Bonjour Mon Petit Chouchou!

She is lying in the gutter that forms between my foam pillows and the decorative pillows that I have pushed up again the headboard to give her more cushion. She found this sweet spot within about two months of her arrival. It took her at least a week or two to move from the very furthest corner of the bed, sitting up most of the night watching me, to the present completely relaxed pose she now occupies.

Prior to her journey north, Sofie’s Foster Mom shared with me that they had no concrete history. All she knew was that Sofie along with hundreds of others were regularly being rescued from puppy mills across the country and that her existence up until that point would likely have meant that she never came out of a cage. Her future would have been likely that of a mass breeding machine to fill the vast orders coming in from various pet shops. Those cute little adorable puppies in pet shops are for the most part originating in a puppy mill. Not all puppy mills might be as horrendous as the pictures I have in my imagination- most coming from images I have seen on the internet. But very many are that bad. I have heard that in some cases, they don’t even take the dogs out of the crates to wash them down with gushing water from a hose. There is likely pulling, grabbing, pushing and general harm coming at the hand of the owners of these mills, making the idea of the human hand conjure up all kinds of scary for these little dogs. If a female is not sent to the pet store for commerce, then likely she will live years of her life cramped into a crate – her only exit for breeding if necessary.

Sofie was seven months already when her puppy mill was shut down, so she was set-up for a life of breeding. Now, almost two years later, I bring my hand to her face slowly, she bats my fingers with her quarter sized little paw. Her mouth opens just slightly and so slowly- she wants to bring my finger to her mouth to gently gnaw on it. She has come such a long way. And still, when now lounging with me in the morning, any noise, any intrusion, anything unknown will send her back to her fear zone and generally she would run to her crate in our den to seek safety. Her crate in our home is small enough for her to sleep in but big enough for her to turn around, she has her toys in there, a small water bottle that one would imagine providing to a rabbit or a hamster– it was interesting to see that the bottle’s packaging when I bought it had a little picture of a papillon on the cardboard backing. Just like my Sofie. She loves sitting in her crate- we always have the door open, just in case she needs to rush to it during the day or if she simply wants to take her midday nap. We have also provided her with a soft bed that sits at the foot of my armchair in the den- I can dangle my hand down to her while I watch TV and stroke her soft coat, which she enjoys.
A colleague of mine is a Foster Mom for Rottweilers that are rescued from Puppy Mills. She just took another one in (her pack now counts 3). This new arrival of hers has legs that are premanently bent because her crate was way too small for her and she had been locked up in one for around 3-4 years. Pictures on my friends’ iPad show that Kona has one of the sweetest faces but there is concern over her health as she keeps losing weight and she is already so emaciated. I learned over he weekend that Kona had turned a corner and that things were looking good. What a blessing to have these Fosters that are willing to put everything they have into these souls.

I am learning so much from Sofie and so grateful to have the privilege of helping her become better, freer. I signed a contract two years ago that suggested that Sofie might never be a normal dog.. she might never play. She may never want to come when I call her, she might never want to really snuggle. Sofie suffers in my view from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder- every display of fear, her body tensing up, her flight responses to something as little as opening the kitchen cabinet and accidently letting it close just little too loud, filling a glass with icecubes from the refrigerator dispenser, having the TV on too loud- never mind the construction work on our road these past few weeks.  The other night, I attempted to take Sofie out for her walk but the neighbor and his daughter were throwing a Frisbee and laughing – having a great time. The Frisbee was often careening out of control- banging into the newly laid asphalt and the mailboxes. Sofie tensed up completely and would not walk down the driveway- too scared. I picked her up gently and walked her a block away to a safer space and let her down into the lush grass. She tentatively walks on the grass always looking back to the pair down the street at play- making sure they were still at that safer distance. When I walk her along the paths at the nearby lake, it is marvelous for her. There it is quiet, there are not that many people – it’s a pedestrian only zone, so no cars And here, she relaxes completely, sniffs grass and branches dangling down and walks normally with me. The only challenges she faces here is that she is just so darn adorable that any families with kids results in these squeels of joy as they come running towards us. “Can I pet your dog?” – at least they asked. Still, they have given themselves permission to quickly rush in close to examine her, and Sofie is backing up… backing up… looking at me.    Help.    I gently tell the children that my dog is very scared of people and I am so sorry …and I go to Sofie and pick her up. Depending on the children and the situation, I might engage a bit longer to help educate and give them an opportunity to learn and then I tell them the rules “always bring your hand to them first slowly from under – not top, do not hover over her head, it’s scary… yes, like that- let her smell you first.”

I am hopeful that over time, she will continue to heal. We already see progress almost every day. But then, there are set backs and we then work patiently with her at her pace- to come back forward towards being safe and healthy and loved.

American Church of Paris, Language and a Farmhouse in Barrington

Sundays in the early 1970s meant a routine that included services at the American Church of Paris followed by a potluck lunch in the upper room of the common area, then in the afternoon an exploratory journey of some kind that brought in leisure, culture and important family time.  Often, the day would include a visit to an art museum. I loved collecting postcards of my favorite art pieces that hung in museums… the end of any museum visit meant we would go to the gift shop so I could have one postcard to add to my growing collection.


There were afternoons walking amid the easels in Montmartre while Mom took in the various techniques and appreciated her fellowship with like minded people; these strolls often meant enjoying a crepe with Nutella which was a marvelous treat for us kids, or maybe there was an item my parents had in mind as we trolled through the various stalls at the Marché aux Puces de Saint-Ouen.
The traditional atmosphere and setting of our church during those years was a comfort. The shiny heavy dark wood pews, the what seemed endless distance between my little spot on the bench and the vast ceiling above me. My brother and I would spend a good amount of time in the sanctuary with the adults before being dismissed to our Sunday School Class. There were snatches of time I grabbed getting lost in the dark library with its massive leather chairs. A fairly nice collection of books in English ended up being my way of learning to read the language. I recall feeling desperate in a way to learn my home country language.


At home, we spoke English because Dad never really got the hang of French. On my thrice yearly visits to Norway, spending a lot of time with cousins at play- I learned the Norwegian language fairly fluently, at least in a passing conversational way, using comic books to teach myself to read.  Since my schooling was in a French maternelle, I was not exposed to the written English language, so I would check out two to three books on a regular basis from the library, working my way through them on my own. I had no formal English language class until a few years later, just before our return transfer to the States.

My brother’s experience was much different from my own. When we arrived in France, he being a couple of years older than me meant that his introduction to school was quite a bit more stressful. The expectations that they had of him were very high, imagine- one poem a week that he had to come up with in French… and he didn’t even speak the language. This high failure set-up was devastating to his confidence and perhaps informed his abilities later on. My parents had been given advice from other ex-pats that the best and only way for full integration was to put their kids into a French school. In this way, the kids would adapt to life in France so much quicker.



I vividly recall the drop off at school those first few days. Mom backing up from me in the courtyard of the school. I am standing facing her in the doorway – a teacher or other adult person is holding onto my hand to keep me from going to her. And she has tears in her eyes and she is backing up across the courtyard- backing up towards the exit- waving tentatively, I can see she is conflicted. She felt she was doing the right thing. But this sunny child of hers that basically never cried or gave her any challenges was now screaming bloody murder at the top of her lungs: “Don’t leave me- please Mom ….. NOOOOOOOOooooo … hun hun hun hun” came the staggered breaths as I rebuilt the channel so I could belt out another wail. But she left. The adult motioned me to move indoors, taking my body in a different direction to seal the deal. And now, I am surrounded by blabbering sounds that make absolutely no sense. I don’t know how to say anything to these people. And I can’t recall that anyone said anything to me in English.

Somehow- time, yes that marvelous thing we call time, helped me manage.    There were many days that I would come home from school and Mom would find me sitting in the soft gold Queen Anne chair in the corner of our, playing with my doll and talking to her in a language of my own, that I was in the process of making up.  The words streamed together made no sense at all.   They were sounds I was forming and repeating from my memories earlier in the day- cobbled together into my own little necklace of language which then eventually morphed into actual French.


Within just a few months, I became the school’s go to gal for anything that involved anyting Anglo.   In a year or so- fellow playmates would tell me I was lying that I was an American.  I had to show them my Dad to prove I was an American.   At the age of about 4 or 5, the elastic in our brains allows us to collect languages and speak each of them well- like natives.  At least this was the case for me.    I learned fairly recently that Marly-le-Roi was actually a selected site for expats living and working for NATO.   It’s no wonder then that we had so many new arrivals at school from places around the globe- like South Africa, or Australia or Great Britain.  It became my role in fairly short order- to take these new students through the paces.   I would give them the tour and fill them in on general tips. Like for example, don’t put anything in your mouth that the other kids call “gum”. That’s an eraser. I actually ended up thriving in that school- loved it. My brother on the other hand had a disaster on his hands. He ended up tuning everything out. Mom would show up at times to check on us and she would look into the window of John’s class and see him in his chair with a matchbox car making imaginary journeys around the roads on his head and arms and on the desk. It seemed the teacher allowed this, likely giving up on how to make this work. John ended up being held back a year and was transferred to a British school where he made great friends and had the requisite French class too. Adjustments are made.



Our routines were so different from that point on and since we were no longer with one another — or anyhow connecting to one another at school, I think back and realize that there was a bit of a chasm building between us even back then.  As an adult now, I wonder if his resentment of me didn’t start that first year in France.   In fact, I know that it must have.   I became that child that amplified what he couldn’t do.  I must have been exhausting for him to have as a sister.


I remember the day we got the call from Dad.   He was traveling back in the States and had called Mom to inform her that we were moving back to the US. She was standing in what we called our “Entrée” which was the entryway to our apartment where we had this lovely chandelier, a tiny Louix IV style telephone table and doors leading on one side to the kitchen, another to the living area (living room, dining room and den) and then off  to the right – the hallway that led to our bedrooms, bathrooms and water closet.   It was early evening, and the phone hand rung in the middle of her preparations to cook us dinner, and she had been holding an egg in her hand. She didn’t put the egg down but rather dashed straight for the phone, knowing it would likely be Dad. We kids too- ran towards the phone to overhear their conversation. I sat myself down on the oriental rug and was looking down at the gold tendrils of illustrations, tracing one of the swirls with my finger, when I heard her take a breath in and then crash. The egg fell to the hardwood floor just beyond the rug where I had taken up residence, and the gooey white began to ooze. She didn’t rush to it, she just stood there looking at it and I could hear her say: “Ok Jack- you know best”. Her voice sounded a bit whispy and hard to hear. I sensed this was not a joyous occasion for her but understood that she would follow him wherever he would lead her.


We would be moved into a farmhouse in the middle of a vast empty landscape in South Barrington IL by middle February 1976.  This would be our temporary logding until my parents found something more permanent for us.

Marly-Le-Roi /  Dichotomy of Memory.

Age and time are strange concepts.  We all feel time passing us by quickly. As we age we have this sense that the speed of time is changing, that it is moving even faster. It is not. Time is time – the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. Seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, years. We all have the same time- but some of us have a shorter appointment with time. We die earlier. Some in infancy, in childhood, or simply what we would consider before our time.
When we are young, we are somewhat ignorant of the value of time. And this lack of full understanding of what is at stake may stay with us for awhile until something shakes us out of our oblivion. Then suddenly, we are fully aware and realize that time is running out.
When I was born, World War II had only ended twenty one years prior. My first awareness of war and of the places around the globe that were suffering from large losses of life at the hands of warfare due to disagreements between peoples, was the Vietnam War. I have vivid images in my memory bank of those magazine covers depicting the atrocities; the famous image of the little girl naked, her arms outstretched and running towards the camera naked – sheer terror displayed across her face and through her body. There are other children around her running in the same direction towards the camera, and soldiers following close behind.  What strikes me is that at the time, I was about the same age as that little girl in the photo.   Looking into it, I find I am actually about four years older than her.  I broke then at her complete and utter vulnerability, fear, sorrow and pain; even at that young age, I can remember its affects on me.

During the last five years of the Vietnam War, we lived in Marly-le-Roi, a suburb of Paris. Dad had been transferred to an office there and Mom was grateful to be closer to her parents in Norway during these key years of raising her children. Dad was a sales man and on the road most of the time. Mom was often alone with us. We traveled to Oslo three times a year- every Christmas, Easter and Summer.  Dad would usually join us for parts of those visits, then retreat back to Paris or another part of his territory for work.   As Americans, my brother and I (as well as our little poodle Simone) endured some of the ugliness of a few of the children in our apartment building whose parents had obvious disdain for the U.S.  involvement in the war; this came out in bullying tactics in the play yard- even throwing stones at Simone.   Simone became a fragile terrified mess and the result was that my parents found her a home with a quiet pair of friends that lived in a lovely apartment in the city.
I looked up Marly on the internet the other day. I checked out a Google map of my old neighborhood. That was surreal. I found my school, the street that led to our supermarket,  and there was Chateau de Monte-Cristo, one of the homes and gardens of Alexander Dumas (we were proud that our village was part of his past too).  I was able to locate our actual apartment building on Chemin du Bas Des Ormes. My bedroom balcony used to look out over a farm that had a large orchard of pear trees. The tree branches would be stuck into these green bottles so that the tree looked like it had these arms with green glass hands sticking up into the air and waiving at me with the occasional breeze. The bottles were meant to capture the pear before it grew too big to be squeezed into the bottle, Dad explained. This was to be a pear liqueur… so delicious, he said. That farm is now much smaller than the original plot of land that I recall and it looks like my building has another building that has been built right beside it – taking up some of the original farm real estate. I can remember their cock crowing each morning- really loud. I remember the long walks to my school each morning: Ecole Blanche de Louvencourt- where I attended maternelle.
Most days, the market on the way to school was emptied of stalls and the hustle and bustle of commerce. But on Tuesdays, the place came alive with activity and the morning would offer locals all the necessary provisions of the week… or at least for several days. Freshly plucked fowl hung from their bound claws on one stall, skinned rabbits hung down from another. Fresh fish on full display, head and all- lay on ice. Mounds of cheeses called out with their pungent smells. A constant stream of water was doused onto the floor of the market to keep things clean. There were lots of voices; shouting requests and shouting orders. It was a cacophonic symphony of life in a small French village that retained its historic charm from centuries past. This little village was once the summer retreat for royalty; the buildings now in ruins – we residents enjoyed full access the grounds for our recreation on weekends. I fondly remember bike rides through town to the Parc de Marly, we would lay out our blanket on the lawn and enjoy a picnic followed by long hours of play; our adventures could include collecting fallen chestnuts, moving my hands through the gushing water that flowed from the various fountains,  leisurely strolls down long tree covered boulevards or simply riding the many unpaved pathways that were accessible to bikes.   It was an amazing experience to live in Marly as a child.   Looking back, it feels a bit like a fairytale window of time in my life, a slightly unreal and perhaps vivid dream rather than actual reality.

A Random Dream, Cyber World .. An Old Fashioned Letter.

I had some vivid dreams last night. I often have vivid dreams. One in particular stands out as a bit weird. I was being hosted by a department store to try out their various departments. I was being shown by one of the hosts to an area where I would be sleeping the night… and I was with another woman. The host turned a corner between rugs and art, and she brought us into this area where there were two beds made up in the style of what I might imagine finding in one of the most opulent homes in Texas; this one with dramatic leather cowhide stretched headboards for each of the queen sized beds, the coverlets were somewhat plain- dark steel colored sheets that looked like they were made of a thicker silk, a wagon wheel turned into a massive overhead chandelier, the floor was slate with a rather large cream and vanilla toned long haired and wavy sheep skin throw, the hair curly like that of an Icelandic Sheep.  Our host retreats and lets us have time to settle in and I declare to my companion: “Well, looks like this is us”.  “Here?  We are sleeping here tonight?” she responds. “Yes, isn’t it great! Dinner- I believe will be served just over there”.   I point to a remote area beyond shiny counters whose contents are hard to make out… it is hard to see.   I notice that there are customers still in the store and this image fades and I wake up.    It’s 1:25am.

Very strange. What in the world?  I focus my mind on the dream because usually these images evaporate fast and I want to remember the details this time.   And I recognize the woman in my dream.  Funny how I got connected up in this strange mini-film to an old colleague whose face only recently appeared in my world because of a recent encounter I had with her picture on the friends list of a mutual Facebook Friend? I have not worked with nor seen her in over 23 years. There she was with her handsome ethnic husband and two adorable boys. In the picture they look to be about 6 and 8 respectively. All of them beaming at the camera- so full of joy. She looks as beautiful as ever with her raven black wavy hair and that ear to ear smile. Her skin so perfect, those expressive eyes.  She had one of those spirits that just filled the room; she was fairly tall, very lean, elegant in her adornments. Classy and never over done. And smart- very smart. Quick witted. Someone would say something funny and her head would whip back with this brilliant fluid laugh swirled around us and then quickly tuck her head in embarrassment at her excitement, a self conscious hand covering her mouth.. but her shoulders would still shake out her merriment. I was never good friends with her, she was just one of those co-workers that you enjoyed working alongside. I recall as I looked at her picture thinking- they probably had one of those amazing traditional Indian weddings – full of glitter and spectacle. I could picture her in some kind of opulent setting with tents and flowing silk gowns – waving fabrics in the wind. And she, lost in the moment with her beloved – smiling at him in full force.
I remember that I hesitated to ‘friend her’, it’s been over twenty years after all and we barely knew each other. It would be weird. It’s not that I don’t have a large list of friends that are barely acquaintances- in the beginning with Facebook, I was very liberal with my friend requests and acceptances both. There are quite a few casual friends on Facebook that I really enjoy- their posts are fun or profound or just human and good. I have connections around the globe with suppliers and other work connections over the years that are really great. I enjoy seeing one person posting his fishing outing in the Netherlands with commentary in Dutch or another sharing a wedding picture from over thirty years ago that took place in Finland- even though I only met her once over a Musk Ox dinner in Greenland. A poem or song shared by the niece of an aunt whom I have only met once in person – when we were both little girls – I was about seven years old and a flower girl and while I am sure she was at that wedding in Oslo, Norway- there were so many people at that wedding that I don’t actually remember her physically. But now, I connect with her on Facebook and perhaps one day we will have a cup of coffee together in Norway- on one of my future visits. We share a common bond with our spiritual beliefs, so it is nice occasionally to see her expressions and moments on the net.

We are all fundamentally the same.  We seek connection with each other.  And even though connections these days may seem impersonal – far away from one another physically, in this place we call cyber space- that maybe that is OK.   People complain that the internet has turned us into people that don’t know how to interact with each other in the real world.    There is some truth in that.  Maybe we are more connected now than we have been in the past, when we lived in isolation from one another. Perhaps it’s a matter of balancing out the cyber from the real.

What would it be like to write an ordinary hand written letter.. it’s been over 20 years I am sure since I have written one of those. In my youth, I loved writing letters and sending them off, and waiting for a response.  Today, that seems so old fashioned and it does not even occur to us to consider it.  I wonder if I did write one of those letters, would anyone answer it? Life is so busy for most of us, it might end up on one of those to do lists that never gets done.  Or, maybe they would text me back.    This could be an interesting experiment. I am putting it on my list. I am going to write an ordinary letter in the next week or so, and I will send it to someone in my past… or maybe, to someone with whom I have a more shallow connection on Facebook. Someone I would love to rekindle friendship with in a more meaningful way or someone I just want to get to know better. Create a future that carries a deeper community of friendships.

Faithful One

Faithful One

I find no hope within to call my own

For I am frail of heart, my strength is gone

But deep within is rising up a song

Here in the comfort of the faithful one

Lyrics of the songs by Selah seem to cut straight through to the matter, deep down into the roots of my lifetime’s journey to find peace. And it is true, when I focus completely on Christ and God’s Love Letter to us – his explanation of how it was all laid out, how humans got in the way because he gave us free will, we choose to follow him or to walk our own path, this love is not forced… how he sent us a solution in his one and only son Jesus, how in fully embracing and believing in his son we have unwarranted, undeserved full love and grace and mercy, no matter what is in our past and present and it is a continuing gift throughout our lives through to the end, and this gift is given not by any of our own actions but by his love… then, when my consciousness takes this in and is fully aware and alert to this truth, then … yes, only then- it seems the full breath of life fills my lungs and brings me calm.

Seeking belonging in others, in society, in social living, in work and even in play- only leads me to loneliness and disappointment. In my strengthening through Christ, it is now a matter of setting my feet on the path confidently towards delivering  his sweet sense of belonging and purpose to others – and not merely seeking to find it for myself. For me, when I need that refreshment and reassurance, I must sit quietly as Christ did on that fateful night, and I will seek God’s presence, seek His gentleness, his love, his nourishment for my soul. Because in this action, He is faithful. All the heartbreak on this planet has taught me that when I seek Him with my whole heart, soul and everything that I am – well then, and only then, does the peace come. And then, the true guidance that brings clarity to all that I need to focus on. And, blessings follow.
Thank you Selah for your album: God Bless The Broken Road. This album has been on the top of my list for about ten years- since it came out. And, sometimes, it sits unheard- but, now- it is brought out once again- a reminder of the most important thing in the world- Christ and his love and his friendship. Praise God for your gifts, his guidance in your lives and for my discovery of your music. And most of all, for God taking away the veil which prevented me from seeing clearly who He is and who I am – his daughter. He knew me before time. He is with me always and he does not leave me nor forsake me. The arms raised in praise in worship centers – waiving in the air, are waiving and reaching for his pure love and thanking Him for they too had the veil lifted.

Amazing Grace. How Sweet The Sound. That Saved A Wretch Like Me. I Once Was Lost. But Now I Am Found. Was Blind. But Now. I See.

I didn’t go to church on Sunday because I still struggle with the organized church ..but it will come. This barrier will break down and I will find my way into fellowship because I know that fellowship is important and the path to this fellowship lies in my healing, my getting myself out of myself, and my focus shifting completely to Christ. Yesterday, I watched In Touch with Charles Stanley on TV. The sermon couldn’t have been more suited. God knows what we need.. and boy did he deliver yesterday. Pastor Charles comes out and his first question to the congregation is; Do You Love God? Of course a church full of believers would nod and bob their heads and a few would call out “Hallelujah and Amen” …and he goes on, of course you would say that and you might think you mean it. His sermon in twenty minutes brings to life the truth of the matter- and that is that needing God is not loving God, Fearing (having reverence) God is not Loving God. Serving God is not loving God. It does not mean that all these things can’t come out of loving God but in and of themselves they are not an indicator of loving God.

Matthew 22:37 describes what loving God means. And I wrap myself in this scripture and thank God for talking to me. For showing me his faithfulness.

Later that night, I open Jesus Calling, my current daily devotional. And, I find that August 31st addresses my weakness- his gift to me is my weakness. That in my weakness he will strengthen me as I bring my focus fully to Him. And in this, I breath a sigh. Yes.

This Jesus Calling devotion on August 31st – gives me some scriptures.

Proverbs 3:5

Isaiah 40:31

And I call out to God- thank you. Thank you so much- for speaking to me today. For reaching through your servants to quell my trembling, for giving me hope- for reminding me who I am. And reinforcing to me who you are: Faithful One.

Longing for a place to belong

It is a Sunday. I am meant to have gone to church. But each time I venture there I find myself fleeing to safer places. There is something terribly daunting about the prospect of walking through yet another set of doors as I attempt to find the place where community will be accessible to me. I made a great effort again today, walking through the halls of yet another big structure with steeple, coffee corner and narthex. The information wall was my retreat for a short while, a place I could linger with something to do, as I pulled leaflets from the racks to learn of the various ministries offered. A few hundred feet away I sense people watching me, wondering perhaps: who is she. I keep my focus. The brochures generally give me a good idea on whether the place is worth a nod or if I should cut my losses early. I suppose that says something of the importance of a church’s marketing strategies, as mundane and secular as that sounds. This one gave me a clear sign with its women’s ministry offerings: MOPS Mother’s of Preschoolers – they meet the second and fourth Friday of every month at 9:30am. Then there is the Mom’s Next Group providing fun and fellowship for mother’s of school aged children: 3rd Thursdays at 7:00pm. Out to lunch bunch, for women of all ages – an opportunity to get together and fellowship at local restaurants. A Stamping Group that while they gather once a month in the evenings, their focus is very likely scrap booking all of the wonderful life events they experience as mothers. The one group that may have been of interest, the knit and crochet group, meets 1st and 3rd Tuesdays at 11:00am; obviously not geared to the working woman., likely seniors. There is a sprinkling of bible study and mission groups and these could work, although they run from September through May – it is now March so this season is about to end. I find myself walking down the hall as I hear the final hymns of traditional service wrapping up as I wait for the contemporary service which is set to start in 25 minutes. I find myself in front of a big cork board wall adorned with announcements and pictures of people having fun at a campground. The Annual Family Camp Retreat is coming up in May. A weekend away from the city to get to know one another better out in nature. As I read further I see that the format for the weekend is geared towards children’s activities. Probably not something I would be able to pursue and if I did, it would be awkward. The next wall down is an opportunity for the church to list the various missionaries assigned around the world that could use prayer. All of them are pictured as couples and couples with children. I find myself walking past the kitchen window where they are preparing the refreshments. I continue past the restrooms. I believe there is an exit door at the end of this hallway, that leads to the parking lot. It would make sense since I believe I saw this door on my way in earlier. I walk purposefully and find myself exiting the building, there is my car. Only a few more steps and I will be safe again within the confines of my familiar vehicle. I will go to a coffee house and read and write, that will be my church today.
Is it any wonder that I feel left behind in this world. And the guilt sets in. church is not about me. Church is about Christ. It is a place to worship God.  Read  a tweet the other day from a pastor- urging readers to go to church with the mindset to be of service and not as a consumer.    I know that church is meant to be a place to focus on Him and his love, grace, mercy and His plan for all of mankind. As a human, I still find myself sliding into a pathetic place of angst. I am here, in this state, as a result of my own poor choices during key years of my adulthood. Still, this fact doesn’t help me to pull myself together. Honestly, even if I wanted to be involved, it seems that all of the options that are made up of spiritual offerings are so family focused that someone like me just doesn’t fit in. I don’t want to be depressed about this, I don’t want to wallow. Truly. But I find myself on these Sundays with no place comfortable to go. And, I have tried too many and feel the same deeply lonely existence in every one of them. In a church, surrounded by people who belong to each other, and me- I sit alone. The other part is the feeling of being so conspicuous; a woman in middle age with no one beside her. To some women she can be seen as a threat, to others a bore.   In one church I actually received grim shooting looks of disdain.

This past Christmas, as I was trying to settle in before the Christmas services of yet another new church I was trying out, this one a mega church that draws thousands.  I was asked to move three times in order to make room for families that wanted to sit together. That was tremendously awkward. The last move that I made, I didn’t bother to fold up my coat to put it under the seat in front of me because I wanted to be prepared in case I was asked again to shift my place. Then, the sermon began, and it was about being present for God in this moment. It was calling us all out and asking us whether we were there, or if our minds were elsewhere. “Maybe” the pastor suggested “you are in the middle of that argument you had this morning with your spouse over getting out the door on time to avoid yet another late arrival to church and more importantly, preventing the family from getting a good parking spot for that quick escape after the service. Or, maybe you are sitting there overcome by loneliness, feeling completely alone and wondering what all this is about. Wondering if God has abandoned you. God has not abandoned you, he is right here with you. “So why are you lonely?” he asks, “when God is all you need.”. Easy for this pastor to say. And easy for all these people to take in this message, since most of them sit here with their families, or someone that is there… sitting beside them, they have families, children, spouses, community. Of course there are others just like me. Too bad there isn’t a way to meet them, to find them.

Suddenly, I sense my eyes completely filling with liquid and my nose instantly congests. I sit there with my huge winter coat billowing up off my lap, my arms gripping it in a sort of bear hug desperately needing it to not slip off and I sense that tears are quite possibly going to begin trailing down my face and I have no way to avoid this or brush them away without being less than subtle. My nose is now completely filled as well, and I am having trouble breathing through the fluids. And, now, rather than concentrating on the sermon, I am focused entirely on how I am going to get through the remaining twenty or so minutes of this lesson without being a smeared and blithering mess. I want so badly to stand up and make my escape, but I can’t seem to gather the courage. I won’t allow this to happen to me again. There will not be a next time.

A Quiet Source.

During her freshman year, Klara lands in the middle of Missouri to attend an all women’s private college, drawn there for their lauded theatre program, and she hooks up with a Cult Group through the encouragement of Lily, a new dorm friend who pleads with her to come and witness her own baptism. She gets sucked in initially by the purity of what seems to be the groups focus, which they say is Christ, obedience, discipline and devotion. The fact that for years in high school she had been self medicating with alcohol in order to quiet the voices of shame and pain allows her to consider attending a few evening sessions and she eventually agrees to sign up for the same baptism session as her friend.  Maybe this will be the right path, a way to straighten things out and get control back in her life.   To do something right.  

It becomes clear relatively soon that this group is very different and she is not that comfortable with the intensity of it, but wants to follow through because she harkens back to a time before her brother’s death when religion and Christianity and Jesus seemed like the only safe option. The night of the baptism event was scary and a bit weird- listening to gut instincts, tuning into discernment… trusting one’s own intuition, is important. And she knew this, her senses were on high alert. But when you are young, far away from home, sad most of the time and desperate for peace, you somehow turn off that inner compass and justify a more mature person’s voice that is saying to you: this is the path to that peace you are seeking.    
When it came to be her turn, she entered the bathroom on the lower level of the church’s house, small white candle flames flickered all around the tub and vanity amplified by their reflection in the large mirror. The electric lights were shut off. She was offered a hand for support and watched as if separate from her own body. Her legs moved and straddled the tub and then bare feet entered the water. She was fully clad in the requisite sweats. At first, they had her standing up, still supporting her frame as water danced around just below her knees. The leader then motioned her to kneel by gently pulling down on her elbow and she sat down in the tub with her legs bent upwards to help inch her frame close to the front of the tub and allow room for her upper body to eventually lie down towards the back. The sound of voices began to whisper words she could not understand, like in a different language of some kind. The person performing the baptism wrapped his arm around her back for support and lowered her backwards into the water submersing her completely into the waters. On entry into the waters, she could hear him saying something, prayers and supplications to God in English this time, but she does not remember his words. All she recalls was the overwhelming fear and sudden shuddering that coursed through her whole body. Her head and shoulders seemed to take on a life of their own and her mouth opened as if wanting to utter an important truth or to beg for help. She was confused and shaking and terrified as the people around her were now raising their voices higher and higher, louder and louder- begging for some entity to do something. This she sensed from their upward gaze and facial expressions that begged for attention. Evidently, what was happening was the spirit was attempting to enter into her and she was supposed to accept him and allow him to bring a new language to her. Her senses then brought her clarity and the only thing she desired was to get out. So, she pressed herself up while attempting to gain control of the shudders, someone wrapped her in a towel and helped our out of the tub. That was when she looked up and sought out the faces and saw that there was grave disappointment on everyone’s face- complete and utter rejection and a sense that she had blown it. This was explained to her later, she was informed the spirit couldn’t enter because evil resided within her. Somehow- evil had not been properly emptied out in order to make room for her soul to accept the spirit.  
For the next few weeks, she was followed around campus, stopped in the middle of the quad to be instructed on what was required of her next, she was often woken up at early hours by Jan, one of the leaders, because a word from God had been brought to her and she had to get to Klara right away. Her roommate was least appreciative of these disruptions and Klara found Stacy avoiding her during the days and weekends, absent from the room most hours. Calls to her mother netted little support, because her mother felt that God was the answer and if Klara was attending a church, any church, then maybe things would change for her. Towards the end of that first semester, her Dad called to let her know that he had another job transfer, this time from Illinois out to Southern California and they would be fully moved in by Thanksgiving. She begged him to let her move too. She didn’t want to be so far from them, please let her come. She could not bear any longer the harassment that was regularly thrust at her from these intense soldiers that were intent on instilling in her guilt, shame and control. Klara at one point approached her drama coach for guidance and he reassured her that it wasn’t her. He let her know that this had been an ongoing problem on campus and gave her the name of someone she should contact for support. Campus Crusade for Christ. That was an odd recommendation she felt, for here she only wanted out of the religious craziness, not necessarily wanting to move from one group to another. Still, she reached out to the connection and found more support and in the end, she cautioned her tormentors to leave her alone because college authorities had been alerted and actions would be taken if they did not cease and desist. And, Klara informed Jan that she too heard words from God, and those words were telling her to move to California. Jan told her they had connections in California and someone would get in touch.  
For the first full year in California, Klara fully expected to hear from someone – but no one ever contacted her. She wondered if they did, how would they even know how to reach her, as she hadn’t provided any forwarding details.
In the ensuing years, Klara slowly and completely cut out church. Anything resembling organized religion was of the list. She sought spiritual nourishment through the arts and literature instead. It would be fourteen years later and many other off-road explorations into untraditional concepts of spirit, for Klara to call out to God in desperation one solitary night and ask Him to show her if He was real. Because if He was, she needed to know who He was. And, He answered. And so began a personal journey into a relationship with Christ which builds and grows in a solitary way.  It is that quiet and peaceful source, the truest and best source, that allows her to move forward with hope.  

She still doesn’t thrive in a group church setting, she still resists control freaks, she doesn’t attend a formal church. She reads her bible, she talks to God and she tries to listen and watch for him in the sacred in daily life. 

Be Still And Know I Am God.   Psalm 46:10

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for, assurance in what we can not see.   Hebrews 11:1

And, it’s enough for now.


I was reflecting back on my youth as an expat child living in France and my mind drifted to Dalida, one of the many celebrities that adorned my walls.  Her hauntingly deep voice always seemed to have a trace of tragedy in it.   Now that I am an adult and I read back on her life, I find that she did in fact have a tremendous amount of tragedy in her life, including her own suicide.  Back when I was around 8 or 9, I was completely oblivious to Dalida’s personal life and the darkness she existed in as I danced around the vast expanse of our crimson oriental carpet bordered with gold and midnight blue to her lilting cadences.  I remember these sessions like they were yesterday; I would dance round this rug using the border like a beam which I was obligated to stay on – leaning off the border was not an option.  This rug provided the demarcation of our living room and dining room and den, which was an L shaped living space in our first floor apartment in Mary-Le-Roi.  We had three of these rugs – under the dining room table, under the living room furniture and one more in our den area where we watched TV and where I twirled around to the voices of Tom Jones, Joe Dassin, Engelbert Humperdink and Dalida.

Such innocence existed in those twirls and movements of joy.  Much later in life, when the internet became part of our daily lives, I found myself curious about the singers that lived in the background of my life.  So I looked them up.    I was saddened by the heart attack that took the life of Joe Dassin- so young.  I had met him once when my family had picnicked at Bois de Boulogne for a special event – Joe Dassin was a celebrity guest and Dad brought us up to meet him and others.  I actually shook his hand and found my heart pounding and face flushed as only a nine year old puppy love induced girl’s can be in those moments.  In hindsight, it’s pretty incredible that I was so young and following all these stars the way that I was.   Dalida experienced a full decade or more of the death of friends and lovers.  It’s no wonder she went down that path herself.  In a way, that insurmountable wave of sadness, loss of joy and purpose landed on my shoulders.  It arrived about fifteen years ago and decided to stay midway through a second marriage marred with strife and emotional upheaval.  But the difference is that within the layers of sadness, disappointment and disconnection from the world, there also exists determination and something that I call the bounce factor.  No matter what seems to come my way, I bounce.  People have commented in wonder, saying things to me like: “it’s amazing you didn’t lose it, or no one would know about your past based on how you live.”  It’s my ability somehow to push on.   To live in the moment only and not look to hard at what is ahead.  To not place my life side by side with others, at least not scrutinizing it too much against what they have, what I don’t have.  What most people enjoy as part of normal, and what my life looks like in comparisson- well, let’s just say that in a way I gave up on normal.   Although a bit cliché, I  turn my mind off sometimes in order to put one foot in front of the other and I find ways to enjoy moments in my daily life; like working up amazing custom itineraries for people traveling through Europe, knitting up a pair of delicate lace socks, reading an interesting book, taking Sofie for a walk or just moving my hands through her silky fur, watching one of my favorite TV shows or a Netflix movie, having breakfast with a friend on a Saturday morning or spending time with my parents who are in their golden years and give me my purpose right now.    With that list and there is more I can add to it, it’s OK that I lived through two failed marriages by the age of 37 and that my first husband was physically abusive, my last husband’s first name is now Erika and that his male parts have been sexually reassigned, that I am approaching the marker birthday that is truly midlife without children, that I was raped at age 25, that I lost my brother in a car accident on Mother’s Day 1979 and that this event had been prompted by my refusal that night to any longer engage in his almost nightly attempts to explore my body under the breath of schnapps.

Life for some is harder than for others.   We all have our burdens, mine are so much less than others.  But to be clear, survival really has been my modus operandi for years.   Surviving each day, and as I have accepted in some ways- waiting to die.  I am solitary for the most part; I get together with an occasional friend- most of whom have kind husbands, lovely children, a house of their own and belong to a club called society.  I have not felt part of that society most of my life.  But I do manage.   And I don’t have a bound up vessel of anger living inside of me.  I don’t plan any actions against anyone else for I don’t blame anyone else.  Somehow, I was designed to tolerate disappointment, to press on in the face of adversity, loneliness and shame.   Part of it is my relationship to God… not a crutch, but a relationship.   The only one that feels real.  His book provides me with a compass, and Jesus offers me hope.  It is simple and in the simplicity – it reassures me.

Even in my solitude I find joy in my moments.  Pick up a good book, enjoy some Earl Grey tea and lay the palm of my hand on the softness of Sofie’s coat.    Just that moment is good and pure and has enough flourishes of joy to take me through to the next moment.  And for now, in this moment, it is good enough.    Tomorrow will take care of itself.

A Recurring Theme

It reassures me to know that others have walked the same path and that there are folks out there who didn’t get their real start until later in life.   In the past few months, I have encountered various souls on the page that have communicated a start to things that didn’t really get on track until middle age.  This brings me hope.  This is my fiftieth year on the planet and while I have filled many a journal with the words- this time it will be different, this time I am serious, this time I will be diligent, dedicated and disciplined- inevitably, I falter and then time lapses, and the next thing you know it is months later or even years later, and I have to pick up the pen again or open the blog again and find myself commenting that once again, a new page, a new journal – a new attempt at writing.   So, this weekend was once again, that moment.  Why is it that I have bursts of passion then … fizzle?  It’s not really a matter of avoiding writing or procrastination, it’s more a result of distraction and an over scheduled life.  Priorities must be managed.  And writing is a big priority for me, or at least in my deepest core it feels like it should be.

I am making a new start and this time, I will not fizzle.  With the new commitment tied to the book by Susan M. Tiberghien and the revived writing group with Angela, I will press on and make time each day for the daily pages.  Is it realistic to schedule it in the mornings?  I already rise at 5:45am or so, I am fairly certain an attempt to get up earlier will fail   And, there are other tasks daily (or at least several times a week) that I must fit in- exercise and good eating is one.  So, the solution is that I really must chart this out- make a plan, a daily contract.   First thing in the morning I speak to God, I listen to God, I meditate on God- a relationship building new habit that I absolutely must prioritize.   Take care of Sofie’s needs- then, get ready for work and head in.    Usually, I leave for work by around 6:50am and I get there around 7:20am- a full hour before I am technically supposed to be there.   So- daily pages can fit from 7:30am until 8:25am on the third floor with a coffee thermos and breakfast (microwave on site).  It’s quiet up there- no on else to bother me.    Then, work my morning hours at my day job.  Lunch break:  3 times a week go for  a walk… at least a half hour.. move the blood.  Then work my afternoon hours of my day job.  Then commute home.  Take care of Sofie’s needs and eat dinner, clean-up.  Then time for creativity .. an important part of decompressing and nourishment for my soul.  Pick up the sticks and add loops to projects, make something beautiful, soothe the tension from the day.   Maybe elaborate on a theme from the morning pages.  It’s a good plan.

Ok- so there it is.  Let’s see if this week of August 24th – whether I can make it work. Both of those sentences suggest the possibility of failure, but   I am hopeful and energized by this approach.  Stay tuned!

A visceral common thread

The opening up of one’s viewpoint often comes from just a few key moments of finding common ground.  This can occur through a shared experience with another soul, finding that one feels a similar response in that shared experience, a way towards feeling less alone in the world.  When I am in the midst of a truly great piece of fiction, I reflect on the main characters reactions and feelings throughout the illustrated circumstances of the moment and ask myself questions:  does this feel familiar?  what would i have done differently?  It amazes me sometimes when I encounter a developed character that resonates so much with me.  I want to know more about the author.  How did this author pull it off?   How is this author able to unfold the depth and real voice and feel of this character to such an extent that I feel a connection to this fictitious individual? 

These are important questions for me for it helps propel me into a deeper meditation on how to create characters for my own pieces that will offer a consort for my future readers.   Why does someone get hooked on a TV series?  Generally, it’s a deep appreciation and fondness for a character.   And this occurs because the character is believable, relatable, vulnerable- even vulnerable in cases of heroism.  

So what does this mean as I push forward to a daily pages and future authoriship goal?  It means that first and foremost the goal must be to introduce someone to an audience that will be worthy of people’s attention.. whether that is worthiness of respect, of care, of honor and even of humility.

Someone that others would want to know and whose friendship they would never want to lose.

Who is this person?  What is this person made of?   What are the person’s vulnerabilities?  What are her dreams?   Where is she on the journey- at what stage in her life?  Has she missed out on some things?   and if so- why?   What were her obstacles?   Are these obstacles firm or can they be moved?   Is it too late for some dreams?  And can her dreams be changed?   What are her strengths?  Her weaknesses?  What are some things that she stands firm on?  And what strong opinions over the years have found a way towards bending and adjusting?

Where does she live?

Who is her tribe?

Does she even have a tribe?

 May 11, 2015