Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: Gratitude

Four Sisters in Waiting

This is one of my favorite old photos. There aren’t many that have the four of us looking so spiffy! I think we were at a summer conference in North Carolina. If so, this was 1954. I was 11 1/2; Sister #2 was 9; Sister #3 (Diane) was 5; and Sister #4 was 1 1/2 years old.

Judging by our outfits, this was probably taken on a Sunday morning. White socks, shiny shoes, clean dresses, and curled hair. Obediently looking into the camera whether we wanted to or not. We were the daughters of a preacher. Surely life was a piece of cake. Not.

Even so, I love this photo, and am grateful for every opportunity I’ve had to spend time with my sisters. Especially since the late 1990s. They’ve been mirrors for me–telling me more about myself and about themselves and our parents than I remembered.

As some already know, Diane died of ALS in 2006. So now we’re down to three. Even though we don’t always see eye to eye, I find great solace in connecting with them, mostly via the phone.

Back to the photo. If I’m correct, this was the year I played afternoon babysitter to Sister #4. Each day, immediately after lunch in the large conference dining hall, Mom (known as Mother back then) took a much-needed nap and left Sister #4 in my care.

To my great chagrin, more than one conference attendee assumed I was my sister’s mother. I don’t think Sister #4 was keen on the optics, either. I was distressed. How was I going to meet good-looking young men if I had to play momma to my sister?!

One other memory. Sister #4 loved nothing better than lively music to which she could dance. Informally, of course, since dancing itself was a Huge No-No in our family and church.

At this conference, all guests stood at their assigned tables for a hymn or two and a prayer before sitting down to eat. Sister #4 was in a high chair, and broke out into a little sitting jig every time we sang a hymn! I’ll never forget a grumpy old man telling my father he’d better keep his eye on this little girl because she was going to be big trouble!

Little did he know that this docile, obedient Sister #1 was going to be big trouble, too. It takes guts to become a Disobedient Daughter of Eve. A lesson I didn’t learn until I was an adult. Which is why I began this blog in the first place, and why I keep writing. Not to sort things out, but to document what my big trouble looked like, and what it took to break decades of destructive Good Girl habits and beliefs.

Thanks for the visit!
Elouise

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 14 July 2019
Photo taken by JERenich, Summer 1954

On a walk-around

On a walk-around
In my lofty attic
Sunday morning silence
Permeates the air

My mind and heart
Fly home revisiting
Large and small circumstances
Of my unscripted life

Memories flood back
Unsolicited reminders
Of turning points and
Individuals

Each a small piece of
What feels strangely like
Home away from the home
Of my weathered body

Not as it might have been
But as it was and is
In real time with real people
Some of them jerks

Important pieces
Of a great puzzle that
Still shape and encourage
Me into this —

A real woman with a real
Voice and calling
A disobedient beautiful
Daughter of Eve

Unfinished and sometimes
Impatient I wait wondering
What more will happen
Along the way

This week I’m going to schedule a first meeting with my new palliative doctor. I wasn’t expecting the end of my life to take this turn. Nonetheless, I see this new possibility as a wonderful gift. And yes, it will take significant thought and work on my part. Not just on behalf of myself, but with family members and doctors.

I anticipate getting things in some semblance of order, adjusting my thinking about what lies ahead, and enjoying what I most want and love to do. Which will certainly include writing.

Happy Monday to each of you!
Elouise

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 8 July 2019
Photo of Tybee Island Beach found at visitsavannah.com

Great Aunt Eva’s topaz ring

Great Aunt Eva’s topaz ring
Aunt Margie’s wooden jewelry box with drawers
Mother’s dainty embroidered handkerchiefs
Faded photos from years long gone
Fragile connections to my past and present
Links to times and people I knew
Reminders that I’m not alone

And what will remain of me –
What left-behind bits and pieces carry
Hints of the woman I was and now am
Woven into lives of family, friends and strangers
Lives that touched mine giving and taking
Hints of pasts we scarcely remember
Reminders that we are not alone

With gratitude for all who have left marks on my life. Memories, greeting cards, notes, photos, comments on academic papers and blog postings, my piano teacher’s pencil notes in my piano books, a small Celtic cross from a friend when a family member died, and on and on. Each a gem and reminder that we’re not alone.

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 30 June 2019
Image of old Valentines found at etsy.com

The ‘one day’ plan

Rain comes and goes
Cold seeps into pores
Weariness descends in clouds
Of gray humid air

I wait for sunrays
To emerge even briefly
through tiny windows of escape
Reminders that beauty
Lives and loves life
Fiercely if not forever

The poem reflects what I saw from my kitchen window this morning. Rain followed by teases of sun. Back and forth through the entire morning.

The weather reminds me of my life right now. Dreary one moment, brilliant the next! Sometimes changing without rhyme or reason. Always happy to see the sun come out.

D’s photo at the top caught clouds dissipating into wispy, beautiful formations. Almost like giant feathers in the sky, blown along by a breezes high in the atmosphere. Slowly I’m learning to relax into not knowing how each day will unfold, and into letting go of half the stuff I think I can do in any given day.

Last week I met an intriguing young man in the Longwood Conservatory. Joe was sitting beside me, in a wheelchair. He told me he’s on the ‘one day’ plan due to a genetic disorder that isn’t going away. We talked awhile before his friends took him to see more beautiful plants and flowers.

Joe was one of those sunrays that managed to emerge through the clouds, intent on loving beauty and life fiercely. One day at a time.

Happy Friday to each of you!
Elouise

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 21 June 2019
Photo taken by DAFraser, Longwood Gardens Meadow, 12 June 2019

Prayer from a beginner

Because You know me best
And lived Your unscripted life
Amongst the rest of us in the
Tangible body of a human being
Full of gracious truth and mercy….

I pray for grace to write poems
Leaping here and there
Without effort or forethought
Landing on the right note
At just the right time

I ache to write how much You
Love us and our stumbling music
Plus our tears in the night when
No one is looking or hears
What You alone understand

In rare moments when apt words
Tumble from my subconscious
I’m in awe and deeply grateful
For songs You sing to each of us
Especially in the shadowy light
Of any too-long day or night

And finally, for each of us,
I pray courage to face each day
Without fear and with no more
Uncertainty or loneliness than
You were able to bear when
Walking in our shoes of clay

From one of your followers.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 28 May 2019
Image found at WFMT.com

Small gifts of grace

On my way to the garage
A small thin cup-like piece
Of bird shell cracked and broken
Rests on our driveway
Beneath the holly tree
Where resident catbirds set up
temporary nesting quarters

Hours later and bone weary
I turn off the engine and hear
The unmistakable notes of a
Lullaby sweet and calming
Borrowed tunes full of grace
Soft and gentle from a catbird
Keeping watch from a nearby tree

I want to be a catbird when I grow up
Simple beauty singing made-up songs
Of quiet sometimes raucous joy
For everyone and no one in particular
Offering small benedictions to
Broken hearts and weary travelers
On their way from here to there

God bless us every one on this weekend of Sabbath rest and remembrance.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 26 May 2019
Photo of a SE Pennsylvania Catbird found at reddit.com

Saving the best for last

Saving the best for last
All creatures fall silent
Hushed save an occasional
Chirp of sweet birdsong
Spilling final notes
Into air gone quiet

Leaves release one last sigh
And wait for last light
To descend beneath earth’s
Horizon without fanfare
Or outbreaks of odes to joy

No, we didn’t walk in the Blue Ridge Mountains yesterday evening. Just around our neighborhood. Still, the poem reflects the grandeur of both locations. Not only because of green leafy trees and the relative silence of birds and human voices, but because of Spring’s early evening drama.

I always love a walk around our neighborhood. Even so, an evening walk after supper during this part of Spring is often magical. Just like yesterday evening.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 3 May 2019
Photo of Blue Ridge Mountains taken by Dana Foreman, found at pixels.com

Exiting the scene | A waking dream

Wandering from room to room
Looking for clues
Uncertain where I am or why I’m here
And why no one answers my questions
As they scurry here and there
Setting up tables with no chairs
And no food I can eat and now….
Look at this!
They’re closing off doorways!
No exit?

A tall black man with a kind face
Follows me from room to room
Watching me though I don’t know why
He’s here and why other people
Are in this now awkward space
Made less grand by tacky rugs and
Faded wall hangings from a dusty
wannabe palace weary
of being fussed over
and shown to strangers

I decide to leave and find a quiet space
Where I can rest and be alone with myself

Suddenly a tall white woman with fancy clothes
A loud mouth and curly gray hair turns
She blocks my way out
Her face radiates scorn and entitlement

She scolds me for my bad manners
and unkempt clothing
Then looks beyond me at someone else
and nods ever so slightly without smiling

I turn to see the tall man with the kind face
Smiling as he walks toward me saying
This is a surprise party for me….

Whirling back toward the tall woman
Words spew out of my mouth:
How dare you plan a party that offers
No food I can eat and nowhere to sit
And rest my weary body and feet
To say nothing of commandeering my house
To do something on your own behalf
Not on mine!

I wake up and exit the scene shocked at my outburst
And wondering what this is about

This was my waking dream this morning. I’ll be working on this one for a while. Feel free to comment if you notice anything that stands out or raises questions to think about.

Actually, I’m relieved and thrilled I had this dream. Not because of its content, but because my dreams are returning after months of virtual silence. Not just snatches here and there, but dreams with detail, color and substance. It means I’m sleeping better, and that my body–though fading into the sunset–still has the capacity to surprise and delight me.

Yesterday was all about my regularly scheduled checkup with Dr. K, my wonderful integrative doctor. As always, I came away with a few things to work on. Nonetheless, I’m encouraged by the progress I’ve made, especially in the last several months. Not just in dealing with health issues, but in practicing a small handful of things that bring me joy and calm my heart no matter what its pace.

Happy dreaming!
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 23 April 2019
Harold Gilman’s “Edwardian Interior” c. 1907; found at Tate.org.uk

Sunday afternoon walk and my heart

Spring air hangs breathless and damp
Broken by chirping bird songs
And children’s muffled voices
Clouds roll in silent and gray
Saturated with sprinkles
Gathering for a shower

The gathering shower turned into a ferocious thunder and lightning storm–over 500 lightning strikes last night in Philly! I slept through every moment of it. Astonishing. Today the storm is over the Atlantic, and blustery wind has moved in. Temperatures drop by the hour.

Nonetheless, beautiful green leaves, colorful flowering trees and shrubs, and small wildflowers are taking over! No turning back the clock.

During the last month I rearranged my daily routines to support what my heart wants and needs. Sometimes it’s as simple as postponing grocery shopping. Other times, it’s not so easy. Like staying home from church two of the last four Sundays after waking up with an unsteady heartbeat and the weakness that comes with it.

On the other hand, during the same time frame I visited with two of my woman friends, talked with at least two others on the phone, had email correspondence with a few others, enjoyed tea and conversation with our next-door neighbors, walked regularly with D, talked with our son and daughter via phone, and played with Smudge.

I’ve also posted from time to time, enjoyed hearing from some of you, and saw others peeking out from your gravatars!

So here’s to a thoughtful Holy Week, listening to all nature sing on and off-key, and staying in touch with ourselves and with the Great Shepherd of the sheep. Much we need Thy tender care.

Elouise

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 15 April 2019
Photo of Center City, Philadelphia; taken by Bill Cannon; found at fineartamerica.com
Photo of Smudge playing hide and seek, taken by me!

I Love Philly!

I Love Philly –
Its raw in-your-face ways
Its fierce determination
NOT to be NYC or WDC
Or proud Boston Brown Bread
Heavy with the blood of patriots
and all that watered-down tea

Give us Philly Cheese-Steaks
Italian Ice and Mummer’s Day Madness!

Sports teams scramble to recover
Their fair share of glory and grace
Weekend night-lifers crawl through
Crowded streets of over-enthusiastic
Pedestrians while car-lovers fight
For space on pot-holed one-way streets
And raucous horns inch their way
Toward old-timey traffic lights destined to
Stop them cold mid-way through
The next intersection

I Love Philly –
That great planned city of love
and a bit of Northeast craziness on
Any fine day or night of the year

So where did this come from? I wish I knew! I’m never sure what’s going to pop into my mind. This one came floating in the window this morning after I got home from an early morning blood test (and 12 hours of fasting).

At any rate, I obeyed my inner voice and scribbled it down. I’d been thinking about how happy and grateful I am to live in this part of the USA, as crazy and raucous as it is from time to time. During the last 36 years it grew me up as a real, live adult woman.

Cheers and Happy Monday!
Elouise

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 8 April 2019
Photo of Philadelphia’s LOVE statue found at WHYY.org (Click on link for a brief history of the statue.)
Statue Artist: Robert Indiana

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