Archive for the 'Family' Category

18
Dec
13

A Most Magical Christmas

A Most Magical Christmas is an adaptation of the original story written for me long ago by Korin Heinz. As with all Armenian stories, this one was…
and was not…

karenswhimsy.comOnce upon a time, there was a little girl named Melineh, who lived with her parents, her sister and her brother in a big house. Melineh liked to pretend and play imaginary, magical games, especially at Christmastime. Starting the day after Thanksgiving, and right up to Christmas, she listened to The Cinnamon Bear on the radio and imagined herself right inside the story.

She was happy except for one thing: she dearly wanted a pet—not just any pet—a warm, furry kitten all her own to love and hug. She asked her mom and dad for a kitten many times, but the answer was always no, because they thought animals should always be outside—not inside the house. Then one day, after thinking it over carefully, Melineh’s father came home with a small, tabby kitten that he found near where he worked.

“Look what I found, Melineh,’ he said, ‘He begged me to bring him home, so I did.”

Melineh, filled with joy, held out her arms and begged her mom,  “Can I keep him… please?”

“Well… if you will promise to take care of him and not let him scratch the furniture, then we will try it for a little while,” Mom said, rather reluctantly.

Melineh named her new kitty, Buttons. She fed him every morning before school and in the afternoons when she came home. She brushed and played with Buttons and sometimes even put doll clothes on him. At night, Buttons slept on her bed in a tight curl of fur. Melineh was happier than she’d ever been in her whole life!

A few weeks later, just before Christmas, Melineh came home from school to play with Buttons, but couldn’t find him. She called and called and looked in every nook and cranny, but could not find him. “Mom,” she asked plaintively, “Where’s Buttons? Have you seen him?”

Mom looked away and said quickly, “Oh, he must have run away.”

Melineh wailed helplessly, “No, that’s not possible! You know where he is!” Inconsolable, she cried for days. There was nothing she could do but wait, hope and dream.

Then, on Christmas Eve, while Melineh was making make paper chain garlands for the tree with her sister, she heard a faint scratching noise at the back door: scritch, scratch. “I wonder what that is,” she thought, and got up to look outside in the fading afternoon light. At first she saw nothing and was about to close the door when she heard a tiny mew from under the porch. Melineh bent down and saw something dark and furry; “No, it couldn’t be,” she thought, but there, rubbing against her hand was Buttons, back from wherever he had been!kitten_in_holly 2

Melineh brought her precious tabby kitty inside and gave him some food. Buttons, once again in Melineh’s loving arms, purred happily. This was the very best gift ever—for sure!

Buttons lived with Melineh and her family for many years, bringing warmth and fun into the big old house in the city. When Melineh grew up she had lots more cats, but she never forgot that wonderful Christmas when Buttons found his way back home.

And, of course…they lived happily ever after…

Visual images in public domain from:
karenswhimey.com and clipartpal.com

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24
Jun
13

Speaking of rolling stones…

“How does it feel… how does it feel… to be without a home… like a complete unknown… like a rolling stone?” This signature Dylan song has been in my head for weeks…home can mean many things. A year ago I began my June 13th entry, art then art now:

I need to reorganize the house I’ve been living in for the past four years! In 2008, we moved from a beautiful Frank Lloyd Wright house to a small, unassuming, 1960s tri-level with joyous expectations of becoming part of a particular church community in the neighborhood. Shortly after moving the housing market fell, leaving our FLW house without a great many qualified buyers.

Rolling on: Membership in the neighborhood church community did not come to pass and that tri-level never got organized. Shortly after writing the entry, we received an Sophia front facadeoffer on our beautiful Frank Lloyd Wright house that took us down the real estate garden path by the throat! Weary of tumbling along over the cobblestoned highways and byways of the past several years, we did an about-face—put the  tri-level on the market and moved back to the FLW house. We were glad to be home at last!

This spring, we invited people from all walks of our life  to celebrate our home coming in a music fest. In addition to old friends, the guest list included people who had made music or art with us, people who had helped us in various ways through the past several years, and people who had helped us in the actual moving process. Everyone brought something to share…food was abundant and the music flowed from gospel to rock ‘n roll. We had a great time and hope this will be the first of many music fests to come.

Jim Croegaert on keyboard, Mark Vanderhoff and Callie Surber on guitar belting out Bob Dylan’s classic, 1965 tune, Like a Rolling Stone.  Go ahead and sing along, shake it all out…you won’t be able to help yourself!

After that We Went Down to the River to Pray. The movie, Oh Brother, Where Art Thou has nothing on us! We were rockin’!

Nancy Miner Guenther and Judy Studenski leading out with Joni Mitchell’s 1970 hit, Big Yellow Taxi.

Nancy & Judy singing

Mark Vanderhoff playing Neil Young’s Heart of Gold from the album Harvest; applause by Ardean Goertzen

We think Mark was playing Heart of Gold by Neil Young

Jaime Cortez’ Rain Down, with rolling arpeggios—catching them single-handedly.

Rain Down_Karena_Dance

Even after everyone had left, there was still more music…

after the party

Links in text:
Jim Croegaert, Singer-Songwriter • Rough Stones Music
Nancy Miner Guenther • Roses and Teacups

13
Jun
12

art then / art now

I need to reorganize the house I’ve been living in for the past four years!

In 2008, we moved from a beautiful Frank Lloyd Wright house to a small, unassuming, 1960s tri-level with joyous expectations of becoming part of a particular church community in the neighborhood. Shortly after moving the housing market fell, leaving our FLW house without a great many qualified buyers. At the same time, we entered into what became a long, painfully drawn out series of backwards and forwards efforts to become part of this church. Toward the end of that first year my sister died and I was heartbroken. Then partway into the second year our dear friend Bettina discovered her cancer was on the rise and she moved in with us. We were a chosen family of three working for inclusivity until the end of May, when the church body proclaimed that it could not, would not make the leap to inclusiveness. We were stuck with two mortgages, taxes, and much deep bruising around the heart and brain. By January of 2010, when it was clear that her cancer was unstoppable, we turned our home into a hospice dwelling encompassing all of us. Then, when she died on March 6, 2010, my world fell apart for a very long time.

We lived here in this little house for four years with shattered dreams and could not make it a home. Now we are on the brink of finally selling our FLW house, albeit at an enormously reduced price. It is time to move into this unassuming tri-level and make room for the next chapter of our lives. Making room means re-organizing and that requires cleaning out and thinning down my files…all those things I’ve carried around thinking that they will be needed at some future time. As I am in my seventh decade and climbing, I think the future is now.

The process of reducing files requires opening and looking through them. I could only manage four drawers without mental/emotional exhaustion overtaking me as I walked back into my life, folder after folder, making decisions that sometimes brought unwanted memories to the surface. In one of those folders I found correspondence with a friend from the past—an artist from Armenia whom I’d met a decade earlier when Judy and I were visiting friends on the east coast. It was a period of my life when I was doing a lot of genealogy in an effort to understand my heritage as a building block for knowing myself. This period culminated in an exhibition I produced involving nine Armenian/American artists.

Inheritance: art and images beyond a silenced genocide. (The electronic version is hosted by the Center for Holocaust & Genocide Studies, University of Minnesota.)

Curious about this old friend and somewhat lonely for people of my own ethnic temperament, I looked him up online and found he was here in this country, with a partner of six years and still a practicing artist. I sent out a Facebook friend request, Twittered and emailed him at the art center address where he teaches ceramics. About a week later I received an email from him that made me happy; he is a person like myself in so many ways, and one of the few remaining links to my own heritage. When he asked so plaintively why I got out of the art world, I had to give a brief history of the past decade since I’d last spoken with him. Haven’t had a response to this yet…must be busy…

His question brings me front and center, having been asked by others from time to time: Why did you get out of the art world…why would you? Revulsion is one answer. Cancer’s clearer vision is another. I am a professional artist gone AWOL. There is an article in the New York Times—How the Art Market Thrives on Inequality—that simply renews my sense of revulsion. I recommend reading this for all art lovers. It’s educational.

I will always be an artist. That is my temperament and training and it filters into everything I do. Some have questioned why I pour so much of that artfulness into the church I attend when they see so little reason for doing so. My answer is: Why not? The Church having separated itself—to its own detriment—from visual art at the time of the Reformation, is in desperate need of beauty for soul’s nourishment. I can do it and it gives me pleasure rather than pain. When I hear that someone’s experience of the sacred has been enhanced by a bit of beauty I’ve had a hand in providing, I am blessed, because I’m acting in accordance with having been Called by Name back in those gloomy days of cancer treatment and recovery. Clearer vision, that’s the reason.

Art created for one’s own pleasure is personal and edifying, but in a broader, societal sense, it is one hand clapping. Art created out of one’s own spirit and shared freely with others is two hands clapping—communication, pleasure and edification all around. As many of my friends and acquaintances know, I’m big on movement, hands, feet, whatever. Clapping counts.

Now I go to my weekly dance class where I can be art as well as make it…where I can be beauty as well as behold it.

This is the street where I live now…

19
Dec
11

christmas letter – 2011

Christmas Greetings from me to you!

(Text:  Last year we celebrated our daughter’s marriage to JM, a widower with two little girls. We became instant grannies. This year, while learning the ins and outs of granny-hood, we took advantage of Illinois’ new civil union law, and after 34 years together, got civilly united, i.e., wed, in our own church, by our own pastor, Gentle Spirit. We wove the ceremony into the morning worship as a sign of relational commitment to the congregation that voted yes to moving forward in love. The service was historic in terms of the Mennonite Church in Illinois, and amazingly beautiful as well.  We are experiencing a newness to our relationship we could not have anticipated. Having legal status does make a positive difference.)

20
Dec
10

christmas letter from me to you

This year we wrote and sent the catch-up, Christmas Letter. There was so much to say and so little blood left in our veins to say it all, that we decided to create a picture-book letter. Between email and the post office we got them all sent out. Then I thought of all of you who read this blog and decided to separate text from art so I could include all of you by posting it here.:

Greetings to one and all,

Time feels completely different at the end of the year. Different than in… say…February. At this time of the year, we think a lot about past; people we’ve met, people we’ve lost, pivotal events, past Christmases….February is more of a future think. Will it snow? When will it be warm again? Just how long will it take to loose my “winter insulation” (you know…the holiday feasts that have taken up residence on our bodies)?

Last year, our circumstances didn’t allow the “time” needed to send greetings to you, so this year, we will try to make up for that with an especially “condensed” greeting.

The benefit to us in writing this may have already eclipsed the goal of this letter. As we started the outline, it was soon clear that the “Gratefulness” list was impressively longer than the “losses” and “challenges” lists. (Granted, some of the line items could have gone either way.) So we start the “gratefulness” list acknowledging that it is God’s grace that allowed us to see the bigger picture of our lives.

We lost some very significant people in the past two years; Naomi’s sister Florence, our dear friend and Naomi’s adopted daughter Bettina, our builder/handyman, neighbor, scrabble playing friend and sage Ken, Judy’s dear special cousin Sam…and her faithful old cat Frank.

Gained: New friends, deepening relationships, reconnecting with friends from the past,*new family, Naomi in remission, Judy still has a job, our 33rd anniversary, Naomi’s art integrated into the worship experience in two churches, Judy’s re-entry into music, the books of Marcus Borg & Richard Rohr…and the list goes on.  Naomi & Judy

*The new family seen here with Big Dawg and me…Darling Daughter, the Captain, Miss Green and Miss Pink…the fabulous grandchildren…just add water and stir. See June 6, 2010 /  Family Plan.

17
Nov
10

today is my birthday

Today is my birthday. For the curious: I am 72 going on 59. Have been through many deep valleys in my time and weathered many storms, even perfect ones like the one at the church that didn’t really want us. Nicks and scratches, bruises and bumps—these are the marks of having risked comfort many times over in order to live an authentic life. I did not acquire this character on my own and it doesn’t come without some anxiety and fear, but it appears to be part of my DNA. I hope I am learning how to carry it more faithfully…more trustfully.

I am a late bloomer in many ways. The first 40 years were preparatory, the following 20 years were rehearsal for the next 10, and those were the refinement for the current now, when the God in me and the me in God enjoy sharing tea together from time to time. I am grateful for this and all the blessings God gives to me. This year I lost an important person—one who called me Mamacita and sometimes, Kimosabe, and made us a family. It was a hard loss. Then God brought a new family to me, complete with two beautiful grandchildren. I did not think I would ever be a grandmother, even a step-grandmother. I didn’t know how much sunshine little kids can bring to a life full of years. Last Sunday my new family came to church with me and then to lunch. The girls made birthday cards for me and we had a lovely time together.

This one is Miss Green’s card. Miss Green has recently turned 9.  Both cards fold in the middle and have little cut-out hinges so they can “stand” on a table (more or less).  Clever Miss Green has included a greeting in Japanese and says that she does not know the greeting in Korean but wishes me a happy birthday…and she likes my drawing. 🙂 Good girl!

Miss Pink’s birthday card (note the coins taped on and the kitty face inside) Miss Pink will turn 6 the day after Thanksgiving. Miss Pink is an ardent admirer of both my art and my cats. Ah, right to my heart. I like your art too…but prefer my cats as they also prefer me. 🙂

These are happy little projects made especially for me. I’m thrilled to have them. Thank you girls. I love you both!!

Thank you readers—for your interest in my writing, experiences, thoughts, opinions….and the art I sometimes add in. Thank you for being there in the forest to hear the tree falling. It does make a sound after all. For many years I didn’t know this.

I have not made many postings lately because I’ve been busy with visual/worship art projects for my little church at the edge of the city. But soon this will be complete and I will have writing time again. I have so much catching up to do both on this blog and on my Drawing Sacred Circles blog. Stay tuned.

But in the meantime, this is me greeting you today.   

04
Nov
10

update and post script

My posts have been few and far between for a while now. I have been on a journey and not through yet, but thought I’d just try to bring this blog somewhat up to date before doing so becomes a gigantic, uphill climb with a backpack too full of stuff to sort out, let alone write down for public consumption.

This year’s summer was a hard trek, but in a different way than last year’s summer when I was torn into pieces by the church we were invited—then uninvited—to join. Last summer the pangs of betrayal I experienced were felt in the warmth of my family—Big Dawg, Adopted Daughter Bettina and I. We set about fitting into the little church that welcomed us in on the rebound. We were beginning to breathe, but by September Bettina’s cancer returned for a fourth and final time. She died just ten weeks into the new year.

I was completely absorbed in caring for Bettina, and completely involved in helping her to die well. For a long time afterward I was equally absorbed in the loss of her and of our family of three. There were many losses since my cancer diagnosis in 2006 and they came swarming together in a great anguished whoosh. The repercussions were enormous. By spring, I no longer knew where I belonged or why. I was a traveler on the grief road without a sense of direction…just drifting in deep pools of sadness and disconnection. Toward the end of spring and the beginning of summer, quite unexpectedly as if by magic, I became a mother-in-law and a grandmother. There was no time to practice. The summer wore on and still the quiet, disconnected sadness. I yearned for spiritual connection and began attending Catholic Mass, while at the same time continuing in my position as visual art maven at the little quirky church on the edge of the city. The grandchildren were pinpoints of joy—lone stars in a dark sky. I became a woman with many faces, but no mirror in which to see them.

August was a particularly desperate time and called for desperate measures. I could not relate to the little church and could not keep from receiving the sadness bubbling up within. It was a time of affirming forgiveness, 70 x 7 and then some. My path became stony and disorienting. In response, the little church said don’t leave…let’s talk, and formed a small listening group around BD and me. Many things happened in rapid succession, both inside and outside the group. Issues fell into place as we became aware that four years of losses with little time between amounts to post traumatic stress. I don’t normally cotton with these labels, but this time it is fitting, and we are glad to have this understanding as a way to make sense of our wobbly-top selves. I am grateful to the several persons who were angels unaware in this drama, for I was not always so lovable. These people were willing spiritual conduits, each with a different message, each with a different angel’s feather touch. Each bearing God’s love and grace.

In the end, an aha moment was this:  understanding that in the loose, laid-back character of this quirky little church, lay freedom and trust and possibilities, and in return, I must give it all I’ve got. I’ve been busy ever since, not with more than you younger readers are prone to taking on, but with more than I am accustomed to taking on in quite this faith centered way. There are not enough days or hours in the days, and certainly not enough weeks in the month for me. I am swimming in a rushing river to some where that I know not…every now and then caught by an eddy of old thoughts and memories that must be untangled and set out to dry. In a couple of weeks I will turn a ripe 72… Despite my good health report, I am very aware of the time I have left—sensitized to it. Insomnia plagues me lately. It’s not a workaholic compulsion that is the culprit, it is this sense that I am in transition—in training if you will—for the last chapter of my life as a doer/giver. I am such a late bloomer…I want 20 years doing and giving in the space of 10! Sometimes I feel like a child who cannot wait for Christmas morning. Other times I feel like skipping Christmas morning entirely, for surely a gift with my name on it will be much too heavy for me to manage.

Called by name…that is the word I received many times in the dark chemotherapy nights.

Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame  shall not consume you. Isaiah 43

So when I am not wobbling over with extremes of joy and anxiety, I generally say, Here am I. Send me!”

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, Whom shall I send? And who will go for us? And I said, Here am I. Send me! Isaiah 6:8




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