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Being Thankful: Mom’s Bragging Rights!

Published November 28, 2014 by Susan Woodward

While I am grateful for everything in my life all year long, I feel especially blessed as we enter the winter holiday season. Here is a picture of what I am most grateful for:

The Woodward/Everson ClanThis is my family…four generations of us! It includes my dad and step-mom, my children’s grandmother on their father’s side, and Preston’s grandmother. My generation is represented by my brother-in-law, the father of my children and his partner, and Preston’s mom. All five of my children are there with their spouses/significant others, as well as all six of my grandchildren!

I feel truly blessed to have all these people in my life, but I am feeling even more blessed after getting this picture on Thanksgiving Day:

Everson FamilyThe bride and groom from the above picture announced that they are expecting a new arrival this summer! And it just so happens I already have travel plans to visit at that time with my eldest and her daughter…so now I hope to be there for the arrival of grandchild #7!

The people in my life are my greatest gifts, and I vow never to lose sight of that. They give me purpose and validate that, in spite of the multitude of mistakes I have made, my life is pretty damned wonderful. We tease each other mercilessly, but that just gives testament to the bond we have.

In case I don’t say it enough, I LOVE my kids!

My Illy: 1503846_874529102591995_1346509648119248359_n

Phlebotomist by day, aerial artist by night! I do have to say, though, that she looks like a superhero here…as right she should! She works hard to care for her beautiful daughter, Jordan.

I am thankful for my strong, creative eldest daughter.

Oh, and she decorates cakes on the side and cooks up a storm!

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And now Jordan is getting into the act!

JimMy Jim:

For someone who had such a rough start at arriving nine weeks early and very ill, I am so blessed to have this loving, compassionate man as my son. I am so proud of him for accepting his girlfriend Lisa’s children into his heart and for helping to raise them as his own.

He is also a great keyboard player!

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Jim, Lisa and the kids close up

1901804_10154694748580431_6627833825943590068_nRobin Bills Fan

My Robin:

Dr. Robin… I am so proud of you! She and her husband Sean work hard to make a home with their little Dolly.

Not only is she compassionate and knowledgeable in her field, she is a terrific mom who loves to keep things simple. She cooks, cans, and sews like a pro. They are also staunch Buffalo Bills fans who love the outdoors!!

Happy Family

Robin and Sean

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KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAMy Sarah:

She looks like a sweet little girl, but this is one tough US Marine who also had no fear when playing women’s rugby in high school. I would think she’d be the Corps’ secret weapon because she you wouldn’t think she could lay you out flat without batting an eye.  That’s my Sarah Bear!

I am so proud of how much she has accomplished, although I miss her all the way on the other side of the continent. She has stepped in to love not only her husband Preston, but his daughter Chloe. And now they are expecting a wee one of their own!

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

Sarah USMC marching

Sarah USMC

Sarah Preston Chloe

Sarah and Preston USMC ball

My Joe:Joe graduatioon

Strong, smart, and incredibly sweet when it comes to his nieces and nephew! He scares me sometimes because it seems he has no fear, whether it is playing football, rugby, lacrosse, soccer…or his latest sport, longboarding! That is the one that scares me the most, although I cannot help but admire his fearlessness and his strength! He is also self-taught on the guitar, and I love to hear him play.

Joe training

joe longboarding

JoeWell, maybe Dolly’s not such a fan of the guitar…

Joe and Jojo

To my wonderful children and grandchildren, thank you for who you are and all that you do. I love you all so much, and am especially thankful to have you in my life.

Altared Perceptions: January 2013- “Heroism”

Published January 6, 2013 by Susan Woodward

Yes!  Am am now caught up!

When I saw that January’s theme was Heroism, I was excited to volunteer to design this month’s decor.  With my passion for Joseph Campbell and the Hero’s Journey, what could be better for me to get my creative juices flowing and ease myself back into the world once more?

The design is based on an earlier post I’d written (“Lessons from the Yellow Brick Road”).

full display

I wanted very much to keep the design simple and abstract.   The three boxes represent the three characters that Dorothy met on the Yellow Brick Road in Oz: the Tin Man, the Scarecrow and the Lion.  I also wanted to tie January’s Hero theme in with December’s theme of Blessings.  Each box represents a Blessing that the characters needed to find within themselves, and each box is “wrapped” like a gift because blessings are gifts!  The overall idea is that there are those blessed with compassion for others (represented by the Tin Man) and those who are blessed with brilliant ideas (represented by the Scarecrow); however, those who are blessed with the courage to act upon the other two (represented by the Lion) are true heroes.

scarecrow

The Scarecrow claims that he doesn’t have a brain, but the Wizard points out that he had one all along.  Even though he exhibits cleverness in outwitting the apple trees, the Scarecrow just didn’t recognize his own intelligence without some outward symbol to “prove” its existence- a diploma.   When Dorothy took off with Toto to get away from Miss Gulch, she really wasn’t using her brain.  She was simply reacting without thinking.  She didn’t think about the impact her running away would have on those who loved and cared for her, particularly Aunt Em.

Tin Man

The Tin Woodsman claims that he can’t feel anything because he doesn’t have a heart.   The tin smith who built him forgot to put one in, but he is the most sentimental of the three companions.  Like the Scarecrow, he needs some outward symbol to prove that he has just as much love and caring as anyone who has the physical, blood-pumping organ that he desires- something tangible that he can look at as a reminder.  And so he is given a heart-shaped testimonial with a built in clock that ticks.   Dorothy’s running away from home and hurting those who love her can be seen as almost heartless.  She is more concerned with and seems to care more for herself and her dog than her family.

CourageAnd then we come to the Cowardly Lion.  He claims to not have any courage, but throughout their journey, he exhibits great amounts of bravery when the need arises.  All he needs is a medal from the Wizard as an outward sign of his courage.  As this relates to Dorothy, it takes more courage to face our problems than it does to run away from them.

Brains, heart, courage— thought, feeling, bravery– that’s what I need to integrate on my own path.

When the Wizard leaves Oz, he puts the three in charge of the land in his absence.  Their combined talents — the wisdom to know the right thing to do for the people, the compassion to think about the needs of the people, and the courage to actually do what is best for the people– might create a land of peace and harmony.  Of the three, though, I see courage as the one of the three that would keep things in proper balance.  It’s one thing to KNOW what’s right, another thing to FEEL what’s right, and an entirely different thing to actually DO what is right.   Of the three, I think that the Lion is the key to that balance.  For harmony, all are required.  To be brave but not know what to do or not care about others would be futile.  To know what to do but not care about others or not have the courage to carry out what’s right is also futile, as is wearing one’s heart on one’s sleeve but not knowing the best course of action or having the guts to do anything about those one cares about.  And so with the “healing” of her friends, Dorothy is also “healed”.  She learns about looking for her heart’s content beyond her own back yard, but only after she saw from her friends what it meant to use one’s brain, heart and courage.  Only then could she return home.

I want to be “home”– balanced.   full displayThat’s the reason for the inverted pyramid with courage at the base.  Without the courage to act upon our compassion or our ideas, what good are those blessings?

The yellow ribbon represents the Yellow Brick Road, or the road we all journey on throughout life.  It is not smooth, but filled with hills and valleys and twists and turns.  However, having the courage to continue on our path is heroic in itself.  Heroism isn’t just for Superman, Batman, or Wonder Woman…it’s those people who face challenges day in and day out with the courage to keep going.

So… it’s that balance that I need to work on within myself as I move along my path.  Hmmm… interesting that Oz was also surrounded by a great desert, and I seem to be emerging from one.  Perhaps, like the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodsman, and the Lion, I need reminders of my blessings and gifts.  I shouldn’t NEED reminders, but I guess they serve as affirmations in times of feeling lost or alone.   Like the Scarecrow’s diploma, my degrees in my office remind me of how I am able to use my brain.  Like the Tin Woodsman’s testimonial, pictures of my children are a daily testimony of my love for them, and gifts they have given me are reminders that they love me in return.  However, what I do not seem to have on display are any signs of my courage.   I do know that I HAVE courage– I’ve made several trips through Hell and have managed to survive– but what I don’t see on a daily basis is any outward symbol on display.   The Lion continued to wear his medal so that he wouldn’t forget– where’s my “medal”?

Maybe that’s why I still struggle with inner fears.  Maybe, like the Lion before he “found” his courage, I have a tendency to forget those times when I have been brave.   Its purpose would not be to sit and gaze at it all day.  I don’t stare at my degrees, and I don’t constantly sit and stare at the pictures of my children– but I do like having them there to notice from time to time.

It’s usually when I am feeling pretty stupid about something that I happen to go into my office and I’ll notice the diplomas.  Then I usually remind myself that I can use my brain, and pretty soon I’m feeling a bit more confident about thinking things out.   When I get out of the “God, I feel so stupid” mind-frame, an answer to the problem usually seems to present itself.

It’s when I am feeling sad and lonely– particularly since the final break-up of a long term relationship– that I do pick up the pictures and think about each child in turn, or I see something that one of them made for me or gave me as a gift, and then I remember that I always have them, no matter what.  Their love, and the love of supportive friends, will serve to remind me that I am never alone.  Remembering that I am loved will help to keep me from flitting about trying to find love in all the wrong places.  If I am ever meant to be with a partner, then it will happen– but not because I used loneliness as an excuse to go on the prowl.    I am open to the possibility of a partner appearing in my life one day, and that is enough.

I think that if maybe I came up with some kind of outward symbol of my personal courage, the inner struggle with my fears will be better dissuaded.   If, on days when I am feeling most fearful or riddled with conflict, I had something that my eye could happen to fall upon– like the diplomas and the pictures– it would help me in the same way.  So that is what I am going to concentrate on… creating a visible reminder.

Of the three Oz characters, the only “mortal” one was the Lion.  While the Scarecrow was physically torn apart by the winged monkeys, he didn’t die.  The Tin Woodsman stood for many years rusting away holding his ax mid-air, but he was still alive.  Only the Lion can grow old, get sick, and eventually die.  And if courage dies, the other two won’t be as strong because the balance will be broken.  However, the Lion is also the only one who has the power to reproduce and pass his legacy on to the next generation.  In that way, courage might never die, and balance might be able to be maintained.

I do find it also interesting that, of the three characters in the film, only the Lion has a song of his own.  While all three sing a version of “If I Only Had a _________”, the Lion is the only one to have a solo number when he sings “If I Were King”.

That’s what I need to do for myself.  Not only will it be helpful to have some kind of symbol as a reminder on days when I feel weak, but I have to keep courage alive.  I have to pass it on somehow.

And so I re-post this.  I need to remind myself to continue the hard work to reclaim my inner courage, and I write to try to pass the idea of courage onward.   And perhaps re-reading this from time to time will be all the reminder I need to face my fears and make peace with them.

Altared Perceptions: February 2012- “Courage”

Published February 5, 2012 by Susan Woodward

“What makes a king out of a slave? What makes the flag on the mast post wave? What makes the Hottentots so hot? Who put the ape in apricot? What do they got that I ain’t got?”

“Courage” — and that is the theme of February.

This is something I have been struggling with for quite some time and now, as I approach the golden age of fifty in two weeks, is really a good time to find my reminder of that which I seek… my courage.   I know I have it, but reminding myself of that fact seems to fall short (see my earlier post “Lessons from the Yellow Brick Road” for more).

The “altar” this month reminds me of how courageous it is to let go of our comfort zone.  The branches of the tree from last month have now broken away from the trunk and are free to find their own way.   It reminds me of how difficult breaking away can be.  Who can imagine a branch flourishing without the trunk to sustain it?  Yet these branches fly free among the moon and stars of the Heavens.   Letting go of all that we have known and “branching out” on our own is a true act of courage.  I remember what it was like for me to leave everything behind and begin a new life in Rochester where I didn’t know a soul.   It scared the hell out of me.  Like the floating branches, I felt like I had no roots.  However, in detaching myself,  I discovered a whole new life I never could have imagined.  Has it been perfect?  No.  Was it the right thing to do?  A hearty yes!

Adorning the branches are the white flowers of last month along with both evergreens and new leaves.   For me, I am reminded of how the white flowers represented the winter snow on the January altar.  Winter is a season where all seems dead.   Growth has halted as the world is at rest.  But February (and Imbolc) brings the promise of new growth, which is symbolized by the green leaves and the evergreen branches.  This reiterates the courage in the detached branches, as it takes a brave soul to suffer the loss of the old ways to make way for the new.  Death of former patterns and things that no longer suit us has to be suffered through if we are to reach the new growth that awaits us.  Yet even though we may let go of parts that no longer suit us, there will always be that which remains to remind us of our beginnings.  The birds that soar with the branches once nestled in the tree left behind.   The birds had symbolized those we loved and nourished in January, and that love does not leave us, even as we leave and take flight.

I also noticed the blue color of the stars and the ring around the moon.  For me, this is a two-fold symbol.

First, leaving our comfort zone and all we know can be sad in many ways.  When fear rises, nostalgia has a tendency to kick in and make us long for the comfortable parts of the past, even if they don’t really suit us anymore.   That’s why some people fall back into old patterns when the new ones get difficult.   From my own experience, I fell (several times) back into an unfulfilling relationship because it was easier than being courageous enough to go on alone.  Nostalgia has a way of coloring the memory.

But blue is also a color of serenity and peace.  I can only find peace within myself by having the courage to detach and follow my bliss.

In this way, the blue of the stars and the ring around the moon represent this conflict.  Although it may be sad to leave and move onward, having the courage to follow our own path is what will ultimately bring peace.

The same conflicting symbolism holds true for the blue netting that floats above the branches.  It could be viewed as the safety net that may catch us if we fall once we’ve taken flight, or it just might be the net of the past that threatens to ensnare us if we lose our courage.

As a safety net, the blue could bring us the peace of knowing that we can often count on people from the past to be there to help, even as we branch out on our own.

On the flip side, it could represent things from the past that never quite leave our memories and could trap us if we let them.

As I ruminate about my own courage and think again on my earlier post, I know that I am still looking for that physical symbol as my reminder that I do have courage.   I need and want that reminder as I venture forth so that I will no longer fall into situations that threaten to trap me in old patterns.

Altared Perceptions: January 2012- “Love”

Published January 8, 2012 by Susan Woodward

Rev. Scott Taylor’s sermon today reiterated the monthly theme of “Love”, but focused on how lack of self-love has led to a “numbing” of our souls in always expecting the worst in situations.

I gazed quite intently at this month’s altar as I listened to Scott’s words.   The more I heard about self-doubt, self-criticism, self-loathing, and self-defeating behaviors, the more I saw the scarcity of branches on the tree.  It reminded me of how I have written about my feelings of being disconnected and isolated.   Before the decorations were added, I would highly doubt that even Charlie Brown would have chosen this as a Christmas tree!  It must have looked bare, scrawny, and neglected before the love was added.   So many times I, too, feel like that tree must have looked in its natural, undecorated state.  One of my Mayan-sized resolutions for 2012 is to work on that feeling inside myself by letting go of fear of rejection.  If I were this tree, I would certainly feel neglected, scrawny, insignificant, and not lovable.  Too often, I DO see myself that way (ok… not the scrawny part…), but in learning to let go of my fear of rejection, I can learn to love me.

Even the trees without an abundance of branches still have something to offer.  This tree is able to provide a branch for a bird feeder to offer sustenance to others.  Like the tree in December, this one also is a gift.   In loving myself, I can see what I CAN do for others instead of focusing on my self-imposed limitations.   The hearts can symbolize not only the love that the tree has for the birds in providing them with food during the cold times, but the love that the birds have for the tree in providing that food as well as perches to rest themselves upon.   No matter how I view myself, I know that I always have the ability to give to others who don’t see the limitations that I do when I look in the mirror.

The flowers at the base of the tree are white and remind us of the snow at this time of year (well, most often at this time of year, anyway… no snow presently in 2012!).   The snow is a blanket of beauty spread upon the Earth, but most often it is viewed as a reminder of the cold that surrounds us.  But this tree offers its gifts in the midst of the cold… a place to hang the bird feeder and a place for the birds to land and rest.   And winter is a resting time.  The Earth is at rest after working hard to provide its inhabitants with the food that we enjoy year round.   We all need a time to rest after hard work… winter reminds of that.  It’s a time to recharge our batteries to get ready for the work ahead.

The heart at the top of the tree is to remind us of love… love for others, as well as love for ourselves.  The tree top is placed on the tip-top of the trunk of the tree… the same trunk that I viewed as sparse and unwanted earlier.

Again, I am only sharing what I see in this month’s altar, and if anyone would like to add comments here, I welcome them gladly!

Lessons from the Yellow Brick Road

Published October 22, 2011 by Susan Woodward

Every time I get ready to plan my Hero’s Journey unit at school, my mind turns towards three films in particular: Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, and The Wizard of Oz.   And “story” just happens to be the monthly topic for our Soul Matters group at church, so it really seems important for me to pay attention to “story” in my life.  Today, in particular, I’ve been feeling pretty “Ozzy” as I sit and think about my path work, especially after re-reading my last post.   Recognizing that it’s my own fears that stir the inner conflict with my Shadow self, it seems as if what I’d most like from the Wizard of Oz myself would be to help me find my courage.

It’s interesting that Dorothy meets up with three characters along the Yellow Brick Road, all of whom express their desires for the same things that Dorothy herself needs.  It is also interesting that the man in Kansas (Professor Marvel) who pointed out that Dorothy needed to go home because she’d hurt her family is transposed into the Great and Powerful Oz of the Emerald City.  He points out to Dorothy (in Kansas) and to her companions (in Oz) what they should have been able to see for themselves all along.

The Scarecrow claims that he doesn’t have a brain, but the Wizard points out that he had one all along.  Even though he exhibits cleverness in outwitting the apple trees, the Scarecrow just didn’t recognize his own intelligence without some outward symbol to “prove” its existence- a diploma.   When Dorothy took off with Toto to get away from Miss Gulch, she really wasn’t using her brain.  She was simply reacting without thinking.  She didn’t think about the impact her running away would have on those who loved and cared for her, particularly Aunt Em.

The Tin Woodsman claims that he can’t feel anything because he doesn’t have a heart.   The tin smith who built him forgot to put one in, but he is the most sentimental of the three companions.  Like the Scarecrow, he needs some outward symbol to prove that he has just as much love and caring as anyone who has the physical, blood-pumping organ that he desires- something tangible that he can look at as a reminder.  And so he is given a heart-shaped testimonial with a built in clock that ticks.   Dorothy’s running away from home and hurting those who love her can be seen as almost heartless.  She is more concerned with and seems to care more for herself and her dog than her family.

And then we come to the Cowardly Lion.  He claims to not have any courage, but throughout their journey, he exhibits great amounts of bravery when the need arises.  All he needs is a medal from the Wizard as an outward sign of his courage.  As this relates to Dorothy, it takes more courage to face our problems than it does to run away from them.

Brains, heart, courage— thought, feeling, bravery– that’s what I need to integrate on my own path.

When the Wizard leaves Oz, he puts the three in charge of the land in his absence.  Their combined talents — the wisdom to know the right thing to do for the people, the compassion to think about the needs of the people, and the courage to actually do what is best for the people– might create a land of peace and harmony.  Of the three, though, I see courage as the one of the three that would keep things in proper balance.  It’s one thing to KNOW what’s right, another thing to FEEL what’s right, and an entirely different thing to actually DO what is right.   Of the three, I think that the Lion is the key to that balance.  For harmony, all are required.  To be brave but not know what to do or not care about others would be futile.  To know what to do but not care about others or not have the courage to carry out what’s right is also futile, as is wearing one’s heart on one’s sleeve but not knowing the best course of action or having the guts to do anything about those one cares about.  And so with the “healing” of her friends, Dorothy is also “healed”.  She learns about looking for her heart’s content beyond her own back yard, but only after she saw from her friends what it meant to use one’s brain, heart and courage.  Only then could she return home.

I want to be “home”– balanced.

So… it’s that balance that I need to work on within myself as I roam through this desert.  Hmmm… interesting that Oz was also surrounded by a great desert.  Perhaps, like the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodsman, and the Lion, I need reminders of my inner gifts.  I shouldn’t NEED reminders, but I guess they serve as affirmations in times of feeling lost or alone.   Like the Scarecrow’s diploma, my degrees in my office remind me of how I am able to use my brain.  Like the Tin Woodsman’s testimonial, pictures of my children are a daily testimony of my love for them, and gifts they have given me are reminders that they love me in return.  However, what I do not seem to have on display are any signs of my courage.   I do know that I HAVE courage– I’ve made several trips through Hell and have managed to survive– but what I don’t see on a daily basis is any outward symbol on display.   The Lion continued to wear his medal so that he wouldn’t forget– where’s my “medal”?

Maybe that’s why I still struggle with inner fears.  Maybe, like the Lion before he “found” his courage, I have a tendency to forget those times when I have been brave.   Its purpose would not be to sit and gaze at it all day.  I don’t stare at my degrees, and I don’t constantly sit and stare at the pictures of my children– but I do like having them there to notice from time to time.

It’s usually when I am feeling pretty stupid about something that I happen to go into my office and I’ll notice the diplomas.  Then I usually remind myself that I can use my brain, and pretty soon I’m feeling a bit more confident about thinking things out.   When I get out of the “God, I feel so stupid” mind-frame, an answer to the problem usually seems to present itself.

It’s when I am feeling sad and lonely– particularly since the final break-up of a long term relationship– that I do pick up the pictures and think about each child in turn, or I see something that one of them made for me or gave me as a gift, and then I remember that I always have them, no matter what.  Their love, and the love of supportive friends, will serve to remind me that I am never alone.  Remembering that I am loved will help to keep me from flitting about trying to find love in all the wrong places.  If I am ever meant to be with a partner, then it will happen– but not because I used loneliness as an excuse to go on the prowl.    I am open to the possibility of a partner appearing in my life one day, and that is enough.

I think that if maybe I came up with some kind of outward symbol of my personal courage, the inner struggle with my fears will be better dissuaded.   If, on days when I am feeling most fearful or riddled with conflict, I had something that my eye could happen to fall upon– like the diplomas and the pictures– it would help me in the same way.  So that is what I am going to concentrate on… creating a visible reminder.

Of the three Oz characters, the only “mortal” one was the Lion.  While the Scarecrow was physically torn apart by the winged monkeys, he didn’t die.  The Tin Woodsman stood for many years rusting away holding his ax mid-air, but he was still alive.  Only the Lion can grow old, get sick, and eventually die.  And if courage dies, the other two won’t be as strong because the balance will be broken.  However, the Lion is also the only one who has the power to reproduce and pass his legacy on to the next generation.  In that way, courage might never die, and balance might be able to be maintained.

I do find it also interesting that, of the three characters in the film, only the Lion has a song of his own.  While all three sing a version of “If I Only Had a _________”, the Lion is the only one to have a solo number when he sings “If I Were King”.

That’s what I need to do for myself.  Not only will it be helpful to have some kind of symbol as a reminder on days when I feel weak, but I have to keep courage alive.  I have to pass it on somehow.

And so I write this.  I write to remind myself to work to reclaim my inner courage, and I write to try to pass the idea of courage onward.   And perhaps re-reading this from time to time will be all the reminder I need to face my fears and make peace with them.

“Metamorphisis”

Published October 16, 2011 by Susan Woodward

Your touch has cracked the

Crystal chrysalis ‘round my heart,                                                           metamorphisis

Thawing its icy exterior with a kiss.

And now the dilemma…

Shall I hold back, waiting,

Hoping you will peel this shell away,

Or do I burst forth

To test these new wings,

Daring to love again?

 

You give me the strength to try…

“Love is a Decision”

Published October 16, 2011 by Susan Woodward

A wonder that begins with magic, mystique,

When a simple touch surges with power…

The Fates merge their efforts into weaving

A web of obstacles into one braid of shining gold

Presented for all to see and admire.

Their task is complete now that two are woven together—

But the pair must keep the strands intertwined.

Though seemingly inseparable,

The weave will face its test of strength.

Its edges may fray from time to time,

Yet the tools of repair are within grasp

If one chooses to take them up.

Magic wove them together…

Work will keep the weave strong.

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