Dear Great Grandmother, Help me know the story of a refugee….

Dear Great Grandmother,

I have been watching stories on the news about children being torn away from their mothers and fathers.  Little babies, who are still nursing, toddlers, preschoolers wearing sparkly shoes and pigtails, young adolescents who have been torn away from their homes, from their friends, schools, families, and from their parents in a strange land that was supposed to be the promise of a better life.  I can hardly stand to focus on my easy life, knowing that I am living in a country where people believe that it is fine and good to tear women and children apart.

What can you tell me about these times, great grandmother?  How can we help people remember that most of us came from families fleeing violence, poverty, and oppression?

Dearest Granddaughter.

I did not want to leave my home.  It was beautiful there, living in the mountains of Alsace Lorraine when I was fifteen.  I did not want to leave my family, friends, teachers, church, and my land.  I loved the climate and the beauty of my home.  I loved being in our little house, cooking over the fire, baking bread, picking berries for our breakfast.  I never thought I would have to leave. Then, one day, when my father came to me and told me that there was no more money to buy food, that our small piece of land was not producing enough to feed us all.  He told me that he had heard from relatives living in this new, large country called the United States of America, where one could find large parcels of land to farm and one could find ways to earn enough money to buy food, a place to live, and cloth to make clothes.  I said “no, Papa, please don’t make me leave my home.  Who will take care of my chickens?  Who will take care of my berry patch?  Who will take care of my grandmother, my aunts, my cousins? “

It was still dark, when I was told to get out of my warm, cozy bed.  I was to quickly gather a few things, clothes, a coat, some bread, and my bible…. I felt tears streaming down my face as we bumped along in a horse drawn wagon.  It was a very long journey to the port of Bremen, where we boarded a large ship and followed streams of grieving people to the decks below.  I couldn’t stop myself from gasping and choking as I tried to hold back the tears that wanted to gush from my eyes.  I knew I would never see my home again. The hole that formed in my heart that day never was healed.

I hope that all of you living in America will remember that most of you came from families like mine.  Your ancestors did not want to live the homes that they knew and loved.  They had to leave because they could not survive there any longer.  You are living in this country now because your ancestors, like me, had to take the heart breaking journey to a strange land.  Please have mercy on the poor children and parents who are devastated because they have lost their homes, and now they are losing the reasons that they made the perilous journey to the border:  their precious children.  Please send them love and prayers.  Please remember that your ancestors were just as vulnerable and scared, and that you are one with them.

Have we, as Americans, forgotten that our own ancestors were mothers and fathers just like these families?  They left the homes and lands that they loved because they were hungry, or oppressed, or afraid of the violence that surrounded them.  Our ancestors did not want to leave all that they knew and loved to come to a strange place where there were no promises of success.  People leave oppression and violence and poverty in the hopes of finding a better life for their children.  No one wants to leave home, leave the land and people that they have always known, leave the familiar faces and ways of their culture.  People only leave because they can see no other way to offer a better life for their children.  We are those children.

Welcome the New with Wisdom from the Elders

Welcome to my new website!  I feel some trepidation as I step into this new phase of my life and work.  Becoming a grandmother for the first time seven months ago has brought me into a new stage of personal development. At the same time, I feel I have traveled full circle around a spiral back to myself as a young mother.  Motherhood is a tremendous shift in all ways for a woman.  Not only are we challenged by the addition of a new precious being who is wholly dependent on us for life, nurturing, safety, and joy;  but we are also presented with the  daunting task of balancing work challenges, family challenges, and personal needs. As I watch my daughter adjusting to her new role as Mom, I remember myself when my children were babies and toddlers,  and I wish I could go back and talk to myself from the place I sit now.

If I could travel back in time, I would tell my twenty nine year old self that she is brave, and strong, and able to love and nurture her children even during those times when she feels deep regret and shame for not being the perfect mother.  I would want to be with my young mother Self  when was feeling guilty for having yelled at her little ones, when she told them to leave her alone, when she pushed them away because she did not feel like she could be with them in a loving way.  I would tell her that things will turn out ok.  That she is human and will never be the perfect mother. I will remind her that if she can continue to strive to be the most loving mom she can be, her kids will turn out fine.  They will love her, even in her craziness, and will help her learn to pay attention to her own needs.  I would tell her that caring for herself in any way that she can…taking a few minutes here and there during her day to be alone, to walk in nature, to meditate, to listen to music, to talk to a friend, will help her be the mom she wants to be.

I feel myself revisiting the need for balance in my own life now as a grandmother, family member, writer, facilitator, and artist.  It is so much easier now to achieve balance because I have the gift of time and the ability to choose.  It is also a paradox because time is limited in a longer term way.  I know that the number of years ahead of me are fewer than those behind.  I am working with accepting mortality and facing the desire to do some good in the world before I pass.  In that sense, time is limited again, although in a larger context.  What would I tell myself thirty or more years from now?  What might I want to communicate to the mothers and grandmothers of this world when I am on the other side?  How can I use my limited time on Earth to help those who will come after me?

I would like to explore these questions and more in this blog.  My desire is to communicate hope, encouragement, comfort, and joy to those of us working things out on this planet as parents, grandparents, family members, and creative beings. I would like to access the wisdom of the grandmothers, teachers, role models and all those who came before us.  Perhaps they can offer us stories, experiences, suggestions and wisdom from wherever they are.   Maybe they can remind us how to have fun when times are challenging.  Perhaps there is a recipe, a song, or a game that brought them solace, comfort, or joy.  Our ancestors survived terrible times and may have much to offer us now as we struggle and strive to be the best parents, grandparents, teachers and role models that we can be for the next seven generations.