 

 

 

Today I am going from the lofty to the lowly, from the holy to the mundane. Yet, as I’ve aged (and matured, I hope) I discover that the lowly, insignificant things in life, those things we overlook or take for granted, are worthy of gratitude, too. In fact, the lowly stuff is the mortar that holds up the lofty stuff. As I write this post, Shabbat is almost upon us. I busily prepare the house and the food before lighting the Shabbat candles because once Shabbat arrives I will not cook or clean or engage in any activity that involves creating something new or different. Shabbat is the day we rest from the busyness that fills our lives with creative endeavors. At the same time however, the rabbis tell us we are to partake of hot meals and extend hospitality to friend and stranger alike. The conversation and hospitality piece is enjoyable and doable, but how does one offer a hot meal when forbidden to ignite a flame or flip a switch on the Sabbath? Ahhh, that is where our ingenuity comes in. Throughout history we read of the many creative ways Jewish home-makers concocted to keep food hot on Shabbat. Today we use crockpots. I have several because keeping kosher requires separate cookware for meat and milk. Besides cleaning the apartment, Fridays are also spent preparing Saturdays meals. The wonderful thing about crock pots is that I can prepare a dish in the pot, put it on to cook before Shabbat, then turn the temperature to low and leave all Shabbat so that we have a hot dish to serve with our meals. Voila! There you have it. 🙂 I am grateful for crockpots!

****Just so you know, this post was written before Shabbat and scheduled to post on Shabbat. I’m experimenting to see if this is something I will want to continue doing. We’ll see.

 

My friends all know that I love spring and summer. Spring is my favorite time of year because everything is coming back to life. I’m usually not so keen on autumn and winter. How sad because we are now living in Cleveland where there is a lot of the colder months! Having said all that however, it occurred to me earlier this week that autumn is a beautiful month. Yes, it is the harbinger of colder days ahead, but autumn itself is beautiful. Colors are more rustic, but they are brilliant none-the-less, as the photos attest. From what I’m told, the colors will continue to intensify as the season progresses so I have a lot to look forward to. Autumn is a transitional season as the earth prepares for its winter hibernation. I thought about how life is like that, too. I once dreaded the middle-age and old years. Not so much anymore. I’m discovering that life is as colorful and joyful as ever. I’ve really come into my own and I’m far more optimistic than I was in my youth. I can’t do all the things I use to do; I do other things, more meaningful things instead. Young folks look at me and see the added wrinkles — and pounds — and dread this stage much as I once did. But I’m discovering it is a grand stage in life. Autumn mirrors life. I have dreaded its arrival, but this past weekend as Richard and I were exploring new trails to hike, I was struck with the beauty of the coming autumnal season, and I smiled. I can honestly say that I am grateful for autumn.

This morning I awoke to the glorious sunshine beaming through our windows and had to express my gratitude for it’s beauty in the previous blog.  This evening I saw the beauty of the other end of the spectrum. We were out tonight and on the way home I saw this glorious moon.  There was no place to get a shot of it with the buildings and telephone wires and trees all blocking or cluttering the view. When we arrived home and walked into our dark apartment though, I could see moonlight streaming across the living room floor. I walked over to the window and this is what I saw! The moon was glorious and after shooting about a dozen frames, I sat in the dark and basked in its glow. No music. No radio. No TV (we don’t own a TV). Richard was back in the “office” working, and I sat gazing up at the moon with the cat purring curled up in my lap.  That makes for a good evening. I am grateful for the moon peering through our living room window.

***This photo was shot with a zoom lens (18-200mm), then closely cropped in order to show you the details of the moon. There was one “peep hole” through the tree branches that allowed me to see the moon in full. So, yes, this is a bit enhanced but that doesn’t detract from the beauty and effect of the moon’s appearance through my window.

 

One of the things I loved about our apartment in Virginia is that we were in a position to watch the sunrise every morning. I never tired of the colors or the hopes that each new day brought with it. No two sunrises were the same. Furthermore, if I ventured onto the balcony, many times I could simultaneously watch the sunrise in the east and the moon set in the west while standing in one spot. I loved it. Our new apartment offers no such view. And I miss that. This morning however, as I walked from the bedroom to the kitchen to brew a cup of coffee, the view from our living room window caught my attention and I stopped in my tracks. The lush vegetation with the sun shining down on it, and how that lit up our room was simply beautiful. I scurried to the “office” to grab the camera off my desk, and  then I shot this scene to share with you. Beauty is where ever we choose to see it. So this is my new morning-wake-up view! Not bad, eh.  I am grateful for morning sunlight beaming through our living room window (and office window, and bedroom window. . . you will see more in time, I’m sure.)

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