Sunday, December 31, 2006


This is an in-between day -- we're looking back on the year that ends at midnight, and ahead to the new one that begins at 12:01 a.m. It's a good time for reflection on what was, is, and to be.

Sorta like Scrooge in A Christmas Carol where he encounters the spirits of past, present and future Christmases...

It's also a wonderful time to ponder what you want for the coming year -- resolutions, I suppose, although I think that resolutions also invites failure to accomplish said resolutions.

I'd rather think of them as intentions, as does Joanna Powell Colbert (whose observations on this 'time between' includes a number of interesting links that kept me reading until late last night). Maybe that's splitting hairs -- but it doesn't invoke the sense of guilt I always feel when I fail at keeping a resolution (like not eating the rest of the Christmas fudge in the interests of losing that 20 lbs. -- a resolution that most assuredly WILL be broken)

My intention is to return to the reality of smaller portions, fewer sweets and rich or fatty foods (that are not part of my daily diet anyway -- but in which I've indulged more often this year), and better awareness of what I'm putting into my mouth and stomach, stopping when I'm satisfied rather than continuing to eat because it tastes good.

My intention is to incorporate regular physical activity into my everyday schedule. Not a hard-and-fast I will walk two miles every single day, rain or shine or a join-the-gym-even-though-I-know-I'll-stop-going resolution. Just something more than what I've been doing, more regularly.

My intention is to clear out or organize some of the clutter in the office and the house: find a place on the bookshelves for my parents' photo albums, for instance, and in the finding, also tidy the stack of my own photos into something more identifiable.

And so on. Not specific tasks, but general intentions. I think that'll take me farther and more happily into 2007.

2007 is a milestone year for us: we will turn 60, along with thousands of other baby boomers. Like all the decade birthdays, it seems a good one to reevaluate priorities and habits, and discard those that don't work anymore. While that's an ongoing process no matter what age, it calls for some additional contemplation this year as we look for the path that will take us into this new decade.

I am glad to see 2006 end: it was a difficult year emotionally. Much of the year was focused on simple maintenance: doing what I needed to do for business, home, and family, but not anything extra or new, and sometimes pushing just to get through the job. There was a big sense of duty, but not much joy.

It was a year of loss and tears and letting go, although I think the latter is a constant challenge through all of life: to let go of the shoulda-coulda-wouldas and the regrets, and to carry the memories lovingly rather than painfully.

I want more delight next year, more pleasure, more joy. I want to cultivate the ability to find that in even the most ordinary of days. I am pretty good at finding gratitude in daily life: I want joy too.

This year has reinforced the importance of family and friends in my life. Even in our strength, our lives are fragile and everything can change in a second. I say thank you more often. I tell my family and friends that I love them, and how blessed I am to have them. I try to remember that anything else is just 'stuff' --

My mantra for 2007:
May I be filled with loving kindness.
May I be well. May I be happy. May I be free from suffering. May I be filled with joy. May I be at peace and at ease.

And my wishes to you for this year:
May you be filled with loving kindness.
May you be well. May you be happy. May you be free from suffering. May you be filled with joy. May you be at peace and at ease.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Speaking cat

There's an old legend that animals speak on Christmas Eve -- depending on the legend, it may often be about their owner's funeral or the injustices inflicted upon them by their owners. And it's usually considered very unlucky to overhear them speaking. The legend has its roots in the Nativity story about the animals in the Bethlehem stable bowing before the infant Jesus.

Our cats talk all year -- and from talking to other "staff" of adored pets, dogs and horses do too. If you are attentive, you know what your pet is telling you with that tone of 'mew' or 'rrruff' or the snuffly whicker made by a horse who knows you've come to feed him.

Cheswick, for instance, makes it quite clear when he thinks it is time for us to go to bed, especially if one of us has snugged down before the other is quite ready. He'll sit in the office doorway and 'merow,' and if that gets him nowhere, he'll hop atop the desk and sit, feet neatly together, tail wrapped around them, and stare at the tardy human, punctuating the icy blue-eyed glare with increasingly insistent 'merowp's.

If that doesn't work either, he'll go from the desk to the top of the chair, then into the lap, and back to the desk. He won't be distracted with petting, either. It is time for bed, and you might as well give up. Once the errant human is in the bed, he settles down very quickly.

McMurphy is less opinionated, but more vocal day-to-day. He watches the outdoor cats from windows and doors, and then wanders through the house yowling plaintively, as though he'd lost his last friend.

Always an indoor cat, he is sure that the outdoors would be far more interesting and lurks near doors in case he has a chance to make a dash for freedom. Of course once he's escaped, the outside cats that he so desperately wants to meet offer him nasty hisses and low growls, and he grows more and more agitated as he darts from grass to tree to sidewalk until finally Tony -- whom he adores -- can get near enough to pick him up and return him to indoor safety.

The outdoor cats talk to us too. Harry Potter is the most vocal and will yell all the way down the driveway on his way to the food dish. He wants petting, he wants more petting, he wants attention and now! "Let me tell you about the day I've had," he'll say. "Don't get into that car and leave me -- I'm not done talking!"

Each cat has a very distinct personality and voice if you pay attention -- as do all animals, I believe. We love watching their quirky preferences -- Cheswick, for instance, can hear the top of a yogurt container being removed from anywhere in the house, even if he's in a deep sleep. He'll always show up to demand his share -- which, being the suckers we are, he gets. McMurphy, on the other hand, could care less about any human food. Cat food, and plenty of it, please.

Both cats adore Tony. Maybe it's because he rescued them from a dumpster, maybe it's because he has a way with any animal. At least once during any day, first one cat and then the other will sprawl across his lap and gaze adoringly into his face while purring loudly. You can hear them: "I loooooovvveee you....pettttt mmeeeeee....I loooovvveee youuuuuuu." (It's just disgustingly sweet.) They tolerate me, but I'm definitely "staff" status, not preferred, and they'll come into my lap only if the chosen one is not available.

By the time we got home on Christmas Eve it was past midnight. I can report, however, that both cats informed us that it was past our bedtime and they were not happy. We didn't need spoken words to understand exactly what they were saying -- and their pleasure when we were all tucked in also was obvious, although not in words you'd find in any dictionary. We heard them nonetheless.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas

Christmas was different this year from any I've spent -- but there were some very sweet benefits.

It was relaxing. I've focused for so many years on making Christmas nice for everyone else, and even though I'd enjoy it, it was stressful. This year I paid more attention to me.

It was full of food and laughter and good conversations with friends and neighbors. One of the big goals we'd set when we moved here was to get involved, make friends, actually have a social life -- something there just was no time nor energy for in the Bay Area. We feel very blessed to have enjoyed the company of friends both last night and today. It was very special.

I feel very loved -- by my dear husband who wrote a wonderfully mushy, tender letter to me that made me puddle -- and by my daughter who sent me the first quilt she's ever made, stitched together by hand, and then she used the sewing machine to quilt it. There is love in every stitch, and I feel it. She also sent a reminder of past tradition with her own home-canned rhubarb sauce, a little box of wild rice, a deck of cards (we used to play cards for hours with Mother, laughing, nibbling on fudge and cookies and nuts). It made me puddle too, but the tears today were sweet.

Okay, there were a few moments that were flat -- but doesn't everyone have that on holidays? Most of us have a picture of the perfect, loving, Norman Rockwellian Christmas in our heads, but that is simply not reality. There are no perfect families. But family means loving your relatives, warts and all, and accepting them where they are rather than where you wish they were.

Easier said than done, hm. Another one of those things we work on day by day, even on Christmas.

I want the Christmas feeling to continue through this week, though. I'm not ready to resume routine chores, start on long-overdue tasks, or stop eating cookies. Not yet. That's what January is for -- starting over, new beginnings, second chances, diets, resolutions.

I want to do only what I absolutely have to do for the good of the order, but mostly I want to eat the calorie-laden leftovers in my fridge, watch movies, read the book Santa left me, enjoy the lights and decorations for one more week, and simply stop doing and just focus on being this week. That seems like a good way to end this year and start the next.

Merry Christmas. May you feel blessed where you are in this cycle of life.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Gifts under the tree -- and in the spirit

We have a tiny little (fake) tree I picked up when I was shopping the other day. It's pre-lit, so itty-bitty little lights twinkle on it, and I've hung just a few of our treasured ornaments. It's on a table in our dining room, right by the table in front of the big window, and I'm just amazed at how it cheers up the room. It's not the real thing, but it'll do very nicely.

And there are packages under it. Lots of not-very-big stuff for Tony, some goodies for me from Santa, and some survival packages for V. And one package that I know has something very nice in it, for me from my honey.

It's been tradition -- born of procrastination, to be sure -- most years before to wrap packages on Christmas Eve. Maybe not all of them, but certainly a good showing. Even the last few years when we'd travel to Springfield, I'd send a big package ahead with wrapped gifts in it, but I'd also always go shopping there for stocking stuffers or an outfit from Dillard's petite department for Mom (they had a better selection than most stores I frequented in the Bay Area). So we'd always end up buying wrapping paper and ribbon and tape. And we wrapped.

I think that tradition is going away this year. I've already sent gifts to Jimmy, Rachel, and Brigitte. Everything I've bought is wrapped, and I have no plans to go out again....well, except tomorrow morning to the post office to retrieve a package. But no stores, ergo no wrapping.

And this has been the most relaxed December I've had for many, many years, at least in terms of preparing for Christmas. We've watched Christmas movies on TV, listened to most of our Christmas CDs, baked cookies and bread and made candies.

One gift: I don't have to travel! Oh, I am so grateful to the universe for the almost snow-free Christmas travel weather we've had for all those years of returning to Springfield! If we didn't drive the 1800 miles through Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and Oklahoma -- and certainly those areas of I-40 can get some serious weather -- we'd fly, usually through Denver -- and at about this date in December. We would definitely have been among those 5000 folks stranded at the airport.

Two years ago there was a nasty snowstorm south of Springfield that delayed the kids and Jimmy driving for a day (and there was considerable drama because of it that year, too), but we'd arrived just fine, and no snow in Springfield.

Maybe four or five years ago a snowstorm hit Springfield on Christmas Eve and made driving hazardous, but we stayed snug and warm and well fed. And safe. It was pretty well gone by the time everyone had to leave.

Another gift: I'm not responsible for feeding everyone all the time. We're sharing Christmas Eve and Day meals with good neighbors, and we will enjoy good food and fun conversation. I'm bringing a dish or two, but that's easy. We'll just go and have a good time.

One more: the wood stove warms the house, the angels in the alcove above it watch over us, we have plenty to eat and books not yet read. And we have time to savor it.

Yes, I miss my parents, old rituals, the kids, my brother. Sometimes it weighs heavily on my heart and leaks through my eyes. But I also realize how blessed I am to have my loving husband, our wonderful house, our kitties, and to know that our family is safe and warm where they are, and that they are where they should be for this year. And that's the biggest gift.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Message from the universe

So I whined and moped around yesterday about a myriad of stuff, a little teary, a lot snarky, with a large dollop of heavy duty nostalgia.

And lo, the Universe gives you what you need.

In my mailbox today was the Daily Om speaking precisely to my case of the holiday blues. It reminds me, gently, that this holiday needs to be about who I am now, not who I was. Another 'be in the moment' gift.

Thanks. I needed that.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

'Tis the season to be stressful

Maybe it's just me, but I'm feeling a lot of free-floating stress this week, and it's a little frustrating when you're trying to continue to conduct business!

I know it's less than a week until Christmas. I know everyone is finishing up cooking, cleaning, wrapping, shopping, preparing for guests or whatever.

But I'm starting to feel like I'm the only one left who is still trying to attend to commitments and business affairs. And it's not like I'm all done with everything, either -- I still have shopping and wrapping to do.

Maybe it was unrealistic of me to think that we could conduct routine business meetings and finalize some issues. I guess. Unfortunately the business world doesn't stop even when Christmas is approaching. Oh yeah, for a day, maybe. But deadlines loom, decisions have to be made, and nobody seems to feel the urgency that I do. So is it just my tendency toward anal-retentiveness that is causing me such heartburn over this???

I'm beginning to wish it was just over for another year.

We decided this morning to take a pass on decorating a tree this year, after an unhappy attempt at purchasing one yesterday from one of the big stores here. It was mid-afternoon on a weekday, and NO one was staffing the area where the trees were displayed -- the real ones. When we finally tracked someone down, we were told that all we had to do was to get a big flat cart -- and then the staff member left. No help on pricing, trimming, wrapping. So we left too, very frustrated, and unimpressed with customer service.

We haven't had trees every year, to be sure -- we've traveled seven years out of the last last 10 Christmases so have had only two trees, although we've had Christmas decorations up. Our kids won't be with us this year. It seems like just one more thing that needs doing, at least right at this moment, and even if we left it up until 12th night (January 6), it still isn't very long to have it up. It was my suggestion -- and that was before I started feeling so frustrated about business affairs!

I guess it's just one of those days where things don't seem so merry and bright, and I'm missing family and my mother and father, and remembering (doubtless through a somewhat rosy filter) Christmases past with great nostalgia. Fortunately I'm also aware that these emotions will change quickly, and that this, too, shall pass.

Everything changes. Nothing stays the same. Cherish the moment and give thanks for what is right and good in our lives, and remember that the only person I can change is me.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Decking the halls and shopping the malls

I finished shopping yesterday and now need to wrap and mail stuff -- I'm late, I know, and it'll be express delivery. Oh well. I was pleased at what I found and all the sales. I do love a bargain...

Santa is also bringing some stuff for ME that I bought yesterday. *grin*

And I've been baking up a storm this morning: the holiday cake which is as good as I thought it would be, rum balls that are really loaded, and the wonderful, crisp Taku Lodge ginger cookies. Still have a few things to go, but I've at least got goodies.

And tonight we see the classic "Miracle on 34th Street," which I love -- better than "It's a Wonderful Life." Of course "The Bishop's Wife" with Loretta Young and Cary Grant is just marvelous and is one of my all-time favorites ... as are "Holiday Inn" and "White Christmas" with Bing Crosby

Just for fun, I took a look at favorites from other folks, and I guess I'm really getting older, because movies like "A Christmas Story" (you'll shoot your eye out!), "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation" (the squirrel in the tree is hysterical), and "Nightmare before Christmas" are among those listed as "older" movies. To be sure, "Wonderful Life" and "Miracle..." also are included on most lists, but the others seem very contemporary to me.

We loved "Polar Express" though, and I've enjoyed the Santa Clause movies. One very un-traditional and potentially offensive movie that we laughed through was "Bad Santa," with Billy Bob Thornton (one of Tony's favorite actors). It is not for sentimental traditionalists.

I'll bet that a bunch of the favorites will be aired this coming week.

I love getting cards from friends far and near, but especially the ones I don't stay in touch with throughout the year. One such card arrived today, and my very talented friend from high school is now the dean of a university!

For a couple of years now, we've sent New Year's letters rather than Christmas ones -- okay, partly because of too much to do and so little time (aka procrastination), but also because I think they're really read more intently because they arrive after the rush. It sort of wraps up the old and looks forward to the new.

My uncle Tom also did New Year's letters and I will miss hearing his always-eloquent words this year. He could tell a story so that you felt you were right there with him, watching the aurora borealis in the dark Alaska night or warming up at a beach bonfire somewhere beyond ambient light.

The sun is shining today and it's colder. Feels more like December. No rain in the forecast for a week plus -- yeah, we need more, but it can come in January, after everyone has traveled safely. I will so not miss the airports at Christmas!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

'Twas a dark and stormy day

It was a good day to stay in and bake cookies.

I don't think it got completely light until about 9 a.m. and it was starting to get dark by 3. We have rain and drizzle, with more of the same predicted for the rest of the week, although daytime temperatures aren't bad -- in the 50s. This weekend will see lows right around freezing. Snow could come as low as 1500 feet, but I doubt we'll see even a flurry here. Which is just fine with me.

So I baked Jule Kage and two kinds of cookies, filling the house with yeasty, cardamom-y, buttery aromas, and listened to carols from Mannheim Steamroller and John Rutter. It was a cozy sort of day, and I expect to have a couple more this week, as business is very quiet -- not at all unusual for December in any kind of market, but this one is slow anyway. And I've still got killer fudge (this is almost mine -- I use unsweetened baking chocolate instead of the semisweet) and peanut brittle to make in addition to several more kinds of cookies, more bread, and a new holiday cake/loaf that sounds really yummy.

Baking is one of my favorite things about the holidays since I seldom do it the rest of the year -- we just don't need those extra calories. And even though it'll just be us here to enjoy it, I'll give lots of it as gifts. It's very comforting to make so many of the same goodies every year, although I always have to try a few new recipes. I remember baking the same recipes, years and years ago, and where I was and what was happening in my life then.

The fudge recipe is one I found in a Zionsville, Indiana, church cookbook sometime in the '80s, and have made it ever since. It never fails, is completely rich and chocolatey, makes a full, creamy 11x15 panful, and my brother raves about it. Even my daughter eats it, and she's not a chocolate lover (amazing, I know)...

Christmas is the only time I make it, and I savor every single piece.

And then there's peanut brittle. Now my orthodontist doesn't read this blog (at least I hope) or I'd be hearing about the evils of such candies, but honestly, homemade peanut brittle made with real butter and raw peanuts, cooked to a lovely brown, and then spread in a buttered pan, pulling it as thin as possible, is one of the joys of the season. Mother had two recipes from fellow teachers, and I'll usually make both. The recipe card, in her handwriting, is stained with butter and sugar from years and years of making it.

When I was working full time back in Alabama, I'd get up very early and mix a batch of cookies and refrigerate it until I could bake them. I'd do marathon baking sessions one December weekend and freeze everything. I'd always swear I'd start in November the following year, but that's never happened. I need the carols, the wintery weather, the time pressure! to feel the baking urge. Or the Christmas shopping urge, for that matter. Nope, I'm not done. Nope, nothing's wrapped (and won't be until I need to mail packages to the kids and my brother and sister-in-law).

But I'll get there. I always do. It just takes a little December winter to get me in gear.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Shared ritual binds us

I dreamed of my mother last night and trying to feed her, nourish her. There was plenty of food,and somehow we ended up with two turkeys in the oven. She was very fragile, and didn't quite understand what I was trying to do. I'm not really sure, either, except that was going to be a lot of turkey.

I miss her.

I miss being in Springfield for Christmas, going shopping there for last minute gifts, waiting for everyone to get there, bringing my mother a Clementine and some Jule Kage that I'd brought from home.

I miss the rituals we'd established there, and those we'd carried over from another life.

We're creating new ones, I understand that, but creating anything is hard work, especially in the beginning. Last year, the first without Mother, was hard, but in some ways this one feels harder, a little sadder.

Author Robert Fulghum wrote about ritual, especially family rituals. As we acknowledge the events, the losses, the beginnings in our life through ritual, we also honor the spiritual in them and in ourselves.

When we have wild rice and bacon and Jule Kage for breakfast on Christmas morning, we are continuing a ritual from my childhood when we'd visit Duluth. Many of my cousins also fix wild rice. It connects us in honoring those traditions and our grandparents and parents.

There are cookies and candies that I always bake at Christmas, from recipes my mother printed by hand into a notebook of her favorites. She is there in the kitchen with me when I stir flour, butter, and pecans together for Daddy's (and Tony's) favorite, Pecan Shorts.

We all have rituals around family, especially at holidays -- things we always eat, stories we always tell, songs we always sing, fights we always have.... Ritual connects us, binds us together. It honors our dead and celebrates our living.

Our family won't be here this year -- but I know what my brother and my daughter will be eating for breakfast on Christmas. I know there will be certain cookies in their homes, and that they'll hang stockings knitted by my mother nearly 30 years ago. And in those shared rituals, we will be together.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Oh, the energy of youth!

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat was tonight's offering at the Redding Broadway Series, and it indeed was amazing!

I'd never seen it, although I'd heard snippets of music from it over the years. Music is by Andrew Lloyd Webber, one of the most versatile composers of our time. He wrote Cats, Jesus Christ Superstar, Evita, The Phantom of the Opera, among others, and an amazing Requiem that could not be more different from his musicals.

Joseph was so fun. It's the Biblical story of Joseph and his coat of many colors, and the stage exploded with lights and color and glitter. The musical numbers reflected country, Elvis, reggae, classical, and more. Portraying the Pharaoh as Elvis the King was absolute genius, and totally over the top. We loved it!

And the cast. Young, lithe bodies radiated talent, energy and enthusiasm, and the audience just sucked it up, hooted and hollered, and reveled in it.

Sitting there in the dark, I remembered being that young and seeing endless possibilities stretching before me. I could have done anything!

As a college senior, I'd planned to go to journalism school and into radio news -- aka the next Pauline Frederick (am I dating myself or what!) . Instead I got married and taught school.

But I could have been one of those kids. I had talent and drive, if not a whole lot of musical theatre training where I went to school. Maybe. Or not...

I soaked up the experience tonight, though, and realized --again-- that there are some opportunities that aren't going to happen, at least not in this life. My hair is silvery, my face shows the decades that have gone by, there are achy joints that wouldn't take that life very well. That particular torch has been passed.

But for a little while tonight, my heart sang and danced with those kids, and I remember all that youthful raw emotion, that constant roller coaster of feelings and decisions and relationships and plans and dreams. Nothing is impossible.

It's part of the cycle of life, that hard journey from enthusiastic potential to comfortable acceptance. There are a few parts I wish I could do a little differently, but all in all, I wouldn't change much. That's a pretty good place to be, I think.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

On the path -- by grace and faith

When I wrote about finding my path to Christmas, someone left a comment that the path may be grace and faith this year.

As a life-long United Methodist, I recall many sermons based on the scripture from Ephesians that says "For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves. It is the gift of God..."

And I thought, "Well, okay. I don't know that I'm there anymore." I haven't been an active church goer for nearly 10 years, although I certainly have put in lots of time within church walls singing, chairing committees, attending services, cooking for potlucks, and meeting many friends. At some point the church community itself became the primary reason I participated.

And then during a rather dark, searching, questioning period, many things changed in my life, and I gradually grew away from the organized church.

But my spiritual path became even more important to me. I studied. I read. I prayed. I talked with people who were on non-traditional paths as well as those grounded in the traditional church.

I found in me a spirituality that doesn't exclude what I grew up with and participated in, but is at once all-encompassing and loving and compassionate. It is not a "church" or organized doctrine with a name; it just IS.

So I thought about the "grace and faith" comment this week, and about my values and beliefs.

Grace is defined as "...unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration or sanctification..."

Regeneration means "... restored to a better, higher, or more worthy state.." and sanctification is " impart or impute sacredness, inviolability, or respect to..."

Faith has many parts to its definition, but I like this: "...firm belief in something for which there is no proof.." It is from the Latin fidere: to trust.

At a gathering tonight, I talked with friends, my beloved husband beside me. The fellowship, the sense of belonging and being exactly where I am supposed to be, was strong and positive (and such food! with enough sugary-delicious desserts to satisfy even my demanding sweet tooth).

Lighting our path home, the full moon was unencumbered by clouds on this crystal-clear verylate Indian summer night and made the landscape bright and the shadows very deep. It hid the stars we know are there...but we know they will be visible when the moon goes dark again in its unfaltering cycle. That is faith.

And I realized that this is by grace, this being here and now, being where I am, who I am.

It is through faith that I am here at all -- even in the darkest, hardest parts of life, I have always trusted in a Higher Power/God/the Universe, rocksolidsure in the belief that the path is there
for me to find and that I am rightly guided if I simply open my heart and mind.

So tonight, in an unexpected way and place, I found the path to Christmas. And indeed, it is by grace and through faith. Blessed be. Thanks be to God.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Honoring the person within

The first Christmas card I received this year is from a nurse who took care of my mother in Springfield. She sent a photo of her family and her Christmas letter full of news about her three children, their new home, herself and her husband.

Mother went through all three pregnancies with G and loved to see the her boys when G would bring them to visit, and rejoiced with her when G finally had a daughter. She'd listen to G tell about homeschooling the children, and sometimes had suggestions for G since Mother had been a teacher for many years.

G had various positions during the six years that Mother was there -- meds nurse, assistant director of nursing, charge nurse, and others I don't remember.

What I do remember was her gentle, calming influence on everyone there, and her interaction with the nursing home residents.

She listened. She clearly loved what she did, even if sometimes staff didn't show up or there were difficulties in dealing with doctors or administrative staff.

She respected the personal dignity of each person she helped, and always -- ALWAYS -- treated the residents with honor for who they were, not what they had become in their decline. She saw the person who raised a family, worked, volunteered, laughed, danced, loved, not just the person who was in Depends, needy, anxious, sick, complaining.

There were many nurses' aides who came and went during those years, and many of them found their way to Mother's room where they'd pour out their secrets and stories to her, and she'd listen patiently, occasionally offering advice. Even though some had moved to other opportunities, they still came back to visit, to show off their babies, to bring photos and tell stories.

There were others who were impatient, careless, and never stopped to consider the humanity of the residents they were assisting. They'd breeze in and out, usually talking loudly and clearly in a hurry to get things done NOW. Mom occasionally registered a complaint about one or another -- but they rarely lasted very long anyway. They didn't bother to look at the person within the one who needed help and instead just saw the infirmities.

Oh, I'm sure that not everyone in a nursing home is a *good* person -- there are some real stinkers in our everyday world, y'know, and some of them live long enough to need help. I'm not sure I could manage to be pleasant and helpful to someone who lived their life angry and abusive and selfish.

I am grateful for healthcare workers who can, though. And I am grateful that G was there for my mother and honored her as a person of grace and worth to the end of her days.