Coconuts

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One of the things I love about my volunteer position at a local hospice is that I get to spend time with “The Older Generation.” I love to hear their stories, the places they have been, and the tales of wisdom that they have learned about what makes for a good life. Most often I laugh hard on the days when I am spending time with these wonderful and whitty folk. Their joy at the simple things in life, as they are rounding the bend on theirs, makes me mindful of the beauty of letting things go back to basics in all areas of our lives.

Today, I was talking to one of my favorites. She is an older woman born on an island in the Pacific Ocean and loves to talk about her early life which was idyllic until the Japanese invaded during WWII. It was then that she learned about the difficulties in life. Starvation, slow torture, and bayonets. She watched as people were killed on the streets of her hometown; her friends and relatives not spared by the brutality that one human being can inflict on another. But what she really could not wrap her brain around is that the enemy were people just like her and those she loved. People that would no more hurt their own neighbor back home yet were inclined to resort to heinous acts during heinous times.

One of this lady’s most memorable war-time events occurred when she was just 13 years old. On that day, the Japanese arrived in town and began raping the women and killing men. The townspeople were unarmed and had no way to fight the invaders. They were totally at the mercy of their captors.

As the Japanese entered the town my “friend” and her two sisters were instructed by their father to flee towards the mountains. As they ran they heard voices behind them and realized that they were being pursued. Unfortunately, one of the sisters was separated from the other two girls who managed to climb up into the arms of a coconut tree. There they hid in the palm fronds for two days and watched as the enemy searched for them with instructions to kill if they were found. They also heard their sister’s painful cries as she was being victimized. It is, my friend assures me, a sound that one never forgets even all these years later. “I still has dreams,” she whispers and wakes up screaming and in a stinky sweat.

Here in the United States we do not know much about the sufferings of war. We are rarely put into a position where we genuinely fear for our lives and most of us if faced with that would probably shit ourselves due to panic and fright. We don’t know about eating tulip bulbs as the Dutch did during the war nor do most of us know how to forage for food in the woods. Most of us have never really had to worry about our neighbors turning as in as spies or leaving our homes with only the clothes on our backs.

That’s why when I hear the saber rattlers urge our countrymen to war I become concerned. Our country is not prepared for war. We are a country of wimps who watch from the sidelines but most often do not play in the actual game. Let everyone else send their kids just don’t send mine. This is especially true for the rich whose children get deferments while the politicians who help to obtain them line their pockets with Daddy’s money.

War is a dirty business and everyone, everywhere, is changed by it. And usually, this trnsformation is not for the better. So before we go talking about bombing North Korea we need to ask ourselves who is going to benefit from this situation? Is it going to be Joe Schmo or is it going to be companies like Halliburton? What resources do we lose when we attack another country and what do we gain? Who are the winners and losers and what is the cost going to be both economically and spiritually. Usually, if we do the math, we realize that as individuals and community we all lose wether it be our lives, our humanity, or both.

How many more people in history will have to hide in basements while bombs drop around them and how many more will have to cower in a coconut tree just to survive? Isn’t it time, that we as a species grow up and learn that war leads to nothing worth having and little worth saving? Isn’t it time that we work with each other instead of against?

I don’t know about you but I long for peace. Peace for this world, for my children, and peace of mind for me. Yes, I want rainbows and unicorns. I want bunnies and bubbles. I want children to feel secure and for everyone just to get along. And while I don’t know much, the one thing I am sure of is that war will not provide peace. It will not feed the starving and it will not make our children feel safe. It’s time we give peace a chance…again…and this time we need to mean it.

 

 

Stilettos

“Mom,” says Gracie. “I have an orchestra competition and I need black shoes with heels.”

Heels? I think. She can’t be old enough for heels, can she? There is no way. Just yesterday I was rocking her to sleep, picking out her clothes and teaching her to ride a bike. Heels? I am not ready for this! Heels means makeup, makeup means proms, and proms mean BOYS. Crap…not boys! Not yet! Not EVER!

An hour later we are headed for the store doing the joint mother/daughter thing to pick out her first pair of heels. As I drive a feel a pull in my gut warning me that I should just turn around and go home.

” I like these,” she says as she holds up a pair of 5-inch stilettos that any good hooker would covet.

OH HELL NO! explodes like white lightning throughout my feeble brain. My mother’s words of “No daughter of mine…” come flooding back to me and trip over my tongue on the way out of my mouth.

I feel compelled right here and now, in the middle of the shoe department, to the have “the talk” about what is appropriate and what is not at her age. As I drone on she grimaces, “oh moms” and rolls her eyes more times than I care to count but I think my point has been well taken until she whines…

“I’m not a little girl”

“You’re not twenty-five either nor do you have a job and you don’t earn your own money to buy the things that you want.”

“Of course I don’t have a job,” she shoots back. “I am only 12! But if I did I would be buying those shoes!” her hands gently caressing the soft black velvet.

I take this as a cue to hold up a pair of ballet flats figuring if I show her THESE, knowing she likes THOSE, perhaps we can find a compromise somewhere in this warehouse of shoes.

Gracie holds up a different pair with four-inch heels that climb up her legs like a vine on a tree.

“How about these?” she says with a smile that looks more like a dare.

“How about not.”

And so it goes until she shows me the 10th pair with heels that shoot you up towards the sky.

“Honey,” I ask. “Why is it that you are drawn to shoes with such high heels?”

“Come on mom, think about it. I am the shortest one in my class and on the diving team. No one sees me. Just once I want to look up at someone instead of them looking down on me.”

Finally, I get it. Her need for height is a need for being seen. For being like everyone else, in a world where Asians are often not seen nor heard. For being “looked at” instead of being invisible.

I give her a squeeze and suggest we find something that will give her lift but not up to the clouds. We finally settle on a two-inch inch wedge that gives her a little extra notice but not in that over-the-top teenage way.

As we drive home we talk about girl things. Things I once understood but don’t quite get now. Things I have forgotten as the years have rolled by. Big feelings that once threatened to overtake me when I was her age.

“Mom,” Gracie says. “I have a confession. I didn’t really want those big heels. I just wanted to see what you would let me get away with.”

“Really? Why would you do that?”

“Geez mom, I’m almost a teen. I have to start pushing the boundaries someday you know.”

I laugh and I know that she does, but I hope she will wait just a little bit longer before the boundaries are pushed all the way to Siberia. For the truth is it isn’t the boundaries that worry me it is the fact that she is my baby and there is a small part of me, in a world that moves too fast, that wants her to remain that way forever.

Conflict

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When I was younger I enjoyed conflict. It meant that I was letting things be known and getting things done. These days I just want peace. Gone are the days of spending two hours trying to convince B that I am “right.” Gone is the time spent crafting a great argument. I would much rather spend time meditating and sitting quietly than fighting.

Yet, there is something to be said about the positive effects of conflict. During conflict we are often forced to grow, to dig deep within ourselves to find the answers that are needed, and do a bit more in an effort to resolve the issues that are at the root of the problem. Oftentimes, conflict brings us some much needed insight about ourselves and our loved ones that can then be used to find solutions that best fit our mutual needs. Usually conflict forces us to do a bit more thinking, to take action, and encourages us to analyze patterns that are dug up when our nest is disturbed.

Conflict is hard, especially when we as a species, tend to want to chase rainbows and live our lives surrounded by sunny skies. Many of us avoid conflict like the plague. But conflict if managed with mutual respect and sharply attuned listening skills can unearth gems that can change our lives or our thought patterns. So while I am not encouraging anyone to go out and start a fight with their loved one; I am saying that the next time you are in conflict with your loved one try to look for the treasures that conflict can bring. You may find exactly what your relationship needs in order to take that next step by digging deep and listening carefully and in doing so; you might just find the peace that you have been searching for.

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