Nothing but happiness

In a person’s lifetime
there may be not more than half a dozen
occasions that he can look back to
in the certain knowledge
that right then, at that moment,

there was room for nothing
but happiness in his heart.

– Ernestine Gilbreth Carey

This quote, though it is ostensibly about happiness, makes me feel melancholy.

It is sad that we make so little intentional time and space for happiness in our lives.

Most people spend (waste) those joyful, happy moments being distracted — by worry, fear, their phone or some other electronic device, by thinking ahead or looking behind.

Whatever the cause, the moments pass by unnoticed and unmarked.

Thankfully, I DO remember some instances when I have specifically consciously realized:
THIS is a moment to remember.

There are several of these “moment memories” from when our children were babies. Becoming pregnant was not an easy road so when the babies arrived, I probably made more of an effort to be “aware” of the moments than some mothers might. Holding your very own freshly bathed, clean diapered, just fed, snuggly baby who is either asleep or falling asleep in your arms — well, there is nothing like it. I wished I could store those moments up for when they turned into raving teenagers telling me they hate me (which did happen, though I know they don’t truly mean it!)

Most people make an effort to stop and enjoy the big events: graduations, births, weddings, retirements, new jobs, new homes, etc. But even these milestone events often pass by in a whirlwind of activity or in a fog of details.

Once in a while I need to escape to a “happy place” in my mind.
This is when I draw on one of those memorized moments.

I have several of these images from which to choose. One is from a camping vacation we took with some dear family friends who had/have children around the same age as ours. We all enjoy tent camping, swimming, hiking, biking, boating, kayaking, etc.

Door County, Wisconsin. View from Eagle Trail in Peninsula State Park.  Image by The Tromp Queen, CC license 4.0
Door County, Wisconsin.
View from Eagle Trail in Peninsula State Park. Image by The Tromp Queen, CC license 4.0

My specific memory comes from a trip we took together several years ago to Clear Lake (“up North” in Wisconsin). The children (early elementary ages at that time) were playing happily in the sand or in the shallow water. My friend, Anne, and I had been sitting in our chairs in the warm sun (safely sunscreened, sunglassed and be-hatted with our crossword books and pencils in hand). Our toes were in the sand. We had eaten a picnic lunch on the beach.

Image of Devil's Lake beach by anjanettew, via Flickr CC license.
Image of Devil’s Lake beach by anjanettew, via Flickr CC license.

I’m not sure where the “guys” were but maybe they were out in the kayaks or off riding their bikes.

Image by Dakiraun, kayaks via Flickr CC license
Image by Dakiraun, kayaks via Flickr CC license

I decided to get into the water. I put a floaty noodle behind my neck and around under my arms and another floaty noodle under my knees. I closed my eyes and just floated. The lake was clear (as advertised!) and cool but not cold. The sun was warm but not hot. The sky was blue and clear, with just a few small white clouds. There were not many other people around, so I mostly heard our content and creative children at play. I heard the birds, the small waves, and distant boat sounds.

Image by Al Herrmann, "Dave, lounging" via Flickr CC license.
Image by Al Herrmann, “Dave, lounging” via Flickr CC license.

We were all happy, healthy, and safe.

I realized — it was a completely happy moment — and I concentrated to memorize the feeling and all the sensations.

Here’s hoping you find a moment soon that is filled with nothing but happiness.  
And here’s hoping you are aware of it when it happens.

To learn more about the woman behind this quote, click here.

Image by The Tromp Queen, Aug 2015 CC license 4.0
Image by The Tromp Queen, Aug 2015 CC license 4.0

One Mom’s Advice for How to Succeed at College (and Life)

image by Kellan, via Flickr CC (Goodbye (redux))
image by Kellan, via Flickr CC (Goodbye (redux))

I posted this last year, but I updated it just a tiny bit.  REposting because this is still what I want him to hear as he goes out the door.

To my nearly 20-year-old son as he prepares to leave for college (again) this weekend:

Dear Ben,

You’ve seen these lists.
I’ve posted at least one list on your Facebook page.
I KNOW you read everything I post on your page, so maybe this is redundant.


via Flickr CC image by Rachel: Sunday Drive
via Flickr CC image by Rachel: Sunday Drive

It is amazing to me how fast these years have gone. You don’t realize yet how fast time truly does fly. Soon you will. It picks up speed during college and never slows down after that.

Remember Grandma always says, “It’s Monday; then it’s Friday. It’s Monday; then it’s Friday.” She’s right.

First of all, let me say that I’m incredibly proud of you and that I love you more than you can imagine.

I can’t resist the urge to impart some words of wisdom before you go, though. Brace yourself for the forthcoming flow of wisdom because here it comes!

image via Flickr CC by CameliaTWU Senescent maple leaf Herastrau Park, Bucharest, Romania
image via Flickr CC by CameliaTWU
Senescent maple leaf
Herastrau Park, Bucharest, Romania

1. LISTEN TO ADVICE, but find your own path. People will tell you which class to take, which Prof to avoid, which dorm is best. What is true for another person may not be true for you. Gather information, investigate and decide important questions for yourself. Don’t rely on what “everyone” tells you.

2. GO TO CLASS. This really should have been number 1, but I’m not that great at lists, following advice or thinking in a linear fashion. But you already know that and I digress. There is no way to succeed without BEING THERE. Yes, sleep is important. So is eating and socializing. But the main reason you are there is to LEARN stuff, to gain knowledge — and you can’t do that if you aren’t in class. Seriously. Don’t skip. Figure out how much each hour of class costs and imagine throwing that money away or burning it. That is what you are doing when you skip.

3. BUILD RELATIONSHIPS. I could have said “make friends” but I believe there is more to it than just making friends. You will find people who make you better at being you, who make you feel more alive and more interested in the world. Avoid the people who create turmoil; those who are more interested in what you can do for them than in who you are. Making friends is fairly easy, but keeping them isn’t as easy. Invest time in people wisely. Choose carefully. Some of the friends you make in college will be your friends decades from now. One of the best ways to do this is to be in and to stay involved in a music organization.

4. Find your PASSION. (I know — trite but true). In your baby book, there was a page for “Mother’s Wishes for Baby.” I couldn’t put into words what I wanted for you at that time, but this is what I wanted to say then and still want to say now:

I want to you be healthy. I want you to have enough challenges so that you grow in faith and courage but always enough tools, resources, and friends to meet those challenges. I want you to have a job that doesn’t feel like work; a job that you love so much that you are thankful each day you get to do what you do and get paid for it. I want you to have confidence, compassion, joy, respect, curiosity — LOVE. Aspire to inspire.  In short: Do what you love and love what you do.

5. TRAVEL. Save money and plan for trips. When opportunities to travel arise, turn over every rock to make it happen. Go, see and do.

6. THINK DEEP THOUGHTS. Let your imagination run. Dream. Set some incredible goals. Have great conversations. Have some adventures. Keep your sense of humor. (You’ve got this one down pat, already!)

7. BEWARE OF THE VORTEX. Don’t sit alone in your dorm room (unless you are studying or have homework!).
Please be aware of how much “screen time” you are spending. Don’t be that guy who sits there for five days playing video games and eating Cheetos. You are better than that.

8. REACH OUT. If you feel overwhelmed, depressed, out-of-sorts, unhappy or lonely — call someone. You can ALWAYS call home. 🙂 Also — If you are lost or confused in a class, go see the Prof. Just do it. It is the best way to get back on track.

9. While I’m on the home topic — FAMILY IS FOREVER. Hopefully you’ve already picked this tidbit up. Family will be there at the hospital, at your life events, at whatever. We’ve got your back. Through thick or thin you are stuck with us (in a good way).

10. KEEP YOUR WORD. Mean what you say and say what you mean. Don’t lie. You don’t have to say everything you think out loud, though. Be kind. Have integrity. Stand up for what is right, even when it is not the easy thing to do. Learn to say “no.”

11. Be a good neighbor. Always vote. (Sliger family rules!)

(and this addendum since last year — )

12. ANSWER YOUR PHONE when we call!  If you can’t talk right then, fine.  Text us and let us know when it would be a good time to talk.  We MISS you!  Have a little sympathy for the old parental units now and then.  It doesn’t matter what we talk about  — we mostly just want to hear your voice.



image by Martin LaBar Bradford pear leaf, sooc via Flickr CC
image by Martin LaBar Bradford pear leaf, sooc
via Flickr CC


Every once in a while I hear or see an interview that immediately draws my attention and holds it.  Often the topic might be something I know very little about or may be about something obscure or something I am not at all interested in —  but the person speaking about it is SO passionate that I can’t help but care!

Carlos Santana

I heard Carlos Santana in an interview such as this one evening on PBS.  He made quite an impression on me.  He speaks with such insight and obvious passion about his music — about life — about screaming charisma and conviction.

(African Music) It pitches your whole existence into a state of joy that can’t be bought. (It has) intensity of spirit and joy.

Real musicians remind the listener of a forgotten song inside them. And when you hear that forgotten song, you know, you get chills, you get tears, you dance, and you don’t even know why,

Music is to glorify the light in you.

I give a chance to give voice to the invisible ones.

Victory is won already, you know?  And the only enemy is fear.  (They) talked about that a lot. You transform fear with your supreme joy, you know? (Commenting on what he learned from Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu).

Listen to the whole interview here:



or here:


I’m also intrigued by non-famous passionate people.  I enjoy hearing them talk about their work.

In this rare image taken on July 19, 2013, the wide-angle camera on NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has captured Saturn’s rings and our planet Earth and its moon in the same frame. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

An interview I saw on a PBS Newshour last fall completely bowled me over.  This woman’s passion for knowledge and for exploration nearly burst through the TV screen.  I wish every child could have a science teacher like Carolyn Porco,  the leader of the Cassini imaging team at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado.

Read more about the mission and see more photos here.

Saturn and Earth from Cassini. NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI


Tiny Tethys and Saturn’s rings. NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute


Possible variations in chemical composition from one part of Saturn’s ring system to another are visible in this Voyager 2 picture as subtle color variations that can be recorded with special computer-processing techniques. This highly enhanced color view was assembled from clear, orange and ultraviolet frames obtained Aug. 17 from a distance of 8.9 million kilometers (5.5 million miles). In addition to the previously known blue color of the C-ring and the Cassini Division, the picture shows additional color differences between the inner B-ring and outer region (where the spokes form) and between these and the A-ring. The Voyager project is managed for NASA by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. NASA/JPL

See?  I got pulled into the vortex!  These images are absolutely stunning and amazing.  Check out more of NASA’s space images here.


Speaking of ordinary people who are extraordinary:

If you have never heard this young woman speak, please consider watching at least part of this video.

Pakistani school girl Malala Yousafzai, 16, rose to international fame when she was shot in the head last October for speaking out against the Taliban’s ban on girl’s education. Malala made a remarkable recovery, becoming the youngest nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize. Margaret Warner talks to Yousafzai about her mission. —PBS Newshour.


I always enjoy hearing about the “behind the scenes” people — the people in the trenches — the people slogging through some tedious, long, possibly dangerous or nearly hopeless project.  I found this story, featuring the work of National Geographic photographers who happen to be women, intriguing not only because of their obvious passion for their work and for this project but for their insights and the resulting art.

You can read the transcript here.


I come to the conclusion that passionate people make the best art.  They make the best music, the best photographs, the best books. They also make pretty terrific teachers, scientists, and well — people in general.

Antique Archaeology (via Facebook)


Many of my friends know that I am “hooked” on Antique Archaeology, a TV show featuring Frank Fritz and Mike Wolfe.  These two guys drive around the country in a white van, looking for “rusty gold” (i.e. what most people would call “junk”) to buy and sell.  I love the show because they are passionate about what they do.  They are passionate about preserving history and historical objects.  They meet interesting and passionate people who care about the same things.  Who knew people could get so excited about rusty old signs and dirty old motorcycles?  I’m drawn to the LOVE they have for what they do, and to the respect they have for each other, for the items they buy and sell, and for the people with whom they deal.



Another show I admit being “hooked” on is Project Runway.  It is one of those “someone gets cut from the group every week” shows. The premise is fashion designers working on tight deadlines and tight budgets to create fashion forward and on trend garments which meet specific parameters set by the show’s producers and hosts.  The fashions are judged and then the worst and best designs are chosen.  “One day you are in, the next day you are out” is Heidi Klum’s famous line from the show.  The mentor for the designers is Tim Gunn. He is passionate about his job and about helping each of the designers bring the best out of themselves.  The designers are (mostly) passionate about what they do and about what they are creating.  When people care and have a lot at stake, tempers can flare and drama can occur.  But wonderful things can happen as well!  Often kind, wonderful, beautiful moments come about in the midst of all the stress and self-doubt.


And because I never seem to know when to stop…a few last thoughts and quotes to leave with you:

Many charismatic and passionate (and famous) people spring to mind: Martin Luther King, Billy Graham, Nelson Mandela, Jacques Cousteau, Jane Goodall, Neil deGrasse Tyson.  Not many of these people would leap to mind as “passionate artists” but they all share a passion for their chosen life’s work —  and for humanity.  Maybe each of these folks will get their own blog post about this topic some time in the future! We shall see.

Jacque Cousteau nearly convinced me to become a marine biologist!


via 33mediatumblr






Stained Glass: Columbus, Ohio — Broad St. Presbyterian

Broad St. Presbyterian Church, Columbus, OH Photos by The Tromp Queen, CC license
Broad St. Presbyterian Church, Columbus, OH
Photos by The Tromp Queen, CC license
Broad St. Presbyterian Church, Columbus, OH Photos by The Tromp Queen, CC license
Broad St. Presbyterian Church, Columbus, OH
Photos by The Tromp Queen, CC license
Broad St. Presbyterian Church, Columbus, OH Photos by The Tromp Queen, CC license
Broad St. Presbyterian Church, Columbus, OH
Photos by The Tromp Queen, CC license
Broad St. Presbyterian Church, Columbus, OH Photos by The Tromp Queen, CC license
Broad St. Presbyterian Church, Columbus, OH
Photos by The Tromp Queen, CC license
Broad St. Presbyterian Church, Columbus, OH Photos by The Tromp Queen, CC license
Broad St. Presbyterian Church, Columbus, OH
Photos by The Tromp Queen, CC license
Broad St. Presbyterian Church, Columbus, OH Photos by The Tromp Queen, CC license
Broad St. Presbyterian Church, Columbus, OH
Photos by The Tromp Queen, CC license
Broad St. Presbyterian Church, Columbus, OH Photos by The Tromp Queen, CC license
Broad St. Presbyterian Church, Columbus, OH
Photos by The Tromp Queen, CC license
church in NJ
church in NJ

I Am in Need of Music

I Am in Need of Music (Sonnet)

poem by Elizabeth Bishop, photos via Flickr Creative Commons
Adam Henning, CC license via Flickr
Adam Henning

I am in need of music that would flow
Over my fretful, feeling fingertips,
Over my bitter-tainted, trembling lips,
With melody, deep, clear, and liquid-slow.

Abstract by Art G. CC license via Flickr
Abstract by Art G.

Oh, for the healing swaying, old and low,
Of some song sung to rest the tired dead,
A song to fall like water on my head,
And over quivering limbs, dream flushed to glow!

Victoria Falls in Zambia at sunset, by Ryan.  CC license via Flickr
Victoria Falls in Zambia at sunset, by Ryan.

There is a magic made by melody:

Rhythm of Fire by Seth Rader

A spell of rest, and quiet breath, and cool
Heart, that sinks through fading colors deep
To the subaqueous stillness of the sea,
And floats forever in a moon-green pool,

Reflection on Johnny's Pond by Sathish JHeld in the arms of rhythm and of sleep.

"The pond" by Mikael Tigerström
“The pond” by Mikael Tigerström


sonnet by Elizabeth Bishop
I believe I understand what Elizabeth is describing with her words.  Early in my teen years, I discovered that music was a calming force for me.  Not that I always felt or feel calm when I play, but that the act of playing (of creating music) brings me to a calmer state of being.
Is it because my mind stops turning inward or spinning in worried circles?  I focus on the notes and the feel of the keys, the pattern of the chords and melodies — and there is only music.  Is it the physicality of the hand/eye coordination or the wavelengths of sound going through my eardrums into my brain that does it?  Or is it the “Zen”ness of the playing, the feeling of letting myself slip away until I only see and hear and feel the music?
There is healing, of rest, of flow (hence the imagery of water), of stillness, of floating.  Quiet Breath.
I don’t know why it works this way for me, but it truly does.
These are but a few of the many reasons why I will always be in need of music.

images for inspiration — final days of march

March 27

Embed from Getty Images


March 28

"Set your heart on doing good. Do it over and over again, and you will be filled with joy." by BK   Attribution-NonCommercial License
“Set your heart on doing good. Do it over and over again, and you will be filled with joy.” by BK  symphony of love  — Attribution-NonCommercial License

(See more Buddha quotes here.)

March 29

"Strawberry fields en Central Park de NY - en memoria de John Lennon" by KINO   Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License
“Strawberry fields en Central Park de NY – en memoria de John Lennon” by KINO
Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License

March 30 — Art in Bloom at the Milwaukee Art Museum

From Jean Selep at Selep Imaging Blog — Art in Bloom 2008 at the Milwaukee Art Musuem

Read about this event here:

I took lots of photos of this year’s event which we visited today!  It was spectacular!!  I will share them and my thoughts about the day in a blog post very soon.

March 31

"Brightness: website quotes by Andrew Jones" by Andrew Jones   Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License
“Brightness: website quotes by Andrew Jones” by Andrew Jones
Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License

You are Magic: March Inspirations 3

image by Steven DePolo via Flickr CC:  Inspirational quotes from Qiqi Emma (Jan 18, 2010)
image by Steven DePolo via Flickr CC: Inspirational quotes from Qiqi Emma (Jan 18, 2010)
image by Steven DePolo via Flickr CC:  Inspirational quotes from Qiqi Emma (Jan 18, 2010)
image by Steven DePolo via Flickr CC: Inspirational quotes from Qiqi Emma (Jan 18, 2010)
image by Steven DePolo via Flickr CC:  Inspirational quotes from Qiqi Emma (Jan 18, 2010)
image by Steven DePolo via Flickr CC: Inspirational quotes from Qiqi Emma (Jan 18, 2010)
image by Steven DePolo via Flickr CC:  Inspirational quotes from Qiqi Emma (Jan 18, 2010)
image by Steven DePolo via Flickr CC: Inspirational quotes from Qiqi Emma (Jan 18, 2010)
image by Steven DePolo via Flickr CC:  Inspirational quotes from Qiqi Emma (Jan 18, 2010)
image by Steven DePolo via Flickr CC: Inspirational quotes from Qiqi Emma (Jan 18, 2010)
image by Steven DePolo via Flickr CC:  Inspirational quotes from Qiqi Emma (Jan 18, 2010)
image by Steven DePolo via Flickr CC: Inspirational quotes from Qiqi Emma (Jan 18, 2010)

you are magic

I found these wonderful photos on Flickr (Creative Commons). How can one NOT be inspired by these incredibly adorable encouraging messages from this loving child?

Inspirational Wall Slogans from Chennai India

The capacity to care is the thing that gives life its deepest meaning and significance.
The capacity to care is the thing that gives life its deepest meaning and significance.
Light lights another and its light does not grow less.
Light lights another and its light does not grow less.
Look for strengths in people, not weaknesses, for good, not evil.  Most of us find what we search for.
Look for strengths in people, not weaknesses, for good, not evil. Most of us find what we search for.

All Images by McKay Savage; Chennai, India October 2009.

One of Chennai’s lovely quirks of public space are these series of inspirational and motivational wall slogans in several areas of the city. The sequence is from along GN Chetty Road in Chennai as you approach Gemini Flyover and is one of the longest stretches.

You can see more of these wall slogans in McKay Savage’s Flickr Photstream.

March 2 (retroactive March inspiration post)

Joy 365 Project: March Inspirations

image by Area224 attribution CC license
image by Area224 attribution CC license

This month I will focus on posting anything that inspires me. This might be photographs, music, poetry, quotes — there are many possibilities here!  I hope you enjoy this month’s theme, and I hope you find inspiration here, too.

Final Few February Haiku

This post marks the end of my February Haiku (part of my Joy 365 project).  This was more difficult than the January photos.  I am already behind on March!  I’m not sure what I will be doing with March yet.  Stay tuned, and as always, thank you for reading and following The Tromp Queen!

25 Tues — First rehearsal with area HS students preparing for upcoming district solo/ensemble contests.

image by TTQ
image by TTQ

Singers prepare songs.
First run-through:  a little shy.
Music minds the gaps.

26 Wed — Meet with photographer at Milwaukie’s Art Museum lobby to take head shots for my new job as MCC accompanist.

image by TTQ, CC license -- at Milwaukee Art Museum
image by TTQ, CC license — at Milwaukee Art Museum

Hair, make-up, jewelry:
Head shots at Art Museum.
Carved marble profile?

27 Thurs — Driving across the state from east to west. Going through Pville en route to quilt retreat.

Driving Driftless roads
Passing bluish-white meadows
Trees and cows dot hills.

Tears rush to fill eyes.
I don’t live here anymore.
“Home” is elsewhere now.

28 Fri 

image by lynn Dombrowski attribution, sharealike CC license via Flickr
image by lynn Dombrowski attribution, sharealike CC license via Flickr

Favorite coffee shop:
Time to chat with my dear friend.
Joyful day begins.

quilt and photo by qurikyjazz aka Jill CC license
quilt and photo by qurikyjazz aka Jill CC license

Next stop: Quilt Retreat.
Bound with stories, tools, advice,
Hugs, laughter, sorrows.

Connections endure:
Souls and voices — we still hear.
Fabric soothes us all.

February Haiku Project Continued: 19 to 24

February Haiku Project Continued:  19 to 24

image by Conrad Kuiper via Flickr CC
image by Conrad Kuiper via Flickr CC

Stark shadows on snow.
Branches cast graphic shapes:
Nature’s modern art

Fragile bunny tracks
Trail the length of my sidewalk.
Snow too deep for hops?

image by Nedra via Flickr CC
image by Nedra via Flickr CC
image by The Tromp Queen, all rights protected (please don't copy)
image by The Tromp Queen, all rights protected (please don’t copy)

Anything better
than a roomful of girl teens
laughing and talking?

(Answer:  No! life is good)


image by Bob Haines GSFC Photo Club via Flickr CC, stained glass Library of Congress in DC
image by Bob Haines GSFC Photo Club via Flickr CC, stained glass Library of Congress in DC

Late afternoon sun —
Long winter shadows on snow —
Golden light shimmers

Ebony sketches
As ink on pastel batiks —
Twigs, branches, sky glow.

(I wrote this thinking about tree branches silhouetted against the sunset, but this stained glass window captures the look, color, texture, and the feeling so I’m going with the “non-literal” illustration this time.)

February 4: Happiness Haiku
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!

Sorrow prepares you for joy.
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.

Joy 365: 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?



The Miracle of Grace

Once upon a time there was a young family: a mom, a dad and a darling baby boy. The baby boy had blond curly hair, and was cute as a button. He was quite intelligent, a bundle of energy and very creative. The mother worried that he was an only child. She had Polycyistic Ovary Syndrome so it was very unlikely she would have another baby without major medical intervention. In fact, the boy had been a miracle — helped along by many fertility doctors and nurses through over a year and a half of fertility treatment, culminating in over a dozen shots of Metrodin, AIH, pregnancy, and birth of healthy baby boy!

Three years later. December. The mother and father discussed options. Because of insurance changes there was only one more chance to try the incredibly expensive Metrodin treatment. This time, however, no egg was fertilized. The parents were sad, but tried to accept that another child might not be in their future. They decided another Metrodin treatment was not what they wanted — no matter if the insurance ran out or not.

January. Not long after learning the fertility treatment had failed, the mother had a very vivid dream one night. There was a warm golden strongly comforting voice (no image) that said: “Get a house, lose some weight and the baby need will be solved. Also, remember the story of Abraham and Sarah.” That was it. There really wasn’t a “you will have a baby” message in the dream. The young mother was left with a feeling of peace and woke with a sense of determination — and with a specific plan of action!

February. Though getting pregnant seemed destined for the back burner, two “by chance” conversations at church led the mother to a new fertility doctor in a nearby town. Soon the couple and the new doctor were getting set to try a less expensive and less invasive approach to solve the fertility issues. Then, suddenly the doctor had to leave the country for a couple of months to take care of a family emergency, so the plans to try again to get pregnant were put off for a few months.

In the meantime, the young mother called a realtor (just a few days after having the dream) and started looking at houses. In just a few weeks, a home was found. The couple felt a sense of peace in the new house. Though the house was old, it had the feel of being the “right” place for them to live. This was the place for them create a home with their son. They would be happy there.

At the same time, the young mother (who had struggled with weight issues since her teen years) was inspired by Oprah’s Make the Connection book and managed to lose about 15 or 20 pounds in a couple of months. She got up early, went to the gym and worked out even when the college football or swim team guys were there! It wasn’t easy, of course, especially because of her PCOS, but she was making progress.

April. After the couple of months had passed, the young family had moved into their new “old” house and were getting settled. It was time to call the fertility doctor’s office to set up an appointment. Though it had been 6 or 7 weeks since her last cycle, the young mother knew she was not likely to be pregnant. Three different doctors had told her she would not get pregnant without major medical intervention. Since the mother had been through months and months of treatments, she knew the first thing the clinic would ask was “when was your last cycle?” and “did you take a pregnancy test?” She knew they would not start any fertility treatments until a negative pregnancy test result is in hand. So — she took a test.

It was 6 am. It was the day before her 36th birthday. Odds of getting pregnant for people with fertility issues goes WAY down after 35. It goes down again every year after that.

With a sigh, she took the test. She waited the few minutes. She looked at the stick. She looked at the box. She looked at them both again. Surprise! Disbelief. Doubt. Who can she call this early?

Husband. He is already at work. She calls him.
Both are cautiously excited, but wary.

Anne. “Are these tests ever wrong?” Anne has 4 children. She did NOT have fertility issues. Anne said the tests are very accurate. This could be true!

Who does she call next? Her pastor.

Why? Several reasons.

A major reason is that the pastor also had had fertility issues. The pastor was one of the “by chance” conversations that had led to the new Dr. connection. She understood the issues of fertility because she had been through some of it herself.

Another reason was because of Lenten Vespers.

(Go back to March…) The pastor had done a series of homilies on the topic of healing. HEALING.

She talked about Namaan (2 Kings 5:1-19), about miraculous babies (Elizabeth, Sarah, and others), and about different ways healing could come. One might be healed because circumstances or desires change. One might be healed miraculously and immediately. (It does still happen!) One might only be healed after death, upon reaching heaven. Healing could come in a way different from what anyone might imagine or expect.

The young mother had lunch with the pastor one day during Lent. She told the pastor that she had never considered asking God to heal her, but that after hearing the series of talks it was weighing on her mind. The pastor replied that there would be a “Service of the Word for Healing” when people could come specifically to pray with the pastor for healing. The young mother said she would think about it.

(Early April) The night of the healing service, which happened to be on Sunday night at the beginning of Holy Week, life did not go smoothly in the young family’s home. The couple had a verbal disagreement, and the wife took a tearful walk down to the nearby neighborhood park. She was surprised to find an acquaintance from church sitting on the park bench.

Now this acquaintance was not a bosom buddy. They barely knew each other. It was clear that the young mother was upset, though, so what would turn out to be a very personal conversation got started.

The person in the park had had fertility issues as well. She had never had a child. She and her husband had gone through many rough years. She understood the push and pull of career needs and of family needs. They discussed the pastor’s series of healing messages. They discussed the young mother’s desire to have another child, a sibling for her son and to fill the baby shaped space left open in her heart.

She, the park bench sitter, urged the young mother to go back home to sort things out with her husband. She, the park bench sitter, would go to the healing service and pray for the young mother.

Life kept moving. The couple sorted things out. Holy Week went forward. A few days later, Ash Wednesday arrived.

The couple was new to being Lutheran. Lent was not a familiar concept or process to them. On Ash Wednesday, the pastor put ashes on foreheads and laid her hands on parishioners as they knelt to pray together. The young mother hesitated to go forward because this was a completely foreign concept to her. She believed in Jesus, and had been a Christian for many years. Her faith was strong. She just didn’t know what to think about the ashes and the laying on of hands. She thought it through, though, and decided to go forward. As she knelt, she was overcome with strong emotion — almost like being swept up in a strong wind — tears began to flow. She was nearly sobbing on the way back to her seat and was literally shaking. Embarrassed, she hoped no one could see how the experience had affected her. In the end, the turmoil left and she felt deeply peaceful.

Sunday. Easter Sunday.

Easter egg hunting in the yard, Easter Sunday, 1998
Easter egg hunting in the yard, Easter Sunday, 1998

After church, the boy searched for eggs in the large yard. He had on striped pants and his blond curly hair was adorable. He carried a basket and searched all over the yard (green grass for Easter!) for the hidden eggs. The young mother watched as the father took photos. The sun was shining, birds were chirping, the sky was bright blue with a few white clouds. She had an overwhelming sense of certainty that her son would be fine as an only child. He would have friends, he would attend the wonderful children’s center in town, he would be more than fine.

She realized this was her healing. She was healed of the desire (deep need) to have another child. She was content.

Fast forward and/or rewind back to the day of the pregnancy test, the day before her 36th birthday. April 28.

Hopefully, filling in those details explains why she called her pastor.

That day the young woman went to the Dr. to have the pregnancy test confirmed. It was TRUE. This was REAL. (Side note:  Another really cool thing happened that day. On the way back into her house, she greeted a neighbor she barely knew and invited her in. They ended up becoming best friends and created many happy memories together!)

It was clear in the young mother’s (now mother-to-be again!) mind and heart that the baby’s name would be Sarah. Her middle name was not as easy. Elizabeth? Maybe. Then one of her friends spoke of her dear old Aunt Grace. The Aunt used to say, “Everyone needs a little Grace in their lives.” She thought to herself, “Everyone needs a LOT of Grace in their lives.” Sarah Grace. It felt perfect. God had graced them with a miracle baby; Grace should be part of her name.

Months later, the young mother (now several months pregnant) was in a Sunday morning church service when the scripture from Genesis (21:1-8) which tells the story of Sarah’s miraculous pregnancy was read. The young mother heard the voice again saying “remember the story of Abraham and Sarah.”  She felt like she had a “miracle” sign flashing over her head.

In her heart, she realized she had not thought of the first dream as a check list. She really hadn’t focused on the “list” at all.  She had followed the path that seemed to lie at her feet. It was almost as if just by hearing the words in her dream, they had become the plan and had become reality. Not that she hadn’t worked hard at losing weight or getting the house. She had. She didn’t feel like she had been jumping through hoops or marking things off a “to do” list to “earn” the baby.

Another tidbit: At the first ultrasound back in May, the mother asked for information about the due date and when the baby had most likely been conceived. The answers: Due date was late December. Date of conception: Holy Week. (Service of Healing and Ash Wednesday prayers…remember?) God winks.

The bottom line is: It is hard to describe a miracle.

There are more “God Things” in this story, but I’ve gone on long enough for now.

Flash forward again. December 3.
She comes EARLY.
Three and a half weeks early!

Sarah Grace, 3 days old
Sarah Grace, 3 days old

The pastor visits the young mother in the hospital. She is holding the baby. The baby’s name is Sarah Grace. The pastor and the young mother pray. The pastor’s tears drop gently on the baby’s face as they pray together — Tears of Joy for the miracle of life that lay in their arms.

Grief. Tears.
Prayer. Tears.
Healing. Grace.
Miracle. Tears.

Flash forward to the very next Easter.  Sarah Grace was baptized by the pastor in a gorgeous lacy baptismal dress borrowed from Anne (which had been worn by her four children).

Another flash forward. The miracle baby, Sarah Grace, turned 15 this week.

Hallelujah! Joy. Tears. Gratitude.

The not-so-young mother treasures all these things and ponders them in her heart.