Have you entered the storehouses of the snow...Job 38:22

Sunday, May 16, 2010


As soon as I got out of the car Friday night I could smell them. The beautiful fragrant smell of honeysuckles. They grew in Brooklyn as well. They have always been a favorite. I realized that I don't recall seeing honeysuckles in South Dakota. Maybe they have some somewhere. But I've never seen them.

Even before we arrive our son had called to tell us that the rhododendron in the backyard was in bloom. My husband had found a deal on near dead rhododendron at Lowe's several years ago. He planted them in a very odd spot in the back of the house near the trashcans. I didn't like the spot. But I was thrilled to have the rhododendron. I fell in love with them in Connecticut. While they are not common in Central Tennessee, they are abundant in the Smoky Mountains. Someday I want to go to the Smoky's in the spring and see them in bloom.
Yesterday I started my doctoral degree at my Alma Mater Trevecca Nazarene University. TNU's campus is beautiful any time of the year. I drove in taking in the beauty of magnolias in bloom. I understand why songs are song about these beautiful trees.

As I parked where I have parked hundreds of times before I saw an old friend, a beautiful old maple tree. I looked at the tree. I thought yes, I am home. This fall I will see you in your brilliant colors once again.

I saw the devastation of the flood. I drove by a friends house now destroyed. Her neighborhood can only be described as resembling a war zone. It is raining today and there are flash flood warnings. I am praying for Middle TN and her recovery from this horrendous devastation.

I heard the sounds of a southern accent. I heard people use the polite phrase Miss. I heard sir and yes ma'am. I had the door held open for me. I had a man get up to give his seat to me. There are still gentlemen in this world. They mostly live in the south.

After a long, tiring, a tearful trip from South Dakota, I am back home. I have been so conflicted. I have been so sad for so long that I have despaired that I could get excite or be happy. My husband tried to tell me that getting my EdD would make me feel empowered. I told him I was too old for that.

Yesterday was a good day. I found a spark of excitement as I sat once again in Quick lecture hall recalling all the times I had sat there before. Usually Tommy would be sitting behind me in class and we would chat about our dreams and aspirations. I still chat with Tommy but only in chat settings on the computer.

There were all new people sitting around me in this familiar room. All new professors were explaining the parameters of this new adventure. Dr. Swink, the dean shared her own Trevecca story as well as the history of this wonderful institution. She told us we couldn't graduate if we couldn't sing the alma mater and say the word doctoral correctly. The word is DOCtoral, not docTORal, and heaven forbid you ever say doctorial. Then she taught us a cheer for cohort lucky 13. We'll have a doctoral in 2013.

I think I will have a doctoral in 2013. I think I can do this. I want to do this. I am still sad, very sad about my experience with the seminary. Even at the eleventh hour one of the professors held out some hope for me. However, I didn't get any verification that things would move forward for me. While I am not abandoning my call to ministry, the only door God has opened is to return to Trevecca. I am thankful for that.

Next month I will experience living in a dorm for the very first time as cohort 13 experiences ISLE. I had three children when I did my undergraduate work. I'm not much for communal living. It will be a challenge. However, I rather suspect it will ultimately be good for me. I will meet new people. I will be challenged and motivated. Perhaps I could be empowered.

I have four books to read in the next five weeks. I have at least 15 pages to write. I will work with a group of strangers on a presentation for one of those books. I will pick and begin to hone my dissertation topic. I will adjust and craft it for use as academic research. I have been assured that the faculty of TNU will guide me, support me, and help me get to the goal. I believe them. There is something about the faculty of Trevecca. You just feel secure with them. You know they care about you. One faculty member referred to herself as the ISLE mama. She assured us that she'd be there from 7 am until 10 pm to make sure we had what we needed.

When asked yesterday why I was pursuing this degree, I thought my answer is so long I don't think I can give it right now. When I finally did answer, I said: I helped my husband get a PhD many, many years ago. I had children. They are all grown now. It is finally my turn.

I used to be an optimist. I used to hold on to hope that things would get better. I am no longer an optimist. I hope I have not descendent to the ranks of a pessimist. I would prefer to think of myself as a realist. The reality is that life is hard and much of the time it sucks. All we can hope for is a day like yesterday, where you smell the honeysuckle or see an old maple tree once again in full leaf greeting you as it has so many times before. There is a spark of hope. I'll have a doctoral in 2013.

Thursday, May 13, 2010


It's been a long time since I wrote here. I am wondering if I should close down this blog or not. I try so hard to be hopeful about living in South Dakota. My intentions were good. Despite appearances to the contrary, I have really tried to give South Dakota a shot.

I remember my husband remarking to someone that he didn't understand why I was so upset about living in South Dakota. He had a good job. It was still in the United States after all. If you are astute, you can already see what is wrong with his statement. HE had a good job.

Lately I've been struggling a lot with my life. If I liked where I lived, I am sure it would help. I have no job. I have no purpose for being in South Dakota. My life is filled with making oatmeal for him for breakfast, doing laundry and an occasional trip to Wal-Mart. It seems only when I leave Brookings do I experience anything that gives me life.

Last weekend we visited Connecticut. One of our daughters finished Law School. Talk about proud! This is the second of our daughter's to finish Law School. There is a third preparing for her LSAT exam to enter Law School. As our daughter ascended the stage to be hooded, like band concerts of her youth, I had my video camera trained on her. As I heard her name, I felt this strong surge of emotion. My husband whispered in my ear, congratulations, this is your achievement as well. I started to cry. Tears have been very close to the surface much of the time of late.

It was Mother's Day. As we had driven around Connecticut, I found my own mother lurking around. This was where she was last vibrant and full of life. She never drove a car in Tennessee. She never had her favorite grocery store or restaurant. She didn't pick up kids from school in Tennessee. But in Connecticut, she did. In Connecticut she held her last job. She cared for children in the church nursery at age 80. She was last fully alive in Connecticut. Her memories haunted me all weekend.

I also had a life in Connecticut. I had a great job. All the major politicians knew me. I'd be called upon to testify at the legislature on important issues. When they were passed, I would stand by the governor as he signed the bill into law. The major newspaper would call me for quotes on issues. They did a two page feature article complete with pictures, just on me.

I had a great church where I was able to serve. Most importantly, almost all the children were either at home or very close by. I got to see them everyday. One of my granddaughters used to meet me at the door when I would come home. She had been playing school with her auntie still a child herself. The granddaughter would leap into my arms and then say Nana, go cook. I would cook with her on my hip as I had done with every one of her aunties and uncles, my own children. It wasn't unusual to cook for over 10 people a night. Their were boyfriends and girlfriends to feed in addition to our children.

There were children who camped out at our house for a variety of reasons. I saw one of them this weekend. She is a beautiful young woman raising two amazing children by herself. She is strong, smart, articulate and amazing. I was so glad to see her.

I missed my mother this Mother's Day. Yet, here I was at a daughter's graduation. I stood next to my grandson Josh. Josh is the youngest son of my son Jason. He will start High School next year and dreams of a future as a chef. His goal is the Culinary Institute. He is already much taller than I am.

Our graduate's children were there. She completed this degree with two full time jobs. Mothering her three children her primary job, a job in business as secondary. People have remarked, I don't know how she did it. I don't either. I have an idea only because I too put my self through college with three small children. But this was Law School. She is remarkable.

I am no less proud of any of my children. They are all amazing. I feel like those annoying people you meet who want to pull out a photo album and show you every picture of their family complete with long stories. I won't.

It was a hard weekend. I have yet to recover. Memories of my mother on Mother's Day mixed with regrets and tensions of my current life made the trip difficult. Like so many times, there seemed to be no place to go for consolation. Yet, I was in Connecticut. I did have a friends there. Unlike here in South Dakota, as the sadness and pain seemed more than I could bear, I used my lifeline and phoned a friend.

Dreariness and winter like weather greeted us as I returned to South Dakota. Alone, I will ponder this weekend and try to recover. Alone, I will ask the whys and cry. South Dakota is a harsh place.

Today I will start the two day trek to Tennessee. I will get to see my granddaughter Maria who suffered 2nd degree burns. I will finally get to wish my oldest daughter belated Happy Birthday in person. On the way, we will see my oldest son in Missouri. His son's birthday is tomorrow. Maybe we'll see him too. I will stop and visit my mother and dad in the cemetery. I will be grateful that my step-family honored her with flowers for her birthday. It will be complete, I will have seen all of my scattered 8 children within a weeks time. I will have visited my parents at their final resting place. I had visited our granddaughter at her final resting place in CT.

Saturday, I start a new chapter of my life. At long last I will begin a doctoral program that I probably should have done 30 years ago. These children, their father, their lives have occupied my heart and my time. They tell me this is finally my time. I just wonder why "my time" has to be here in South Dakota.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Lily of the Valley

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” Maya Angelou

Like the rising floodwaters covering the land surrounding my home in Tennessee, there is no control over emotions. We’d like to bottle them up. We’d like to put restraints and controls on our emotions. We want them only to come out when we want them to, or need them to. How often we hear, get a grip, or control yourself.

We build up walls and dams over our emotions, hoping against hope for control. We let the gates open from time to time and pray the dam does not break. I’ve had my dam break. It’s messy. People don’t like it. Even those that care about you often don’t know what to do when the dam of tears bursts unexpectedly.  

I am sure there must be some psychological theory about holding back emotions. I’ve been on both sides of the therapist’s couch. It’s much easier to be on the giving side of that couch. To open your heart and deepest thoughts to another person, no matter how professional and trustworthy they may be, is terrifying.

My dam hasn’t broke this weekend, but it started leaking. There are cracks in the fa├žade of Joyce the strong one. Like the persona of a rebel I crafted so well as a child, my adult persona is one of strength. I suppose I am strong. I had to be. I’m not as strong as I appear. Underneath is still a sad little girl.

Today that little girl is missing her mommy. Today is my mother’s 92nd birthday. My emotions are so close to the surface today. I am praying my dam doesn’t crack and break today. No one is here to console me. No one is here to absorb some of my pain. No one that is but this paper on which I write.

I have expected that grief would hit me at a time I didn’t expect. I suppose I should have expected that on my mother’s birthday, the first birthday since her passing, I would experience some emotion. The power of this emotion has caught me by surprise. I really miss her.

As a small child, my father would take me to the store. He would tell me we had to buy something for my mother. He wanted to teach me the beauty of gift giving. I would pick it out. He would pay for it. The message was clear. When it is your mother’s birthday, you honor her. My mother did likewise for my father.

On the heels of my mother’s birthday would come Mother’s Day and another trip to a store to buy something for her. It was good training. When I got older and got an allowance, I would use my own money to buy gifts.
When I was a child, we still wore corsages for special occasions. On a Sunday morning, a woman with a corsage on her dress or coat would signify she was special that day. On Easter, Christmas and Mother’s Day most of the women, had corsages. But on another day, the corsage said you were special, someone loved you very much.

There was a florist at the corner of 53rd and 5th Avenue in Brooklyn. In their window, they had a display of birthday corsages, one for each year up until age 18. I liked to look at them. They didn’t have flowers but items that spoke of each year of development. In horror now, I remember that at age 18, your corsage was made of cigarettes. You were old enough to smoke at 18. What a horrible message!

We moved from that neighborhood when I was 9 years old. Before we moved, I had saved up my allowance for my mother’s birthday and Mother’s day, 7 days apart. I went into that florist and ordered a corsage for my mother. I laid down my $5 ordering an orchid. Already I had learned the lesson from my father. I already knew that if I gave her the corsage for the Sunday closest to her birthday, stored in the refrigerator, she could also wear it on Mother’s Day.
A purple orchid - A simple corsage - My gift from my heart

My mother would tell me of a gift she received one year for Mother’s Day. Her favorite flower was lily of the valley. Perhaps using the same florist, one of my brothers gave her lily of the valley for Mother’s Day. The vase became sacred. I still have it. It is now sacred to me. I suppose to her it was like the mother coffee mugs I cherish. 

If I could, I’d find lily of the valley today. If I could, I’d place some on her grave. If I could, I’d have some to look at today as I grieve the loss of my mother. I’d smell their distinctive delicate aroma. I’d think of my mother.

She is now joined with her mother, father, sisters, brothers, my dad, her great granddaughter Rukhsanah and other loved ones celebrating her first birthday in heaven. 

Happy Birthday Elsie Mae

Sunday, May 2, 2010

SSDD - Same Stuff, Different Day

I had a very bad day yesterday. I think my husband thinks it is the blogging on Sounds of Hope. I am really dredging up the past. It isn’t that. Oh, I am not going to say it doesn’t affect me at all. Thinking and writing about the young me, abused and mistreated. Sure, that would make anyone stop and think for a few minutes.

On the other hand, writing about those days so long ago is good. In an odd and surprising way, it is making me feel more powerful. I am telling my own story, in my own words. It is truth. It is long past time that I told the truth about myself. I always allow other people’s feelings and opinions about me to define who I am. I should stop that. It is time to say NO, you are wrong about me. So many assumptions – even by those in my own family have crippled me from going forward. Deep inside, I am still that insecure person I am writing about on that blog.

Friday I got a copy of my mother’s Last Will & Testament from the court in Missouri. I remember the day she went to sign her Will. For some reason or other, I went with her downtown but didn’t go into the attorney’s office. I hesitantly ask her what she had put in her Will. At the time, she had some assets. A mobile home and a car, perhaps she still owned the duplexes in Hallsville.  I no doubt had Rukhsanah on my hip or in my arms, and Sofia holding my hand. I never went anywhere without my children.

She said that she had made me Executrix of the estate and that she left everything to me. Friday, I saw exactly what she said. There is something strange about seeing your parent’s words on paper after they are gone. They seem to take on new power. I would love to see my Father’s Bible, where he wrote about his life. My brother has it and I will never see it. I have my mother’s Bible.  He’ll never see that.

I had that same strange feeling when I found my father’s baptismal record from the Paulus Parish in Oslo Norway. Dated at the dawn of the 20th Century, it showed his parents names and his sister as one of his sponsors. I also found his confirmation record and wondered what my dad was like then. He was living in Norway, the youngest of seven children of a stonemason and homemaker.  

I watched Spike Lee on the TV series Who Do You Think You Are? He lamented all the times he could have asked his grandmother questions about her past and didn’t. I had lots of time to hear my mother’s stories. Almost no time to hear my dad’s. I was a child when he died. I was 19 years old, pregnant with my second child. I didn’t know how to grieve or even if I should. I just knew that my greatest champion in this life was gone.

Yesterday, I sent letters to my two brothers. The ones who refused to attend to their mother’s death, her final affairs or her funeral. However, when it came to the meager insurance money that the Will stipulates was to go to her final arrangements, they greedily assumed they were to share. In light of such immorality, I doubt the letters and proof will mean anything. Once again, I am defending my mother’s wishes. Ultimately, a judge will have to decide.

The Will, the letters, the thoughts of my dad, then yesterday I scanned through some pictures of my mother. I am putting together a little memorial book for myself, that one day may be valued by my children. I have included the blogs I wrote as she transitioned from this life to the arms of her Savior. As I looked at those pictures, particularly this one

sadness and grief flooded my soul. Her birthday is tomorrow. I wish I had gotten in the car and gone to Columbia to lay flowers on her grave this weekend.  

When my father died, a picture sparked a deeper feeling of grief. My mother sent me a picture of my dad, a simple passport picture. I broke into tears. Yesterday, I had that same feeling thinking about my mother. Pictures like this one brought too many memories back.

Like a caged animal, I was captive in this apartment yesterday. I needed to go out, feel the air, smell spring. Nevertheless, my husband was bound to his laptop. He is out all week, seeing people, feeling important, doing important things. I sit in this cage day after day after day. No attempt to find life and vitality here in South Dakota has worked. I sit in the same corner of the couch, laptop on my lap, reaching out to a cyber world for friendship.  I hate this apartment. Hard as I try, I still hate living in South Dakota. I can’t go back to Tennessee because love for my husband holds me here. I am so stuck.

Today, once again, I will cook wonderful food for my husband and make sure his laundry is done. I’ll straight the kitchen, sweep, touch up the bathrooms and change the sheets. My husband doesn’t demand such things, I just do them. I love him. It is how I show that love. I might even open a book for school. Lately I have been paralyzed with lethargy. Seminary course that have wasted my time and energy hold no interest for me.

We might go out. But what is there to do in this place? Go walk around a store after an hour's drive to Sioux Falls? Drive around the countryside that all looks the same in South Dakota. I don't know what will do but it will be good to get out. It won't be enough.

Yesterday was a bad day; today will likely be the same.