Rarely does the rain taste like tears

IMG_1569
image by TTQ cc; Uncommon Folk exhibit at MaM

Whirlwind of a rainbow, blind eye of the storm.
Keeper of the bear lodge, brave heart soon to rest.

Never have I seen the clouds like this, never have I seen the river white caps whipped so, such rare light marking off in sacred four directions.

Rarely does the rain taste like tears.

Rain, rain, rain, in my tears / Measuring carefully my years --Uriah Heep
Rain, rain, rain, in my tears / Measuring carefully my years –Uriah Heep Image by Robert via Flickr CC.

Tonight my heart is breaking, yet bursting with gratitude – such dichotomy is the stuff of growth and pain.

Life gives us this and more, and in death the reminder of how short and sweet and tumultuous and tender this gift is.

stained glass glow
stained glass windows; church in NJ, image by TTQ CC license

…the storm shall soon pass, with it that kind-hearted Whirlwind and in doing so will leave us all the better for knowing him.

We sit, still in ceremony with all of you. Prayers are felt.

Doug Ellis via Flickr CC license candle light prayer circle
candle light prayer circle

 

For you who know where I sit tonight, I cannot describe the quality of the light of setting sun on the storm clouds.

1-0910161910d
sunset storm clouds over Lake Michigan

(We listen) to the wind whip around the house and he laughs! Fitting to go out in a storm he says… The spikes of light in the cardinal points, something very surreal about it all…

diamonds
image by QThomas Bower, via Flickr CC

My love to everyone in the down south lodge.

Here in the north it’s become a powerful night.

Rainbow Curls image by Kris Williams via Flickr CC license
Rainbow Curls, Iceland image by Kris Williams via Flickr CC

 

–Kristen Andrews

I found this lovely, incredibly moving tribute posted by Kristen Andrews somewhere on Facebook a while ago.  Such beautiful words, such heart wrenching imagery, such love and beauty — it makes my heart ache.

Advertisements

Don’t judge a truck by one bumper sticker.

One of the little perks I give myself on a cold winter day on the way to school is a trip through the McDonald’s drive-through. I like their breakfast sandwiches. I realize it may not be the healthiest choice on earth, and that many people have philosophical issues with the place. But I enjoy an egg McMuffin, a sausage biscuit with egg or sausage and egg burritos now and then — I just DO.

Image by Mike Mozart via Flickr CC license. http://tinyurl.com/p4zt76t
Image by Mike Mozart via Flickr CC license.
http://tinyurl.com/p4zt76t

I found a McDonald’s that is not far out of my way that has lightning quick, reliable service in the drive-through so I’m tempted to stop every once in a while.

Today was one of those days.

 

I didn’t sleep well.
Our coffee maker is on the blink.
I was hungry but didn’t want to cook anything at home.

So —

I drive up.
Place my order.
Dig around in my bag for some money.
Drive up toward the window to pay.

I find myself facing the tailgate back of a big red truck.
On the left side of the tailgate is a very large bumper sticker:

It says — I’m Pro-Choice on Guns.

Under that there is an image of a machine gun.

Instantly I am perturbed.  Irritated.  Upset.  Angry.

I work in an elementary school.

Guns and schools — well, we all know the horrific things that have happened.

I had to fight the urge to flip the guy off.

My friends know that I am not a frequent flipper.

I’m being honest here.

Not my usual response to these things.

But this bumper sticker really hit me wrong.

I did manage to restrain my flipping urge.

Thankfully.

I looked further down to see what other tidbits of wisdom this guy had on his bumpers.

The next one I see is a large black-bordered white oval that simple says IRAQ in black letters in the center.

In smaller letters curving around the bottom of the circle were the words:

I served.

Oh.  My.

He served in Iraq.

I’m instantly ashamed of myself.

I send a silent apology and a fervent “thank you for your service” thought toward the red truck with all the mental force I could muster.

I give myself quite a “talking to.”

No wonder the guy wants a machine gun handy.  After living and working in Iraq I might want one, too.

I don’t begrudge him his gun sticker any longer.

The next thing that happened brought me to tears.

I drive up to the “pay here” window.  The young woman says — HE PAID FOR YOU.

I am flabbergasted.  Speechless.

Most people would react by paying for the person behind them, and I wish I had done that!
But I was all caught up in my inner drama.

I drive up to the next window to get my order.  The server has a huge smile and obviously knows what the guy had done for me, too.  I say “Thank you” with tears in my eyes and try to mumble something about what a nice surprise and that this has never happened to me before.  I don’t know what I said, really.

I looked around for the red pickup.  I wanted to say “thank you.”

I saw him heading toward the stoplight in the left turn lane.

Normally, I would need to turn left to get to school but I quickly drove up beside him in the other lane.  I rolled down my window and yelled “thank you” and gestured from my heart over to him.  He nodded and waved as if to say “no big deal” and then he drove off.

As I drove to school I mulled over  all the thoughts and emotions as I munched my burrito and sipped my sugar-free latte.

As a Christian the ramifications of “HE PAID FOR YOU” is glaringly obvious but equating my free breakfast with eternal salvation seems trite and ridiculous.

Why did this kind gesture surprise me make the tears well?

I surmised that it is because I was so mean and judgmental about the first bumper sticker.  Then already felling chastised by the second sticker, all my assumptions were blown away by the incredibly kind, thoughtful and simple gesture of his “paying it backward.”

This young man who risked his life in Iraq while I lived my comfortable Midwestern American life bought ME breakfast.

The point that stuck with me is that caring (or hurting, for that matter) for each other doesn’t always need to involve grand gestures.

Simple words and actions matter.
Do good things.
Mean thoughts can lead to mean actions.
Don’t go down that path.

Be kind.  Be generous.  Be spontaneous.  Be thoughtful.

Let’s do it.

Pay for the person behind you in line.  Soon.

I’ll tell you my story.  Please share yours, too.

Oh.  And the next time you see vet?
Gather your courage, and please take a moment to thank them for their service.

February 4: Happiness Haiku

http://www.flickr.com/photos/nexus_6/3017902989/sizes/l/
image via Flickr CC by nexus6

Girls’ choir spins pure tones
Words of comfort, peace and grace:
No tears in heaven.

He will wipe every tear from their eyes,
and there will be no more death
or sorrow or crying or pain.
All these things are gone forever.
Rev. 21:4
(New Living Translation)

I got a call on Sunday from the Artistic Director of the Milwaukee Children’s Choirs.  Suddenly, they were in need of a replacement (permanent!) pianist.  Thanks to a friend and fellow accompanist, I was recommended and asked to play.

I went to the first rehearsal this evening.  The group of young 3rd to 5th grade girls meets once a week in an absolutely fabulous downtown Youth Arts center.

The room was filled with red t-shirts, snazzy boots and wiggly, smiling girls.  When they sang it was angelic and the room was transformed into a huge gothic cathedral!

The first song they sang with piano accompaniment was a setting of Rev. 21:4.  My heart lurched when I opened the music. Tears sprang into my eyes as I quickly scanned the piece. This verse was one that I held onto two years on this very day — the day my Dad died — the day he fell asleep on the couch in Indiana and woke up in heaven!

He had been sick for so long and had been so miserable. It was a great comfort to me to read these words and to keep them in my mind and heart that week — through the funeral planning, all the visitation hours, through the sorrow, laughter and tears.

So as I sat there in that room with all the that young vibrant musical energy, I was filled with gratitude and joy.

God brought me through. I believe I was sitting in the exact place I was meant to be at that moment.
Thanks be to God!

Be a good neighbor.

Milwaukee River image by TTQ cc
Milwaukee River image by TTQ cc

Be a good neighbor — Re-visited one year later.

Today is the one year anniversary of my first regular post on The Tromp Queen blog.  Click on “Be a good neighbor” here or above to read that post.

(The VERY first one was called “Apparently I can be talked into starting a blog but I don’t really count that one since it was mostly just an announcement of my presence and intentions).

It is also the two-year anniversary of my dad’s death.

I wrote a post about my dad last May as I contemplated Father’s Day without Dad.  The post is “Missing Dad.”

A year later — I’ve written 140 blog posts as The Tromp Queen.  I have 200 followers here.  I’ve made new friends and have enjoyed this whole blogosphere more than I ever imagined.  I recently started a recipe blog, called The Heat is ON!  My family endured a year cram packed with changes.  New job, new city, new home, new schools, new neighbors — new practically everything.

Some things never change.  I still miss Dad, and I always will.  The events of that day and the week after feel simultaneously quite recent and a long time ago.

Thank YOU for reading, commenting, following and most of all for caring.  I hope you’ll continue to hang around for rest of the journey.

It means more to me than you know.

Joy 365: January

The Tromp Queen’s January Joy 365 project is COmPleTe!! Please check out my photo gallery of January Joys! Next month, I’m going to write a “Happiness Haiku” every day, or at least that is my goal. I will wait til I have the whole month complete and then post them all on Feb. 28. Enjoy!

The Tromp Queen

January:

Jan 6:  Snow Day (actually frigid wind chill day) — watching Bollywood Bride and Prejudice — FUN and JOYFUL!  (clip below)

Jan. 28:  Snow Day again!  Thankful to be safe at home with both children.  No School for either because of Blizzard/Polar Vortex revisit.

Beautiful animated Polar Vortex image.

Amazing photographs of Polar Vortex 2014 in Chicago from Colossal.

View original post

Sorrow prepares you for joy.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/eddi_07/4684277955/
Image by Eddi via Flickr CC license.

Sorrow prepares you for joy.
It violently sweeps everything out of your house,

so that new joy can find space to enter.
It shakes the yellow leaves from the bough of your heart,
so that fresh, green leaves can grow in their place.

Image by James Wheeler via Flickr CC
Image by James Wheeler via Flickr CC

It pulls up the rotten roots,
so that new roots hidden beneath have room to grow.
Whatever sorrow shakes from your heart,
far better things will take their place.”

– Rumi

This Rumi quote has been in my draft posts for quite a while.  I believe I found the quote through Soul Gatherings, and I saved it thinking I might have something profound to say about it eventually.  I chose a few photographs to enhance the imagery and in the process my thoughts got a kick-start.

I do read more (and different meanings) into this quote now than I did last summer, though. The anniversary of my dad’s death is quickly approaching (Feb. 4).  It will be two years since he died, and I find I still have a lot of baggage to sort through emotionally and spiritually.

Dad's funeral flowers, image by TTQ CC
Dad’s funeral flowers, image by TTQ CC

Also, most of you know I’ve been adjusting to (and grieving for what was left behind, really) all the changes this last year brought. I left a home and community of loving, creative, supportive friends after 17 years (and also left our 18-year-old son there to finish his senior year of HS).  I’m still very much up and down in how I’m feeling about and dealing with all of these issues from day-to-day, even now.

This Rumi quote has, at times, made me angry as I browsed past it in my drafts.  “Sorrow prepares you for joy? Yeah, right.  I’d rather avoid the sorrow part, thank you very much.”  I didn’t/don’t want things or people swept violently out of my life then or now — the sorrow is still very present some days.

But then the older and wiser me chimes in.  Yes, I realize sorrow is indeed an integral and unavoidable part of life. Change happens. For better or worse: It happens to us all.

image by Alexander Boyes via Flickr CC
image by Alexander Boyes via Flickr CC

I continue to have Faith and Hope.
I always believe that I’m going to slog through it,
that I will find equilibrium again,
that the fog will eventually lift.

image by OnceandFutureLaura, via Flickr CC
image by OnceandFutureLaura, via Flickr CC

Oh, I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain. 
I’ve seen sunny days that I thought would never end.
I’ve seen lonely times when I could not find a friend.*

I’ve watched nature programs enough to know that after devastating, ravaging forest fires come meadows of lush new grass and rich swaths of wildflowers.

My internal voice gives me encouraging words:

Dawn over Webster Lake, image by TTQ CC license
Dawn over Webster Lake, image by TTQ CC license

The darkest hour comes just before dawn.

Olbrich Gardens, image by TTQ CC
Olbrich Gardens, image by TTQ CC

Weeping may last through the night,
but Joy comes in the morning.
(Ps. 30:5 NLT)


Arboretum Gardens in Madison WI, image by TTQ CC
Arboretum Gardens in Madison WI, image by TTQ CC

For everything there is a season, 
a time for every activity under heaven. —
A time to tear down and a time to build up.
A time to cry and a time to laugh.
A time to grieve and a time to dance.
A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones.
A time to embrace and a time to turn away.
A time to search and a time to quit searching.
A time to keep and a time to throw away.
A time to tear and a time to mend.
A time to be quiet and a time to speak.**

first leaves, late March at Gov Dodge SP, image by TTQ cc
first leaves, late March at Gov Dodge SP, image by TTQ cc

On the positive side, I am on alert for the new green leaves and roots: both figuratively and literally.

Literally, I planted a lot of spring blooming bulbs in our new yard. I will be thankful and happy when I see them.  I look forward to fragile new growth as summer follows spring, as the roots and leaves grow larger and greener each day.

UW Madison Arboretum, image by TTQ CC
UW Madison Arboretum, image by TTQ CC

Figuratively, I have made some small forays to find and make friends and to begin to send out roots and branches (creatively, musically and otherwise).

I am thankful for each of you who read my blog.  Many of you have been hanging in here with me for pretty much the whole year I’ve been at this.  I appreciate the friendships that have sprung up, the emotional and creative support and inspiration I gather (and hopefully share), and the incredibly kind and thoughtful comments exchanged.

I just tried to find a comment from many months ago that has stuck in my mind.  I looked through all the pages of comments from all my posts and could not find it. I’m not sure who said it, but I DO remember the meaning of it.  I must have either posted something very short or re-blogged something I found interesting but did so saying I didn’t have any coherent thoughts or time to share them because of the move and all the goodbyes and such — and someone very kindly said (and I’m paraphrasing): That’s fine.  Don’t worry.  We’ll be here waiting for you on the other end of it.  When things get back to normal, we will be here ready to hear about it.  

Thank you for caring.

*lyrics by James Taylor from “Fire and Rain.”
**excerpts from Ecclesiastes 3, New Living Translation.

Going Away

Now as the year turns toward its darkness
the car is packed, and time come to start
driving west. We have lived here
for many years and been more or less content;
now we are going away. That is how
things happen, and how into new places,
among other people, we shall carry
our lives with their peculiar memories
both happy and unhappy but either way
touched with a strange tonality
of what is gone but inalienable, the clear
and level light of a late afternoon
out on the terrace, looking to the mountains,
drinking with friends. Voices and laughter
lifted in still air, in a light
that seemed to paralyze time.
We have had kindness here, and some
unkindness; now we are going on.
Though we are young enough still
And militant enough to be resolved,
Keeping our faces to the front, there is
A moment, after saying all farewells,
when we taste the dry and bitter dust
of everything that we have said and done
for many years, and our mouths are dumb,
and the easy tears will not do. Soon
the north wind will shake the leaves,
the leaves will fall. It may be
never again that we shall see them,
the strangers who stand on the steps,
smiling and waving, before the screen doors
of their suddenly forbidden houses.

“Going Away” by Howard Nemerov, from New Poems. © University of Chicago Press, 1981.  Featured on Writer’s Almanac, October 4, 2013.

This poem brings me back to the emotions I lived with most of last year. I tried to describe something quite similar to this poem’s scenario in my this feels final poem and post.  I’m pleased to report that I’m no longer living daily in this emotion. Slowly I’m adapting to my new life, making friends and finding new favorite places.  I still have days when I look back, but most days I’m looking forward or at least being present in my now.

I want to share this poem with photos I found on Flickr (Creative Commons!) to remember that time and to be thankful the pain isn’t quite so immediate now. I appreciate all the love, support and encouragement I’ve had from friends (and family) far and near, in person and through technology. Thank you for being with me on this journey.

We did have an offer on the house back in the other town late last fall, but the deal fell through.  I know some of these feelings and emotions of loss and separation will come rolling back when the house sells. Hopefully, I’ll be ready to face it when it happens. Somehow, I will be.

Joy 365: January

January:

Jan 6:  Snow Day (actually frigid wind chill day) — watching Bollywood Bride and Prejudice — FUN and JOYFUL!  (clip below)

Jan. 28:  Snow Day again!  Thankful to be safe at home with both children.  No School for either because of Blizzard/Polar Vortex revisit.

Beautiful animated Polar Vortex image.

Amazing photographs of Polar Vortex 2014 in Chicago from Colossal.

Joy 365

This is the first of hopefully 365 posts featuring various things, people, places that bring JOY.  I was inspired to attempt this project by my friend at Apple Hill Cottage and her Thankfulness – 360 project in 2013.  So many people, places and things bring joy to my life, and I want to make an conscious effort to take time to acknowledge and be grateful for each of these wonderful blessings.  The photos are not in order of importance or necessarily in chronological order, though my intent is to be roughly chronological as much as possible.  We’ll see how the project evolves, shall we?

January:
https://haskerj.wordpress.com/2014/01/08/joy-365-january/

 

Musical Gratitude (Repost from last year)

Musical Gratitude! Re-blog from “Before the Downbeat.” Well said!

Before the Downbeat

It’s Thanksgiving weekend in the U.S., a tradition where Americans express gratitude for what we have in our lives.  For musicians, our “musical thanks” often lead to a specific instrument, talent or to the music of certain composers.  Some of us even express thanks for Music itself, something that has definitely shaped our lives, personalities and outlook.

I’d like to add one more that is often left off musician’s lists: Gratitude for our fellow musicians.  Music is essentially a community activity.  No one learns, creates, or performs in a vacuum.  We have all had teachers, peers, mentors and colleagues.  We interact and learn from each other.  It’s a great time to remember how closely we are all connected.

Think for a moment about a symphony orchestra.  I certainly do, as I am the only person on the stage that doesn’t make a sound (extraneous grunting aside).  I rely on each…

View original post 216 more words

The Science of Happiness

What makes you happy? Have you ever wondered why?

This video investigates what makes people happier and why.

After watching this, I couldn’t get the people, what they said, and how they reacted out of my mind.

Why is it so difficult for us to tell the people we love how we feel about them? Why is it difficult for us to tell them how they make US feel? Why does expressing gratitude often make both the “teller” and the “hearer” cry?

I think I make an effort to be aware of blessings in my life. I try to notice beautiful things wherever they may be. In fact, sometimes people tease me about how much I love nature and beauty. I have written a few letters and emails over the years to express gratitude and thankfulness, but I could certainly do more and do it more often.

Do you feel the impulse to follow the experiment through with yourself and someone you care about?

Mull it over. Give it some thought.

Who would you call? What would you say? What is holding you back from doing it?

I’d love to hear what happens when and if you do.

 

Be a good neighbor.

image by The Infatuated via Flickr CC
image by The Infatuated via Flickr CC

Our elderly neighbor just brought a newspaper clipping and a plate of WARM chocolate chip cookies to my door. She said she appreciates the help we give her by clearing her sidewalk and driveway when it snows.

I gave her a hug and a hearty thank you. She said, “Thank you for being a good neighbor.” Tears sprang into my eyes.  I choked back the tears as I tried to squeeze out the words to explain why I was crying.

I’m not sure she understood. I think she was more than a little surprised by my tears. Those who know me well are not surprised by the tears, though!

I decided to use this, my very first blog post, to reflect on those tears.

Today is the 1 year anniversary of the day my dad died. He was the youngest of 8 children and was born just a couple of years after the Depression hit. He always felt not quite good enough. He felt that he was from the “wrong side of the tracks.” His brothers and sisters were all “smart as a tack” and loved to laugh and eat. Most of all, they loved each other and the whole family, too.

When he died last year, he was the last of the original Sligers. I have thought about him all day today sitting around in heaven somewhere with all those people and with other friends from long ago — shooting the breeze and laughing their heads off.

The Sliger family rules, according to my Aunt Ruthie (who died a little over 7 years ago) were simple and few:

  • Always vote.
  • Be a good neighbor.

The unspoken rules were there too:

  • Go to the hospital and stay there when someone you love is there.
  • Home made food is best.
  • Love your family no matter what.

So when my neighbor brought me these warm chocolate chip cookies on this cold grey February day and said I was a good neighbor, the tears started to flow because I know my dad (and the whole Sliger bunch for that matter!) are all very proud of me.

I think those tears were not just simple tears.  They were —

Tears of thankfulness
for this wonderful life that I’ve had and have

Tears of sadness that so many people I love
are no longer here on earth,

Tears of faith that I know they are healthy,
happy and whole
(and together with Jesus!)

Tears of love, sorrow, and joy.