by Gwen M. Plano
I remember those anxious hours, waiting for word from my son, his office just a short walk to the Trade Center. Had he stopped there for coffee? Was he okay? My fear soon grew into panic.
When we think of 9/11, aren’t we all aghast by the senseless madness of evil? And don’t we all mourn the innocent victims, while we salute the heroes who ran into danger?
Shortly after the attack, I visited my son in New York City. He had not yet gone to the site, explaining only that he could not. So, I walked alone through the Lower East Side, silently praying.
The stench of the remains of life confronted me, while the air hung heavily with debris. As I walked I came across a mountain of flowers, in front of a FDNY Ladder Company. Most of its crew had lost their lives, risking everything in the hope that they could save even one. In that moment, I understood why my son could not walk these streets, for I, a stranger, could barely.
Going further, I went into the Grand Central Station. The walls of its long corridor were covered with hundreds upon hundreds of photographs of the missing, as well as letters from loved ones asking for help. Old faces, young faces, white faces, black and brown faces – the faces of innocent victims unrecovered.
9/11 is a day of remembrance, and who is not hushed by its solemnness? But it is not simply about remembering the victims; it is about remembering who we are.
Behind the man-made atrocities of life, from the war-torn streets of Aleppo to the terror in an Orlando nightclub and the horror of 9/11, there are those who craft a world of hate and clothe it in rhetoric. Why do we humans listen or follow?
If we could remember who we are, I think miracles would abound.
I leave you with this beautiful message of hope:
Dear readers, I invite you to visit my new website and follow. www.gwenmplano I'd love to meet you via its pages.
by Gwen M. Plano
Four years ago, I published my first book, blissfully unaware that I needed to promote it. I hadn’t thought about such practical matters; my focus was simply the mechanics of telling my story.
At the suggestion of a local writer, I signed up on Twitter but did not know what I was supposed to do. I sent out a couple of tweets and otherwise stared at my screen, terrified by the volume of messages rolling past me.
I was drowning in a sea of hashtags and unknown followers until a writer in Greece (Nicholas C. Rossis) threw me a lifesaver. He invited me to join the Rave Reviews Book Club.
I did, and not only survived, I eventually found my way.
Today is my 4-year anniversary in the Club. So, what has changed?
The Club, under the direction of the CEO author Nonnie Jules, has given me sea legs, which is to say – confidence. I’m no longer lost, I am found.
I’ve discovered a community of authors and readers who value serious writing and who share freely of their talents. I met John Howell, the co-author of my second book, THE CONTRACT, through the Club. And, within the Club membership, I’ve met editors and promoters. Importantly, I’ve learned – about marketing, about good writing, about service, about life.
If you are a writer or a reader or someone associated with industries tied to writing, I invite you to join. I think you too will soon realize that you have friends and family scattered about our beautiful planet. You may even discover a miracle or two.
by Gwen M. Plano
Have you ever wondered about prayer? How it works or if it works?
Recently, I faced a medical challenge because of a CSF Leak. As part of the pre-treatment, I underwent 3.5 hours of radiological testing which required cage-like restraints. I could not move and because of this fact, I grew anxious. As I lay confined, I began to pray for help, as I didn’t know if I could manage the situation.
It was then that the first miracle occurred.
I saw in my mind's eye, a friend praying for me. I looked into my friend's eyes and focused on her kindness. I felt her genuine care, trusted it, and let go. Temporarily, I surrendered my fear.
With this release came the second miracle.
I became aware of an absorbing silence. And, I realized there were many, many others with me - my deceased mother and aunts, unnamed angelic figures, as well as friends and family. I was buoyed by love; I just hadn’t noticed it before, because my attention was on fear.
Finally, the third miracle.
I had longed to understand prayer. Through this experience, my questions were answered. I realized that prayer is simply love extended.
Some may pray loudly, passionately; while others might pray quietly, meditatively. Whatever our mode of prayer might be, the only thing that matters is the heart’s intention. Is love offered or restrained?
I believe the heart reaches what the mind cannot fathom. The truth is, we are loved beyond belief and when we participate in this powerful dynamic, miracles occur.
Thank you one and all for your caring thoughts during my medical adventure. I don’t know how to adequately express my deep gratitude. I can only hope that you know that your kind thoughts touched me deeply, giving me strength when I had little, hope when I lost my way. Know this, your goodness continues to reverberate profoundly throughout our universe. Prayer, heart felt, can indeed move mountains.
Thank you for helping me realize that love is our destiny.
by Gwen M. Plano
Each week poet Ronovan Hester sponsors a Haiku prompt challenge, and folks (like me) try to follow his lead. This week the two words are woke and up. If you have interest in this poetic form, please click on his name, and you'll be guided to his website where you'll find detailed instructions.
When I read the prompt words, I was brought back to when my adult kids were teenagers. I thought of how grateful I was to be awakened by their laughter, no matter what time of the day or night it might be. I suspect all parents share this experience. ♥ We're happy when our kids are happy - and safe.
Helen Valentina is a poet and novelist from Australia. She just completed reading THE CONTRACT and wrote an amazing review. I share it today, because it warmed my heart immensely.
Thank you, Helen. I am deeply grateful to you, and to all reviewers, for the thoughtful comments about this book.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Full disclosure: I’m a sucker for anything about angels, redemption, universal love and honour. So The Contract, by John Howell and Gwen Plano, had me ‘at hello’ – or ‘chapter one’ as they say in the literature world.
This is a truly unique book – a cross genre meeting of spiritual, action, thriller and romantic minds. One part evocation of spiritual growth and destiny, one part thrill ride through a rollicking mystery and political action rampage, one part one of the loveliest and most affirming romantic stories I’ve read in years. I’m not giving anything spoilery away by noting the story is about two souls that willingly contract to go to earth and avert a political disaster. But how this all unfolds is delicious and should be read by the reader, not told by the reviewer here.
I must say I’ve been a long time fan of John Howell’s writing. It is fun, fast paced, warm and engaging – much as I suspect the author would be. The fascinating thing here is how seamlessly his style and Gwen’s mix. I truly couldn’t tell which parts were written by which, so well did they merge from one to the other. It was very much like a harmony of two perfectly attuned instruments in a symphony.
They are the ideal writing partners to tell the story of two other perfect partners – of a different kind - as they fulfil their heavenly contract. ( And I loved the meta tip of the hat to this at the end of the book -very clever!) This makes me want two things: that they quickly do the sequel they promise at the end, and also I want to check out some of Gwen Plano’s other writing too now.
I thoroughly recommend this book to one and all – its genre mixing offers pretty much something for everyone, and by the end you will have enjoyed a wonderful, action packed, politically on point thriller that is also a romantic and life affirming ride.
As I said at the outset, I’m a sucker for honour and the spiritually uplifting, so I shed a few happy tears indeed in the final chapters. If this isn’t what the spiritual world is (and I for one hope it is) then it should be! Don’t miss out on a sublime experience – get your copy now!
by Gwen M. Plano
My dad was not a man of many words. In fact, if you wanted to know about his work in the CCC camps or his military service, you'd have to ask him directly. And, even then, he would not say much. But, if there was a job that needed to be done on the farm or any where else, my dad was on it. He was a living example of "show don't tell."
Dad didn't trust words. Too many he knew were hurt by them. "If you love someone, you show them," he'd tell us. And he did.
It wasn't until adulthood, however, that I understood my dad. He gave me and my siblings a gift not easily wrapped in pretty paper. And, as he neared the end of his life, I thanked him for this extraordinary gift.
Leaning over his lift chair, I whispered, thank you, Dad, for teaching me how to survive. He didn't respond, but tears welled and rolled down his face. I had received his gift and in doing so, I had embraced him.
To all dads, thank you for your self-gift, spoken or silently offered.
By Gwen M. Plano
For much of our lives, circumstances define who we are: a wife or husband, a mother or father, a teacher or businessman or nurse or doctor. We give little thought to who we might be separate from our roles and titles. There is work to do, children to care for, meals to fix, a home to support.
In our retirement years, however, we are gifted time. And, it is from this vantage point that we begin to see a little differently - the shadows and the miracles of life. As we do, we have a greater sense of who we are.
When author John W. Howell and I began work on The CONTRACT between heaven and earth, we brought with us our realizations about life and our imaginings about eternity. Both of us are retired, and we have the time to search for explanations to the mysteries we encountered. Nevertheless, sometimes we wrote blindly until the answers came.
Last week, the book went live on Amazon.
A number of writers and bloggers have welcomed us to their websites, where they are graciously introducing The CONTRACT to their readers. I cannot begin to explain the profound gratitude I feel, for by their kindness, they recognize our efforts, and they acknowledge the journey.
Thank you one and all.
by Gwendolyn M Plano
Recently I was asked, "when you wrote your memoir, what section was the most difficult?"
This was an interesting question for me to consider, because my book is about the journey of life, and as any of us can attest, the journey includes deep sorrows. I cried a lot when I wrote my book, because my heart was free to do so. But, my struggle was not about sorrows.
The most difficult writing task for me was sharing experiences of angels. My career in education was built on logic and proven facts; my experiences of angels defied such knowledge. To publicly share these encounters meant risking credibility. The angel visitations were like nothing I had ever known, and I felt very vulnerable writing about them. Yet, these ethereal beings were integral to my life story, so in the end, I chose to speak my truth and let readers decide as they may.
This past week I have been with my mom as she gave her final goodbyes. Her strength, courage and faith brought me to tears many times. Perhaps hardest to endure was seeing her suffer. Today she was freed of that suffering, freed of confusion, freed of all binds. With just one slow exhalation, she left us.
And then we felt it, joy. And many sensed it, angels. And, together, we cried.
Mom's tiny body had carried nine children and held dozens of grandchildren. In the end, there was little left of her body; but, those fragile remains held a mighty spirit, a spirit that reached through our tears and offered consolation. When visitors stopped by to see mom, many mentioned celestial beings.
C.S. Lewis wrote, "Miracles are a retelling in small letters of the very same story which is written across the whole world in letters too large for some of us to see." And so I wonder, what would our world look like if we could see these miracles? Would we realize that we are never alone?
by Gwendolyn M Plano
Throughout this year of turmoil, I have had one recurrent feeling - gratitude. It sneaks up on me when I walk alongside the lake, but it also surprises me when I do the laundry. Whether involved with the extraordinary or the mundane, I am frequently overwhelmed by this sentiment. Like a child on a teeter totter, I move from laughter to tears and from tears to laughter in just seconds. Both erupt from joy. But why?
During an era when trust eludes us, when weather threatens us, when countries terrorize us, and when elected officials leave us gasping, why would any of us feel gratitude?
For the last six weeks, I’ve been dealing with a cerebrospinal fluid leak requiring a lot of bed rest. I know the ceiling of my bedroom very well now. I can tell you exactly where there’s been a bump or a misplaced stroke of a paintbrush. But, I can also tell you, that as I drifted between worlds, material and otherworldly, I saw that consciousness is distinct from the body. As much as our body defines us, it is not who we are.
One day when lying flat on my back counting the ceiling tiles, the book John W. Howell and I have co-authored came to mind. The Contract will be published in early summer, and as the title suggests, it involves a contract. In my supine position, I realized that just as the characters had a contract, so did I. And, because of my circumstances, I was provided the opportunity to imagine what my life contract might be.
I walked through the decades looking at what I had learned. Through sorrow came joy, through deprivation came generosity, through fear came hope. I realized the gift of life’s unique challenges, the gift of my CSF leak, for I understood how each hurdle brought me to a place of vulnerability, close to my heart.
We see differently when life brings us to our heart.
During this season of hope, I am grateful to be alive. There is much yet to see and to experience, and there is so much I still need to do, books to write, grandchildren to hug, friends to embrace. The world needs my loving, your loving, our loving. But, loving requires us to be close to our heart.
I might be a dreamer, but I can't help but wonder, if we could fast from negativity and re-frame our lives to ones of grateful living, wouldn't hearts soften and wouldn't dreams come alive?
I have been on quite a journey this year. I suspect you have as well. It's been one of those years that will claim its mark in history. But, thinking through the months, I've realized that there has been one constant - you. Thank you for accompanying me this year. You are family and from you, I have learned so much.
I have two wishes: that 2018 will surprise us with laughter and each of us will remember or find hopeful maybes.
by Gwendolyn M Plano
Another year is taking its leave and with its departure come requests for donations. My mailbox is daily filled with pleas. Besides giving locally, I support a few organizations with international reach. I'd like to share these with you and begin with a story.
For my last ten years in higher education, I oversaw the Veterans Program at a college in California. As young men and women returned from their deployments, they arrived at the college doorsteps. I did what I could to help with their transition into civilian life, and I was respected for my efforts. One day a marine came to see me with a particular concern. His friend, a former Army Ranger, had been told that he had to pay out-of-state tuition, and he did not have the funds. I met with the young man.
He told me that California was his only home. He had had many deployments in the Middle East, and when he was sent home, it was always to California. But, since he was not born in the state, he did not qualify for in-state tuition.
I told him I would do what I could to help him. He stressed that he didn’t want any handouts. He wanted California to realize that it was his only home.
“I was promised an education," he told me. "But, I have no means to pay for these high fees and no where else to go."
Then he asked the question I was afraid he would ask.
"Why can all these foreigners have in-state tuition and not me?”
I had no answer. I knew California law. I asked him to come back in a week.
I contacted elected officials, and I created an anonymous scholarship for him. But neither effort was sufficient. When I saw him again, he told me that he was re-enlisting in Special Forces, another branch.
“Aren’t you concerned about the danger,” I asked. His response haunts me even today.
“Yes, but it's what I know, and they respect me.”
I don't have any idea if this young man is still alive or not. But, I think of him often and especially when I make my donations. I wish everyone had the opportunity I had to work with veterans. It was an experience that changed my life; I suspect this would be true for anyone.
The four organizations below are all highly rated by Charity Navigator. Two of the organizations assist our injured heroes. With gratitude I write my checks, and with respect, I share these programs with you.
Doctors Without Borders
In 1999, Doctors Without Borders was awarded the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize. It was recognized for its work on multiple continents, and their medical staff who have treated millions upon millions of people were honored. These impressive professionals face their own risks when they leave the comfort of their homes. Doctors and workers have been murdered in Afghanistan and other sites, and yet they continue to go to areas of dire need.
The Navy Seal Foundation
Movies and television shows have romanticized the specialized work of the Navy Seals. What is rarely seen are the hardships endured through the years that follow deployments. The foundation provides a comprehensive set of programs specifically designed to improve health and welfare for these courageous sailors. It also helps the families by providing critical support during times of illness, injury, loss and transition.
Building Homes for Heroes
Building Homes for Heroes® assists wounded American service members and their families. It is strongly committed to rebuilding lives and supporting the brave men and women who have been injured while serving the country. The organization builds or modifies homes, and gifts them, mortgage-free, to veterans and their families. These homes not only help to remove the family's financial burden, they help to restore the individual's freedom, and enable the veteran to lead a more independent and productive civilian life.
Direct Relief is a humanitarian aid organization, active in all 50 states and more than 80 countries, with a mission to improve the health and lives of people affected by poverty or emergencies. It provides assistance without regard to politics, religious beliefs, or ethnic identities. Its programs focus on maternal and child health, the prevention and treatment of disease, and emergency preparedness and response. They are tailored to the circumstances of most vulnerable and at-risk people.
by Gwendolyn M Plano
I grew up looking at maps. I’d stretch them out on the floor and dream. Someday, I’d think, I’m going to go here…and here…and here. I knew nothing about these places, but I wanted to see the area. I wanted to explore.
When my kids were little, I had quite a collection of maps from gas stations and AAA, from grocery markets and train stations. Wherever I went, I picked up at least one map.
I’ve learned a lot about human nature looking at maps. For instance, the March 29, 1976 cover of The New Yorker featured artist Saul Steinberg’s map of the world via New York City. It was a huge success among visitors and residents alike, and it still is.
Perhaps it is just my imagination, but don’t you think the map says something about New Yorkers?
In contrast, here’s a map of Southern California. I was born in San Diego, so I have a special fondness for that area.
If you talk to a New Yorker, you’ll likely hear that Southern California is the land of fruits and nuts. Of course, the San Diegans really don’t care what the New Yorkers think. After all, they have the beach and the weather. And, they happen to like fruits and nuts.
Switching to the middle of the United States, the maps get more interesting. Take Texas for example. From the rendition below, it is clear that there's not much of importance to some Texans - other than the great state of Texas.
The Northeast on this map is entitled the “Dammed Yankee Land.” And, California is the “Unimaginable.”
Now, as a native Californian who lived in the greater NYC area for 25 years or so, I found this map of Texas to be refreshingly honest.
It, better than any map I have seen, makes it very clear that we see through our unique vantage point.
So what does any of this have to do with politics? I went through map after map trying to find correlations that might explain the voting pattern of the last election. I looked at maps of the United States for church affiliation, tornado risks, dog tick infestations, diversity rates, drug deaths, hate groups, longevity rates, marriage success, suicide rates. Yep, there's a map for about anything you can think of. Who knew? I didn't, and I'm the map queen.
The one map I found interesting was the map of Percent of Residents with High School Diploma. I found it interesting because folks on the coasts sometimes imagine that the great middle of the United States mindlessly cast their vote for the current president. As the map shows us, the middle United States has higher high school graduation rates than the coasts. Who knew?
Keep in mind, aside from the last couple of years, I have spent my life on either coast. I'm an independent who faithfully writes to my representatives and my president to let them know what I think. I'm sure they enjoy hearing from me, because I'm very polite and always offer them solutions.
And, speaking of solutions, I want to share how I've managed the political upheaval. I try to love more - the people I meet, the "friends" on Facebook, my neighbors on my street. I spend more time trying to understand than to explain. And frankly, I watch very little T.V.
This, too, will pass my friends. And, if we need another reason to be grateful this season, that one fact tops my list.
Blessings to all.
by Gwendolyn M Plano
Thanksgiving is a time of family and feast, of laughter and dreams. We pause from the craziness of life to appreciate the ordinary as extraordinary. Today I join the many in offering my thanks for all the surprises of life, and to share with you one special reason for my gratitude.
Since Spring, author John W. Howell and I have worked together on a thriller which bridges the celestial and earthly lives of the two principal characters. John and I have never met, but we found common ground through the Rave Review Book Club and cyberspace.
Over the last several months, our writing has been interrupted by medical emergencies, family tragedies, and Hurricane Harvey (John lives on the coast of Texas). Even so, we have finished our book in record time and now are editing it for the Beta Readers.
One of the themes of The Contract is gratitude, hard-earned through courage. When I saw the BBC clip below, I could only bow with respect. Elements of this woman’s courage echo throughout our co-authored book. We may not choose the obstacles before us, but we surely choose our response and therein lies the possibility of greatness.
Happy Thanksgiving, may it surprise you with a multitude of blessings!
by Gwendolyn M Plano
Today is Veterans Day, and to all the veterans, my heartfelt thank you for your service. Though I did not serve, my dad, my husband, my brother, many cousins all served or are currently serving in the military. During WWII, my mom and her twin joined thousands of other young women to work as a Rosie the Riveter. It was the “patriotic thing to do,” my mom explained.
Her comment came alive for me a few days ago, when I read this statement by Dr. Ronald Tiersky, distinguished professor of political science at Amherst College. He wrote:
Patriotism is fundamental to liberty because pride in one’s nation-state, and a willingness to defend it if necessary, is the basis of national independence. Patriotism is the courage of national self-determination.
By contrast, nationalism is patriotism transformed into a sentiment of superiority and aggression toward other countries. Nationalism is the poisonous idea that one’s country is superior to somebody else’s. Nationalism is intrinsically a cause of war and imperialism.
This day, this week is always tearful for me. The friends who did not return and the friends who still carry the weight of war, bring me to a place of sorrow and yet profound gratitude. I wish I could repair the hearts of mourners, the minds of the traumatized, the bodies of the broken. But, I can’t. I can only honor their courage and their efforts by how I live.
When our National Anthem is played, my thoughts are always focused on the courageous masses who have offered me the gift of freedom. For them I stand, for them I sing. The hope, the dream is liberty and justice for all – not just me, or you, for all. It is a weighty dream, but collectively, there is the possibility that it can become a reality, don't you agree?
Perhaps our collective hope depends on you and me. The veterans have created a path for us; but, we need to embrace the dream.
If there is to be liberty and justice for all, I suspect you and I must summon the courage of patriotism and do our part to make the dream a reality through the everyday choices we make.
by Gwendolyn M Plano
Writer Anne Lamott gave a haunting commencement speech at UC Berkeley a while back. Two sentences, in particular, struck me: “Your problem is how you are going to spend this one odd and precious life you have been issued. Whether you’re going to spend it trying to look good and creating the illusion that you have power over people and circumstances, or whether you are going to taste it, enjoy it and find out the truth about who you are.”
Lamott's quote prompts the question, what is the truth about who we are?
Is it possible that we are an accident of nature, a haphazard blend of genes? Are we the mistake of our parents or even their planned prodigy? Are we titles like president or director or even the recluse who lives down the street?
Who are we? What is the truth? Why are we alive?
For decades, I have researched Near Death Experiences (NDE). I’ve read most of the published books on the topic, studied the testimonies of large numbers of people, and have been blessed to talk with a few of those who have had an NDE. My interest began as an attempt to understand my own experiences of the same, but it soon morphed into an unexpected journey.
I was a very young child when I first experienced another realm. I was looking at all the nuns in dark habits surrounding a child in a hospital bed – each nun had her head turned downward in prayer. I heard mumbling, but I have no recall of words. I saw a doctor in white, bending over the child doing something to her chest. I watched curious of the scene before me, and then suddenly I was in the bed, coughing, under a plastic oxygen tent. I remember the doctor’s smile when I opened my eyes, the joy from the nuns when they saw that I was alive. Only later did I learn that I had pneumonia and nearly died.
This early experience was followed much later by another. In both, I glimpsed a state of mind that was unencumbered by fear or worry, a state of mind that was rational and loving.
So, who are we? What is THE truth?
What if our bodies, our brains, our senses are only a limited part of our story? Is there a way for us to know the unlimited part of who we are - short of a NDE? I suspect we glance at another reality whenever beauty or love brings us into wonderment. At such moments, we let go of our human confines and experience something divine.
To discover the truth of who we are, I believe we need to taste and enjoy life, as Lamott has suggested – the warmth of a child’s embrace, the tenderness of a friend or stranger, a sunbeam bright through the clouds, a pet’s adoring affection. Within the ordinary lies the extraordinary - we just need to embrace it.
If we all honored the “precious life,” would our world be so divided?
by Gwendolyn M Plano
We all face them – the final goodbyes to loved ones. Almost a year ago, my dad passed away. Now, my mom is preparing for the same journey. Tears come easily these days and with those tears, memories.
I hadn’t expected to travel back to my childhood while watching mom take her leave, but scenes have resurrected drawing me through the years, to exchanges between mom and me. One such scene follows...
I was about 5 or 6 years old and was helping mom with the wash. We had a Maytag wringer washer outside in the shed. She was busy with the fifth baby and asked me to wring the clothes and hang them on the line.
All was fine - until my hair got caught in the rollers.
“Do you remember that day, Mom?”
“Oh yes, I remember. I was feeding your brother when you screamed. I laid him on the floor and ran out to see what was the matter.”
“I was so scared, mom. I couldn’t move; my head was against the washing machine.”
“I know, your hair was entangled in the rollers. When I got to you, I immediately pulled the plug and unscrewed the roller cover to release the pins. I was scared too, Gwen. It could have been much worse.”
Mom glanced at the floor as a tear rolled from her eye.
“I did the best I could,” she whispered.
“Mom, you gave each of us so much. Look at us now, the seven of us, we’re doing well. You taught us how.”
“Well, I want you to know that I tried. I realize now how much I depended on you, even when you were little.”
I smiled and said, “I think that’s why I became a school administrator, mom. I didn’t need any training to do that job.”
Mom giggled, and in that instant, I saw her as a little child and me as her mother.
“Rest now, okay? I love you very much and am so grateful for all that you’ve done for me and everyone else.”
Mom closed her eyes, and I quietly wept.
Soon, I will be saying my final goodbye.
by Gwendolyn M Plano
Mid-August I traveled to NYC to see my kids and grand-kids. It's a trip I make at least twice a year. The above photo is of my sons and their loved ones. As any mom can attest, being with your kids is heaven on earth. This trip was definitely that and more. But, there was one day that was particularly special. And, it is the reason I write today.
My eldest son lives in Manhattan. And, he works just a short distance from where the World Trade Center once stood. When I had several free hours, I decided to visit the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. My son has never visited its remains, because his memories are still too vivid.
The Memorial is a visceral experience. Through sound and images, visitors are confronted with two realities – the before when people were simply (and perhaps mindlessly) going to work; and the after, when time stopped.
As you walk through the edifice, you hear the last phone calls made and the screams from the streets. You see fragments of life – pieces of what was. Videos, photographs, names - they haunt you as you stand where almost 3,000 lost their lives.
There are no words to adequately explain the Memorial. It’s been a week since I visited, and it still brings me to tears. I walked away with a heart peopled by strangers, innocents who lost their lives to hate. And, I realized something unexpected.
I understood, deeply understood, that the choices we make to love or hate, to accept or reject, to help or to ignore, are choices that may live with us for eternity.
More than 400 first responders died as they tried to help when the planes struck the twin towers of the World Trade Center. They chose to rush into danger, a decision now immortalized in film and literature. And, it is the latter that I bring to your attention today.
As I stood before the crushed, tangled remains of a fire engine, I thought of all those hurt by terror – in New York, Paris, London, Brussels. And, I thought of writers who address this abomination. Specifically, I thought of the thriller series by John W. Howell. I saw vividly how his books focus on the choices we make, simple ordinary folks like you and me, and how by our decisions, we hold the possibility of a world free of such pain.
My morning journey left indelible impressions - of men in tears resting against the stone walls, and women hunched weeping. The sorrow that I know comes in waves and reminds me that how I choose to live today may affect more than just me.
If you’ve ever doubted that we are eternal beings, a trip to the Memorial will convince you otherwise. The entombed at Ground Zero live, they teach, they remind us that even the simplest decision creates a path that might not be retraced.
We are voyagers through life, you and I, and with gratitude for all those who sacrificed on my and your behalf I claim, our contribution rests with the choices we make.
by Gwendolyn M Plano
Nothing is quite so delightful as an early morning walk in nature. Since I live in the Ozark Mountains, next to Lake Taneycomo, I am reminded every day of the wonder of life. I am literally surrounded by extraordinary beauty.
Just for fun, I took a few photos this morning to share a glimpse of Branson, MO that you might not have seen. Most folks think of this area as a destination site for live theater and country music. Those who know the area, however, are entranced by the mountains and lakes. It is a wonderland for anyone who loves the outdoors.
Below are a few photos of my walk today by the Branson Landing - alongside Lake Taneycomo.
This is one of several restaurants that feature the day's catch. It sits in the water and provides a magical view of the lake. The architecture is reminiscent of days long past, when life in the Ozarks was simpler.
Water enthusiasts regularly zoom past this iconic restaurant on their ski jets or other watercraft to the envy of all who sit within its confines. On this early morning walk, only the geese and ducks entertained.
I leave you with a simple poem I wrote, prompted by today's lakeside walk.
by Gwendolyn M Plano
One of my favorite songs is Grandma’s Hands by Bill Withers. Recently, I heard Kristy Lee sing it, and I invite you to listen to her rendition. Always, whenever I hear the song, I think of my mom.
In my extended family “Grandma” is the guardian of all-things-possible. She’s the one to whom the 40+ grandchildren call to fix a problem. She’s the one the 100+ nieces and nephews look to for a pat on the back or a warm embrace. Grandma’s opinion trumps all others and her prayers evoke miracles it seems.
My siblings and I are aware of our mother’s power with our children. When Grandma says something, she is politely listened to – we may not be. If Grandma says this or that needs to be done, this or that is done – no questions asked. Somehow the younger among us have decided that Grandma is the queen.
And, they are all aware of Grandma’s hands.
Gnarled from arthritis and time, Grandma keeps them hidden as best she can. When I was a child, her fingers deftly made quilts and dresses; churned butter or turned the crank for homemade ice cream. She tended one garden after another, and when she could, she escaped the noise of yelling kids and painted peaceful scenes in oil on canvas.
At ninety years old, my mom’s hands, Grandma’s hands, have retired from such things. They now turn pages more slowly, struggle to pick up coins or button a blouse; but, for their limitations, these beautiful hands still reach out to hold or embrace…the newest baby, the child crying, the teenager needing encouragement, the mom or dad who needs advice. Time may have taken its toll, but love just gets refined.
Blessings to all on this Mother’s Day….
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