Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Telephone Number Change

Finally got rid of my land line. Actually, I am not that ancient, my "land line" was really a VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol.) But I digress. If you need to be in touch by phone ask for my cell number via this blog's "comments."

Tuesday, October 17, 2017


There has been a practice going around on most social media where people are "outing" themselves as having experienced sexual abuse/assault! 

I felt the need to join in to show support to everyone who has experienced it too. Not to diminish rape and other forms of sexual abuse against women, I am pleased it has moved to "people" who have been abused ... but that makes it even sadder (and more frightening) as we begin to understand the scope of the problem.

Whether sexual, physical, or verbal abuse/assault; whether threatened or realized; whether children, teens, or adults; whether men or women; whether individuals or groups; whether towns, cities, or nations - perhaps we have begun to dig down to the roots one of the major problems the world faces today!

Why do people feel the need to hurt or bully others? Why do we need to tear down others to build up ourselves? Why do we feel the need or feel we have the right to take advantage of others? 

Perhaps this current amount of attention will help more of us to carry at a mindful level our ability to respect ourselves first, which will allow us to respect others as well. 

I wonder if it will help to realize that even "abuse" functions on a continuum. None of it acceptable but at one extreme an internal signal to be a better person and at the other extreme a form of mental illness which desperately needs our attention?

Friday, October 13, 2017


Even though they are four years old (July 4 and August 1) I call them "my kitties." They also have a number of other nicknames.

Emma is pictured at the top of the photograph. Gigi, is pictured at the bottom of the photograph.

One of Emma's nicknames is "Brick." She weighs close to 20 lbs.

I also call her the "Upside Down Kitty." When she is on her blanket at the end of the bed and I am sitting on the bench across, I talk to her. She responds by turning herself upside down to "look cute."

"Dog," follows me around wherever in the condo I go.

"Hunter," plays with her mouse and screams to show off to me and to announce that she has caught prey. The mouse is really a red, aluminum foil, and blue puffball. Even with the puffball filling her mouth, her screaming is so loud that people with whom I am on the phone ask what the problem is.

Emma is rough and ready and can be a holy terror.

Gigi, on the other hand, is delicate and tentative but also can be a holy terror.

I call her "Lover" because she is gentle and sweet and really settles in when getting pet.

She is also known as "Sister" because she hides so well, and so often, in the condo that I cannot find her. I have to ask Emma, "Where is your sister?"

I call her "Girlfriend." When I am napping or going to sleep at night, she walks up my leg, side, and shoulder; dismounts at my head, and settles into the little nest between my pillow and the nightstand. I say, "Hi, Girlfriend!"

Then she turns around a few times and finally settles down with my taking her back paws in my hand. She lowers her head onto my other hand. Holding hands with my Girlfriend.

Sometimes if I fall asleep before she arrives, I awake to find her in the usual position "holding my hand."

Finally, Gigi is called "Princess." She is very proper, carries herself around the condo with a regal gate, never hurries or rushes. When I offer "treats," which are served in little plates on the bathroom vanity, Emma arrives and has almost completed hers when Gigi saunders into the bathroom and gracefully hops up to have hers.

Kitties, cats, are amazing creatures. As close to a "wild animal" as you can have in your home; they are intelligent, loving, and misbehave when they think they can get away with it.

They always greet me at the door when I arrive home, snuggle up on the sofa or in bed and watch TV with me, talk to me non-stop when they want or need something, take their toys out of the basket in the hall when they want to play, at times entertain themselves for hours and at other times demand your attention, love to sleep most of the day, and never clean up after themselves!

Monday, October 9, 2017

The Gurner/Chambers Wedding

OCTOBER 7, 2017

MICHAEL: What a truly wonderful day today is! When we witness pure beauty, we pause, amazed. 
We recognize magic when we see it. We revel in feelings, deep and beyond words, indisputable and timeless. 
They leave us breathless and fulfilled and amazed. This beauty, this magic, this feeling is called … LOVE.
I have known love and seen love … Gregory, my spouse and I knew love for 41 years & that love continues to grow each day even though he left us two years ago.
There was love in Gregory’s suggesting the name Whitney when Whitney’s parents were looking for a name beginning with “W” to honor Larry’s father Woodrow Wilson Gurner … and love in Gregory and my watching you grow up over the years.
There was love shining through when I first met Nick, and when I saw Facebook pictures of you two hiking together with the Capital Hiking Club. 
There is the now famous love story … of how you two, knowing no one at the hiking club, quickly got to hiking together and chatting. 
9.5 miles and 6 hours later, you agreed to meet for drinks the following week. And today you are getting married!
And we are all here to bare witness to this love … This transcendent, cherished moment.
Whitney and Nick … Nick and Whitney. When you are in love, you get to take a piece of this transcendence and take it with you into your daily life. 
You don’t have to trek to a river valley or to the top of a mountain to feel something important and indescribable; you can feel the beauty and enormity of the mountains within your own hearts and in each other’s eyes. 
And that is why we are here today. Because love is enormous, and to take even a tiny piece of love into yourself , to be able to experience and understand it, to share it with another; is the greatest gift in the world. 
Today, we are all here to take the time to celebrate and to witness this moment in your lives and to remember just how important love is to all of us. 
Whitney and Nick, together you experience love when you see the beauty of nature. In your eyes, there is something more than the trees and the meadows and the rocks; there is something deep, sacred, and more striking.
When you witness the mountains together, it evokes awe and splendor. It is indescribable and immense. This is the same feeling that you discovered by falling in love with one another. 
You fell in love by chance (or destiny,) … but you're here today because you're making a choice to commit to that love. And you are making that commitment as your family and friends bare witness.
You are choosing each other. You've each chosen to be with someone who enhances you, who makes you think, makes you smile, and makes your days brighter.

MICHAEL: I would like to invite Sarah Friedman to the Cuppah for our first reading.
A Wedding Poem - Neil Gaiman
This for you, for both of you,
a small poem of happiness filled with small glories and little triumphs
a fragile, short cheerful song
filled with hope and all sorts of futures

Because at weddings we imagine the future
Because it's all about "what happened next?”
all the work and negotiation and building and talk that makes even the tiniest happily ever after
something to be proud of for a wee forever

This is a small thought for both of you
like a feather or a prayer,
a wish of trust and love and hope
and fine brave hearts and true.
Like a tower, or a house made all of bones & dreams
and tomorrows and tomorrows and tomorrows

Today Whitney and Nick stand before us to publicly declare their love and they would like me to share just a few of the “whys!”
• • •
Whitney loves how thoughtful Nick is, especially how much he supported her as she endured graduate school along with a full time job. 
She loves how he brings silliness into their everyday lives, like when he makes up stories about the goings-on of her stuffed animals. 
She loves all of the adventures that they go on together, even when the adventure is a trip to Target. 
But most of all, she loves the way he makes her feel loved and cared for every single day.
• • •
Nick loves Whitney's kindness, especially when she surprises him with baked goods after a long day of work. 
He loves her thirst for adventure, travel and the outdoors. 
He loves how she makes him laugh every day with her inappropriate sense of humor. 
She embraces his weirdness, especially his love of small, fuzzy creatures. 
And he loves her fanatical love of all things Harry Potter and Chicago Cubs which never fails to make him smile.

MICHAEL: And now the both of you are about to make promises to each other that you intend to keep. You are going to promise to take care of each other, to stand up for one another, and find happiness in each other.
There's a simple premise to each of these promises: you're promising to be there. You're teaming up and saying to the other, "I want you to be a part of my life experiences and I want to be part of yours” . . .
Whitney, will you, keep Nick as your favorite person — to laugh with him, go on adventures with him, support him through life's tough moments, celebrate his successes, lift him up through his failures, be respectful of him as a person, grow old with him, and find new reasons to love him every day? Will you stand with him through this bond of marriage and love him through all that life may bring? Whitney, if you agree, say “I will!”
WHITNEY: I will.
MICHAEL: Nick, will you, keep Whitney as your favorite person — to laugh with her, go on adventures with her, support her through life's tough moments, celebrate her successes, lift her up through her failures, be respectful of her as a person, grow old with her, and find new reasons to love her every day? Will you stand with her through this bond of marriage and love her through all that life may bring? If you agree, “I will!”
NICK: I will.   

MICHAEL: Please repeat after me in unison: 
We vow to be each other's partner
from this day forward.
We vow to bring out the best in one another, 
share our happiest moments together, 
support each other in our saddest moments, 
love each other absolutely
and respect each other totally 
… for the rest of this lifetime
and for whatever may come next?
MICHAEL: I ask you once more … do you agree to these vows? If you do, say “We do.

MICHAEL: I would like to invite Nicolette Elzie for our second reading.
An excerpt from Les Mis
What a grand thing it is to be loved! What a far grander thing it is to love! The heart becomes heroic, by dint of passion. It is no longer composed of anything but what is pure; it no longer rests on anything that is not elevated and great. An unworthy thought can no more germinate in it, than a nettle on a glacier. The serene and lofty soul, inaccessible to vulgar passions and emotions, dominating the clouds and the shades of this world, its follies, its lies, its hatreds, its vanities, its miseries, inhabits the blue of heaven, and no longer feels anything but profound and subterranean shocks of destiny, as the crests of mountains feel the shocks of earthquake.

MICHAEL: You’ve both chosen to wear rings as a reminder of the promises you have made. People often say wedding bands are a perfect circle, with no beginning and no end. 
However, these rings did have a beginning. The metal was formed a long time ago deep within the earth. 
Eventually, a series of lucky events caused it to rise to the surface, where someone dug it up. 
The metal was then liquefied in a very hot furnace — molded, cooled, and painstakingly polished. 
Something beautiful was made from raw elements. Only then did the rings become a circle. 
So be it with your love; as you continue to mold, purify, and polish the love during your time together, as you create your perfect circle of life.
Emily and Nathan, Please give the rings to your sister and brother.
MICHAEL: Whitney and Nick, Nick and Whitney, please repeat after me in unison: 
I give you this ring as a symbol of my love. 
As it encircles your finger, 
may it remind you always 
that you are surrounded 
by my enduring love.
Place the rings on each other’s finger …
You have just sealed your relationship by the giving and receiving of rings and you have committed verbally to sharing the rest of your lives with each other. 

MICHAEL: Before we finalize this ceremony, take this advice and these blessings from me to you.
Love is constantly changing.
To LOVE is to LIVE … which is to change.
You are different people than you were when you went to sleep last night.
You will be different people when you go to bed tonight than you were when you woke up this morning.
These differences, at the basic level, are due to sloughing off cells and growing new ones.
These differences are also based on your experiences as individuals and as a couple.
These differences are because of what you did today, what you saw today, what you heard today, what you said today.
These changes are what make life and love interesting and vital and in turn make your relationship interesting and vital.
My blessing for you … make sure you  change with the changes you will encounter, both individually and as a couple.
My blessing for you … see the lessons these changes teach you and the growth you encounter because of these changes.
My blessing for you … make sure that conscientiously work at making sure that your love for each other continues to grow and change,
… and my blessing for you … love each other and each day like tomorrow may never arrive!

By the power vested in me by the Universal Light Church and the Washington District of Colombia 
… and by the faith and trust given me by both of you to perform this ceremony 
… I now … Whitney and Nick, Nick and Whitney … pronounce you husband and wife, wife and husband. 
In addition to your promises and the exchanging of rings … you may now seal this profound, cherished moment once more … with a kiss.


Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Happy Other Birthday Gregory

Today celebrates the second anniversary of Gregory’s having died. I am content in knowing that he is no longer having to deal with Dementia/ Alzheimer’s and that for the most part his death has also gifted me with not having to deal either. But I sure do miss him every day!

I often wonder what it is like where he is, as I do believe he is somewhere!

I wonder if he is experiencing anything which is like what I am able to imagine or remember about the Gregory whom I hold so dear in my memory and in my heart.

I wonder if he thinks of me, or can see me, or knows without words or thoughts or sight what I am doing and what I am thinking.

When I talk to him, mostly at night, I wonder if he already knows what I am saying or what I will say, what I am thinking or what I am going to think, what I am remembering or what I will remember.

Often I wish him well, wherever he is and tell him that I hope he is OK and progressing with whatever it is with which he is needing to progress. At least for the Gregory I know, he was close to perfect in most areas so I like to imagine that he has little to do in the way of making up for earlier times.

Another thing I have been wondering about is if the body dies forcing the soul/spirit out or if the soul/spirit decides “time is up” and by moving on causes the body to die.

In Gregory’s case I think that he was just finished and ready to move on. In thinking of his easy transition over three days, Pneumonia was not necessarily the cause because he wasn’t really sick before he began the process of dying. I think he just decided that it was time to stop. And he did.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

The Human Experience as Farmyard

This was taken from an article in Tricycle, a Buddhist magazine. The metaphor of having faith in a "seed" is a well-known one. The seed has everything it takes to grow into a strong plant when nurtured and trusted to do so. (i.e. not digging it up every day or two to see if it really knows how to grow."

• • •

Buying ourselves completely out of slavery (suffering) is like farming land so that it can bear abundant fruit. 

When the mind is pure and the body soothed, it’s as if our farm has plenty of sun, rain and groundwater to nourish our crops. 

Our concentration is solid and enters the first stage of absorption, with its five factors: directed thought, evaluation, rapture, pleasure, and singleness of preoccupation. 

Directed thought is like harrowing our soil. 

Evaluation is like plowing and scattering the seed. 

Rapture is when our crops begin to bud, pleasure is when their flowers bloom

Singleness of preoccupation is when the fruits develop until they’re ripened and sweet—and at the same time, their seeds contain all their ancestry. 

What this means is that in each seed is another plant complete with branches, flowers, and leaves. If anyone plants the seed, it will break out into another plant just like the one it came from. 

When we practice in this way, we’ll come to the reality of birthlessness and deathlessness—the highest happiness—and on into liberation.

• • •

I first came across this idea in a children's picture book called The Carrot Seed, by Ruth Krauss. It also caught my attention because it was published in the year of my birth 1945. 

The Carrot Seed
By Ruth Krauss

A little boy planted a carrot seed.
His mother said, “I’m afraid it won’t come up.”
His father said, “I’m afraid it won’t come up.”
And his big brother said, “It won’t come up.”
Every day the little boy pulled up the weeds around the seed
and sprinkled the ground with water.
But nothing came up.
And nothing came up.
Everyone kept saying it wouldn't come up.
But he still pulled up the weeds around it every day.
And sprinkled the ground with water.
And then one day
A carrot came up.
Just as the little boy had known it would.

“Tricycle Teachings: Refuge.” Tricycle Magainze, 2015-05-18
The Carrot Seed By Ruth Krauss. Public domain. 1945.

Gratefulness: A Mindful Condition

This video came across my e-mail this morning and watching it moved me.

I am aware of how grateful I am for my life, my family, my friends, my place in this world.

At times I feel undeserving and at times so sad when I see how little others have.

I am so troubled when I see how governments, nature, and even other people make it so difficult or close to impossible for our fellow human beings to experience those things I am so fortunate to have and sometimes easily take for granted.

But I  believe that a lesson for me is that even those unfortunate ones show the ability to be grateful for the little they have and that gives me hope for the future.

Perhaps my use of the word unfortunate is based on my point of view and not theirs.

This hope for the future, however, doesn't allow me to be less grateful or to pass up the opportunity to spread joy to those with whom I come into contact but it does give me hope for a better world.

I resolve to keep my awareness at a mindful level in everything I see, everything I do, and everyone I come across.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Jean and Gregory: A Heavenly Conversation

This was shared with me by my dear friend Susan Page Tillett whom I first met during my time at the Ragdale Artist Residency Program in Lake Forest in 2010. At the time she was the executive director and "guardian of the muse" at Ragdale, her mother was living with Alzheimer's, she was supportive of me and my journey with Gregory and Alzheimer's, and it turned out we had many mutual close friends.


NOTE:  Today is the anniversary of my mother’s death five years ago, as well as the day of Greg’s passing, also of pneumonia, also after years of Alzheimer’s.  The one has made the other very poignant. 

They meet in Heaven.  I see my mother sitting with her feet up on her Eames chair, in her house on P Street in Washington DC.  Gregory comes to her front door.  He is so tall that he needs to bend slightly to cross the threshold.

J:  There you are.  I’ve been waiting for you!  Can I fix you a drink?

G:  I would enjoy a glass of wine red wine.  It has been a long time since anyone has offered me one.

J:  Well, you finally decided to join us here in Heaven.  What do you think?

G:  It looks more like Earth than I thought it would.  I was expecting more Pearly Gates and clouds.

J:  It looks like that sometimes, but sometimes it just looks like a glass of wine between old friends on a Sunday evening…and I feel we are old friends.  We have my daughter Susie in common.

G:  Yes, really she knew Michael better than me, but I saw her warmth and her beauty at Ragdale.   She also extended great kindness to me, being comfortable going out for dinner with me when I couldn’t remember what a fork was for or how to eat my salad.   She was unrattled by that.

J:  You have me to thank for that.  I gave her a lot of experience watching Alzheimer’s patients.

G:  Yes, I know she felt the pain of your long stay very much. 

J:  She has a tender heart, my girl, which means that it is frequently broken, but it makes her who she is.

G:  It makes her a great woman, Jean.  I am not sure you always saw that in her.  She loved so many people at Ragdale.  She made that a welcoming home of creativity and possibility.  She held the heart of that place, welcoming each person.  I know that Michael talked about how kind she was to him.

J:  Yes, I think it is true in many ways that I didn’t see her great compassion and kindness.  She didn’t need me to as much as her sisters did.  Despite her father’s wounding of her, she was always a pretty healthy little chicken, but I’m glad to hear it from you.  It makes me proud as a mother and I do watch her and I did come to greet her when she came to Heaven.  I was in her vanguard, but perhaps its always been a bit more about me than her.  We are who we are Gregory…you and Michael, Susie and me, we are all as we are.

G:  So, what will I do here in Heaven, Jean?

J:  Well, you will see, it is very much as on Earth.  You do what you do, you love what you love, but we let go of so much striving.  As an architect, I know you love beauty.  You will find great beauty here and harmony and wholeness and peace.  I think that peace has been the greatest gift to me here.

G:  I don’t know what that will look like for me.  I know that I will want to spend a lot of time watching Michael and seeing how he does.

J:  Yes, you will at first.  You will want to see how he memorializes you and how he gets on with life.  The ties do lessen, as they must, in order for them to go on and us to be fully here.  Just like on Earth it all takes time but it all works out, so just give it time.

G:  OK, I can do that.

J:  You know there are wonderful books to read here and people to talk to.  I mean everybody who is anybody who has died is here and you can talk to them.  It is better than a book club or the Sunday paper to encounter them directly!  And we have things that we work on, things we didn’t get right in the last life, or we didn’t get finished.

G:  What are you working on Jean?

J:  I had a lot of issues with my parents.  I loved my father and I lost him.  I never forgave my mother for his death, so I’ve had to learn to see them in three dimensions rather than two, to see my father’s foibles and my mother’s gifts and to review my own foibles as a mother.  To watch my children and my grandchildren grow.

G:  Thank you for welcoming me this Sunday evening, Jean.  I appreciate it very much. 

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