The Secrets of Life … Of Family, Friends, Community and More

“Ha-ha!” I might hear you say, on seeing this headline, “I must read this… the secrets of life” or, more likely, “not another promise of everlasting joy, health and happiness… I don’t believe it!”

Well, maybe you should, but don’t get too excited, at least until I’ve told you what it’s about!

So, if I were to tell you that it takes some lessons from classical Greek mythology, a legendary Italian Poet, Dante Alighieri, who is, some say, the father of the Italian language; a knock on the door of our own Poet and Playwright, Mr William Shakespeare, by reference to that famous soliloquy in ‘Hamlet’, as well as from a little known South African, Eugene N Marais, who did some fascinating and revealing research on the social life of ants; and that it is a poem called… The Secrets of Life then will you have a different reaction? Or will you think it’s a bit overly preachy?

I hope not and trust you will give it a read and tell me what you think about it and, perhaps, give me your alternative views.

What it does come down to for me is the need for some contentment, a reduction in the stress induced in all of us by, on the one hand a fundamental, genetic and unconscious driving force and, on the other, a conscious material greed; one which can help us survive, the other can cause us to fail to find happiness. There is a balance, somewhere.

I’d like to invite you to read the poem that follows, and tell me where you think that balance is, for you.

Thank you for reading.

The Secrets of Life

The riptide pulled and weighed us down,
swimming in our shoals.
It bent us in our will to win,
oh weary, sorry souls.

Oh tiresome, terrifying days
when scholars moved to preach
that all of Christendom was ours,
but always out of reach.

Oh weary, sorry souls, I cried
for all of us, who’re driven,
wherein unconscious mind, so tuned,
lays bare the ego given.

Always, it seems, beyond our reach,
genetics never fail
to teach us how we must survive,
not how to trim the sail.

Ego’s given winds may blow,
but odysseys must end.
For quests beyond our human bounds,
Inferno may portend.

Just when this sea of troubles weighed
too much on mortal coil,
the magic of encircling arms
became the perfect foil.

So I reset the sails for home,
embracing Vesta’s heart;
discovered Marais’ secret strength:
in concert, ne’er apart.

– John Anstie

© 2013, essay, poem, and portrait (below),  John Anstie, All rights reserved

John_in_Pose_Half_Face3JOHN ANSTIE (My Poetry Library and 42) ~ is a British poet and writer, a contributing editor here at Bardo, and multi-talented gentleman self-described as a “Family man, Grandfather, Oc casional Musician, Amateur photographer and Film-maker, Apple-MAC user, Implementation Manager, and Engineer.  John participates in d’Verse Poet’s Pub and is a player in New World Creative Union. He’s been blogging since the beginning of 2011. John is also an active member of The Poetry Society (UK).

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John has been involved in the recent publication of two anthologies that are the result of online collaborations among two international groups of amateur and professional poets. One of these is The Grass Roots Poetry Group, for which he produced and edited their anthology, “Petrichor* Rising. The other group is d’Verse Poet Pub, in which John’s poetry also appears The d’Verse Anthology: Voices of Contemporary World Poetry, produced and edited by Frank Watson.

Petrichor – from the Greek pɛtrɨkər, the scent of rain on the dry earth.

Doors

Is a door the way in or the way out?  It depends…are you coming or going?

We find many interesting doors in life.

Sometimes we know just what we need…

Other times the choice is not so clear…

Some doors are lovely…

Others scary…

Some are daunting…

It would be nice if we could sneak a peek…

Some doors are difficult to get to…

Still others can be hard to find…

Or best avoided…

But you never can tell which door…

…will open up onto a new friendship…

 

…or a loving family…

Which is why we must not be afraid to step out into the sunshine, or forget to invite someone in out of the cold.

Reach for the doorknob….

…..and see what you can find.

All words and images Copyright 2012 Naomi Baltuck

All images and words copyright Naomi Baltuck

NaomiPHOTO1-300ppi51kAqFGEesL._SY300_NAOMI BALTUCK ~ is a Contributing Editor and Resident Storyteller here410xuqmD74L._SY300_ at Bardo. She is a world-traveler and an award-winning writer, photographer, and story-teller whose works of fiction and nonfiction are available through Amazon HERE. Naomi presents her wonderful photo-stories – always interesting and rich with meaning and humor – at Writing Between the Lines, Life from the Writer’s POV. She also conducts workshops such as Peace Porridge (multicultural stories to promote cooperation, goodwill, and peaceful coexistence), Whispers in the Graveyard (a spellbinding array of haunting and mysterious stories), Tandem Tales, Traveling Light Around the World, and others. For more on her programs visit Naomi Baltuck.com

Nostalgia

the work of Priscilla Galasso in response to the weekly photo challenge from WordPress

Oh, boy.  It’s a dangerous thing to invite a widow and empty-nester to post a blog on the theme Nostalgic!  Contemplating the past can lead to maudlin stretches and lots of used Kleenex™, even if I don’t have a glass or two of wine first.  I don’t think that would be at all edifying to the blogging community, so I’m going to try hard to steer away from that.  I hope to write and show something that is true about a time that has come and gone.

Life is characterized by impermanence.  Our kids don’t stay little; our loved ones don’t stay alive forever.  What we live is present moments.  If we try to hang on to them and make them more permanent or attach our happiness to them, we are in for a world of frustration.  As we get farther away from present moments, it’s hard to remember what they were really like.  We lose perspective.  That wonderful family outing…did I yell at the kids that day?  I don’t remember.  I probably lost patience at least once.  Did my kids remember that?  How did they feel?  How did they heal?  Or is it all, as my mother often puts it, ‘a merciful blur’?

Brookfield Zool dolphin show, August 1991. Jim (RIP), Emily, Josh, Becca and Susan (who will be wed in less than three weeks).
Brookfield Zool dolphin show, August 1991. Jim (RIP), Emily, Josh, Becca and Susan (who will be wed in less than three weeks).

In my current life, I see a lot of families on outings with their children, since I work at two different family museums.  Families interact in all sorts of ways.  I try to look at them with compassion and tolerance remembering what I can about how challenging it is to raise four kids at one time.  The important thing is to BE KIND in the present moment.  With your kids or someone else’s.  If the world is to be a good place to live, it’s important that all seven billion of us humans remember to BE KIND.  And this is not a glib solution.  If you think deeply about being kind, you’ll see that it is a profound power in the universe.   BE KIND to your fellow humans.  BE KIND to every living thing.  BE KIND to yourself first, and feel what that is like.  It is peace.  It is well-being and health.  It is life.  Don’t settle for feeling nostalgic about a time when you felt the world was a kinder place to live.  Make it a kinder place to live this very moment by acting kindly!

– Priscilla Galasso

© 2013, essay and photographs, Priscilla Galasso, All rights reserved

004PRISCILLA GALASSO ~ is a contributor to Into the Bardo. She started her blog at scillagrace.com to mark the beginning of her fiftieth year. Born to summer and given a name that means ‘ancient’, her travel through seasons of time and landscape has inspired her to create visual and verbal souvenirs of her journey.

“My courage is in the affirmation of my part in co-creation”, she wrote in her first published poem, composed on her thirtieth birthday and submitted alongside her seven-year-old daughter’s poem to Cricket magazine. Her spiritual evolution began in an Episcopal environment and changed in pivotal moments: as a teenager, her twenty-year-old sister died next to her in a car crash and, decades later, Priscilla’s husband and the father of her four children died of coronary artery disease and diabetes in his sleep at the age of forty-seven  Awakening to mindfulness and reconsidering established thought patterns continues to be an important part of her life work.

Currently living in Wisconsin, she considers herself a lifelong learner and educator. She gives private voice lessons, is employed by two different museums and runs a business (Scholar & Poet Books, via eBay and ABE Books) with her partner, Steve.

Mom Always Said…

Hope for the best, expect the worst, and try not to be disappointed.   My mother’s life philosophy was actually pretty upbeat for a kid whose family lost everything during The Great Depression, including her father, who died of Brain Fever when she was only eight.  Grandma Rhea supported her children by sewing and taking in wash.  My mom shared a bed with Grandma, so they could rent out her room to make ends meet.  But they didn’t always quite make it.  In the freezing Detroit winters, they nailed blankets over the windows because they couldn’t afford coal to heat the house.

Their only book was the family bible.  But Mom found a copy of Alice in Wonderland in a box of textbooks left by a renter.  She read it cover to cover.  As soon as she finished, she turned back to the first page and started over.  She had discovered her passion and her escape–in books.

Mom was the first in her family to attend college, working her way through by reading to blind students.  A person of quiet, if impractical passions, Mom passed on normal school and secretarial school to study Classical Greek and Latin, French, German, and Russian.  Italian, too, but she said that hardly counted.  “After Latin,” Mom said, “Italian is a snap.”

I remember going home from college to visit one weekend.  There were index cards by Mom’s reading chair, on the kitchen windowsill, on the nightstand by her bed.  They had strange writing on them.

“It’s Greek,” she explained.  “Passages from The Iliad, by Homer.”

“Why?” I asked.

“I’m memorizing it,” she said.

“But why?”

“For fun, dear.  After I’ve memorized The Iliad, I’m going to memorize The Odyssey.”

As a young college grad, she had never shown any interest in men, and was still living at home while working for the War Department.  Grandma planned on having a spinster daughter to keep her company in her old age, unaware that Mom had already promised herself she would move out and find a place of her own by her 25th birthday, if she hadn’t gotten married by then.   Mom just hadn’t met her intellectual equal.  Then Harry Baltuck came along.

He was handsome, funny, brilliant; every woman in the office had her eye on him.  But he had eyes only for Mom.  She was so nervous on their first date that she threw up in his car.  Actually, she threw up every time they went out.  “But he kept coming back,” she said, laughing.

He was intrigued, and not just because she was determined to remain a virgin until her wedding night.  It was a very quick courtship.

His proposal wasn’t exactly story book.  “Well, what if we made it legal?” he asked.

“Would you wear a ring?” she countered.  And the rest is family history.

They traveled many peaks and valleys in their time.  They had seven children and eighteen years together.  She was still young when widowed, and Mom received several proposals from Daddy’s friends and army buddies; some decent and well-intended, others not so much.  But Mom didn’t take anyone up on his offer.  She never remarried, or even dated.  Books, once again, became her passion and her escape.

In 1989, I sat at her bedside as she lay dying of cancer.  It had been a long hard battle.  Mom looked up and caught her breath.  “Harry,” she whispered.

“What did you say, Mom?” I asked.

“Harry!”  She pointed toward the door, but I saw nothing there.

“Mom, do you see someone?”

“It’s Harry,” she said, nodding.  “He’s standing right there.”

Was it the delusion of a dying woman?  Or the love of her life, who had been patiently waiting for twenty-five years to take her home?

Let’s hope for the best.  Just like Mom always said, you have to hope for the best.

All images and words c2012 Naomi Baltuck

NaomiPHOTO1-300ppi51MC3SKEF0L._SY300_NAOMI BALTUCK ~ is a Contributing Editor and Resident Storyteller here at Bardo. She is a world-traveler and an award-winning writer, photographer, and story-teller whose works of fiction and nonfiction are available through Amazon HERE. Naomi presents her wonderful photo-stories – always interesting and rich with meaning and humor – at Writing Between the Lines, Life from the Writer’s POV.

Naomi also conducts workshops such as Peace Porridge (multicultural stories to promote cooperation, goodwill, and peaceful coexistence), Whispers in the Graveyard (a spellbinding array of haunting and mysterious stories), Tandem Tales, Traveling Light Around the World, and others. For more on her programs visit Naomi Baltuck.com

Today (we are all survivors)

We are all survivors, of our personal histories, our family lines, and of the human race.  Since the dawn of time, think of the families ended abruptly by a bullet, a spear, a club, a predator, illness, by accident and even by someone’s own hand.

Today is the anniversary of D-Day, the Normandy invasion in 1944.  It was the day my Uncle Lewis was launched onto the Normandy beaches into a cruel war.  I think it no coincidence that today is also the anniversary of my father’s death in 1965.

The day before he died, while his kids ran and laughed and played in the yard, my father planted a walnut tree—just a stick of a sapling–by the side of the house.  Did he know what he was going to do?  Did he plant that tree as his own memorial?

I hope not, because someone else is living in that little house in Detroit, and my Dad’s walnut tree is long gone, cut down in its prime.  This I know, because I drive past each time I go back to visit my Aunt Loena.   So these words must serve as a memorial to a World War II vet who came home without his little brother and best friend.  That was the sin his mother never forgave him for, the sin he could he never quite forgive himself for either.

My army buddy, Jack Oliver, attended boot camp with Uncle Lewis.  He helped me understand that my father was as much a victim of the war as my uncle.  When the War Department tallies the casualties, it counts the dead, the wounded, the missing in action.  But no one ever takes into account the broken hearts and broken families left by the wayside in the wake of war.  If they did, perhaps they would stop sending our children off to fight and die.

But today is a day a of forgiveness, a day of understanding, a day to be thankful that life goes on.  It is a day of sorrow, but most of all, today is a day to love.

– Naomi Baltuck

© 2012, essay and photographs, Naomi Baltuck, All rights reserved

NaomiPHOTO1-300ppi410xuqmD74L._SY300_NAOMI BALTUCK ~ is a Contributing Editor and Resident Storyteller here at Bardo. She is a world-traveler and an award-winning writer, photographer, and story-teller whose works of fiction and nonfiction are available through Amazon HERE. Naomi presents her wonderful photo-stories – always interesting and rich with meaning and humor – at Writing Between the Lines, Life from the Writer’s POV. She also conducts workshops such as Peace Porridge (multicultural stories to promote cooperation, goodwill, and peaceful coexistence), Whispers in the Graveyard (a spellbinding array of haunting and mysterious stories), Tandem Tales, Traveling Light Around the World, and others. For more on her programs visit Naomi Baltuck.com

The Past Two Weeks: A View from New England

Grace Church, New Bedford, MAThis past weekend we were visiting family in southeastern Massachusetts, and decided to attend a concert by the virtuoso classical guitarist, Eliot Fisk and friends. The concert was staged in the magnificent Grace Episcopal Church in New Bedford. As we listened to music ranging over several centuries, I found my mind wandering far and wide.

Earlier in the day we had received a phone call from a woman who had run the Boston Marathon and now was preparing for another. She was feeling fearful and becoming increasingly hesitant to run. Could she come in and speak to one of us, maybe get some help sorting out her anxiety? We set a time to meet and went on with our day.

The prior couple of weeks had been quite difficult. We have family and adult children living, or going to school, in Boston. On the day of the Boston Marathon I went in to work as usual. Late in the day a client came in and told me his wife had called and said there had been a bombing at the Marathon. We turned on the office computer and looked at the news feed. At that point, there was a fire at the Kennedy Library as well as reports of possible new bomb blasts, and rumors that additional devices had been found. I explained to my client I have family in Boston, picked up the phone, and called home. Everyone was safe and accounted for. I then called my daughter who lives in the Midwest and reassured her we were all safe. Only then did we settle into the routine of our therapy session.

That session was unique in all my years of practice. I spoke about how surprised I was that I called home instead of forcing myself to wait til after the session. He spoke to feeling remorse at being the bearer of bad news. I expressed my gratitude to him for sharing the news and for being generous in allowing me to check on the safety of my family, and for simply being another human presence in a difficult moment. Together we shared our experience of living in a world where people harm one another in the service of ideology.

On Wednesday I got together with a group of old friends. Naturally, the conversation turned to the week’s events. I spoke about imagining I understood some small part of the anger and hopelessness of the two brothers accused of the bombings. I added I thought they were probably doing their best and we could detest their actions and still hold on to the brothers’ humanity. Perhaps we are all doing as we are able, and sharing, ultimately, a common bond and fate. None of this went over well.

Then came Friday, and New England was back in the middle of terror and chaos. We were hosting Bangladeshi friends who were visiting the U.S. for the first time. I was up early, turned on the radio, and was greeted by reports of shootouts and bombs, again in Boston. One of my stepsons posted to Facebook that his street was blocked off, police were everywhere, and the neighborhood was in lockdown. Once again we were on the phone to Boston and the Midwest; our family members were safe, at least for the moment.

When our Bangladeshi friends awoke and came downstairs (they had luxuriated in long, hot showers, so different from the cold showers available to them at home), we explained the situation to them. They spoke to their compassion for our plight, and told us about one day, a few years ago, when Bangladesh had suffered 400 separate blasts. By early afternoon it was apparent the situation in Boston was under relative control, so we drove up to the mountains where our friends met snow for the first time. They proceeded to frolic, build snow people, and have a snowball fight, all in near 80 degree weather. The next day was cold and windy and we built a fire in the wood stove…… Welcome to Vermont in April!

All this came back as I sat in the enormous vaulted church, surrounded by family and and friends, listening to a remarkable concert drawn from the Western canon. A reception P1050301followed the concert, but we went straight home. Although it was late (the concert lasted well over two hours), the Red Sox were still playing, and winning to boot! It was then, sitting in the family kitchen, surrounded by loved ones, drinking late night decaf cappuccinos, that I finally grasped the healing, normalizing power of baseball.

Sunday we drove home via Boston where we visited more family. The world was abloom, and the streets were filled with happy, playful people. Surprisingly we spoke very little about the events of the proceeding two weeks, other than brief recaps of how folks spent their time during the lockdowns, or decided not to attend the Marathon. Rather, we spoke about the tenacity and resilience of the people of Boston. I guess we should not have been surprised at their resiliency, given their decades of loving support of the Red Sox prior to 2004.

– Michael Watson

© 2013, essay and all photographs include the portrait below, Michael Watson, All rights reserved

michael drumMICHAEL WATSON M.A., Ph.D., LCMHC (Dreaming the World) ~ is a contributing editor to Into the Bardo, an essayist and a practitioner of the Shamanic arts, psychotherapist, educator and artist of Native American and European descent. He lives and works in Burlington, Vermont, where he teaches in undergraduate and graduate programs at Burlington College,. He was once Dean of Students there. Recently Michael has been teaching in India and Hong Kong. His experiences are documented on his blog. In childhood he had polio, an event that taught him much about challenge, struggle, isolation, and healing.

THE STORY OF A WAR AND A QUIET MAN

Normandy American Cemetery

“My army buddy, Jack Oliver, attended boot camp with Uncle Lewis.  He helped me understand that my father was as much a victim of the war as my uncle.  When the War Department tallies the casualties, it counts the dead, the wounded, the missing in action.  But no one ever takes into account the broken hearts and broken families left by the wayside in the wake of war.  If they did, perhaps they would stop sending our children off to fight and die.” Naomi Baltuck

REMEMBERING UNCLE LEWIS

by

Naomi Baltuck (Writing Between the Lines)

One of my earliest memories is of dinner at Grandma Rose’s house.  Her towels, furniture, and closets smelled of mothballs; she even stored her silverware in mothballs.  Mostly, though, I recall standing on Grandma’s couch to study the framed collage of black and white photographs on her wall.  I recognized my father, but knew the other boy in the pictures only by name, and by heart.

Uncle Lewis was my father’s only sibling, younger than my dad by ten years.  We never met, and Daddy never spoke of him.  But they were best friends.  In one picture Lewis was laughing, having been surprised on the toilet by my father with his camera.  The brothers teased Grandma too.  Lewis would yell, “Harry, stop hitting me!”  Grandma would rush in, and scold my father for picking on his brother.  Undaunted, they’d laugh and repeat, until Grandma caught on.

Soon after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Lewis was drafted into the infantry, a shy studious eighteen year old who had never kissed a girl.  My father joined up as an officer.  He pulled a few strings to get Lewis transferred into the 30th ‘Old Hickory’ Division, so the brothers could cross the Atlantic on the same ship.  Lewis wrote letters and post cards home, often addressed to their dog ‘Peanuts.’

“Hey, Peanuts, tell Pa to eat his spinach!”   From the ship he wrote, “Harry and his buddies sneaked me into their cabin.  They gave me chocolate and let me play with their puppy.  Don’t tell anyone, or we’ll all catch it.  They smuggled the pup on board, and officers shouldn’t fraternize with enlisted men…”

While serving in Africa, Italy, England, France, and Germany, Harry was safely behind the front lines.  But Lewis was sent to Normandy two days after the D-Day invasion.  He fought in the hedgerows of France, and in Holland.  “The Dutch ran into the streets and passed out everything from soup to nuts.  As we marched out of there in the middle of the night, you could hear the clink of cognac, whiskey, and wine bottles in the guys’ jackets, amidst all the cursing and the roar of the Jerrys’ planes overhead.”  

To his parents Lewis wrote, “Dear Ma and Pa, today I saw General Eisenhower drive by.”  Or, “Kronk said the war can’t last.  It just can’t.  And he said it with such an angelic look on his face, I believe him!”

But to my father he wrote, “You should see the bruise from where a bullet passed through my shirt, Brub.  It was a close call.”  Or, “They took Julian away.  It’s so lonely here, Brub.  He’s the reason I wouldn’t take that promotion to sergeant.  We dug in together, took care of each other when things got rough.  I don’t know how bad he’s hurt; I just hope he makes it, and escapes this Hell.  Pray for me, Brub. Pray for me.”

On September 20, 1944, the day before his company attacked the Siegfried Line, Staff Sergeant Lewis Baltuck was killed by the blast of a shell.  Twenty years old, he had hardly begun to live.  He was survived by his parents, his dog Peanuts, and his brother Harry.  He never had the time or the opportunity to fall in love and marry.  He left no children to mourn for him—only the Bronze Star and the bronzed baby booties Grandma kept on her bookshelf until the day she died, more than forty years after her son’s death.

Harry married, had seven children, and built his own little house in Detroit.  But for the rest of his life he suffered acutely from the unspeakable burden of depression and Survivor’s Guilt.  When Grandpa Max died, my father became the sole caretaker of his widowed mother.  There was no one to share that burden with, to joke with or jolly her along.  Worst of all, crazed with grief, Grandma Rose blamed Harry for Lewis’s death.

I envied those kids who grew up with cousins to play with, and uncles who cared about them.  Uncle Lewis would’ve been that kind of uncle, and my father would have been a different man, without that black cloud to live under.  When Daddy died in 1965, we lost our connection to my father’s extended family, and our ties to our paternal cultural heritage were nearly lost as well.  But it does no good to dwell on the past or to speculate on what might have been.

Uncle Lewis was right about one thing.  War is Hell.  The price it exacts is impossible to tally, and can never be repaid.  When a soldier is killed, one heart stops beating, but many more are broken.  The wounds inflicted upon whole families are so deep that the scars can still be felt after generations.

I swear my uncle’s little bronze baby booties will never end up on the bargain shelf at the Salvation Army Thrift Store, like so many others I have seen there.  How sad to think that such precious keepsakes might be tossed into the giveaway because no one remembers or cares about the one whose little feet filled them.

I attended the 60th reunion of the Old Hickory Division in Nashville in search of someone who knew my uncle.  I met only one man who remembered him…“a quiet man who didn’t say much, but when he did speak, he was always worth listening to.”

I tell my children that story, and many others about their Great Uncle Lewis.  I am confident he will be cherished and remembered, not just for his tragic death, but for his joyful life.

© 2012, essay and family photos, Naomi Baltuck, All rights reserved

Photo credit ~ Normandy American Cemetery: I doctored this (taken in 2010) so that the original colors would not lend a dissonant note to the post. The photo was taken by Harald Bishoff and uploaded to Wikipedia under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported. J.D.

Naomi Baltuck ~ has been blogging (Writing Between the Lines) since December 2011. She shares her days and her thoughts in the true spirit of weblog, a dairy of sorts. Her posts are perfectly executed works of art: careful and caring, symmetrical and clear. Her interests are eclectic but her family is certainly her center. We are proud to have her as a contributing writer. J.D.

I DANCE FOR THEM

from a rain forest

Here the dancer stops

to regain her balance

and re-elaborate the distance

In the Empire of Light, Michael Palmer

·

I DANCE FOR THEM

by

Jamie Dedes

·

We danced in step we four, a pas de quatre on river rocks,

me dreaming wild of unicorns and rainbows.

In that faraway place of  raging river, ancient Cloister –

escaping to the city with my once-young mother,

embracing antique stories told in graceful moves and music

made for those with better breeding, more cultivated minds.

·

Home, our home, a place of first loves, unfounded hope

where simmering, Sidto* served soup to my sister,

a dark-olive girl-fugue in tar black  and char dust.

In that place whirling with church spires and myrtle trees,

hooting and shrieking, we strode tortured shores,

then buried our anger in silence, bitter as bile.

I broke my ballerina legs in a premature grand jeté.

I failed to heal those fissured old hearts.

·

We were lost then, somewhere out in crazy time, lazy mind –

passing green humid summers, silver crisp winters,

fielding the slings of earth-bound distress. Home  . .  .

At home, such a tangled skein of love and lies and ties,

where, by some bogey breeze, we danced lockstep on river rocks,

me dreaming wild of unicorns and rainbows . . .

Solitary now, alone now above rainforest layers of fertile mind –

my energy moves triumphant, a pas marché on gray status clouds,

which rain down hard-won poems in roses, willow greens, and light.

With twice found hope and tender love, I dance for them.

·

Sidto – grandmother, derived from the Arabic.

Dance terms:

  • pas de quatre – a dance for four.
  • grand jette – a broad, high leap with one leg stretched forward and one stretched behind. In effect, a “split” that is airborne.
  • pas marché – the regal marching-step of the premiere danseuse, the principal female dancer in a ballet company

© poem, 2011, 2012 Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved

Illustration courtesy of Fran Hogan, Public Domain Photograph.net.

PERSPECTIVES ON CANCER #27: Cookies for Kids Cancer, Do Whatever It Takes

[In the United States alone in 2007], approximately 10,400 children under age 15 were diagnosed with cancer and about 1,545 children will die from the disease.  MORE Childhood Cancers Fact Sheet, Cancer Topics, Cancer.gov

COOKIES FOR KIDS CANCER

by

© Cookiesforkidscancer.org

Beginnings

Cookies for Kids’ Cancer, a 501(c)3 non profit, was founded by parents inspired by their son Liam’s battle with cancer. They were shocked to learn that the main reason over 25% of kids diagnosed with cancer do not survive is because of a lack of effective therapies. And the reason for the lack of therapies was very simple: lack of funding. They pledged to support the development of new and better treatments by giving people a simple way to get involved.

It all started with 96,000 cookies…

Gretchen had a crazy idea for a larger-than-life bake sale with the goal of baking 96,000 cookies with friends and volunteers. Dozens of other families whose children were also battling Neuroblastoma got involved and began to take orders for cookies from friends, co-workers, and neighbors. All 96,000 cookies were sold in three weeks, thanks to the work of over 250 volunteers. The event raised over $400,000 for pediatric cancer research, but it was soon clear that something bigger than a bake sale had begun. Even weeks after the event was over, requests for cookies kept coming in. What started as a desperate act to raise money and awareness for her child’s own cancer blossomed into something much bigger than any had planned. The event caught the eye and the hearts of the media and people all over the country. Emails from across the United States started flooding in asking the same simple question “what can we do to help?”

Be a Good Cookie

Make a difference by joining the mission to find a cure for pediatric cancer. There are many ways to support Cookies for Kids’ Cancer. Hosting a bake sale is a sweet and simple way for people everywhere to get involved in the fight against pediatric cancer. Send our cookies for birthdays, anniversaries, or just because. Our cookies taste as good to eat as they feel to give.

And you don’t have to eat or bake cookies to be a Good Cookie. Other supporters have run marathons, held tag sales, organized golf tournaments, collected spare change, and hosted car washes to support Cookies for Kids’ Cancer. We’ve even made it simple to donate online once or once a month with online giving. The ideas are only limited by your imagination. No effort is too small and every penny counts.

Our mission:

Cookies for Kids’ Cancer is committed to raising funds to support research for new and improved therapies for pediatric cancer, the leading cause of death by disease for children under the age of 18. Through the concept of local bake sales, Cookies for Kids’ Cancer provides the inspiration and support for individuals, communities, and businesses to help fight pediatric cancer. 

Facts about Kids’ Cancers

Cookies for Kids’ Cancer is not about one child or one type of pediatric cancer. It is about changing the facts of pediatric cancer for the better, forever. Important statistics to know:

  • Cancer claims the lives of more children annually than any other disease ” more than asthma, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis & AIDS combined.
  • 46 children per day are diagnosed with cancer totaling nearly 13,000 new cases per year.
  • Cure rates have improved dramatically and advances in childhood cancer research has provided seminal insights into the cancer problem in general. Today, 4 out 5 children diagnosed with cancer can be cured.
  • While long-term goals for the pediatric cancer community will focus on securing more federal funding for childhood cancer research (more than the 1-2% of the National Cancer Institute budget that is current expended), philanthropy plays a critical and essential role in the ongoing battle against childhood cancer.

About the Founders

Gretchen and Larry Witt founded Cookies for Kids’ Cancer in 2008, just a few short months after the success of their first cookie sale during the holidays 2007. Their efforts have always been inspired by their son Liam who was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer in 2007 at the age of 2. Tragically, Liam came to the end of his courageous 4-year fight with cancer on January 24, 2011 at the age of 6. Though devastated by his loss, the Witts remain more determined than ever to continue the fight against pediatric cancer.

Gretchen Witt has been recognized nationally for her leadership as a mom on a mission. In 2010, Witt was named one of Woman’s Day Magazine’s 50 Women Changing the World and Traditional Home Magazine’s Classic Woman of the Year. She was also featured in the December 2009 issue of O, the Oprah Magazine, for her work with Cookies for Kids’ Cancer. She accepts speaking engagements to tell the story of the beginnings of Cookies for Kids’ Cancer, the need for funding for pediatric cancer research, and to share her experiences as a mother fighting endlessly for her son and for all children. Her story resonates as one of determination and guts with a willingness to stop at nothing to do what’s right and what’s best for all kids fighting cancer. Audiences as varied as The Cornell Club NYC, Meredith College’s 2010 Commencement and the International Housewares Show in Chicago have all been inspired by her words and her passion.

Feature photograph and article courtesy of cookiesforkidscancer.org.

Video upload to YouTube by 


THE HEART OF THE MATTER

My friend and Christian poet and writer, Donna Swanson, writes here about creativity, the  fleeting quality of success, and the things that really matter, like family and gratitude. No matter your definition of God (or not) or whatever your belief system is (or is not), the essence of the message here is core wisdom.  Enjoy! … and thanks to Donna for sharing. J.D.

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THE HEART OF THE MATTER

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DONNA SWANSON
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There have always been creators. To us creating is a display of God’s image in the world. Creating is an ache in our spirit; a compulsive reaching out to those who share life with us. We can no more not create than we can not breathe. Though there is a longing for our creations to be affirmed and applauded – anyone who denies that is lying to you – there is a deeper hunger to do the act of creating. The feel of a brush on canvas; the weight of a pen in the hand; a particular word that completes a poetic phrase: these are to our souls as oxygen is to our lungs. Though no one responds, still we must offer. Perhaps the next painting will invoke a response; the next book, the next poem, the next song…
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And success? Now, as I look back over my life, I have a much different perspective than I did in my youth. I see those things I created, and they are good. I know they have blessed the few people they have touched. And now I can put them to rest where they belong; in God’s hands. If there comes a time when He wants them widely known, they will be. If not, they were infinitely satisfying in their creation.
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Again, as I look back over my life, I see the successes that mean so much more than any amount of fame could supply. I asked God to give me acclaim and the praise of my peers. He gave me good children who rise up and call me blessed. I asked God to make me financially successful. He gave me a beautiful home set amidst towering pines given by those I loved. I asked God to make my name known. He gave me a husband who knows me and loves me just as I am.
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Our family has never been abundantly wealthy, but we have never gone without food or clothes or a warm fire. We did not have expensive indulgences or travel to exotic places, but we’ve had those small blessings that mean most because they were a surprise or a loving gift.
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Success is relative. Success is fleeting. Success is a carrot leading a donkey down many a rocky road. Success is okay if it happens, okay if it doesn’t. It’s the road one takes to get to the destination that builds the soul. The road has been worth it.
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Connect with the multi-talented Donna at the links below:
Mindsinger
Grannytales
Echoes from the Heartland
Windfallow Books, Donna Swanson
Splinters for Light