Sunday, January 11, 2015

Hope



For a few years now, my friend Lori and I have had a tradition of getting together on Sundays to make crafty things. We actually haven't done it in quite some time so today was a treat. We ate homemade soup and rolls, chatted, and crafted. I've missed these Sunday afternoons.

Posted above is my finished product. I picked up this paper wreath kit on clearance a while back and haven't gotten around to it until today. It's from one of my favorite local companies, SEI. I love their paper and scrapbook supplies. Not that I have scrapbooked anytime in the last 3 years! But still. You know what I mean.

I chose to write the word Hope on the chalkboard paper. It's my motto for 2015. I haven't decided yet where to hang it, but I want to see it every day. I have a lot to hope for!




**Sorry for the washed out picture. I have never claimed to be a professional photographer!

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Black Out Days


Remember how I wrote once that music speaks to my soul? Well, it still does.

I love words. I love music. The two combined are amazing. They are other-wordly. They are heaven. They are hell.

Every once in a while, and completely unintentionally, songs will assign themselves to a very significant person or event in my life. This year, it happened with two songs. The honor goes to Phantogram.

The song that I've shared above has simple lyrics. If you read the words without the music, they really don't say much at all. But pair them with the music and they speak volumes to me and to the February and March that I experienced in 2014.

I like to think about intention and experience, which influence where a writer is coming from when he or she creates poetry, prose, or songs. But honestly, I really don't know what Sarah Barthel and Josh Carter were thinking about when they wrote Black Out Days. At first I thought she was pleading with someone to stay away from her. But after awhile, I felt she was pleading with herself to stay away from someone or something that wasn't good for her. Whether or not that was their intention, that's what I take away from this song.

It's beautiful.

Here's the other song that I love.


My favorite part?
Babe, the night has swallowed my soul.
Could it be that I fell apart? It shows.
The lines on my face ate away my smile.
Could it be that I fell apart?
I'm still a romantic at heart. I love the emotion behind the words. I've stolen them from Sarah and Josh. They now belong to me and what I experienced last year. At the time I hung onto the songs like a life line. Now I listen to them and remember where I was compared to where I am now.

Friday, January 02, 2015

The Paperweight


A gift received on my 18th birthday


I was washing the dishes yesterday, looking out the window at the snowfall, when my eyes drifted down and rested on the paperweight resting on the windowsill by my kitchen sink.

"My goodness," I thought, "this is covered in dust!"

My mom had set the paperweight on the windowsill a few years ago when she came for a visit. She found it hidden in my computer room, unused. "This is so pretty! It needs to be somewhere you will see it every day!" she declared, setting it on the windowsill. She didn't know, or didn't remember, its significance.

I dipped it in the soapy water and wiped its surface clean. It sparkled as the towel buffed it dry. I carried the clean paperweight over to the Christmas tree in our front room. Holding it up  to the lights, I looked through it. I turned it around and upside down. I slid my fingertips over its smooth surface.

The paperweight was a gift from my best friend in high school. I remember that she had made certain to wrap the gift in birthday paper - since my birthday is so close to Christmas, I often get the dreaded joint birthday/Christmas presents - and though she teased me that I complained too much about this, she always took care to give me separate gifts and cards.

As I opened the gift, my friend explained that her mother had suggested she get me something significant for my 18th birthday. Something that I could keep to remind me of our friendship.

The paperweight has been with me now for 23 years. It traveled with me from Minnesota to Utah. It sat by my bedside throughout college. It was packed again and unpacked to sit on my coffee table in my first "married" apartment. It came with me to work for a while. It came back home. It was packed up again when I moved to a new home and started a new life. It was buried by the papers in my messy office. Finally it was moved to the kitchen windowsill.

Her mother was right: looking at the paperweight and its suspended dandelion fluff reminds me of my dear friend. We don't talk often, but when we do, it carries deep significance to me. We last spoke in the spring of 2014, shortly after she had her second baby and I knew I wouldn't be having any at all. I cried for her because she was having a difficult time. And she cried for me because I was so brokenhearted.

I thought about all that has happened in our lives as I looked at the paperweight sparkling in the light of the Christmas tree. It seems so strange now that we had no idea the paths our lives would take. There was no college, no travel, no marriage, no divorce, no babies, no infertility, no Utah, no New York. Those two little 18-year-old girls had no idea what was waiting for them. They didn't know how our lives would travel side-by-side, then cross, then separate, then cross again, over and over again, weaving a silent pattern.

The dandelion fluff looks so delicate, like it can be blown away with the puff of a wish. But it hasn't blown away. It stays suspended in the paperweight, and the paperweight stays with me.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Authenticity


My little blogging buddy, Carmen

A few months ago I reconnected with a blogging friend of mine. We both used to blog quite frequently and both of us have since petered out. I made my blog private for a while because I felt I was done. But since reconnecting with Jewel and exchanging a few emails, I've decided to give it another go.

No one reads blogs anymore, anyway, right? So no big deal.

Quite frankly, 2014 was the most challenging year of my life besides the year I was divorced and the year I was almost killed by a truck while riding my scooter. So if that says anything at all, you'll know how difficult it's been.

Maybe I'll blog about it. Maybe I won't. The most I will say right now is that I lost hope in something for which I had been reaching my entire life. My heart dried up and cracked, then crumbled into dust, pebbles, rocks and boulders, leaving me buried beneath the rubble. I just laid there for a while, letting the dust settle, feeling the grit in my teeth. If I breathed too deeply, the dust flooded my lungs and choked me. I simply had to rest, pinned beneath its weight.

An efficient, businesslike Kate took over and ran things for a while. She does a good job, that Kate. She works and cleans and cooks. She runs Facebook and Instagram. She remembers to document the happy times so I can revisit them later. I like her quite a bit. She helps me figure things out.

After a while, the business Kate went searching for the real Kate. The authentic one. The one who can feel things, who can laugh and cry, who can share both the bad and the good. She went searching with a flashlight and prodded through the rubble until she found me. She held out her hand and I took hold.

Here I am again. The authentic Kate. Like two parts of me have been put back together.

I should apologize for not being authentic. It's a quality I cherish in people. Yet I can't apologize. I simply wasn't capable of being more than who I was last year. Instead, I'll thank you. A few of you knew what was going on. Thank you for helping me. Thank you for letting me cry and keeping it private. I feel ready again to share myself with the readers who happen to find this.

See you in 2015, friends of the blog.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Bethlehem

I was so excited to visit Bethlehem!

As a Catholic child, many times I listened wide-eyed to stories and scriptures about the birth of Jesus Christ. I learned how Joseph and Mary, who was heavy with child, traveled long through the dark desert to Bethlehem - Mary on a donkey, no less - to participate in a census. I have pictured this many times in my mind. A tired couple, a pregnant woman in labor, no room in any of the inns, the fear they felt, and having to sleep in a stable. Giving birth in those dirty conditions, no doctors or hospitals, laying their baby in a manger, animals crowding close to keep the little family warm. Shepherds traveling from afar, following a bright star, to visit the new baby king. Gifts were presented. Angels sang. So lovely.

Whether you believe this story or not, it is sweet and somewhat magical, and I still read it every Christmas. It brings back warm memories of nativity pageants and Midnight Mass.

So here is the church that was built on the site where, according to tradition, the stable was in which Christ was born. It's called the Church of the Holy Nativity. It was totally pouring by the time we reached it, disembarked from our tour bus, and walked to the church. Our tour guide cut his lecture short and we rushed inside with a throng of other tourists. Please forgive the borrowed picture because I couldn't get one myself, but I did give credit to the source.

The Church of the Holy Nativity


I did catch a quick picture of the Cross of the Holy Land (also called the Jerusalem cross - but we weren't in Jerusalem). It symbolizes the five wounds of Jesus on the cross. I hear this cross is lit at night and is very pretty. We left before it got dark so we only saw it in the daylight.

 The Cross of the Holy Land


There are different sections of the church that now stands where the stable was. They are all owned by different religious groups. Apparently there is a lot of contention and strife between the different groups. Never mind that - I visited on a peaceful day. Pictured below is part of the original floor of the church which was built in 6 AD.

Original floor in the Church of the Holy Nativity


We wandered throughout the church and eventually made our way to a set of narrow wooden stairs that led to a grotto. There we saw the Altar of the Nativity - according to tradition, this is where Mary gave birth to Jesus, so this was built in its honor. The main attraction is the twelve-point star. People touch it and pray. I touched it and said a swift, silent prayer. I did not take this picture (it was very crowded and dim down there and mine didn't turn out), so I borrowed it. Credit given below.

 The Star of David


Opposite the Star is another altar, which is dedicated to the Wise Men who came bearing gifts to baby Jesus. Here I am touching it. Remember how it was pouring rain? That's why my hair looks so funky. And they asked us to cover our heads in the church, so I brought this scarf along for that purpose.

The alter dedicated to the Wise Men 


Here I am at the back of the room. The walls are covered with many beautiful paintings and tapestries of the life of Christ. It was very Catholic art, which I find very beautiful.

The group of people behind me seemed to be from Germany, judging from their conversations. At one point, someone started singing Stille Nacht (Silent Night). Soon the entire room was singing, so I quietly joined in (singing in English). It reverberated against the walls of the grotto and it gave me the chills. Once again, I thought of the many Midnight Masses I attended with my family when I was younger. Very nice memories of my parents singing in the choir and my brother sitting next to me in the front pew.

In the Grotto


After the Grotto, we moved on to the part of the church owned by the Roman Catholics. It was so bright, clean, and pretty. A mass was in process, but we didn't participate. (As a non-practicing Catholic, I couldn't have taken communion anyway.)

The Catholic part of the church


After leaving the church, we drove through Bethlehem and visited a few gift stores. Here's a picture of modern-day Bethlehem. Not exactly what I had pictured.

 Modern-day Bethlehem


Here are the hills that, according to tradition, the Wise Men traversed to reach the stable and manger.

Shepherds hills


I will be honest here: other than the Church of the Holy Nativity, I did not like Bethlehem very much. It was very dirty and covered with graffiti. Beggars were everywhere and they were very aggressive in asking us for money. One even followed us onto our tour bus and pestered one very American-looking member of our tour (she sported a blond pony tail, college sweatshirt, white jeans, and flip flops). I was very uncomfortable while in the city.

And then there was THE WALL.

The wall between Jerusalem and Bethlehem.


Ah, ignorant American that I am, I didn't realize that Bethlehem is not in Israel; it is in Palestine. I was also ignorant of the wall separating the two countries. I did know about all of the strife in that area, but I guess I was picturing the border between the US and Mexico, where you simply drive across and wave at the people in the little booth at the side of the road. No no no, Palestine and Israel have no such friendly arrangement - in fact, our Jewish tour guide left us on the Israel side of the fence and had us meet another tour guide on the Palestine side. He told us very frankly that Jews who go into Palestine are killed. We had to go through multiple fences and walk through gun scanners and show our purses. Oh, and there were tanks and army guys with machine guns on the Israel side who kept their eyes on us while we crossed.

Scary.

Me in front of THE WALL

In spite of this, I'm glad I went to Bethlehem to see the place I heard of many times throughout my life. I bought a sweet, little nativity set made of olive wood for Abby to have when she is an adult. And I have my pictures to show this magical place. I will always remember this.