Thursday, December 26, 2013

Christmas Ponderings

With the bustle and craziness of Christmas preparations over, finally this morning I have some quiet time to rewind the season in my mind.  I have always loved the day after Christmas, perhaps even more than the day itself -- the work is over, and the memories are there to savor.  This year, the holiday season was less than wonderful.  There were worries and issues that kept me from throwing myself wholeheartedly into the preparations.  However, the house was decorated, gifts purchased and wrapped, food prepared, and joy received from the simple old traditions.

How lovely the house looks in its Christmas finery each year.  I enjoy the process of finding just the right place for my special decorations.  This year, I placed a trifle dish in the center of my dining room table and filled it with my grandmother's lovely old glass balls, which I remember her gently hanging on her tree each year.  Each time I have looked at my centerpiece, I have been reminded of her loving presence throughout my childhood.
One early December afternoon, my sister-in-law came out to decorate a gingerbread house with Emma -- we had time together to talk and relax, and Emma loved the candies and icing.  Later, Alivia and Luke decorated their own gingerbread houses -- how lovely they all looked.
We enjoyed an early Sunday dinner with my father-in-law and brother-in-law early in the season -- a quiet afternoon of wine, food, and good conversation.
Alivia's other grandmother and I attended a book fair/luncheon at her school -- she wanted me to bring tea sandwiches.  We bought books, ate our special little lunch, and felt fortunate to spend this brief hour together.
The week before Christmas was one of illness for my little ones -- stomach bugs and strep infections took their toll; how sad it is when these energetic children are lethargic and unwell.
We had a lovely deep snow in mid-December, which blanketed our world and made it seem like an old-fashioned Christmas.  Alas, by Christmas Eve, warm rains had washed away much of the snow. 

Christmas Eve dawned clear and cold, and my daughter and I spent the day in the kitchen preparing our contributions to Christmas dinner.  In the late afternoon, we attended the Children's Christmas Service at church, with part of our family -- the sanctuary filled with candles and the voices and talents of children. 

The lights were dimmed and we all held candles as we sang my favorite carol, "Silent Night", in the semi-darkness of a late-December afternoon.  How beautiful!!

On Christmas Day we all gathered at my oldest son's house -- a day of excited children, a beautiful and bountiful table, extended family (four generations of my husband's family), laughter, warmth and love.  By the time we arrived back home in the evening, my body was exhausted, but my heart was full.

And today, I woke with the knowledge that there was no "to-do" list, no schedule, nothing but time to be thankful for the beautiful Christmas we all shared, and to ponder the memories of this December.  Sometimes we are so busy with the details of this blessed holiday, we lose the spirit of the season.  After all the gifts are opened, the meals finished, and the children tucked into bed for the night, we finally have the time to appreciate the true gift of Christmas -- the love of family and friends, and the birth of our Savior on that cold night in that tiny stable in Bethlehem.


Saturday, November 30, 2013

Watching Garth

I waited with much anticipation for the Garth Brooks special on TV tonight.  He is my all-time favorite performer, and much time has passed since the last time I saw him.  I set the DVR to record and settled into my favorite chair at 9:00.  It was a wonderful show!!

Watching him, and listening to his music brought me back to the happier years when my children were teenagers, and life seemed to stretch before us with endless possibilities.  My house was always filled with the chatter and laughter of my children and their friends, and I found great pleasure in their company.  Country music was very much a part of our lives then -- music videos on the TV much of the day, CD's playing as we drove in the car, concerts -- it is no wonder the music tonight made me nostalgic for those days.

I felt young and free, filled with wonder and hope.  Country music spoke to my heart -- I could hear echoes of my own heartbreaks as well as the resilience of my spirit.  And tonight I felt it all once more.  Thank you, Garth, for the music and the memories!!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Finding Bliss


The stuffed shells were in the oven, the wine chilling, the broccoli chopped and tossed with olive oil and seasonings, and it was time to set the table.  I chose an ivory lace tablecloth and the Old Country Roses china, put together a small autumn themed centerpiece, and slowly created the table setting.  I love the entire process of making a special dinner for friends or family.  From the planning stage when I choose recipes, through the preparation -- the chopping and stirring and roasting -- to the task of turning a bare wood table into a lovely tablescape, I feel pleasure.  Delicious aromas fill the kitchen, appetizers are arranged and placed, and guests are welcomed -- wine is poured into beautiful glasses, and the process has produced an occasion of good food, warmth and good conversation.
I am a "detail" person -- one who receives much pleasure from the planning and execution of a project -- from the process itself.  Yesterday I attended a local craft fair and was reminded of the years when my children were young and I sewed, did needlework, and enjoyed working on various craft projects.  Running the lovely scarves through my fingers yesterday made me long for my knitting needles.  The Christmas wreaths and tree ornaments brought to mind the scent of fresh pine, and the magic worked by my trusty glue gun.  There is a feeling of contentment as we make something beautiful or useful from raw materials. 

The holiday season is all about process.  As we decorate our homes, we take our motley accumulation of seasonal pieces and combine them into something lovely.  My little turkey gravy boat holds the place of honor on my sideboard each autumn, surrounded by burnished leaves and small ceramic pumpkins.  How I enjoy rearranging the items until they are in just the right places -- each small piece a complement to the whole.

Flower arranging is another activity where process is as enjoyable as the final result.  I have filled countless hours through the years working with flowers -- cutting the stems, sinking them into vases of fresh water, and then arranging them into centerpieces for holiday dinners or special parties.  How I love the scents and textures as I combine the flowers and greens.  Nothing can compare to the spring pleasure of voluptuous lilacs -- cutting them from the bushes, holding them in my arms, and then arranging them in a vase, their beautiful blossoms spilling as bountifully as a waterfall. 

The world is filled with people who enjoy the process -- craftsmen and artisans, bread bakers, painters, writers -- those whose work brings not just a sense of satisfaction when it is finished, but also joy along the way.  Throughout the years, I have spent many hours doing work that I did not enjoy -- typing, bookkeeping, transcription, and cleaning.  I have worked in offices where I watched the clock move much too slowly all day.  How sad for many of us that we cannot make a living doing the things that bring us pleasure. But, those of us who find our bliss in these small things are fortunate indeed.  How lovely to find pure pleasure as we knead bread, knit scarves, arrange flowers, light candles or polish silver.  We are blessed.


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Looking Into the Eyes of Poverty

I looked into the eyes of poverty yesterday, and I wish all of those who believe in cutting the safety net programs in this country had been with me.  Please don't go all defensive on me.  I know there are a lot of people who cheat and take advantage of social programs; but, what we need to do, in my opinion, is tighten up our accountability so that these people are not allowed to receive help.  We should not cut the help to those who really need it to survive.

That said, after I got my grandson off the bus yesterday afternoon and his mother came home from work, I went to a local Urgent Care because I realized my cold had turned into a sinus infection, and I didn't want to wait until morning to make an appointment with my doctor.  The Urgent Care didn't open until 5:00, and I arrived at 4:20, so I grabbed a magazine and sat down.  A man came in and sat nearby, and I started a conversation.

We ended up talking for almost an hour, as we waited, and my heart broke as I listened to him.  He is in his mid-sixties, living in subsidized housing, on Medicare and Medicaid, and suffering from COPD.  He is alone, with a little parakeet for company.  He arrived early because the Medicab he called could not bring him at 5:00.  Because he is on Medicaid, the primary care doctors associated with this Urgent Care will not accept him as a patient.  He relies on the ER or Urgent Care for his healthcare needs. 

He is sick and confused about his diagnosis.  The doctors told him he has COPD and some lesions in his lungs -- he is worried that he has cancer, but either did not understand what the doctors told him, or was not told.  He lives in a tiny apartment in our town that costs $645/month and is happy here, but must move to an apartment in the city that is cheaper.  He is worried about moving his parakeet in a cab in cold weather, and really does not want to move back to the city.  He has significant back pain, for which he has been given pain medications, but he worries.

How sad to be old, sick, alone, and poor.  I have no idea what his history is, but I know what his situation is now, and it breaks my heart.  I heard empathy in his words and also regrets, and as I looked into his eyes, I thought, how can we justify destroying the safety net for people like him.  As Congress argues over budget issues, I wish each one of them could look into this man's eyes and realize that for each person who commits welfare fraud, there are several others who are hanging by their fingernails.  What should we do?  Cast out these poor people or offer them a measure of help? 

I hope, as budget negotiations proceed (if they ever really do), the members of Congress who so ardently profess to be Christians will remember the words of Christ:

"Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me"  --  Matthew 25:40

Sunday, October 27, 2013

A Society of the Inept

I sit in my chair this morning, snuggled in my warm robe and a warm shawl, holding my coffee mug in my hands for warmth.  I am cold, and I also have a cold which is in its earliest stages of sneezing, teary eyes, and achy sinuses.  Not an auspicious beginning to this Sunday.  My cozy old house is freezing; the only heat source today is an electric radiator.  I have not had a working furnace since August.  At the end of July, our antique furnace finally "cracked", seeping natural gas, so we discovered a new furnace was necessary.  This was not unexpected -- and part of me was glad that we would replace it with a more energy-efficient product, so my astronomical natural gas bill would be lower.  However, on our limited income, the cost of a new furnace would be prohibitive, so I applied for a NYSERDA program which provides subsidies to help finance the cost of energy-efficient improvements.

This process has been a long one -- begun in early August, and due to either ineptitude or negligence on the part of the contractor, has delayed the installation of my furnace until now.  I won't go into the particulars, but in order to participate in the NYSERDA program, you must use one of their specified contractors, and apparently I chose the wrong one.  The process requires an energy audit, a proposal from the contractor, and approval from NYSERDA.  I first spoke with our contractor in mid-August; he never performed the audit until early September, then delayed submitting the proposal so long that it wasn't approved until mid-October.  Finally, last Thursday they arrived with my new furnace, BUT, the estimator had provided scant information, so a great deal of time was lost in the installation, and consequently, on this coldest weekend of October, our house is still stone cold. 

For the past couple of weeks, I have also been frustrated by the customer service at insurance companies.  My husband's Medicare Advantage policy is not covering his MS medication next year; I talked to a representative from the company.  She said we could apply for an exception, which may or may not be granted.  The doctor's office tells me they cannot apply for the exception until after January 1, when the medication is no longer covered, but the deadline to change Medicare policies is mid-December.  So, I am still not certain where we stand on this -- and can't seem to get a straight answer from anyone.

I have also been comparing the policies on the NY Health Exchange, with frustrating calls to the two insurance companies I prefer.  One of the companies told me my doctor was participating; my doctor's office said they were not.  I also had a question about the deductible on one policy -- the representative gave me conflicting information on whether an expensive procedure I need is subject to the deductible.  I called my doctor's office and received rude treatment from the billing office when I asked them to clarify this for me.  I finally made my decision and submitted my application, but still with lingering questions.

These are only the two most recent examples of ineptitude that have disturbed me.  In the last few years we ran our business, and through the process of closing the business down, I was met with constant frustration as I dealt with phone menus that never allowed you to speak with a human, or customer service reps who contradicted themselves, or did not follow through on issues.  Through this process, I also lost all respect for the attorneys I dealt with.

Even on a more minor scale, when ordering fast-food at the counter or the drive-thru, mistakes are made more than half the time. 

What is the problem?  I think it is two-fold.  I believe people are placed in positions for which they lack the intelligence and motivation to perform adequately.  I believe training is substandard in many businesses.  And, sadly, I think our world has become too complicated and too regimented.  Thirty years ago, I could walk into my bank, speak to the manager (who was not moved from branch to branch every few weeks), and resolve any issue quickly.  Now, this personal service does not exist, for the most part.

So, my rant ends here.  My coffee cup is empty, the day ahead is busy, and once again tonight I will sleep in my cold bed, wrapped in a soft throw and snuggled under a sheet, a light blanket, two quilts, and a lovely old afghan I made years ago and threw on top of the bed last night for one extra layer of warmth.  Hopefully tomorrow they will finish my furnace!!!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

October Musings

October is a month of transition.  Our world transforms from the heat, sunshine, and abundant harvests of summer to the more gentle beauty of pumpkins, chrysanthemums and falling leaves.  I have always loved the colors of autumn, which last such a short time before the starkness of November is upon us.

My weekends have been full this autumn -- a family gathering at a cousin's lovely home on Helderberg Lake, trips with the grandchildren to gaily decorated farmstands, an afternoon in Saratoga with a dear cousin.  Finally, this weekend is a quiet one -- a time when I can catch my breath, putter in the house and garden, and reminisce a bit.

Halloween decorations are abundant in our neighborhoods now, and I am reminded of the days when my children were young and I devoted so much time to making their holiday special.  We decorated the porch with pumpkins, cornstalks, and a skeleton or two.  I baked pumpkin cookies for school parties, planned parties for our Cub Scouts and Brownie Troops, and sewed costumes. I marvel at the energy I had all those years ago.

Now, my celebrations are of a quieter nature.  I look forward to the church bazaars and estate sales that abound.  I have traded the decorations of Halloween for lovely autumn arrangements inside the house.  I cut my bounty of summer herbs -- parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, marjoram, basil -- and hang them in my kitchen window to dry.  I savor the falling leaves and the crackling noise they make as I walk along.  Today they were falling quietly all day -- carpeting my yard with their beauty. 

My years of boundless energy and strength are in the past -- I am in the autumn of my life.  But, this, too, is a beautiful time.  While my days are very busy caring for my grandchildren, at the end of the day, I can enjoy a glass of wine, a tasty supper, and a quiet evening.  My weekend pursuits are simple ones -- afternoons with friends, cooking, reading, writing, puttering in the house or the garden.  I am finding this "autumn" season of life every bit as beautiful as the days of October.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Random Thoughts While Simmering

On this official first day of autumn, I stood at the kitchen counter mixing meatballs and forming them in my hands, chopping onions and garlic, snipping herbs, adding crushed tomatoes to the sauteed seasonings, and stirring the rich sauce slowly as it began to simmer gently on the stove -- mindless tasks, which lend themselves to quiet reflection.  I thought I would share some of the random thoughts which passed through my mind as my hands prepared our Sunday supper.

No matter how deeply you love someone, you can’t make them love you if they don’t.

Think before you speak – hurtful words may be forgiven, but they will always be remembered by the person you hurt.

Be quick to forgive, but don’t feel guilty if you can’t forget. 

Children are our future -- more than anything else, they need our love, our attention, and our guidance.  Material things cannot begin to take the place of a parent's consistent presence.

Everyone looks at the world from a different perspective and interprets things differently, based on his own life experiences.   Don't ever presume to know what another is thinking. 

Life isn’t fair – there is a cute little quote that says if we all took our problems and put them in a basket, we would take our own problems back, or something like that.  I don’t believe it.  Everyone has problems, but some people seem to have many more than their share. 

Everyone handles grief and loss in a different way – don’t be judgmental of others as they grieve.  Listen to them and be kind, and remember that we never completely "get over" the loss of loved ones.  The grief just finds its way to a quiet little place in our hearts where it resides forever.

Try to treat everyone with kindness and respect.  Life is sometimes a circle, and the people we thought we would never see again come back into our lives at some point.  Better they remember us for our kindness than our antagonism. 

Sometimes we meet the right person at the wrong time, and there is nothing we can do about it.  We must resign ourselves to holding them in our hearts instead of our arms.

No matter how strong your opinion is on an issue, always be willing to listen to the views of others – this is how we evolve as individuals, and is the basis for compromise in the larger world.

When the stresses and pain of life engulf you, let the rhythms of nature soothe you -- sit by the water, sniff the flowers, listen to the birds, walk along the shoreline, find peace in the gentle rustling of the tall pines --






Saturday, September 7, 2013

A Week of Nostalgia


Finally tonight I have some quiet hours to sit and ponder the busy week that has passed so quickly.  As the Labor Day Weekend brought summer to an end, my calendar seemed suddenly filled.  While our school district does not begin classes until this coming Monday, my daughter-in-law, who is a teacher, worked on Tuesday and Wednesday, so I had all three of my little ones together again for two full days.  So many memories stirred as I watched them together.  I have taken care of them since Alivia was two months old; now she is six and entering first grade, and Luke will begin kindergarten next week.  Emma -- who was just an infant a heartbeat ago -- is now 2-1/2, and a beautiful little dynamo.  How quickly the time has passed, and how thankful I am that I chose to spend my days with them.  It will be with tear-filled eyes that I send Liv and Luke off to school on Monday and bring my little Emma back to my house. 

On Thursday I attended a funeral for a cousin whom I have met only a few times.  She was so friendly and kind, and I always intended to get together with her, so I could know her better.  And now, she is gone -- I bid her good-bye at her lovely funeral mass, and was filled with regret.  Life is busy and crazy much of the time, and so often we neglect the more distant members of our families, only to feel excruciating sadness as we lose them and realize that we never really took the time to know them. 

On a much happier note, I gathered with several former high school classmates for a "mini-reunion;" it has been forty-five years since we graduated together.  Unbelievable!!  What an enjoyable evening it was.  I was talking recently with friends about our desire as we grow older to reconnect with the friends of our youth.  As I sat at this reunion, thoroughly enjoying the people and the conversations, I realized the bond of memories we all shared.  As we age, we lose grandparents, parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins -- so many of the people who remember us as a child.  There are fewer people who share our early memories of our school, our town, ourselves. 

This reunion gave us a chance, not only to discover the roads where life has taken each of us, but also to remember and share our impressions of our earlier lives. We remember the same teachers, the music, the gossip. We remind each other of who we were then.  It is a beautiful thing to reconnect not only with these people, but with our shared memories.  We look at each others' aging faces and see in our hearts younger, hopeful faces.  And I am reminded of a lyric from a beautiful country song,

"To me, you will always be eighteen, and beautiful, and dancing away with my heart..."


Sunday, August 25, 2013

Is There a "Voice of Reason"?

It seems as if the word "compromise" has disappeared from our lives.  It seems as if the words "tolerance," "moderation," and "forgiveness" are also in short supply.  Fueled by "Hate TV" and slanted journalism, it is difficult to sort out the problems facing our country -- much less the solutions required to fix these problems.

This summer I have listened to many conversations at gatherings of friends and family.  Much of the time, people speak their minds on politics, religion, issues of the day, but never listen to the responses of others.  Or, they belittle the beliefs and ideas of others.  We are bombarded on a daily basis by left and right-leaning TV news stations, talk radio, and internet news and propaganda.  It is often difficult to discern the kernel of truth in this abundance of information.

It seems politicians will go to any length to undermine the opposing party.  I truly believe at this moment, some segments of the Republican Party would prefer to see the economy crash again, just to prove that President Obama was wrong in his attempts to stabilize the economy.  Why is it that in the past few years, each party seems vehemently opposed to any legislation proposed by the other party?  Why is there no compromise anymore.  Where are the "cooler heads" who used to work diligently to bring the ideas of each party together to craft legislation that benefited the people of this great nation.  Now, each side is intent on "winning" as opposed to "governing."

Also, the underlying racism in our country sickens me.  It is not just a case of black and white; there is a pervasive distrust and dislike of almost anyone who is not a white, Christian citizen.  This is disturbing.  Our nation was built by immigrants, and today a new generation of immigrants of many colors, races and creeds contributes to our culture and economy.  Why do we hate anyone who is different from us?  Diversity enhances our lives.

It seems as if almost everyone I listen to has "drawn a line in the sand" over every major issue in our country -- gun control, abortion, gay marriage.  Why must it be this way?  Can't we agree to disagree on some issues.  We live in a democracy where the majority rules.  Can't we gracefully accept when we lose the battle over an issue?  When I was young, I was strongly opposed to abortion, and even now, I find it disturbing.  However, the majority of people in this nation consider this one of women's basic rights -- I accept this and support it; who am I to argue that my beliefs hold more political clout than those of the majority? 

We live in a society where greed and power rule.  The middle class is disappearing; the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.  This is not "class warfare", it is the reality of our lives today.  And yet, in order to win an election, politicians must raise huge amounts of money for their campaigns -- and much of this money comes from the corporations whose greed and power will at least partially control the politicians' decisions. 

However, as our lawmakers cater to the rich and powerful, many of the problems in our economy are blamed on the poor -- those who need the "handouts" and "entitlements" -- those who cannot afford to house, feed and clothe their families and pay for healthcare on the low wages they receive for their labor. 

We need those "cool heads" and those "voices of reason" today -- they are critical to saving our nation.  We need people who will put the good of the nation above their own desire for political power.  Our problems are complex; there is a huge schism between those who lean to the left and those to the right.  The "line in the sand" becomes deeper and more difficult to surmount as we listen to the heated rhetoric in the media. 

We need good ideas from both sides of the aisle in Congress; we need cooperation between the executive and legislative branches of government at all levels.  Let us all hope that a strong voice of reason steps forward and prevails, so our great nation can be saved. 

Sunday, August 18, 2013

As August Settles In

As I walked the dog at midnight, the heavy darkness of an August evening was backlit by lovely moonlight filtered through high clouds.  The tall pine branches cast shadows across the moon, and the deep quiet reminded me that August is definitely here. 

This summer has been a disappointing one for me.  Hot, humid weather in July and a knee injury have kept me sidelined from my usual summer activities.  The garden desperately needs weeding; plans for daily walks with my little granddaughter never materialized, and I feel a bit of sadness to know that there are only three weeks left until school begins. 

However, I do so love August.  The early morning birdsong is subdued now, and darkness falls quickly and thickly in the evening as I sit on the porch.  My hydrangea bushes are heavy with their voluptuous blooms and the pepper and tomato plants are ripe on the vine.  Fields of sunflowers, purple loosestrife and goldenrod dot the highways.  It seems the world is filled with color and abundance.

There are early harbingers of autumn, though, as the ferns begin to turn a bit brown, stores are filled with notebooks, pencils, and back-to-school sales, and summer flowers begin to fade.  The carefree feeling of June -- with two months of sunshine and freedom ahead -- are now but a memory.  Suddenly, we must resign ourselves to the fact that summer is waning.  We plan get-aways and try to squeeze in all of the summer activities we can.  Soon we will be back to schedules and sweaters.

There is a peacefulness in these languid August days.  The excitement of early summer is replaced with a more quiet enjoyment.  Even though I have not accomplished many of my summer plans, and still cannot take Alivia for morning walks on the nearby rail trail as we had planned, I am content to savor the beauty of this month.  I see August not as an ending, but as a beginning -- autumn holds its own special pleasures, and as August wanes, September hurries in.

After a taste of cooler weather for the past week, the summer-lovers are happy to hear that warmer temperatures are returning.  There is still time for picnics, swimming, boating, camping, and all of the much-loved activities of summer.  The farmers' markets are filled with fresh vegetables for salads and grilling.  What can possibly taste better than a slice of fresh tomato topped with a bit of salt and some chopped basil leaves.  As steaks sizzle on the grill, we can sit on our decks and porches and savor these last weeks of summer pleasures.  But, as the gentle twilight of early summer changes to the earlier settling of heavy, quiet darkness in mid-August, we know in our hearts that autumn is waiting patiently in the wings -- carpe diem!!

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Well-worn and Irreplaceable

As I searched through the house for items to sell at my garage sale, I pulled out an old frying pan.  It is scarred and pitted, with a long black wooden handle.  As I held it in my hands, I could almost hear the bacon sizzling; I remembered the hundreds of times I slowly stirred scrambled eggs or dropped zucchini pancakes into hot olive oil.  No, this pan is a keeper. 
Fortunately, my husband's family places great value in preserving family belongings, so through the years I have amassed a small collection of club aluminum which was used by my mother-in-law and her mother-in-law.  I have large, heavy soup pots, and a hefty roasting pan.  The rolling pin I have used for over forty years is another family "heirloom."
I would not trade these for the most expensive cookware on the market now.  Often I walk through the housewares section and covet the beautiful pots and pans on display, but they cannot compare to the treasures I have in my own kitchen.  My old pans, with their well-seasoned surfaces, are perfect for slowly simmering soups, stews and spaghetti sauce.  The handles of my old wooden rolling pin seem molded to my hands -- perfect for rolling out pie or cookie dough.
There are also precious memories associated with these old faithfuls.  I remember Sunday dinners at my in-laws' home.  Such delicious aromas coming from the kitchen, the large roasting pan keeping the sauce and meatballs warm on the stove.  Memories of the annual clambake, with the large soup pots holding clams in the middle of the long picnic tables at camp as we savored the chicken, sausage, potatoes, corn and coleslaw. 
Kitchens now are large and sleek, and the cookware is lovely to behold.  But, my heart is drawn back to my mother-in-law's small kitchen where most of the prep work was done on her kitchen table -- no fancy granite countertop or six-burner stainless steel stove.  The utensils she used were well-worn, her pans old and sturdy.  But, there was warmth in that kitchen, and love, and abundant, delicious food.
Thank you Mom -- for the pots & pans, the recipes, and the love.  They are irreplaceable.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Eclectic Lifestyle

Our garage sale morning could not have been more perfect -- blue skies, sunshine, light breezes.  I positioned a comfortable lawn chair and small table nearby and waited for our customers to arrive.  Unfortunately, they straggled in slowly all day, and the sale itself was not very successful.  However, our conversations were interesting.  Several people commented on my lovely yard, which boosted my spirits because with the hot, humid summer we have experienced, and a knee injury which has me sidelined a bit, the weeds are taking over in my gardens, and I have felt neglectful.  One woman told me she would love nothing better than to sit by my little pond with a glass of wine and enjoy the serenity.
And I thought about my philosophy of gardening -- I plant and weed, but for the most part, I let nature take over.  Some years the phlox will be breathtakingly beautiful, and other years the deer will chomp the tops off before the first buds have a chance to open.  Black raspberry bushes have taken over parts of my back garden and an area beside my garage -- they are thriving, but I did not plant them.  I gently prune bushes, but tend to leave them as naturally flowing as possible, to offer refuge to the birds.  My garden is a hodgepodge, but it is pretty and soothes the soul.

I have never been inclined towards structure and formality in any area of my life.  Coloring between the lines is not my style.  I fell in love with my old Victorian house with its ancient kitchen because something about its long life spoke to me; I saw the possibility of creating a warm haven for my family in this well-worn home.  My home has always been more about function and pleasure than formal Victorian décor.  Most of my furnishings are either estate sale finds or family pieces -- with the scratches and scars that come from being well-used.  My closets and storage areas hold a variety of items that represent my many interests -- sewing, knitting, flower arranging, gardening, holiday decorating.  The kitchen cabinets overflow with old soup pots, cake pans, bowls, wooden spoons -- all of the utensils that have helped me to feed and comfort my family and friends through these long years.
The dining room and its little walk-in china closet hold my beautiful collections of china, tablecloths and napkins.  So many dinners have been served in this room, with its 90-year old table and chairs.  China has always been a passion of mine; I cherish an old friend's set which is complete with butter plates and ramekins.  I use this infrequently, though, because it must be hand-washed.  There are so many memories here of much-loved family and friends gathered around the table, enjoying delicious food and the warmth of togetherness.  My little antique china closet holds family treasures -- the silver champagne goblets from our 25th anniversary party, my mother's miniature tea set, and nativity figurines from my childhood. 

My life itself has been eclectic -- years spent pursuing the things I loved, rather than the most practical or secure.  An earth mother of sorts, my years of mothering my children were my happiest days; there were part-time jobs from home -- typing, crafts, babysitting.  There was always some party to be planned, or costume to be made, or special dress to be created for my daughter.  Long hours were spent in the kitchen -- cooking, baking, sharing coffee and heartfelt conversations.  Reading has been one of my fondest pleasures, and my bedroom is filled with notebooks and journals of my writings.  I love dining in a beautiful restaurant with linen napkins and delicious food, browsing through dusty antique shops or bookstores, touring historic neighborhoods, and walking quietly through a nature preserve.

To many, my life may seem a bit "provincial" -- very little travelling, residing in the same small town all of my life -- but I have nurtured children, animals and flowers; I have created a warm, welcoming home for friends, and I have had the time to pursue those passions that bring me the greatest pleasure.  I have followed my heart --


Thursday, July 11, 2013

Missing Carol

Four years ago tonight I was waiting for my sister to die -- how sad it was to sit on my quiet porch at nightfall, listening to the sparrows settling into the ivy, with a part of my heart lying in bed across town, slowly dying.

There is a post that circulates on Facebook about sisters being "different flowers from the same garden."   How true that was of my sister and me.  She was born when I was almost six years old - an age difference that separated us throughout childhood.  We didn't play together or share secrets or feel any particular sisterly bond.  Physically, we were opposites.  I was tall, chubby, and somehow could never find a hairstyle that worked.  She was shorter, slim, with long, thick hair and beautiful eyes.  We liked different music, different books, and different people. 

As we reached adulthood, I was naïve, hopeful, and eager to be liked.  She was more worldly, wary, and cautious in her friendships.  We both had strong opinions, but were usually on opposing sides of any issue.   Basically, we drifted further apart, and neither of us really tried to bridge the chasm between us.

When I was 50 and she 44, our mother died. The one thing we did have in common was a deep love for our mother, and we shared the pain of losing her.  And, this loss finally brought us together as sisters.  We started slowly -- each a little wary of the other -- and ended up the best of friends.  How I cherished this new relationship.  We didn't know we would have only eight years left to enjoy our new-found sisterhood. 

She gave me a beautiful journal once, with an inscription that said she regretted all the time we had wasted, and how much she treasured our new friendship.  We shared both good and bad times in those eight years.  We comforted each other as several much-loved family members and friends died.  We celebrated the good times together.  We talked and laughed. We loved our occasional lunches at The Desmond, and our day trips to Saratoga and Stockbridge.  We sent Email jokes to each other to brighten boring days.  We shared secrets, both of happiness and heartbreak.  We sipped wine as we listened to the waves crash to the shore one lovely autumn evening in Gloucester, and talked far into the night.

But, it was too short -- in eight years, how do you possibly compensate for 44 years of remoteness?  And this week, I am reliving the  memory of the last weeks of her life when the pain medications and weakness made it difficult for her to speak above a whisper.  Most of all, I am grieving for the words we didn't speak for so many years of our lives, and for the parts of ourselves we withheld from each other.

And I still have not returned to Stockbridge -- walking those lovely streets and having lunch at our favorite Red Lion Inn are still too painful.  Each year I think, maybe this summer, but the time is not right just yet.  After all, I am not just grieving for the sister I loved so much for those eight short years, I am grieving even more for the first 44 years of indifference.

Rest in peace, Little Sister, and one day we will be together again.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Passing Down

We are on our way across the driveway to the car, and Alivia lingers near the bed of flowers.  She reaches her hand out and gently cups a tiny pink flower.  "What is the name of this flower, Grammy", she says, and I tell her it is a Bleeding Heart.  She wants me to give her a Bleeding Heart plant for her garden at home.  Luke tells his father we shouldn't cut trees down, "because they help us breathe," and my son asks me, "Did you tell him that?"  Of course I did.  Emma sees a red bird and says, "There's a cardinal," because we watch for them at the bird feeder.  We talk about nature all the time.  These little grandchildren of mine soak up knowledge of the world around them. 

In fact, all three of them love to talk -- sometimes the chatter in the car is almost indecipherable as they all talk at the same time.  But these are also the moments when they often surprise me with their deep insights and thoughtful questions.  These are the times when we discuss so much -- feelings, religion, values, family history, fiction vs. reality.  Luke loves to ask what things were like when I was a little girl. 

Last week I prepared egg salad to make sandwiches for lunch.  Alivia wanted to cut them into little triangles as we did last year when we had a tea party with her other grandmother.  We cut them and placed them on a pretty china plate, standing up like sailboats as her great grandfather had done when her grandmother was a little girl.  The next morning as I was making breakfast, Alivia asked if she could get some of the pretty china out for breakfast.  She went into the china closet and carefully picked out small plates and coffee cups to set the table.

My home is filled with lovely old family photos.  All three grandchildren love to look at the photos, learning the faces of their ancestors.  They hear the stories of my grandfather's desk that holds their crayons and paper and of the teddy bears collected by my mother and my sister.  My mother's dressing table is a favorite of them all, with its large mirror, and the perfume bottles, jewelry and little treasures it holds.

While much of each day is spent taking care of my little ones physically -- keeping them safe, clean, dressed, and fed, the most important moments of the day are these times when I am sharing memories and stories -- when I am encouraging them to notice the beauty in the world around them -- when I am showing them that kindness and honesty are still important in our high-tech world.  This "passing down" of their family history and the values of a slower, gentler time will be etched in their hearts forever.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Where Time Stands Still

Each morning this school year I drove my granddaughter to her bus stop.  Our route took us down the "once rural" highway where I lived as a child.  Progress has transformed my hometown -- we pass several big box stores where a dairy farm once thrived.  A new strip mall has taken the place of the old bar/restaurant that was our teen hangout.  A huge new gas station, complete with a Dunkin Donuts Drive-Thru stands at the corner where a quaint old post office/country store/gas station used to sit.  Down the road a bit, there is a huge car wash, built on the site of the vegetable farm that once supplied our fresh veggies all summer.  What was once a peaceful drive is now a hodge-podge of chain stores, fast-food restaurants, mini-malls and gas stations. 
But then, just as you pass a large storage rental facility, at a curve in the road you see a tiny little white building next to a well-kept old Cape Cod style house.  This little building, not much larger than many of today's garden sheds, was our local gas station when I was a girl.   If I remember correctly, there were two gas pumps.  The owner spent his days there, pumping gas, checking oil, washing windshields, and passing on bits of gossip that were shared with him.  He had a lovely wife and three beautiful daughters who grew up in the adjacent house. 
I lived across the street from this gas station; of course, it seemed much larger to me then, from the perspective of childhood.  Obviously, as small as it was, it provided an ample income for their family.  The house was one of the prettiest in our neighborhood, and his daughters were always well-dressed.  I remember envying them. 
I'm thankful that this little building still stands.  It reminds me of happier times -- times when a man could earn an honest living running a small business, times when two gas pumps were adequate to serve his customers, times when huge corporations didn't control the world.
This drive each morning down the highway of my childhood has been a sad one for me -- my precious little rural community has been spoiled by the ugliness of progress with poor planning.  But, as I reach that curve in the road and gaze on this tiny white building, I remember how beautiful it all used to be -- the houses, the farms, the open fields -- rural America at its best. 

Sunday, June 2, 2013

A Peaceful Spirit

I sit here quietly tonight, listening to the comforting sound of falling rain -- a rain that is washing away the uncomfortable heat and humidity of the last few days.  A cool breeze gently blows the lace curtains, and I think back over my busy Sunday to the peaceful moments that rested my tired spirit.  As I dressed this morning, my mind filled with a "to-do list", I walked past my library nook and was drawn to the sight of the bright morning sunshine filtering through my soft linen blouse which hung over the back of the chair.  How lovely it looked -- I grabbed my camera and captured the loveliness.

It amazes me how the most simple moments can bring such a feeling of peace.  I finished dressing and went downstairs to prepare a salad for an afternoon barbecue.  While the macaroni cooked and the eggs boiled, I diced an onion, brought chives, parsley and dill in from the garden and snipped them, and chopped the cooked shrimp.  My IPod was playing the country music I love so much, as I mixed everything together in a large bowl with mayonnaise.  I prepared a marinade for the steak and placed that into the fridge.  With a sense of relief -- a job well done -- I headed out to the garden to water the vegetable plants, feed the birds, and enjoy the serenity of my shady yard. 
As I walked out the door, my eyes were drawn to my newly blooming rosebushes along the fence.  Roses are favorites of mine, and the sight of these pink buds and blossoms, with their deep rose scent seemed like a reward for enduring the oppressive heat and humidity of the past week.  June always brings roses and peonies -- is it any wonder June has been immortalized by poets?  The birds were gathered at the feeder, hungrily devouring the few remaining seeds, as I headed out with their food.  On the way back from the feeder I stopped at my little pond to see if any frogs have taken up residence this year.
This pond is a peaceful little oasis of trickling water and graceful ferns.  This year in particular, the ferns are lush and full, providing a perfect blend of water and shelter for the birds, chipmunks and squirrels that drink from it each day.  How I love to sit near it and listen to the peaceful water and watch the chipmunks scamper in and out of the ferns.
I finished my work outside -- watering plants and filling my bird baths with fresh water.  Then I went back inside for a short rest before barbecue time.  A sense of peace lingered in my heart -- there is so much beauty surrounding us each day of our lives.  Sometimes this beauty is so quiet it gets lost in our tumultuous world -- we must search it out and savor it, because these little moments of beauty can be summoned again and again to bring us a measure of peace on our busiest and most stressful days.  A peaceful spirit is truly a gift --

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Need to Write

"Writers live twice.  They go along with their regular life, are as fast as anyone in the grocery store, crossing the street, getting dressed for work in the morning.  But, there's another part of them that...lives everything a second time.  That sits down and sees their life again and goes over it.  Looks at the texture and the details." -- Natalie Goldberg


I have the rare gift today of a full day to myself -- no grandchildren to tend, no husband at home, no commitments -- and I find myself torn between the garden and my blog.  And, here I am, at the computer, writing away part of this lovely morning, but it is something I MUST do.  I am a writer at heart; from early childhood I have realized this need to ponder the world around me and my own life, and somehow put my thoughts into words. 

A degree of solitude for quiet introspection is necessary to a writer, so my writing was done in "fits and starts" through the years of child-rearing and part-time work.  I have notebooks filled with sporadic entries as I wove bits of quiet time into my hectic life -- trying somehow to capture the pivotal moments as well as the ordinary days.

In the autumn of 2001, as I dealt with the devastating emotions of the September 11 attack in NYC and the death of my mother earlier in the year, I finally decided to buy a real journal and begin to regularly chronicle my life.  Little did I know how I would come to look forward to these daily journal entries, in the gentle quiet of midnight, or the peaceful solitude of sunrise.  Now twelve years of journals fill an old trunk in my bedroom.  How I love the feel of my pen slipping across the pages of these beautiful journals.  I cherish these moments when I can sift through the events and emotions of my day and somehow order them into words. 

In 2007, on a whim, I decided to create this blog, Ponderings and More.  My life is complicated and busy, as I care for my grandchildren during the day, so my blog entries are sporadic and less frequent than those of most bloggers.  I do so love the moments when time, emotion, thoughts, and words come together and I have this lovely little blog in which to write the words down.  I have come to realize -- much as the quote above illustrates -- that a writer does indeed live life twice.  Often, even as I participate in life events, my mind is already sifting through my thoughts and forming the words to hold these moments forever in time.  

A writer NEEDS to write.  Sometimes the words are coming together so quickly in my head that I desperately want to write them down, but it is the wrong place and the wrong time.  Often at these moments, my grandson will look at me and say, "Grammy are you daydreaming again?"   And I look into his face, bringing my thoughts back to the moment at hand, and say, "Yes, I'm daydreaming."   And, that is what writers do.  

How I love reading through my old blog posts and journal entries.  As we hurry through the days of our lives, we forget so much -- the little details get lost and only half-memories are summoned by a song or a smell.  My journals contain the details -- those details that spoke to me at the time -- and I can relive the memories.  I particularly love a journal I kept in the year when both of my sons were being married.  The bridal showers, the flowers, the rehearsal dinners, the weddings -- all the lovely details are captured there for me to savor at will.  I keep a journal for each of my grandchildren, and enjoy remembering them as they were; they are growing so fast and changing so rapidly.  As I look back through the pages I have written, I realize that this need to write is a vital force that provides an emotional outlet to the writer.  How fortunate we are to be able to perceive the precious moments of life and record them for ourselves and eternity.


Saturday, May 11, 2013

Of Lilacs, Mothers' Day & Old Stone Walks

This day before Mothers' Day has been cloudy and showery; in the morning I watched my little grandson play soccer, then came home with the intention of weeding my gardens.  Instead, I puttered in the house -- dusting, doing laundry, running the vacuum -- and headed outside to cut some lilacs.  Nothing can compare to the beauty and scent of lilacs.  I love the sensual feeling of gathering them in my arms, their lovely perfume filling my heart with springtime, and the profusion of blossoms overwhelming my soul.  Choosing a vase, filling it with slightly warm water, preparing the stems, and finally immersing my armful of beauty in the chosen vessel is a peaceful pursuit.  Lilac season is short, so this pleasure is one we must hold closely while it lasts.

Lilacs and Mothers' Day go hand-in-hand in upstate New York.  For years I set the table for Mothers' Day dinner with a centerpiece of lilacs or tulips from the garden.  As I gathered my lilacs today, I reminisced about this celebration of motherhood.  My first memory is of buying earrings for my mother and grandmother at some type of sale at my elementary school -- how proud I was to be able to really surprise them with these gifts.  As I went through my mother's jewelry box after her death, I found these earrings tucked away -- a gentle reminder of her love for me. 

My next vivid memory is of the Mothers' Day when my son was six months old.  I had experienced difficulties getting pregnant, and then my first baby daughter was stillborn in 1974; the birth of my son in 1975 was the happiest day of my life, and the first Mothers' Day when I finally had my precious child in my arms was a day I looked forward to with a full heart.  However, that morning I woke to no card, no flowers, no "Happy Mothers' Day."  Apparently my husband didn't realize how much this day meant to me.  Later, as I walked outside with my son in my arms, my neighbor called over, "Happy Mothers' Day;" he never knew what a gift his greeting was to this disappointed new mother.

There have been many sad Mothers' Days since then -- the year after my grandmother died, and after my mother's death, and the more recent death of my mother-in-law.  We live through these sad days and move on.  This day for me is a reminder of the deep joy I have received in the process of mothering these precious children of mine, and now the joy of being a grandmother.  As we grow older, the holiday becomes bittersweet for us, as we balance missing our own mothers against the pure love we experience ourselves as mothers and grandmothers. 

Life itself becomes bittersweet as we age.  We sift through our memories and sometimes realize that the sad ones outnumber the happy ones.  We find our bodies beginning to disappoint us -- did our baby boomer generation really believe we would stay forever young?  Our minds begin to fail us occasionally, our energy lessens, and our joints begin to stiffen and ache  -- how can this be??  This wasn't supposed to happen to us.  How naive we were.

Twenty or so years ago, a friend gave me some leftover stones from a greenhouse he was building.  I decided to use them for a little garden path.  My husband dug out the path, and I laid the stones myself -- placing and moving them to achieve the haphazard pattern I desired, and then tucking them gently into the soil.  What a lovely path it was, and how much I have enjoyed it all these years.  In the past couple of years, though, the roots from the shady maple nearby began to push up on several of the stones, leaving the path uneven and rough -- much too uneven for my stiff old legs.  Last year I took quite a tumble as I tripped on one of the stones. 

Finally, last week, I tripped again and almost fell; with heavy heart, I decided that my lovely stone walk needed to be replaced with something more even and secure.  The day they were removing the stones, I went out early in the morning to take some final photos of my path.  I'm sure the new path will be beautiful, and will be designed to fit in with my unstructured landscape.  I will be happy with it, and much more sure-footed as I walk out each morning to feed my birds.  But, I am glad I have the photos, and I will treasure the memories of my old stone walk.

Life moves on -- some things are constant in our lives, as are the lilacs and Mothers' Day in May.  Others are more transient, and once gone, they are gone forever.  It is our choice whether we spend our days mourning our losses or savoring our blessings.  It means the difference between bitterness and contentment, and I definitely prefer to be content.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

The Legacy We Leave

"A society is defined not only by what it creates, but by what it
refuses to destroy." -- John Sawhill

A stately old church in a small city nearby was demolished over the past few weeks to make way for a large grocery store.  Its story was a sad one -- the church had stood as a landmark in the city for many years.  Local groups fought to keep it standing, but appeals to the developer to save the church, and legal maneuvers to prevent its demolition all failed.  Once again, greed trumped respect for history and beauty, and now the City of Watervliet will have a mega-grocery store in its midst to bring profits to the developer and the grocery chain, and a lovely piece of its architecture has been destroyed in the process.

A recent article in our local newspaper, the TIMES UNION, brought back painful memories of the building of the Empire State Plaza in Albany during the 1960's and 1970's.  Then-governor Nelson Rockefeller envisioned a large government center of modern office buildings in downtown Albany.  To bring his vision to fruition, almost 100 acres of homes, shops and churches were razed through eminent domain.  Entire neighborhoods were displaced with no thought to the lives affected by this demolition of homes and history. 

My own church, St. Paul's Episcopal Church, was a casualty of this heartless demolition.  I loved our old church, with its beautiful old stained glass windows; I was baptized in the church and confirmed in the midst of the controversy over its possible destruction.  I remember our minister, Rev. Nelson Parke, speaking to the congregation of a suggestion he had made to keep the church intact.  His vision was of a peaceful little sanctuary in the midst of this governmental plaza -- our lovely old church, surrounded by a small area of grass and trees, with benches for state workers to sit on and relax during their lunch hours.  I thought this was a beautiful idea, and was devastated when Rev. Parke's suggestion was ignored and we were forced to build a new church elsewhere in the city.  Rev. Parke died unexpectedly of a heart attack during this time, and in my young mind, I always blamed his death on the stress from fighting against the demolition of our beloved church.

The Empire State Plaza has stood boldly now since the late 1970's -- its cold marble and modern architecture a stark contrast to the city from which it rises.  There are those who see great beauty in its gleaming facade, but I am not one of them.  The TIMES UNION article states, "for those who remember the thriving neighborhood that vanished, the Plaza is far from the bold statement of progress that boosters over the years have made it out to be."  A former resident of the neighborhood comments, "We look at that, and we see a cold, sterile environment that's really a monument to arrogance.  I think it was arrogant for a political leader to displace so many people, to uproot their lives to change their culture in the space of a few years, to destroy all the relationships that had been built up over half a century."  I agree.

And I am reminded of the above quote by John Sawhill.  It seems our society will be judged as one that is quick to destroy our environment, our architecture, and our history for the sake of greed and power.  Our legacy is a sad one indeed.



Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Rebirth All Around Us

As I hurried out to the bird feeders with seed yesterday morning, I was greeted with the faces of my beautiful crocuses blooming in the midst of the old leaf mulch from last fall.  It has been too snowy and wet to rake out the mulch from my gardens yet, but these hardy little crocuses didn't care.  It was time for them to bloom and they pushed their way through the autumn debris to the sunlight beckoning them upward. 

This rebirth in springtime is especially meaningful this year, because the crocuses bloomed the day after Easter Sunday, the celebration of the rebirth of Jesus. Easter has always been one of my favorite holidays.  When my children were little, I cherished our time together making Easter egg trees and placing stuffed bunnies and baskets around the house.  I remember the pleasure of filling baskets the night before Easter and sitting in church with my little ones in their Easter finery. 

This year my Easter weekend was a busy one.  On Friday night I gathered my children and grandchildren around the table for an early celebration, as they were leaving on a vacation Easter morning.  On Easter day, we had a quiet celebration for six loved ones late in the day.  Easter is such a joyful day -- giving us the gift of faith that no matter how badly our lives go off track, there is always redemption for us.  We, too, will be reborn.
With my grandchildren on vacation, I find myself with a lovely vacation, also.  There are so many things I want to do on these days when I am free from responsibility.  The days will pass so quickly, and I have so many plans.  At the top of my to-do list, though, is to work outside in the garden -- to gently rake out the leaf mulch from around all the perennials.  This takes time, and if the weather forecast is correct, it will be chilly as I work, but the work is soulful -- as I carefully remove the old leaves, I am always astonished at the tiny little green plants sprouting there.  How can they possibly be so green when they are hidden away from the sunshine and rooted in cold ground?  What a treasure they are -- what a perfect example of rebirth. 
On this April morning, the maple tree outside my window carries whispy buds, the daffodils and tulips are peeking through the ground, and the birds are singing before dawn each morning, scouting out nesting spots and courting mates.  Already my two birdhouses on the porch have been claimed by sparrows. 
How lovely to carry the assurance in our hearts that after the depths of winter comes the rebirth of spring -- not only in nature, but in our own lives.  A blessing on us all -- 

Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Emotion of Gun Control

This abandoned old house held a family when I passed it on my bus ride home each day in elementary school.  As I took this photo the other day, my mind drifted back to my childhood in this rural community.  Guns were very much a part of our lives back then.  My father had an old rifle to shoot at the rats which frequented the chicken coop next door to our house,  My best friend's father was an avid hunter.  Most of the boys in my class at school were taught to hunt and given guns of their own as soon as they were old enough to use them safely.  They were a fact of life -- a rite of passage -- and the only gun deaths were unfortunate hunting accidents.

Our schools were safe.  Some of the boys in our class may have been a little wild, and fist fights often settled arguments, but none of us EVER worried about being shot to death in school.

Our world is very different now, and my opinions on guns have run the gamut since those early years when they were just part of the background of my everyday life.  As guns developed into the more vicious assault rifles we see today, I supported the banning of assault rifles.  As I reeled emotionally from the increasingly common mass shootings in schools and public places, I believed that increased regulations on the sale of guns in the form of strict background checks was necessary.

And yet, part of me questioned if guns were the problem at all.  I still remembered all those boys from my childhood who had guns, and I wondered.

After the horrendous school shooting in Connecticut in December, suddenly everyone was talking about strict gun control laws; our NYS Legislature passed a gun law seemingly overnight.  And, suddenly, the questions being raised loudly and angrily were those of gun owners worried about the loss of their Second Amendment rights.  While I feel the NRA and many of the nation's gun owners have gone beyond reason in their vitriolic rhetoric, I do feel that we walk a slippery slope when we begin passing laws without proper debate and thoughtful consideration. 

Another question arises with more stringent background checks -- we talk of required reporting of anyone with psychological issues which point to violent behavior.  Once again, while this might be a particularly worthwhile tool in the prevention of these violent shootings, aren't we possibly violating the civil rights of our citizens.  What about the Iraq veterans with PTSD -- will some of them be placed on this list because of the anger they struggle to deal with?  What about the troubled teen who goes for counseling and is forever labelled as a possible threat?  What is the best way to protect our citizens?

The larger question in my mind, though, is the lingering memory of those boys throughout the 19th and 20th centuries who had guns, and yet, did not turn them on each other or on society in general.  What is the key difference in our world today that causes our young people to commit these horrendous acts of violence?  What flaw in our society or in our parenting creates an anger so intense that it explodes into a killing rampage?

In our rush to solve the problem of gun violence, we must not focus on the long-time gun owners, or trample on the rights of average citizens to purchase guns.  We must put more time and effort into determining the causes of the mental state which allows a killer to coldly plan and implement the killing of innocents.  We should look into the music, movies and TV shows to which our children are exposed -- there are very few with any redeeming moral lessons.  We should examine the video games our children are playing, and their computer usage. We should make sure our schools provide psychological services beginning in early elementary school to any students who seem to be struggling with anger, neglect, poor performance, etc.  As parents, we must make the time to provide a strong family environment of love, discipline, moral responsibility, and compassion.

There is no easy answer to this dilemna, but we MUST make it a priority to find the root causes of this violence, and work to correct the problems.  Every minute we spend fighting over gun control is wasting precious time in prevention of the mental problems that drive our young people over the precipice, and endanger our society as never before.