Albania: Meeting Klevis

There are 2, 871,000 people living in Albania. Of these, 1,000,000 are children between the age of 0 and 19. Of these children, 70,000 are disabled.

We were told we were going to meet with a family that World Vision has been helping. However, we had to walk up this ‘road’. They call this a road? There were parts of this so-called road that went up a steep incline and the rocks were slippery as it had rained earlier. At some points, I didn’t think I would be able to make it. The Albanian staff laughed at me and told me that ‘little children walk this way to go to school’.

The family lives in higher terrain. The father greeted us outside the home and shook our hands but with a sombre expression. The mother greeted us in her home where she sat holding her nine-year-old son in her arms. She was smiley and seemed happy to have visitors.

The house was small and made of stone. It was very similar to a Scottish bothy with just one family room. The room was sparse. It had a stone floor and walls and a couple of old sofas around a wood table. It had a kitchen area which consisted of a table-top two-burner stove sitting on a worktop and a sink. We were told the house was not theirs but on a loan from a family member.

We gathered around the wooden table, as the mother told us their story.

The youngest child, Klevis, is severely autistic. His story seemed unusual to me. He was born healthy and normal but when he was still an infant, he became ill with a very high temperature. He was taken to the hospital where he stayed for several weeks. Eventually, after receiving treatment, he got better and went home.

As he began to grow however, there were a few noticiable delays in his development but he was still progressing. The doctors kept changing his diagnosis. At the age of six he was offered a medical treatment which didn’t work. In fact,he suddenly began to regress. He lost his speech and the ability to dress himself and use the toilet. He became unresponsive and violent. He would often run off and once got badly bitten by a dog and had to have eleven stitches. Because of this, his mother now spends her whole life holding him so he is kept safe.

I turned my gaze to the Klevis’ father. Although he stayed in the room with us, his face looked distant. He was polite to us while we were there but he never smiled. We were later told that he is suffering from depression. He has not been able to find work and so cannot support his family.

Klevis has an older brother just a year older. During our visit, he was smiley and sociable like his mother. He also would demonstrate smalll acts of love and kindness towards Klevis. I wonder at how he could stay so positive and be so loving towards his brother who takes up all of his mother’s time.

Klevis and his brother

We were informed that some fundraising was done to build the family a home of their own – one that would be safer for Klevis and help his mother to be free to do work around the house. Building work had started on the house but they ran out of funds to finish the job. World Vision has been helping the family with their medical expenses and the staff have been driving them to doctors and therapists appointments.

I don’t know what all the answers are for this family, but a secure house with a fence around it would certainly be a massive help to start with. I can’t see how the mother can go on holding the child as he gets older and grows stronger.

I was then shocked to find out how little work had been done on the house. It’s something we saw throughout Albania – houses partly built and then abandonned due to lack of finances.

When I returned home, I thought about this family a lot. Although, there were a lot of projects we visited that needed help. Many of them were within schools who needed more funding. They were also projects that could wait a bit longer. Klevis’ family needs help now. Another sponsor and I have made a decision to fundraise for this family until the funds are reached and the house can be built. I asked and was told that the house would cost 1192540 in Lek. A mere £8,244. We are trying to raise £9000 to help with any extra needs the family will need.

You can watch a video about Klemis below.

To visit my fundraising page, please click here.

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Albania–Meeting Our Sponsor Children

Working within my role at World Vision means that every day I get to hear uplifting stories about the relationships forged between sponsors and the children they sponsor. As a child sponsor myself, I feel a strong sense of camaraderie with other sponsors. We all have the same heart for vulnerable children. So, when I heard that there was a group sponsor visit to Albania planned, I signed up to go as one of the sponsors.

My husband I each sponsor a child in Albania.  As my husband couldn’t be there, I agreed to meet his child Mikeljan on his behalf. A lot of prayer and preparation went into our meeting. Before my trip, my husband told me everything he knew about Mikeljan and especially how much he loves football! Between the two of us, we did some shopping for gifts for Mikeljan and his family.  While in Albania, the wonderful World Vision team worked hard planning the sponsor visits and all the itinerary.

The night before I was due to meet him, I stayed in too reflect and pray about our time together.  I was nervous  about the meeting because Mikeljan is a teenager and I wasn’t sure of the welcome I would receive.  Would he think it was ‘uncool’ or ‘lame’ for instance.

We first met at the World Vision office where Mikeljan arrived accompanied by his mother. To my surprise, he spoke very good english! I had brought a letter for Mikeljan from my husband which a staff member translated on paper.  Another staff member translated the conversation between Mikeljan’s mother and I. I showed him photos of my husband Jim and talked about him.

We walked by a lake and later had lunch together. His mother spoke to me about her family and her concerns for Mikeljan. I noticed there was free wifi, so I video-phoned Jim so he could speak to Mikejan in person.  They each had the biggest grin on their faces as they chatted away about  Mikeljan’s biggest passion-football!

I was so impressed with both Mikeljan and his mother. They were such lovely people. Mikeljan is a bright, courageous, sociable and articulate boy.  His mother was lovely, warm and gracious. I felt like I had just met family.

The following day, it was time for me to meet my sponsor child Andrea. It was another wonderful meeting but with some differences.  Andrea is only 7.  He came with his mother, older brother and younger sister. He was very shy at first but soon warmed up.  Nobody in the family spoke english but luckily we had someone on hand to translate for us. Andrea thanked me for the hot wheels I sent to him in the post.  Unfortunately, he lost the green one which was his favourite.  Since I have been home, I have been looking at green hot wheels but they are all so different and I have no idea which one he lost!

I knew ahead of time that we would spend time at a beach. I brought lots of toys to play with. The most popular was a game of velcro mitts and a ball. When we had lunch, I brought out the Jenga which was a big hit as the whole family could play.

After only ever seeing some photos and a couple of videos of Andrea, it was nice to get to know more of his unique personality. He is such a fun, endearing child with a gorgeous, contagious smile. The family were sociable and sweet and we had a wonderful time together.

The trip gave me real insight into the culture and people of Albania. I feel an equal sense of compassion and hope for this country. I am so thankful for the opportunity that sponsorship has given my husband and I to help the communities where Mikeljan and Andrea live.

To sponsor a child through World Vision UK, please go to their website by clicking here.

Story Of A Bear

It was worth a shot but it hadn’t worked.  We were very mistaken to think that the one she loved could be so easily replaced.

There he lied…on the floor… stubbornly ignored by the toddler who refused to acknowledge him after she threw him there.  Was it the fourth or fifth time now?

She stood there, refusing to look at it.  Her small body turned away with downcast eyes.  She didn’t want to look at us either.  She hadn’t thrown a tantrum.  She hadn’t cried.  Yet her communication was clear. ‘This is not my Teddy.’

For three nights, we had woken up to her heart-breaking sobs and her crying for Teddy.  She had lost it somewhere.  I had searched everywhere in the house but couldn’t find it.  Her real teddy was a tan colour, sort of like pine wood.  Most of its fur had been sucked off its nose. His foot had, ‘Baby’s first Teddy’ embroidered on it.

The one lying on the floor was not it.  I couldn’t find an exact replica.  I found another bear which I thought was at least equally cute.  I should have known it wasn’t about cuteness.  It was about attachment.

When we found her real Teddy bear about several days later in the church nursery, our daughter’s reaction was a bit strange.  She held it but didn’t react.  It was as if she had given up hope of ever having it again and now wasn’t sure if he was really there.  She didn’t throw it down on the floor but she didn’t smile either.  She seemed numb.  I realised that my poor sixteen-month old daughter had experienced her first form of emotional stress and shock.  She never lost him again.

Tara and Teddy

As for the replacement bear, we later gave him to my son. He was then passed down a few times till my fourth child had him.  We moved from the US to the UK with the bear. Then one day, it may have been a birthday or Father’s Day, my daughter gave him to my husband as a gift.  This bear is now nearly thirty years old.  He has never been truly loved – not in the sense of say, ‘The Velveteen Rabbit’ sort of way.  I suppose my husband and I have felt the closest to sympathy towards it.  Poor rejected bear.  I hadn’t realised Jim kept it all these years.

When World Vision said they needed 700 Teddy bears to be placed on the steps of London’s St. Paul’s Cathedral, Jim donated our sad bear towards it.  The 700 bears were used to raise awareness. They symbolise the 700 unaccompanied refugee children that are arriving each week in Uganda after fleeing their homes in South Sudan. The children had been separated from their family.  They have witnessed horrible atrocities.  Many have seen members of their own family killed.  This has left most of the children psychologically traumatised.  They arrive in Uganda terrified, hungry and exhausted.

Our Bear showing with the red circle around it. Photo Source: World Vision UK

Uganda have been exemplary when it comes to welcoming the refugees.  Hundreds of thousands have arrived and have been given sanctuary, compassion and a plot of land.  However, aid is still urgently needed to provide basic needs such as food, clean water and medical supplies.  Many of the children need psychological therapy for what they have suffered.  You can read more about World Vision’s campaign in the UK by clicking here.  To learn more about World Vision’s work in South Sudan, click here.

You may wonder what World Vision will be doing with those 700 teddy bears, once their Bears On Stairs campaign is over.  The answer is that every teddy bear is going to a child in one of the refugee camps in Uganda.  I am so happy to know that our poor rejected bear will finally go somewhere where he is loved.  In my heart, I am sending him off with a prayer that he will bring comfort to a child who needs it.

Namaste

Christmas MUST Be Wonderful…

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My husband and I sometimes have discussions about ‘Christmas-time’.  We both have our opinions as to when it is. Jim is English and more of a traditionalist. For him, Christmas time begins on the 25th of December and last twelve days.  For me, partly because of my American upbringing, Christmas begins the day after Thanksgiving and ends on Christmas day – two days longer than the advent season.  He celebrates Christmas when it happens, while I celebrate it as something to look forward to. He enjoys meeting up with family and having the big Christmas feast(s).  I enjoy the preparations and evoking the ambiance of Christmas.  I love having my tree up, lighting my Christmas-y candles, going shopping and seeing the Christmas decorations and watching Christmas movies.

Of course, there is no right way or wrong way to celebrate Christmas.  I know of many different ways people celebrate Christmas.  I also know that for some, Christmas is a very difficult time of year.  Some choose not to celebrate it at all.  Strange as it may seem, I totally get it.  The problem is, we put way too much importance on the ‘how’ of Christmas.  I mean Christmas has to be wonderful right? We have to make sure everyone is happy.  So we negotiate with our spouses as to who we visit and when and who visits us.  We try desperately hard to get the right gifts for people otherwise misunderstandings happen.  (You thought I was a size 12?!) We bake till our backs break only to find out that Bree won’t eat cookies with oats in it, Jaz won’t eat anything with red food colouring (on the fact that she is a veggie) and Sara’s daughter has a nut allergy.  Not to mention all the dieters out there who won’t eat anything at all!

Then there are those who have Christmas memories where things went wrong.  A death. A break-up.  A vicious argument.  Which isn’t fair because like I said, we believe in the importance that Christmas must be wonderful.

We also believe that Christmas is about getting together with family.  However, many will be spending Christmas alone.  Some will not be doing this by choice.  There is a sad growing crisis in the UK of elderly people being abandoned by their family.  These people have grown-up children and grand-children who have cut them off.  Every Christmas, they sit alone at home; no visit, no phone call, not even a card.  As hard as it is to be abandoned, the feeling is compounded at Christmas.  They have many memories of Christmases past when they use to spend it with their family.  Christmas use to be wonderful.  Now they are alone.

Also, that first Christmas after a divorce…dismal!  There is a large family get together and everyone is either fussing over you because they feel sorry for you or they are avoiding talking about your ex altogether.  Then there is Auntie Jo, who perhaps is going a bit senile in her old age.  She keeps asking you where the no-good bum is.  Only she says, ‘Where is that lovely husband of yours?’

Christmas after divorce can be harder still if there are children involved. The anger and resentment may still be there.  Even if you and your ex have been able to work out Christmas arrangements with the kids amicably, the kids have voices of their own.  They may not want to spend it with you and visit Auntie Jo.  On the other hand, they may not be putting up a fuss at all, but you have placed all this pressure on yourself to buy them the best gifts and make it the best Christmas ever for them.  Why?  Because Christmas must be wonderful.

Many people take on a second job over Christmas to afford the gifts they must buy.  Many are in jobs which become more stressful around Christmas.  If you work for a delivery company or are in a retail related job then that usually means lots of late nights, over-time hours and angry customers.  After all, they are paying your wages by buying those special gifts which need to arrive in time otherwise Christmas won’t be wonderful.

Why do we do it?  Why do we put all this hard work and pressure on ourselves to make Christmas perfect?  Why are the gifts, the food and the festivities so important to get right?  Why does it have to be so wonderful?

Every year I find myself speculating on what I will and won’t do during the leading up to Christmas.  The truth is, I do want it to be wonderful for everyone.  I also want as little stress as possible.

How each of us celebrates Christmas is up to us.  However, if you have some concerns as to how Christmas will be this year.  If you are too busy and worried about stress or sinking into depression, then it is time to start planning.  What will bring you peace this Christmas? I’m not suggesting that you think only of yourself.  I am however, giving us all permission to give a bit of love to ourselves as well.

Christmas isn’t about an image.  It isn’t about outward perfection.  Christmas is the celebration of a mysterious, mystical and wonderful event.  As I ponder on that event, the imagery that it evokes isn’t garland, platefuls of food or presents wrapped in metallic paper.  There is no imagery but a starlit night which is sensed more than seen.

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It is a feeling of profound silence.  A silence which grows deep within and warms the heart. A silence which is reflective of that mysterious, mystical moment in history….the birth of Christ. That very first Christmas was wonderful.  I suppose every Christmas must be wonderful if we but allow it to reflect that first.

Peace and the Long Car Journey

Car Journey to Scotland-

One of my hopes and fears about this trip had to do with the slight lack of electronic entertainment for my teenagers.  It wasn’t a total lack as we have wi-fi access in the house we are staying at in Largs but there has been no mention of wi-fi in our accommodation on the Isle of Eigg.  Personally, I have been looking forward to my books and doing some exploring but I was bracing myself in fear of the teenage grumbling that may occur.  However, besides the possible grumbling about the lack of wi-fi, I was most especially worried about the actual road trip there. You know how it is…five people in one car, cramped, the youngest being just fifteen and me charged with the responsibility of maintaining peace for the sake of the sole driver (my husband).

We loaded our car on Saturday morning and prayed together for the journey.  I then suggested to the family that we all look for ways to make each other happy on this trip.  Jadzia had been experiencing some pain in one of her legs so I offered to switch seats with her partway through the journey so she can sit in the front seat.  Then, my son Brandon spoke to both his sisters and suggested switching seats throughout the journey so no one had to sit in the middle for very long.

All three of my teenagers have ipods.  Initially, it had taken me a while to approve of ipods.  I like music but I am conscious of the danger one can be in of not being able to hear the sounds of your environment.  I also felt it to be a bit rude as the person with the ipod is tuning everyone else out…..but it helps keep the peace during long car journeys.

Anyhow…after some trepidation and a bit of guilt, I decided to download Spotify on my phone.  I told myself it would be for just this one time and for a small part of the journey and it would give me a chance to choose my own music without complaints from anyone else.

So when I switched to the back seat, I began my ‘short time’ of self-indulgence.  With the panoramic sun-roof open, I gazed at the layers of cloud formations while enjoying some Scottish folk music.

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Then I gazed at the views from the passenger window whilst listening to folk-rock music of the 60’s and 70’s.  I gazed out the window at the changing terrain, the hills of Cumbria,

the farmlands dotted with sheep and cows and then back through the sun-roof at the clouds again and discovered I still had some imagination left at my age after all.  In the end, I sacrificially volunteered to remain in the back seat, even sitting in the middle seat at times.  Jadzia kept Jim entertained with lively, bubbly discourse and I would at times lower the music and join in—but not too often.  I am embarrassed to admit that I really loved being ‘plugged in’.  I listened to classic rock, Indi-folk, traditional Scottish and folk-rock and no-one complained except when Brianna told me sternly to “stop” dancing in the car. To keep the peace I remained still after that but with the sad realization that my youngest didn’t understand what ‘coolness’ really is because for several hours I allowed the music to take me back.  I was once again sixteen years of age listening to Janis Joplin, Jethro Tull and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.

The journey couldn’t have gone any better.  Everyone good as gold, happy and thoughtful towards one another. We arrived at Largs tired but content.

Does Your Parenting Style Have An Effect On Your Child’s Religious Outlook?

There seems to be quite a debate when it comes to the best way to rear our children.  I have heard all kinds of comments and opinions from advocates of ‘gentle parenting’ to those who believe the problems with youth today stem from the lack of corporeal punishment.  It can often feel very confusing to new parents who are wanting to raise happy, well behaved children.

Another interesting comment I have often heard throughout my nearly thirty years as a parent is the one of regret.  ‘If I could do it all over again, I would do things differently.’ I myself would like to have done some things differently. When I first began having children, I had no real parenting role models so I raised my children partly on instinct and partly on books by parenting ‘experts’. Looking back at it now, I personally wish I had trusted my instincts more. I often tell new parents (even those adopting) to trust their instincts and to do everything in love. I believe that if we continuously ask ourselves what is the most loving way to handle every situation, we would make fewer parenting mistakes.  However, the sad truth is that not everyone can trust their own instincts.  Why? Because studies show that adults who have been raised by authoritarian parenting methods are often lacking the skill in hearing intuitively! This is especially true in those children who were not allowed to have their own voice or exercise any free will. Children raised in a militant style fashion are taught to do as their told and no questions asked.  Is it any wonder that they grow into adults who turn to others to make their decisions for them? They have not learn to discern their inner voice and when they hear it, they do not trust it.  They turn to advice from those who are smarter or wiser than they perceive they themselves are.

Parents are often authoritarian because what they desire above all is for their children to be well-behaved.  Basically, they want their children to be like adults before their time.  I remember being a young mother and fearing my children’s behavior in public because I felt their behavior was a reflection of myself as a parent.  The sad truth of the matter is that it is often perceived that way.  How often have we seen badly behaved children and heard some comment like, ‘She/He does not know how to control their kids!’ After having six children, I learned an important truth: all kids are different.  Some behave well and some do not and it isn’t always down to parenting skills or lack of.  Every child has different trigger points that can set them off into tantrums.  One of our jobs as a parent is defining those trigger points and recognizing moments in which they can occur.  This can be quite a challenge when your child’s temperament is different from your own or your other children!

I have known of families who impose strict regiments upon their children and guess what?  They are some of the most outwardly best behaved children I have seen.  But let’s not look at things at face value.  Why are they so well-behaved?  Is it because of fear of punishment?  Is it because they feel they must earn their parents love? If that is the case, then they are learning through dominance and dominance does not make for transformation.  Real transformation is from within and is not fear-based. I have seen some of these well-behaved children turn into violent, angry teenagers while others become fearful doormats. Don’t we want our children to be well-adjusted, spiritually strong, happy individuals who see the world as a friendly place?

In the case of religion, children who are raised by overtly strict parents tend  to become dualistic thinkers. Everything is either white or black, right or wrong, good or bad.  There is no room for tolerance in others. Because of the way these children are raised, they have not learned to question what they or others believe.  Everything is set in stone because they were not given the tools to learn for themselves. Can you guess what their perception of God will be like later in life?  Have you seen religious outlooks that are rigid and lack love and tolerance? I am not pointing fingers at any particular religion.  It is more of an individual thing.  You can have one particular church, synagogue, temple with individuals that are both tolerant and intolerant.  Fundamentalism is not a religion, it is a sickness of the spirit. What kind of God do we want our children to know?  A hateful dictator or a loving saviour? It is really true that a great part of how our children will be spiritually is down to how we as parents raise them.  If we raise them in love and respect and allow them to have opinions, then they will be loving, respectful adults.  Let’s discuss rather than dictate religious views with our children.  Share your viewpoints but also allow children to share theirs and to explore their own beliefs. Above all, raise them in love.

 

 

Love Abounds

My time away has been longer than I had expected!  My days have been busy ones since I have been back from New York.  A project with a deadline, a friend in hospital, work, housework, etcetera.  But one thing I have been diligent with is my daily meditation.  it is both my source of renewal and my preparation for the day ahead of me.  It is time spent in the fountain of love so that I in turn can bring forth love to others joyously ad effortlessly.  For this I am truly and humbly grateful. Because without this fountain, I deplete and I lose the spring in my step, the joy in my heart, the sense of communion with God who is love Himself and I see more of myself and less of others.  I encourage anyone who has yet to begin a practice of meditation to begin one now.  I encourage all to keep it up and never give it up.

The wedding was beautiful.  I am so proud of my daughter for her hard work and creativity in putting it all together.  Upstate New York is beautiful during the autumn season.  The colours are vibrant, rich and gorgeous.

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A sense of the outdoors was brought in with faux autumn leaves, decorated pumpkins and bouquets made with love using autumn colours.  Brittany with her natural red hair and her lace wedding dress was breath-takingly beautiful. I loved seeing Dan’s (the groom) expression when she first appeared in all her glory.  There were three beautiful flower girls scattering rose petals of red, peach and yellow which seemed to me to mimic the fall leaves fluttering down outside…but with a touch of humour as the youngest flower girl grabbed handfuls of petals and tossed them down with enthusiasm.

It was a strangely emotional day for me.  In a sense I felt like I was in a dream and found myself feeling a rush of love towards every guest.  On reflection, everybody seemed to be feeling this.  It is unusual I think where the bride’s parents are divorced to suddenly see those who once you called family to feel they are family again.  The love was palpable.There was a sense of heaven throughout the wedding ceremony and reception.  I don’t yet have all the pictures but here are a few:

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Our Sense Of Autumn

It is generally noted that the season of Spring is a time when one thinks of new beginnings and hope for the future.  Trees and flowers start to bloom,  the weather is warmer and all throughout nature there are signs of new births.

Then comes Summer, the season where many plans are made to take vacations, bask in the sunshine or meet up with friends at a pub garden.  The mood is happier, the clothes are lighter and there is in a small way, a sense of freedom.

However, it is an Autumn landscape which speaks volumes to me. There is a sense of maturity. A sense that all my hard work has now paid off. You see it in the way the rays of sunshine capture and illuminate bright ochres and ambers as if a painter has added touches of gilding here and there.  The world feels richer, deeper, wiser.  The harvest is reaped and there is much to be thankful for.  There are new comforts in fleecy jackets, hot soups and root vegetable stews.  It is a time of  year when one feels the most nurtured and wishes to reach out and bring nurturing to others.

 

 

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Perhaps it is just me but Autumn brings out my deepest mothering instincts as well as my deepest feelings of contentment. It is about seeing small children with big smiles while they crunch fallen leaves under their feet.  When I was a child, I felt more keenly that I was another year older when school started up again then when it was my birthday.  Autumn begins and it is the season of acquiring new information, deeper contemplation and becoming more grounded.

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Decisions and commitments made in Autumn are decisions and commitments made in wisdom.  So today, let’s reflect on this season as the season to focus on our wisdom.  What is important?  What is right?  How do we serve? How do we nurture both ourselves and others?  What decisions do we need to make?

 

Books! Glorious Books!

I have had a passion for books ever since I learned to read.  I still remember the day when reading suddenly clicked.  I was in first grade and we had (joy of all joys) ‘silent reading time’.  There were short stories of Dick and Jane (anyone remember them?).  I kept reading each one, and then going back to the bookcase to replace it with another.  I was reading quickly for the first time and I ended up reading them all and being absolutely thrilled. Soon after, my mother took me to the public library to get a children’s library card and the world just opened up for me.

Genres have changed over the years becoming broader and more inclusive.  These days I try to read more non-fiction as fiction can often be a vice for me.  When I do read fiction, I just can’t put it down and everything else in my life becomes second place.  I suppose that’s because when I was a child, books (especially sci-fi and fantasy) were my escape.

When my children were small, I discovered the joy of sharing my passion with them.  It is a wonderful experience to be able to read aloud to your children.  I revelled in it! I became actress and story-teller all in one.  I especially loved doing the voice of the White Witch in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. I have a couple of wonderful home videos of me reading Cinderella to little Tara and The Lion King to little Brittany.

Reading to Brianna with Brittany and Brandon

Reading to Brianna with Brittany and Brandon

In recent years, books have become my teachers, my mentors, my muse.  Reading is also my way of starting my day in the morning as well as relaxing during my lunch break and at the end of the day.  I love especially reading during a thunderstorm.  It has to be fiction then–perhaps a re-reading of  Tolkien or one of  MacDonald’s luscious faery stories or an intense suspenseful book by King.  I try not to be fanatical about my books.  Well, maybe I don’t try all that hard!  I have them in nearly every room of the house.  I love seeing my bookcases filled with them although  at the moment I don’t have enough bookcases.

Recently, I had a birthday and was blessed with books and an Amazon gift card which of course I spent immediately on more books.  I now have two large piles of books on my bedside table as well as more on its way and more waiting to be read in my bookcases.

Bedside table books

 

The Philosophy book pictured above is a borrow from my daughter Jadzia who just finished her A level course.

 

More books

The bear is a gift from Jadzia one Christmas when she was 7.  I was then given a little baby bear which I keep together on my night table as well.  With all these books, it is a bit of a challenge placing my cup of tea there as well, but I manage.

So let’s talk books….what are your favourites?  What are you currently reading?

Reflections of Mamá

Her hair once dark was now half silver.  It was as if the moonlight gleaming through the bedroom window had decided to take sanctuary by gently interweaving itself within her dark tresses.  I didn’t blame the moon as I too found sanctuary in her presence.  She was very old, yet young still.  I was proud of her for I was sure that many of her age ordinarily had hair pearly white and I considered it a privilege to be allowed to brush it.  I had to be very gentle as it was delicate and came off easily with the brush.  My heart was so full of love for this ancient relative of mine.  I spoke to her in limited phrases because my Spanish was not fluent and she didn’t speak a word of English that I knew of.

“Usted es muy bonita Mamá.” (You are very pretty, Mama)

We all called her Mamá; my mom, dad, mi abuela (my grandmother) and my brothers but she was la madre de mi abuela (my grandmother’s mother) and they lived together. At this time she was about 100 years old.  She was relatively healthy but I knew on account of her age that she wouldn’t be here much longer.  Knowing this caused me to reflect sadly and so …very discreetly…

“Su pelo es precioso Mamá.” (Your hair is lovely Mamá.)…I pocketed some of the strands of hair which came off with the brush.

About a year or two before this, I had interviewed Mamá for an assignment I had to write for school.  My mother helped by translating between us.  Through this, I learned that she was born and raised on the island of Puerto Rico.  She had lived on a farm in the late 1800’s wearing long skirts and dresses.  She told me how challenging it often was to milk the cow; how the udder wouldn’t fill with milk so readily. She had to get the calf and bring it close to the mother so that the milk would let down.  Mamá would then quickly move the calf out of the way so she could milk her. Obviously, these are the facts from the interview that I found the most interesting because it is all I now remember except that I got a good grade on it. It was probably the longest dialogue we ever exchanged.  We communicated in other ways but I can’t really recall how we did it.

When I was very young, we would often sit rather serenely next to each other on the sofa.  I would bring my hand up and down her arm amusing myself with smoothing her wrinkles in one direction and then another.  She would smile at me and call me, ‘Nena’ (little girl) and I would always call her  Mamá and tell her she was pretty.  Perhaps that is why she felt pretty.  She refused to wear spectacles because they made her look ugly she said.  She loved her peach floral dress that she wore on her 100th birthday but she wasn’t happy with her gift of a rocking chair because that was for old people.

Mamá passed when she was 102, two days before John Lennon was assassinated.  I was fifteen.

Looking back, I sometimes wonder if the love I felt from her was all in my head.  I don’t think so though.  Children are intuitive and as a child I think I would have known.  When I was born,  Mamá lived with us.  She was there when I was a baby till I was two years old.  She showed love and I showed it back.  With language limitations we got along splendidly through the gift and power of love.

In a burgundy velvet jewellery case lined with with a piece of vanilla satin cloth holds a few strands of  hair that was touched by moonlight long ago.

Petra Hernandez

Petra Hernandez