Managing Storage…coping with Life’s system overload

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It was ignored for a very long time. Months, maybe a year. The little white icon that pops up on the IPad screen: Your storage is full. Manage in Settings. Like many other things in life, I kept ignoring it, thinking it would go away or I would deal with it later.

Then came the day when I tried to open up a new page to write a new document, and ARGHHHHH! It would not open. Worse yet, I could not retrieve any of the older documents I had written. All those words, all those pages! Panic set in. I knew they were in the cloud somewhere, but I had no idea how to get them out of there. With none of my kids around to coach me through this (they would laugh at me anyway) I caved in to the only thing I could do. Call Apple Support.

The voice of a very nice young man got on the line. I prefaced the rest of the conversation with this statement: Explain everything to me as if you were talking to your mom.

I could picture the grin on his face as he chuckled. And step by step, he patiently coached me on how to manage my storage so I could have more room to update my settings so I could have room to load my previous documents and make room for more. After all my anxious questions, “Where is the ICloud? Where do these items go? What happens if I delete this?” he said to me, “You’re doing great! You got this!”

“Don’t worry, he told me, your items are still there and you will have access to them. You just have to manage where you place them. ”

Ha! I think to myself. That’s the story of my life.

From his desk at Apple Support he doesn’t see the piles of items in the spare room or the boxes in the garage or the bins of photos that need to be sorted in the upstairs closet. Managing items is an ongoing problem of mine, my nemesis for years. Those closest to me also try to coach me through longterm fault. For my birthday a few weeks ago my dear friend gave me the book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up after she saw me browsing through it in the bookstore. One of the statements author Marie Kondo makes is this: To truly cherish the things that are important to you must first discard those that have outlived their purpose.

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This is true for my IPad. To make room for more I must take time to delete some of the photos that are taking 8.2 GB on my 12GB device.

This is true for my closet. To be able to neatly put away the piles of laundry on the living room couch I must discard some of those tops stuffed in my drawers I haven’t worn for years.

This is true for those long term anxieties that have been stuffed down in my soul. Worries about when am I ever going to get this stuff in my house organized. Worries about my grown children’s future. Fears and apprehension about their goals, and mine, being achieved. Fears and anxieties over personal traits I need to work on.

All this stuff drains energy from me. Wastes too much space in my mind and in my day. Keeps me from being who I fully want to be.

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Last night the signal that blares to me that I must learn to manage my own personal settings is mirrored in front of me.

Mirrored in my own daughter.

In the angst of anticipating the 6pm announcement of a college acceptance, a myriad of emotions and tears come spilling out of unseen places…..will or will she not get in, my classes are too hard, I can’t study for all these AP classes, I keep trying and trying and I can’t get where I want to be….

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My heart breaks that my daughter is caught in this swirl of expectations and achievement and information overload. I had no clue how much tension she was storing underneath the surface until she broke. Her system was full. She had reached maximum capacity.

I had not noticed the signals that she was on overload.  That she was feeling so much pressure to keep up schoolwork and grades. And so quietly, calmly, even though my heart was breaking, I did what Apple Support did for me that morning: coach my sweet daughter to look through her days and examine what we could delete from her busy life.

What was necessary and what was extra.

What was too much.

What to do if she was feeling anxious and fearful.

Most of all, what she needed to focus on to keep space free in her mind to relax and breathe.

“Mom,” my daughter told me later, “when we were fixing our phones last week the tech told me that when a IPhone starts reaching its maximum capacity, it starts acting strange. Not functioning correctly. I guess that’s what was happening to me.”

iPhones and IPads come in different capacities:  12 GB, the 32GB and the 64GB. It has nothing to do with their efficiency, it’s merely how they are designed.

All are designed differently. Each has different gifts and capacities. And in this crazy world of achievement and information and overload that we all get into I need to observe the messages silently put out that the expectations can be too much. In my children’s world.  And in my own.

In those places where we gain more space by deleting the extra, we need to replace the busyness with places of rest. Places to shut down and restore. Places to recharge in quietness.

For the benefit of freeing up the clutter of our minds, our souls, our days is that we gain space.

And when we gain space, we are more available to receive what is around us.

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Love that is not Lost

There is a love that bears all things, the kind of love that looks you straight in the eye, into your soul, and sees everything….and still loves. The kind that allows you to be so transparent that nothing is hidden yet everything is loved. When we experience that kind of love our soul is blessed beyond all measure. The joy of holding that kind of love transcends any pain that may follow. For the greatest gift of this kind of love….from a mother, a spouse, a child, a friend, a dog….is knowing that just being in their presence is enough

I repost this blog today, Valentine’s Day, in honor of those whose love completely and unconditionally

 

Her eyes are glazed, yet a light in them still shines.

Her hearing is diminished, yet she still senses me.

She sits at my feet, as I rub her back between the shoulders.

She groans in acknowledgment, as if this happiness is too much to bear.

For a moment the panting stops.

A smile rests under her droopy eyes.

Her head turns, through those dimmed eyes she tells me of her love.
In days past, sixteen years of them, I would rush past her.

a quick pat on the head and I would be off

doing the things moms do, carpool, grocery shopping, logging miles on the minivan within my five mile radius

but when I returned she would be waiting

always with a wagging tail and a smile.

At times when things were not so rushed–

the groceries put away, the laundry folded–

I would put my tennis shoes on.

She would wag her, her eyes pleading expectantly.

“You wanna take a walk?” I would ask

and with that last word she would trot to the door.
We had our routine path, around the corner, past the pond, down to the left where old oak trees shaded us from the sweltering Florida sun, around the corner again along the sidewalk where bunnies scampered and butterflies flittered into the bramble when we passed.

  

When we turned back into the neighborhood her pace picked up a bit as she scampered up the driveway.

She knew she was home.

Years later, mom came to live with us. She was 83 years old. She partnered with us on these walks. Together the three of us would take that familiar path. Around the corner, past the pond, down to the left where old oak trees shaded us from the sweltering Florida sun, around the corner again along the sidewalk where bunnies scampered and butterflies flittered into the bramble when we passed. They were times to share tidbits of conversation or times of quiet reflection. Times of companionship.


When we turned back into the neighborhood, mom would exclaim every time, “Thank you, Lord, that we are home.”

Home.

A place of safety.

A place of familiarity

A place of refuge.
These walls of safety have kept out the elements. They have braved three hurricanes, a few tornado warnings, and multiple thunderstorms, even a lightning strike that hit the house and burned out our alarm system.

But these walls cannot shield us from the elements of aging, ones that grapple arthritic bones,

cataracts that dim the eyes, hearing loss that deafens a whisper

or amyloid plaques that tangle the brain.

These are elements that walls cannot keep out

so within these walls we must adapt and acclimate.

For many years I rushed in and out, hurrying on to the next thing.

Now

these elements bear down:

arthritis, aging, alzheimer’s,

causing me to slow.

Stop fighting

Stop rushing past.

Try to hold up.

Try to listen.

Try to see.

So we keep the routine.

Take the walks until the day the feet can only shuffle

Rub the back.

Hold the hand.

 

The smile still lingers, the one that rests under droopy eyes

and the sigh that says this happiness is too much to bear.

The head turns, the light in the eyes still shines

and through those dimmed eyes she tells me of her love.

A few months ago, the time came to put Cindy down. She was 16 years old. In her way, she let me know it was time.

She was lying down on a pink blanket.  I put my face next to hers.  She lifted her head slightly and looked straight into my eyes. With those eyes she said to me:

It’s OK. I love you. And I know that you love me and have loved me well. It’s OK to say good-bye. Let me go.

I love you.

 
 http://jenniferdukeslee.com/tell-his-story/

A Journey into the new year…..hope, perseverance, new beginnings uncovered on the streets of New York City

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I am standing on the corner of 42nd Street and Broadway on New Year’s Eve. It is almost 12 noon. In twelve hours the ball will drop one block from here, the iconic symbol of a new year, a new start, a tradition I remember first watching on a black and white 20 inch television screen over fifty years ago.

There are two schools of thought if one should be standing here this day.

One bent comes from one who protects these streets, and has been diligently for the past 72 hours that I have been in this city.

“If you want to be herded in here like cattle, not able to eat, drink or pee for this next 12 hours, then do it.  My advice: watch it on TV.”

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The other bent stems from those who crowd these streets. Those pulled magnetically to this city of promise and hope for years for the same reason: to leave all behind and to start over in hope, a fresh start. Lady Liberty a few miles down the street has drawn millions to her torch with the same pull, drawing in those who speak Italian and Spanish and Indian and Chinese and Haitian. Those who sell handbags under awnings and 2016 glasses on street corners. Those who get caricatures drawn and wave American flags and take selfies on the corner with the Empire State Building, lit up in its Christmas colors, behind them.

 

This city, this ball drop has ushered in new hope for decades.

Even though helicopters hover above, barricades block streets, bodies lined ten deep line up to go through security screenings, no bags in hand, this ball will drop.  The year’s past shadows will not hinder this light’s descent.

 

6000 police officers line the blocks, grouped on every corner. 

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Some revelers are dishing out $50 a ticket from the Comedy Club Central hawking promises of a view, others have dished $5000 for champagne in a penthouse suite to witness this spectacle. Most will wait for the confetti party shoulder to shoulder in the streets right there in the middle of the square.

Naysayers say, “Why would you stand in line for 12 hours to watch a ball drop for 60 seconds.  It’s just a ball”.

The one million that gather here say differently.  Not just a ball.

A promise of hope.

A promise of a fresh start.

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A spirit of courage, despite the terrors of the past year push the masses on from all across the country and the world towards the crystal beacon of a new beginning.

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Twelve hours later, we sidestep from our restaurant like Aladdin through city blocks, bodies, and barricades, towards the ball, the epicenter of the new year, where thousands have lined up along the streets that radiate to the center, even blocks away. Our room key to the hotel on the corner is the lucky ticket past the barriers.

  

On the corner of 41st and 7th, barricades keep the crowds from the intersection where  crowds have lined up for hours for the view behind the ball. Sometimes the route to what you want is through the back. Even from backside the crowds stand and push toward the center, for just a glimpse of the crystal ball from any angle.

“Please, please, officer,” begs an Indian man, his family behind him, “please just a few feet more, we just want to see, we just want to see.”

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The officer relents a few inches, but as the crowds push in, he stops.  “That’s enough,” he says, “I’m trying to be nice, but you keep pushing in!”

In the swarm families and couples huddle together, fathers hold up their children. I hear Italian. I hear Japanese. I hear French. I hand my noisemaker to a little Indian boy wearing a spiderman hat, another NYC symbol. I hear a wife whisper to her husband “It’s ok we’re in the back. This is as close as we are going to get. This is a once in a lifetime thing.”

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“Please, please”, the man begs again, “let us get closer.”

“Look up!” I say to him. “It’s right there.”

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The 2,688 sparkling waterford crystals of the ball shine towering two blocks above us, and to a throng of shouts its multicolor facets begin its descent.

The crystal ball drops, and fireworks usher in the new year.  The Behind the Scenes crowd doesn’t see the flashing signs, but from the fireworks and cheers we know the new year has begun.  The policemen who themselves were enthralled by the spectacle now remove the barriers and let the crowds into the streets. 2016 is here.

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Hours later we ascend to the highest point in NYC, the One World Observatory, where, 104 floors up we catch a different perspective of Times Square and all the iconic points of New York City.

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Familiar outlines lay before me from this height, yet my eyes are drawn to one place below the foot of the tower. It is the square of the green around of St. Paul’s Chapel. the church where not one window was broken the day the Twin Towers fell, protected by an old sycamore tree in the cemetery. The chapel that served as a sanctuary for recovery workers after 9/11.  The chapel that serves as a memorial of photos and police and fire insignias.  The chapel that survived the Great Fire of 1776.

Surrounding this small chapel are the signs of fresh starts and new beginning.  The skeleton of the World Trade Center Transportation Hub, the Oculus, rises at the corner. 

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The squares of the two Memorial Fountains that commemorate the towers of the World Trade Center lay distinctly below.

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I descend to the south tower fountain. A white rose marks a name.  A white rose, a symbol of remembrance and new beginnings. Somber reminders of loss and pain and destruction are beneath every footstep on these grounds. Standing here on this New Year’s Day of 2016 testifies what can be made new from the ashes of suffering.

“Suffering shakes us to the core…leaves you vulnerable and exposed….gives you a sense of your own limitations…In this new year we look back on what has shaped us, we look forward to what is ahead, we look up for strength and guidance, and we look down to examine our own hearts….”

In the quiet pew of Redeemer Church two days later these words are spoken into the tranquil sanctuary.

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Outside these walls, down the streets this city continues its pace into the new year.

The sky is blue and crisp and fresh this Sunday morning.  Sunlight casts golden on brownstones and barren trees.

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Across the street Central Park is bathed in this light.  Only a few days ago, my son asked his lovely girlfriend to be his wife on the terrace of Bethesda Fountain.

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The other day in Chelsea Market she found a photograph of the fountain taken on a winter day in the 1930’s.  “Did you know the story behind this fountain?” she asks me with her beautiful smile. “The Bethesda Fountain is named for the pool in the Bible where people came to be healed.”

Healing.  Restoration.  New beginnings.

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As my flight ascends into the night sky that evening the places trodden these few days outline below me……Times Square, Central Park, and at the tip of the peninsula, the One World Tower.  Barely perceptible in the shadow of the bay is a faint figure.  The Statue of Liberty.

Her torch of hope a speck of light shining in the darkness.

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Photo credits: Daniel Mogg, Vina Mogg

A Hallelujah Chorus

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The conductor stately walks down the corridor towards us. 

The tails of his tuxedo are perfectly pressed, the pleats of his starched white shirt under the lapels perfectly parallel, and his endless toothy smile reaches from cheek to cheek when he sees me and my mama.  Once he was the kind of unruly boy my mom used to teach.  Now he has harnessed his boundless energy into bringing out the power of music into young people.

He bends over to kiss mom on the head. “Hello, Mama,” he says as she looks up to him from her wheelchair.  A smile of recognition lights up her face even though it has been eight years since she has last seen him, when he was her conductor in a Christmas choir.

“Hello,” she smiles endlessly back, squeezing his hand.

“I am so glad to see you, I was meant to see you today,” he said as he pats her shoulder.

After a hug he turns and marches toward the stage entrance.

I have watched my friend Dr. Jeffery Redding conduct award winning high school choirs beneath the lights of Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco, in the ancient colosseum of Verona, in the courtyard of San Marco Plaza in Venice, but tonight I watch his elegant tails march toward the stage of the American Gardens Theatre at EPCOT in Disney World to lead the time honored tradition of the Candlelight Processional, a Christmas Tradition that Walt Disney himself began at Disneyland more than 50 years ago.

Tonight my friend takes the honored position behind the podium to conduct the 50 piece orchestra and 300 voices of the Disney Voices of Liberty, Cast Member Choir, and auditioned high school choirs. Though I have watched him conduct many times, there was something special about this assembly of voices from all walks, all age groups, all levels on this stage to share a Christmas message.

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The tradition of story and song together this holiday season seems to bring comfort and joy to a world full of randomness. Guests have lined up for hours waiting outside the theatre to enter, and when capacity was reached, watched from the courtyard across the stage. Many are drawn to the comfort of this familiar message, this familiar music, these familiar words we have heard over and over in our heads for years.

These words spoken and sung tonight bring tears to my eyes as I watch my 91-year-old mama, sitting next to me in her wheelchair, her Alzheimer’s riddled mind brought clear this night through the power of music, song and story. I see her face radiate with joy. I watch her hands moving gracefully to the music, mimicking the elegant movements of Jeff’s on stage. She turns to me and smiles.

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“He is such a good conductor,” she states. This mama of mine, who one month ago was in ICU, suffered a mild stroke and infection and rounds of tests and antibiotics, is now a completely different person next to me, her whole body swaying and clapping and singing to the familiar songs of Joy to the World, Silent Night, and her favorite:

“Fall on your knees, oh hear the angel voices.

Oh night Divine, Oh night, when Christ was born.

Oh night, O Holy Night,

Oh night Divine.”

And tonight is a divine night, as I see my mama transform through the power of music, transform as she watches my friend bring to life and draw out from these voices and these instruments the power and glory of the words and the notes so often heard but not truly experienced.

I am one of the first to stand as I hear the strings start up the familiar introduction to Handel’s Messiah.

“Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah!”

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Mama also tries to stand, but her legs are so weak. I grab her hand and together we wave our clasped fingers to the powerful chorus and the strings and brass and percussion of the orchestra.

Mama’s words are very few lately.  But these words tonight are crisp and clear and proclaimed with all her heart.

“King of Kings and Lord of Lords. And he shall reign forever and ever. Forever and ever. Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!”

Words crisp and clear and brief.

Words that need no explanation.

Words that are made more powerful in the repetition that accompanies Alzheimer’s are glorious tonight.

Timeless words and timeless melody that my mama revels in, heart and soul.

In this present moment, when all for her is crystallized in time, in place, in right now, this beauty is all that matters.

I may not have many moments with her like this.  But this one Hallelujah Chorus will be eternal in my heart.

Even the guest narrator, Emmy award winning Joe Morton, acknowledges the power of song this night.  He says, “Tonight, even for one night, this tradition, no matter what you believe, reminds us that Love wins out, that Love is the reality in this magical place, to bring Peace and Unity in this world.”

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The performance is over. I don’t want this time to end, but I turn up the walkway to push Mama’s wheelchair up the aisle.

I hear his familiar voice near the stage bellow out…..”Don’t leave!”

Mama and I wheel back towards the stage. In the midst of all those around him, clamoring for his attention, Jeff hustles over for a quick moment.

“You were my inspiration tonight,” he leans over and whispers to Mama. “I was nervous when I first saw your earlier, but seeing you reminded me why I do this, to touch lives and inspire others. Thank you for reminding me.”

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Her eyes twinkle, her smile stretches across her entire face as he turns under the lights and walks away, grasping hands, touching lives, touching others, even after the baton is laid down.

#tellhisstory

Heart and Soil

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US Open soil.

It was controversial all week. Why did the USGA choose a course for a major that was carved out of a gravel pit? Why did they pick a course that uses fescue instead of native Northwest grass? Why did they pick a course so sloped and slippery that it was difficult for spectators to view?

So many questions about these grounds. But these grounds are hallowed to me. Homegrown on this soil, I knew this gravel pit before it even became a golf course. As a kid from the town of Steilacoom on the back border of Chambers Bay Golf Course, I climbed surrounding hills on my ten speed bike, rolled logs into the actual Chambers Bay and walked tightrope along the tracks where this week cargo trains rolled past US Open volunteer marshals raising their arms for “quiet” and Amtrak passengers pressed their faces up against the windows to capture shots of Tiger and Rory on the waterfront holes with their iPhones.

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Steilacoom is not the Hamptons or Carmel where Open tourists normally flock.

The Steilacoom Pub and Deli stands on the corner, offering BBQ and beer. Trademark flower baskets hang above the tiny town center along with banners for the Steilacoom Salmon Bake, traditionally the biggest event of the year.

This is the Northwest. This is a come as you are, enjoy it, take it or leave it kind of place. Rain or shine. And that’s exactly what Chambers Bay had to offer.

Who would have expected weeks of sunshine to bake the greens and dry out the grass. The average June temperature is 69 degrees and 1.73″ of rain. Summer doesn’t start here until mid July. The weeklong controversy about fescue grass filled the dry and dusty air that kicked up at spectators’ feet.

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Overwhelmed with dirt and throngs of people I staked out a place to park it instead of fighting lines into the grandstands, the most ever built at a USGA event. I found it. My own Amen Corner. Tucked at the neck of the par-3 17th hole along the water was a grassy knoll perfect for watching players land shots over or in the bunker then make or miss their putts on the undulating green. This was the prime spot to watch the US Open unfold, a spot much like Sunnyside Beach down the road, where a slight breeze, sunscreen and a cold drink is all you need to view the waters of Puget Sound.

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It was there I witnessed Jordan Spieth make a birdie put to go -6 on the second day. It was there I marked him as the one to watch.

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As he approached the green on 9, his final hole on Friday, he suddenly turned before he marked his putt for birdie. His playing partner, Jason Day, had collapsed on the slope. Photographers cut in on the moment, but Spieth temporarily forgot about his crucial putt, raising his hands to protect his friend on the ground, urging the cameras to “Please, stop. Please.”

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That’s the kind of guy to follow, and we did the first two days.  Spieth and Day happened to be playing in front of Tiger Woods and Ricky Fowler. My husband, Brian Mogg, a Golf Magazine Top 100 Instructor who hosts a golf academy at Chambers Bay, over heard Fowler say on the range he thought the course was “cool”. Evidently Fowler cooled his ideas about Chambers after his first disastrous round. Fowler and Woods followed Spieth and Day the way Eeyore follows Tigger: head down, shoulders slumped. However we did catch a smile from Woods on the 10th green when his shot hit the lip out of the greenside bunker, landing one close to the pin with a grin and a bow. At that moment, he seemed like the old Tiger.

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Eons ago golf to me meant carrying the bag for my husband on the PGA Tour with golfers now announcing this event, Brad Faxon and Jay Delsing.

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This kind of golf– the US Open on our turf and our territory beat down and war zoned by press and players, was a different story. We own this. We take pride in this. We passed old neighbors and friends from Steilacoom on the grounds. A Senior USGA official that set up this test, John Bodenhamer, was in our wedding. This is our soil. This is our town.

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So to hand over this week, this championship, to a young man like Jordan Spieth, who could not help but be proud that the boy that won the Masters would be the one to win here. He is the kid next door, who plays hard, loves his family and says “I’m Steven Spieth’s brother.” He is the kid who with a 3 shot lead on the 17th hole crumbled in the grass and lost two shots. Dustin Johnson chased behind with a birdie, yet Spieth on 18, the hole he grumbled about two days earlier, found the grit to regroup and land a perfect fade on his second shot, yelling “land soft, land soft” to set him up for his two putt birdie. He is the kid who waited in the wings with his caddie, another local Michael Grellar, to watch Johnson putt for eagle on the final hole. But as the sun faded over the Olympic Mountains, Jordan Spieth was the one to hoist up the US Open trophy after attacking Chambers Bay with the take it or leave it Northwest attitude, as well as acknowledging the 12th man behind the ropes. This is the kind of guy you want to give your heart and soil to.

My backyard was the US Open last week.  And like the kid that invites the neighbors over the fence to hang out and spend a day or two or four, when friends go on home as dusk and dirt settle, you hope they come back again to play.

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Photo Credits: USGA/Daniel Mogg

The Piano Man

The corridor is full of busy people grabbing a bite to eat on the way to their next destination. Everything is fast….burgers, fries, chicken, smoothies, things made to be consumed and taken in quickly. Falling over the movement of rushing and bustling are the sounds of a piano. A man sits at a Yamaha baby grand at Varzano’s pizza bar in the Atlanta airport, consuming only his music, absorbed only in notes swirling in his mind, not the rushing world around him. These sounds are slow and savory. Jazz. Where every note counts and the music is meant to be chewed on and digested. One note at a time, one beat at a time, slow and simmering,  takes shape as a rendition of Eleanor Rigby.

  
All the lonely people consume their fast food as jets take off in the background and rollerbags and strollers and backpacks clog the aisles and tables are full of people looking at their screens and not at each other.

  
Still the man at the piano plays each note the way is meant to be, each one intentional. Though he has sheafs of sheet music stacked on the edge of the piano, every single note rises from his soul and lands on a key, insignificant alone but captivating as part of a whole. He plays John Legend’s “All of Me” and all of him moves from head swaying to toes tapping on the vinyl floor. He moves from current pop to classic Frank Sinatra, his own twist on “Strangers in the Night”. And here in this busy place strangers in the night exchanging glances of coming and going and making connections the piano man makes lost connections of the soul in Terminal A of Hartsfield Airport. As the world rushes past as his beat goes on. Behind his head that bobs to the music Delta jets rumble off into the air. He smiles to himself, as if he knows, as if he hides a secret that, yes all around you people are in other places, but I am present, taking this moment to share these notes with you.

  

  
These notes connect to all in the crowded room to the babies on hips to the white haired couple at the window to the young hipsters in the corner and the family behind him. In a world of disconnect this music connects.
The rest rush to the next place, checking iPhones, checking data, checking clocks to get to a gate, stuff a meal in, throw away garbage, grab baggage and move on to make a connection. 

  
But in this hidden corner amidst a world of hustle and bustle and getting to the next place, he is here, in the moment. Jazz includes only what is right here, right now, as what is swirling in your head becomes real.
Materializing, as fingers touch the keys, a song. One that consumes your heart and soul and brings joy that transcends all generations. One that causes busy people to pause and clap their hands at its close. One that moves passers by to take a video on their smartphone and slip a tip into the jar on the end of the piano.

  
I move to piano’s edge to thank this man.
“How long have you been playing,” I ask him, “since you were three?”
He chuckles in agreement, then smiles and nods.
“You must have been, since it you play with your entire being.”

“Thank you for playing here,” I tell him. “Thank you for brightening my day.”
“And thank you for brightening mine,” he says.

A gift



My hands fumble on the keys of the piano, stumbling out a few notes in attempts to learn a new song, one I have not played before.  My right hand picks out the notes of the melody, trying to play out the irregular beats of the notes.  She is sitting on the couch beside me, looking out the window, listening.  As a few notes tumble onto the keyboard, mom looks up at me and asks,  “Is that La Paloma?”


I stare at her in disbelief.  I had only played a few notes of the song, and not played them very well, and she knew exactly which song it was!  She began to sing the melody, so I tried to follow along, playing out the melody to accompany her soft singing.  As she sang, the melody became more familiar, and I was able to recall the old Spanish folk song that I had heard somewhere, in a movie perhaps, and together, in her crackly rich voice and my broken chords that she coaches with, “Come on, come on!”, we perform a lovely rendition of the old classic, newly discovered, La Paloma……


After a week of many forgotten things, her own 91st birthday, my sister’s birthday, my daughter’s birthday, this recollection of an entire song is astounding. Days before, we had multiple celebrations of her birthday, and each time, she would say, “Oh, is it my birthday?”  Even minutes before, she was asking my son if she could return to the Philippines to take care of her mother, that she was concerned about who was there for her, and that she wanted to be the one to go home and care for her.   My son didn’t have the heart to tell her she was already gone, and has been for the past 45 years.  He just left it alone, let her be in her reality.


More and more these days, that is what we have to do, just let her be in her world.  Her world is present, in the moment.  And some days I think, she has much to teach me.  For in her world of Alzheimer’s there are no worries, only present moments of love and gratefulness.  She is always seeking a hug, and always thanking God that she is still alive at 91 years old.  Sometimes the tension between her world and mine is too much, as I worry and fret about what’s next, or the next problem in front of me or the kids or the…………..the list goes on and on.


But here, in this moment, we carry out together the tune of the old folk song, La Paloma, “the dove”.  A song that in the 1800’s became a classic folk song in Spain, Mexico, the Philippines, mom’s home country.   As I read over the background of this song, I see this: “Over time the soul of the song is able to express the tension between separation with loneliness, even death, and love.”


This separation, the one that slowly grieves me over time as mom gradually fades farther and farther away,  is bridged for a glorious moment in a song played out for the first time to the gentle urgings of her voice.  The tension is released for a moment, the tension that builds over time from the burden of caregiving.


And I remember the other meaning of “La Paloma, the Dove”


Peace.


Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you.  Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.    John 14:27


After a week of searching of what I could give to her, she gives this back to me.  A message through a song etched deep in the recesses of her memory.  A gift of love.  A gift of peace.