Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: Never too Late to Start Over.

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Girl Warrior. It’s never too late to start over. To press the refresh button. Begin anew. Hit reset, reboot or recharge. Give yourself a second chance. Or third, fourth, tenth, hundred times a hundred.

And see what happens.

No matter where or what you’ve been or done or said or not said up until this very moment, matters not. Really, truly, completely absorb this. Believe it. Not just with your mind but with your heart. In fact, let your heart take the lead with this particular endeavor. For your heart’s ancient omnipresent wisdom will guide you every step of the way. It will not fail you.

So fear not.

Then, remember the innocence, the wonder and pure gorgeousness of your Little Girl Warrior. Remember her? She’s there now and always has been. Go back to her. Wrap your loving arms around her. Have a heart to heart. Take her by the hand. Renew your acquaintance with this precious person. The young Girl Warrior, who wore the cape and armed with wide-eyed wonder and a great big unstoppable imagination, believed she could be anyone, do anything, go anywhere. Conquer the world in her rare and one-of-a-kind fashion. She was radiant Starshine. And she is still with you.

Girl Warrior, wipe the slate clean and go out and reinvent yourself today in a way that would make Little Girl Warrior proud. So proud.

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Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: Foster Wisdom.

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Girl Warrior. Foster Wisdom. Seek enlightenment, illumination and insight at every turn, every opportunity. Grow your intuition and awareness of the world around you and the one within. Fine-tune your instincts and your vital sixth sense. Follow your hunches and listen closely to your gut feelings. For these are the essential bits in the Sage’s toolkit.

First you will need to take a journey inward. You will also need to open your mind to all the possibilities that abide there. You will be opening the door to the unknown, the unexplored, the unfamiliar, and above all else, the uncertain. You will be knocking on the door of mystery and magic and all things mystical. The prospect of this may frighten you. Don’t let it. Open the door and walk unflinchingly through. This is a big step and a brave move on your part. But it is a prerequisite on the path to true understanding.

It is here that you will begin to know the difference between the accumulation of information and knowledge and that of wisdom, knowing and genuine insight. It is in this pilgrimage to the deepest corner of your soul that you will discover the Universal Truths, your highest self, your eternal being and your infinite connection to the Divine. It is from this vantage point that you will do your best work.

It is both exalting and humbling. And when you get there, Girl Warrior you will know.

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Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: Be Resilient.

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Girl Warrior. Be resilient. Flexible. Pliable. Adaptable. Bend and sway like an elegant Willow tree. Full of grace and economy. Follow the ebb and flow of your wonderful awe-inspiring life. Embrace the wind that moves your sturdy spirit. Take courageous steps into the blinding light and the dark places of your soul. There is nothing to fear.

You are stronger than you think Girl Warrior. You are hard-wearing and tough. Like an indestructible black leather jacket. But you are also supple and nimble. Like a Ninja cat. Both contain the secret to resiliency at its finest.

Study intently the skill of quick recovery. Practice diligently irrepressible comebacks. Master the fine art of give and take. Rise from the ashes like the magnificent Phoenix you are. Rally and return stronger and more resourceful than you could ever imagine.

But remember Girl Warrior, it’s not an all or nothing life that we live. That’s the true wisdom in resilience.

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Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: Wayne Dyer, You Changed My Life.

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Facebook really knows how to deliver the news. Whatever is going on in the world, it ends up there in some way, shape or form. Guaranteed. So much of it is bullshit baffling brains. It’s a crazy-ass stew of hilarious, hysterical, heavenly, helpful, hurtful and harmful.

And every now and again, it’s gut-wrenchingly heartbreaking.

This emotional gutting happened to me a year ago when I opened my Facebook newsfeed, only to learn that my dear one and soul sister, Mary Frances had died. Then it happened again on Sunday, August 30. Wayne Dyer has left his body, passing away through the night. My first reaction to both death announcements was, “how’s that even possible?”

Initially, my entire being was thrust into abrupt and swift shock. Then, my soul struggled to fathom such an impossible notion, such a far-fetched and preposterous declaration. Surreal doesn’t even begin to describe what I was experiencing in that moment. Then panic set in. If Wayne Dyer isn’t in this physical dimension, then where do I go in times of fear, sorrow, anxiety, trouble and confusion? Who will comfort me? Where will I find solace and courage, strength and grounding? Who else can provide such powerful profundity and candid commonsense? For this is what his words and wisdom had provided me for the past three decades.

Then I just felt sad. Deeply. Profoundly. Fervently. Utterly. Completely. Every fiber, every cell, every piece of me went into mourning.

I was sad for everyone who loved him, his family and friends, his followers and devotees, those who were lucky enough to know him personally, and those like me, who knew him through his books, audio recordings, PBS appearances, his website and social media.

Like many, I “met” Wayne through his first book, Your Erroneous Zones. I say I met him because that’s exactly how it felt. And as I read more and more of his books, I felt like I was not only learning and growing increasingly aware of my interior and exterior worlds, acquiring a deeper understanding of this life and the one beyond the mist, but that I was also getting to know the man. And this man was extraordinary in every way.

Marvelous and wonderful. Magical and mystical. Intelligent and wise. Witty and entertaining. Mentor and teacher. Inspired and an inspiration.

And I am going to miss him. I’m going to miss reading his words. I’m going to miss listening to his voice in the truck on my way to work. I’m going to miss watching him pace the PBS stage, rolling his hands rhythmically in tune to the cadence of his lyrical voice, as he explained the power of intention and how to make our wishes come true. You’ll see it when you believe it, one of his many mantras. I’m going to miss all those too. I’m going to miss his inspiring quotes in my Facebook newsfeed. I’m going to miss meditating with him. I’m going to miss the “ah”.

So what does the student do when the teacher moves to a different realm?

Take the lessons learned and do something good. Something meaningful. Something kind. Something loving. Something compassionate. Something generous. Something optimistic. Something courageous. Something big. Something small. Something simple. Something profound. Something gentle. Something fierce. Something funny. Something intelligent. Something memorable. Something ordinary. Something peaceful. Something wise. Something imaginative. Something beautiful. Something human. Something divine. Something infinite. Something everlasting.

Thank you Wayne Dyer. You changed my life. I am eternally grateful.

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Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: My Yoga.

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In many ways yoga has saved my life. Or at the very least kept me from being a total train wreck. My daily practice has taught me how to keep my feet firmly planted on the ground. And my spirit ever reaching for heaven. It has opened my eyes to the exquisiteness of my life in its domestic ordinariness. The beauty of the day-to-day. The rhythm of regular rituals. The well-crafted commonplace I love.

For I am an ordinary woman.

My yoga has aged with me. I can no longer do the poses the way I once did. But I can still bend and fold and breathe. And allow grace to gently do the rest. I surrender to a higher wisdom.

I salute the sun and whisper thank you to the morning light.

These photos were taken by daughter, Melissa Adams in our living room where I do my yoga every morning.

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Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: Be Happy. Dive into the Deep.

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I’m not much of a swimmer. I can dog paddle for very short periods at a time. Otherwise I’m too pooped to pop. Treading water escapes me. There’s a rhythm to it that I just don’t get. Mostly I just make a big splash and call it a fun day at the pool.

I love to go to the beach. But again, I don’t swim. Instead I comb for natural treasures washed ashore by the wind and waves. Bleached and broken bits of shells half buried beneath my toes. Tiny rocks made smooth and shiny by the tumbling sea. I especially love gnarled and knobby pieces of driftwood, torn from the ancient limbs of coastal trees. My all-time favorite finds are the shards of apothecary blue or coke-bottle green glass, buffed and polished by sand and surf.

Whether I’m at the pool or the beach, the one thing I’ve never ever done is dive in. The mere thought fills my heart with terror. Dark, inky, suffocating irrational fear overtakes the part of my brain that knows better. Suffice to say, it’s not on my bucket list and never will be. And I’m okay with that.

For as much as the thought of diving into the watery depths gives me angst, there is one arena that I do dive in without trepidation. Professionally. Over the years I have become skilled at leaping, lunging and launching into the vast unknown. And for some strange reason it’s always been so. My first big leap was into Advertising as a Copywriter. I didn’t really have a clue what I was doing at first. I had read Ogilvy on Advertising, liked to write, had watched countless commercials, and actually read the ads in newspapers and magazines. But most importantly, I just knew that if I went for it – hook, line and sinker – it would be, not only a game-changer, a life-changer. So I dove right into the deep end. Head first into a world I knew very little about but wanted to be a part of. And I’ve been dive-bombing ever since. Sometimes I belly flop and founder. I’ve even sunk a few times. But it’s always been worth the plunge.

There are so many benefits to diving into the deep at work. Here are a few that I would like to share with you, in no particular order.

  1. You’ll grow and stretch in ways you never thought possible. Professionally and personally. The new and wonderful things you learn at work will spill over into all the other areas of your life. It’s a lens-changer.
  2. You’ll start to conquer fear. Maybe not entirely, but you’ll learn that you can feel the fear and still do “it” anyway. Shaky legs will get you there, wherever that is. The more you do it, the easier it gets.
  3. You’ll be one of those admirable people who always rise to the occasion, no matter how difficult or challenging. This is the stepping-stone to leadership.
  4. You’ll get to collaborate with really bright, inspiring and talented people. You’ll get to be part of something bigger than yourself. And when that happens, there’s only one word for it. Magic.
  5. You’ll discover that the more you do, the more you can do. You’re capabilities, strengths and wisdom in all areas will increase exponentially.
  6. You’ll get to wear many hats and try your hand at different things. Experiment and test new ideas. Be multi-faceted and express yourself in all your glorious colors.
  7. You’ll gain the trust and confidence of those around you. You’ll become their “go to” person. With that will come more opportunities and increased responsibility.
  8. You’ll go to places you never thought possible. Not just in the physical world. That’s just half the equation. You’ll discover places in your wandering mind that exceed your wildest imaginings.
  9. You’ll start to enjoy the exhilaration of stepping off the edge into whatever is out there. Without hesitation or second-guessing. You’ll become a champion at risk-taking. You’ll understand intimately the meaning of “nothing ventured, nothing gained.” No one will ever accuse you of not trying, of giving up before you start, of being a quitter. Because you will be an extreme diver.
  10. You’ll be happier.

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Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: Never Stop Learning.

Abby Gardner

Girl Warrior.  Your education doesn’t end with the cap and gown. Or the walk across the stage to collect your diploma. Truth is, it’s just beginning.

Be infinitely inquisitive, interested and intrigued by everything and everyone. Be eager to know and understand. Look under rocks. Check out every leaf and blade of grass. Peek behind curtains. Peer into windows. Pry open doors. Poke around. Pursue relentlessly the ‘who, what, where and why’ of life. Plant seeds of greatness. And pick the brains of the brightest.

Be a big thinker.

Grow your mind every day. Cultivate your intellect. Expand your knowledge. Enrich your life with new experiences. Seek wisdom in the nests of the sagacious old birds. Hunt tenaciously for truth. Let your mind wander. And wonder. Live life fully and may it be your finest teacher.

Read voraciously. Write prodigiously. Listen judiciously. Observe keenly. Ask questions. Be a perennial student Girl Warrior. Until you draw your final breath.

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Girls in Glasses

Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: Master Po and Grasshopper.

Ma + Boo morning2I’m a wisdom seeker. Always have been. Even as a child I intuitively knew that there was a difference between the information and knowledge I was learning at school or through books. And the universal teachings that drilled deeper into the soul and lifted us higher into the spiritual world. That enlightened place where the spirit transcends and soars with the angels. The metaphysical marvel. The place of wonder. Awe. And beauty. That was where I wanted to go.

My first mentor, and the one who shared more wisdom than anyone I’ve ever known, was Ma.

Little back story.

Ma’s formal education ended somewhere in high school. Back then, this was typical for most poor or lower class families. Getting a “good education” was a pipe dream, but especially so, if you were a girl from a poor family.

Ma loved to read and had a secret desire to be an artist. She wanted more from life but didn’t know how to go after it. Yet, what she couldn’t do for herself, she did for her youngest daughter.

In her unassuming and humble way she taught me what I needed to know to chase my dreams.  Even the big ones.

Gertrude Stein held court in her Salon at 27 Rue de Fleurus for the elite of the literary and artistic world. Ma had a Salon of her own at 204.  Preposterous comparison possibly.  But not to the young girls of the Sixties who gathered there around the kitchen table to discuss the happenings of our time. In our own way, we were equally brilliant and talented.

Ma was always there in the background. Quietly serving up homemade cookies or chocolate brownies, and most importantly, keeping the kettle boiling.

She never intruded. That wasn’t her way.

Although she remained discreetly in the background, we all looked up to her and admired her calm benevolence.  When she did speak, which wasn’t often, we all thought she was so wise and intelligent.  Her kindness, the cradle for her words. She was Master Po. We were Grasshopper.

The secret to her wisdom? 

She listened. Carefully. Attentively. Earnestly. With an open mind and an even wider open heart. Without judgement nor condemnation.

She listened with kindness. Compassion and empathy. Caring and concern. She wanted to know. To understand.

She listened without distraction. She remained focused.  Concentrated. Immersed in every word.

She listened with intention. Studiously. With deliberateness.  Absorbed in the conversation.

She listened to the world around her. To nature. The voice of God.  The universal stories of the Ages.

She listened to the words not spoken. The spaces. Gaps. Pauses. The silences and subtleties. The language of hands.

She listened to me. And still she loved me. Unconditionally. Without question nor hesitation.

There you have it.  Listen and acquire wisdom. Sounds so simple.  Trust me it’s not. Or at least not for me.

My hearing is good. Remarkably good for an old broad. But my listening skills, sadly, are not. And they have grown worse with time, not better. I am ashamed to admit, but somewhere along the journey from the kitchen table at 204 to this iMac, I have fallen in love with the sound of my own voice. All the silly chatter and trite bullshit that flows so easily from my mouth.

But starting today, I intend to change that. 

I am here to listen. To you and you and you. Perhaps grow wiser.

Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: This Year I’ll be a Better Me. Or not.

IMG_3906I’m not big on resolutions. New Year’s or otherwise.  But I do want to be a better, kinder, gentler me. More loving. More magnanimous. More heart. More soul. More La Bamba.

And what better time to start a self-improvement regime than on January 1 of each year.

Fresh starts, heroic efforts and good intentions aside, odds are I’ll be a kaleidoscopic mixed bag of goodies and baddies this coming year. Just like last year and the year before that.  And the year before, before, before. You get the picture. For this is the enigma that makes living sweet and interesting. Irresistible and delicious. Inspiring and auspicious. I could soar with the divine Messengers of God. Or grovel in the mud with the Prince of Darkness himself. Who knows. That’s the intriguing part. The ride. The rock. The roll of this thing called life.

But let’s imagine for a moment, I was big on resolutions. Picture me sitting at my computer on New Year’s Day typing up an entire year’s worth of aspirations, desires and goals.

Categorically they might go something like this:

Spiritual:

I’ll be more spiritual. Or not. I may just float this boat into the sea of iniquity. Not intentionally. That’s not me. But I might drift off-course from time to time. I’m human.  Shit like that happens. Most days though, I’ll continue with my daily letters to God. I love these intimate conversations. They’re a bit one-sided at times but they do make me feel better. A daily emotional dump into the neatly lined pages of a Hilroy notebook is remarkably cathartic. Good for the Soul.  I’ll work on being kinder and more loving to everyone, even those who are difficult to like, much less love. I’ll pray and open the eyes of my heart.  I’ll listen with compassion and empathy. I’ll tread lighter on the earth. I’ll work on my awesomeness. Maybe even turn myself into sauce.

Physical:

I’ll be more physical. Or not. At times I’ll laze around, eat rubbish and binge-watch every season of Sons of Anarchy or Breaking Bad, even though I already did that last year.  Some resolutions are worth repeating. There will be other binges as well. Like too much turkey and cranberries at Thanksgiving. Too many bottles of alcohol-free wine. Oh, the shame of it all. But there will be redemption. I will continue with my daily practice of yoga because it still manages to keep me somewhat limber.  And without going all Zen on you, it’s a conduit to my higher self. I like that place in me. I’ll walk the winding country road during my lunch breaks. With every twist and bend there’s a brood of hens or flock of sheep that delight me, no matter how many times I see them. Similar to how I feel about my children. I’ll also keep running every morning. Learn new things from the hill. Or maybe not. It might simply be one steep mother of a hill that I have to drag myself up to get home.  Sometimes a hill is just a hill.

Family:

I’ll spend more time with my family. Or not. It’s entirely possible that they don’t want to spend more time with me. They do have lives of their own. So there’s that. Wonderful lives that have nothing to do with me. Hard to believe I know, but true. But still, I’d like to see more of them. And, this includes my extended family and friends. You and you and you. Sadly, I’m guilty of being socially lazy. I’m the sloth of the soiree. But I can do better. I vow to do better. We’ll meet in places other than Facebook. I’ll get off the couch. Turn off the reruns of SoA or BB and hook up with you dear ones. We can chat over tea in a coffee house. Go to a concert and lose our hearing. Attend a poetry reading at a used bookstore. Dance our asses off in the middle of the street. Sing our own Coke commercial. It doesn’t matter what we do. It’s about the familial connection and glue. I’d love to spend all kinds of crazy-time with you, deepening the bonds of family.  What about you?

Work:

I’ll work harder. Or not. Maybe I’ll work smarter. Or not. Truthfully, I don’t even understand what that expression means. Sounds like motivational mumbo jumbo. I’m smart. I work. I do my very best. Every day. But most importantly, I show up. That’s critical, I think. Especially when you work with other people who are counting on you. It’s a pretty simple philosophy. One that’s always worked for me.  And if you enjoy the work you do, then bonus. And if not, take a look inside. The wisdom dwells there. But first you gotta show up.

Play:

I’ll play more. Or not. I have no idea what that means either. Do I go out and frolic in the sun? Run through mud puddles? Roll around in the dirt. Fly a kite? Play Cards Against Humanity?  Join an organized sport?  Ride a bike or a scooter?  These all sound like legitimately fun things to do. I might even give one or two the old College try.  But most likely, I’ll carry on doing the things I’ve always done for fun. Write. Read. Play music. Sing in the shower. You may find these activities horribly dull. I guess at the end of the day, or year, we have to define our own fun.  And as Nike says, just do it.

Financial:

I’ll be more wealthy. Or not. Bottom line, I don’t care. I’ve never been driven by the money. Why start now? It gives me heartburn just thinking about it. I prefer to do the things that delight and amuse me.  Tickle my fancy. Capture my imagination. Challenge my status quo.  Some of those things pay fairly well and keep food on the table.  Others don’t pay a cent. But I love doing them just the same. Maybe even more. Like writing this blog, for instance. I’d be a penniless beggar if this was how I made my living. But it brings me enormous pleasure and joy. It’s gratifying beyond my wildest expectations. And if these things, these heavenly intangible things, were currency?  I’d be a millionaire. Ten times over.  And that’s good enough for me.

There you have it. Words to live by? Could be. Words of wisdom?  Possibly. Words worth repeating? Maybe not. You tell me.

Now back to reality. The big reason I don’t do resolutions is that I can’t keep them. Why would I set myself up for failure?  I can’t take that kind of pressure. Can you?

So rather than engaging in all forms of frenetic doing, accomplishing, goal setting and achieving, I choose to relax into the year. Let it unfold organically. Bask in the wonder and glory and pleasure of it all. Smell the roses and the coffee and the intoxicating aroma of life. Embrace the git and grime and messiness. Revel in the perfectly miraculous humanness.

No doubt, I’ll trip over myself along the way. But I’ll enjoy the tumble for it’s not the end of the world. A fall is just a fall after all.

I encourage you to do the same. Pursue the things that you find worthwhile. That add meaning to your life and to your tribe.  Be mindful that it isn’t always lofty or profound or life-altering. But it is essential. Take time to sit still and do absolutely nothing. For it’s in moments like these that you get to know the wonder of you.

Now go on.  Give yourself a big fat passionate hug. Tell yourself you’re beautiful. Glorious. Loving. Full of awesome sauce. There’s no one else in the universe quite like you.

Then resolve to tell someone else to do the same.

Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: Baker’s Dozen – 13 Virtues from my Parents.

Ma and The Old Man pose in front of his birthday cake.

Ma and The Old Man taught me much during our lifetime together.  Some things were practical and intentional.  Like cooking and cleaning up after myself.  Brushing my teeth before bed.  The simple day-to-day things parents teach their children to help them grow up big and strong.  Others things involved character building.  Like doing the right thing just because it was right not because I particularly felt like it.  Saying please and thank you.  Expressing gratitude not bad attitude.  Then there were the big things.  Ten commandment big.  Don’t cause harm to any living creature. Don’t lie.  Cheat.  Steal, and that includes someone else’s spouse.  Respect your elders, especially your parents.  Then there were the things they taught me without even knowing it.  The ‘by example’ things.  The stuff kids pick up on.  Learn through osmosis.  By watching.  Listening.  Witnessing.

While all this learning was going on — the day to day, the big and the by example — thirteen virtues stood out. A perfect Baker’s Dozen.  These are what I would like to share with you.

8 From Ma:

LOVE: One of the big ones. The biggest.  For Ma it came unconditionally.  You didn’t have to do anything special to earn her love.  If you were one of hers, you just had it. There wasn’t anything she wouldn’t do for one of her own.  Including lay down her life.  Thankfully she was never put into this position. What a blessing to be loved so dearly.  What more could a child need than to wake up every morning feeling cherished.  In the end, Ma was grateful that her life followed its natural course.  Although she hated to leave us all, she wouldn’t have had it any other way.  One day we will all follow her into the Light.  Her love was such a blessing to our entire family.  I still feel it now.  And I am grateful.

Ma and her grandson taking a moment to look at Polaroids.

WISDOM: Ma was a simple woman in many ways. Unpretentious. Unassuming.  She never graduated from high school and had very little formal education.  Although at age sixty she went back to night school and studied art.  We were all so proud of her accomplishment.  Her wonderful paintings are amongst my greatest treasures.  Education aside, Ma was a wise and enlightened woman.  She possessed profound insights. Introspective by nature, she was always interested in the “why” of life.  This led her to places of deep spiritual and philosophical understanding and acuity.  She was a good listener.  A skill lacking in the best of us.  I am eternally grateful for her counsel and sought it at every turn.  She was involved in every big decision I made.  It is my prayer that my children feel the same way about me. That when they turn to me for advice or simply a compassionate ear that I bring Ma’s kind of wisdom.

KINDNESS: Ma possessed this virtue in spades.  In abundance.  Good measure. Pressed down.  Shaken.  Running over.  Her heart was tender.  Not just for those she loved. But everyone she encountered on her journey through life.  Children, in particular touched her heart.  She never met a kid she didn’t like.  Her kindness was even extended to the naughty ones. Her heart was open and large towards the elderly, the downtrodden, the forgotten ones and those considered unlovable.  She was kind to animals.  They all knew a kindred spirit.  I am kind too.  Ma taught me well.

GENTLENESS: Ma touched everything with a gentle hand.  Her touch was soft.  Warm.  Benevolent.  She caused no harm.  Never spanked her children.  Nor scolded.  Shy by nature, her voice was quiet yet reassuring.  She was a Whisperer.  Even in the kitchen, nothing was forced.  Food was prepared in a sweet and easy style.  I will always miss her beautiful long-fingered veiny hands that caressed her world with loving kindness.

Ma and Daughter Number One smile for the camera.

PATIENCE: Ma was well practiced in this virtue.  Four children and an alcoholic husband could be taxing at times.  Being patient with children came easy for her.  She understood kids innately.  And consequently they were drawn to her like bees to honey.  She was like Jesus in that she wanted the little children to come to her.  Never too busy for a child.  No little one shooed away.  Her patience wasn’t only extended to the very young.  She successfully shepherded four teenagers into adulthood.  That took monumental skill and patience by the bucketful. Being patient with The Old Man was her biggest trial.  He was her Achilles heel.  I can only say she did her best to extend the same grace to him as she did the children in her life.  Nobody’s perfect.   Patience hasn’t always been one of my strengths.  Just ask my two older kids.  I’ll be working on this one for the rest of my life.  As I said, nobody’s perfect.

EMPATHY: Ma’s compassionate heart wept for the world.  She intuitively knew what people were feeling.  Felt their pain.  Embraced another’s sorrow.  She was the shoulder to cry on.  Her heart broke at the sight of any suffering.  Whether it was within our family circle. Or brought to her over the garden fence or through the television set.  Witnessing suffering on a colossal scale moved her to take action. She donated to many charitable causes and supported a third world child all the days of her life.  She inspired me to do the same.

COURAGE: Ma was timid, shy and meek by nature.  Yet she was also a warrior.  A little spitfire at times. Full of true grit. Especially when it came to protecting her kids.  She wouldn’t let anything or anyone cause us harm.  She was also courageous in the face of any adversity.   From the cradle to the grave.  Whatever the strife, she faced the challenge head-on with bravery and grace.  She also never complained about being sick.  She could be stoic to a fault at times.  We saw this intimately when she had her heart attack.  At first, she denied even having one.  She never ever gave up.  Ma taught me to fight the good fight right until the bitter end.  Like Dido said, there will be no white flags above our door.

THOUGHTFULNESS: Ma was considerate in her every thought, word and deed.  Not only in the small gestures.  Coming to the aid of the elderly.  Helping someone up who has fallen.  Figuratively and literally.  She was quick to send thank you notes, get well wishes and thinking of you cards.  My mailbox was always a wellspring for delightful little surprises.  She never forgot a birthday.  Cards were sent.  Cakes baked. Gifts given. She welcomed everyone into our home regardless of who they were.  There was always room at the table.  If she saw something in a store that she thought you’d like, she picked it up.  There were many just because gifts.  She had others on her mind. I miss dearly those cards and notes inscribed with her small meticulous handwriting. Trips to the mailbox aren’t as much fun anymore.

4 From The Old Man:

HUMOR: The Old Man loved a good laugh.  A silly joke.  A funny yarn with a good punch line.  He was always quick with one to tell.  A faithful reader of The Reader’s Digest, this was the source of much of his material. He also loved a good comedy on television.  Red Skelton could bring him to tears.  He laughed loud.  Heartily.  Easily.  Right from the belly.  I do the same.  I loved this about The Old Man.  It is also what I look for in friends and lovers.  I’m a sucker for a man who can make me laugh.  He will always tickle my fancy.  Laughter.  One of God’s greatest gifts to humans.  Thank you.

The Old Man and his grandson enjoyed a good game of crib.

GENEROSITY: The Old Man was one of those guys who would give you the shirt off his back.  Unlike Ma, who was quick to give to charitable causes, he didn’t part so easily with his money. Not that he had much to part with.  He happily gave his pay cheque to Ma every two weeks. She was the manager of our family finances.  But he gave other things.  If he had something you needed or wanted he rarely said no.  As a teenager I appreciated this virtue the most.  Especially when it came to handing over the keys to his car.  That was a big deal back then.  The Old Man supported his family.  No matter what.  Roof over our heads.  Food on the table.  I always felt that as long as The Old Man was on this earth I would never be destitute.  I’d always have a place to go.  A safe haven where I would be taken care of.  I am so grateful to have had that.  E and I have created the same for our children.  We also go through a lot of shirts.

WORK ETHIC: The Old Man loved and hated his job. Regardless of how he felt on any given day, he got up at 5am and did it. He showed up. For some thirty odd years.  He never actually said, “Take this job and shove it,” but I suspect there were many days that he felt this way.  Possibly he had bigger dreams than he had ambition.  In his defense, he was from a generation of folks who raised families and did whatever it took to do so.  No complaints.  No whining.  No woulda-coulda-shoulda.  Just hard work.  If he had regret over his professional path, he kept it to himself.  I understand.  I’ve done the same.  I show up.

The Old Man and his grandchildren pose for the camera.

SERVICE: The Old Man did what he could to be of service to his country, his family, his community, his employer, his church.  He was in the army.  He volunteered in sport.  Umpiring Little League games was his delight.  He helped out at the church.  Did yard work and painted one of his elderly customer’s home on a regular basis.  Old Jenny was dear to him.  Although she paid him a small fee I suspect he would have done it for free.  He was honored with an award for Service to his Community.  He taught me what an honor it is to serve.  People need help everywhere.

1 from Both of Them:

PUNCTUALITY: Some people might not consider this a virtue.  But I do.  I don’t think either of my parents were ever late for anything.  They were either right on time or early.  Like many from their generation lateness was akin to rudeness.  It was also considered thoughtless and arrogant.  They respected the time of others and appreciated that no one likes to be kept waiting.  Nor should they.  Lateness required two things.  A good reason.  And an apology.  I love that they were both so courteous in this way.

We all wore paper crowns on New Years Eve.

My Own:

GRATITUDE: I will forever be grateful to both my parents for their Baker’s Dozen, these 13 Virtues.  My heart is filled with gratitude every day for the life that God has blessed me with.  Starting with the ultimate gift of my parents.  Ma and The Old Man.