Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Starting to shift

in four years
an infant
is born
and becomes
a person.

a small wobbly one, 
moving through life.
steps forward
and then a few back.
but ultimately
in a place
of learning.

as i look at my 
past four years
this perfectly 
my life. 
it is not pretty.
it is not to be understood
by anyone but me.
and sometimes
not even me.

but it has been a place of learning.
there is no timeline
begining or end
for this new 
of mine.

tears still come at random.
they don't last as long.
after the seeming randomness
i have 
moments of clarity.

there is a purpose
to this messiness.
to this new life i did not choose.

as that four year old
must learn,
i have had to 
step out 
and cautiously
let others in.
these are my steps.
my few steps forward,
and then back.
often landing flat on my backside.

much of this has to be done
but alone doesn't work
if a trusting hand isn't there.
photo by cheryl sparks photography
i am grateful
for this new life
i can only hope
to live it to the fullest.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

There is no perfect.

This is a hard lesson for me on so many levels.
As a Virgo, I am often paralyzed to begin
a project, knowing that I will not
be able to do it to the standards that I expect.

This dog-eared card was one I bought for myself.
I found it the week I graduated from college.
It became my mantra.
I read it every morning before I started my day. 
These were the goals I had for myself.

But here's the thing, 
Mr. Christian D. Larson.

Life happens.
And doing all those things,
although an altruistic goal,
isn't realistic.
I tried.

And it might just have been me,
and my first child,
follow the rules personality.
But in trying to live up to this amazing code,
 when I failed,
I felt a failure.
And Now We Are Six(ty)
As I have said, and so many of you know,
life happens.
The path we plan
 is rarely the path we follow
 or the path we end up on.

And so this morning I read a blog post
from the delightful
(thank you, David)

I could try to give
an explanation of
"Sh*tty First Drafts"
but instead I will 
give you, in her beautiful words,
the end of her piece.

"For this recovering perfectionist, writing is necessary for me. 
There is no way to write perfect. 
Depending upon whom is reading, there is only good, good enough. 
There is only letting go, letting it be, living with the messiness, trusting the process.
I now recognize the metaphor for life. 
There is no perfect in marriage, relationships, parenting. 
There is no perfect in bodies, food, exercise. 
There is no perfect in decorating, home cleanliness, organization. 
There is no perfect in saying the right things, doing, being. 
There is only good enough. 
There is only trust and rest and do-overs and eleventh chances. 
There is only beginning the day anew, receiving grace, giving grace. 
There is only hope in mercy and better endings. 
There is only forgiveness and scar tissue and walking with a holy limp.
And the calming presence enters in. 
Dear child. You said it, thank you! 
I needed you to write that. Doesn’t it feel better? 
I love your heart, your voice. I love that you are using the gifts I’ve given you. 
Thank you."
And so, in my sixty-first year,
I will strive not for perfection.
But to receive grace and to give it.
And remember there is only forgiveness
and scar tissue and walking with a holy limp.

And that is good enough.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

And In My Sixtieth Year

Kenny always had me questioning how old I truly was.
Once we celebrated our birthday,
we were into the next year.

So for his benefit,
This is the last day of my sixtieth year
and I have so much to be grateful for.

Both of my parents are still here.
A bit more frail,
and not without some frightening moments.
But they are here,
and I continue to learn from them.

Mom, you have shown me that with courage,
one is capable of more than you ever thought possible.
I am so proud of you.

Dad, from you, I have learned that unconditional love,
and a well-timed sense of humor can usually help one survive.
I am proud to call you my parents.

This sixtieth year I have also learned that I don't need more.
I need to give more.

That being kind,
even when it's hard,
is the best thing.

Meeting new people,
hard as it may be,
is good.

I still like to be home at night,
and that's ok, too.

And then there is my heart.
Walking outside my body.
Two different cities.
Two different personalities.
Even as I write,
I have a lump in my throat.

I never wanted anything more than to be your mother.
You have both blessed me more that I can ever tell you.
Each in your own way. 
I am grateful to have a daughter and a son.
Two different beings.
Two different personalities.
I see bits of your dad in each of you.
I see bits of me, too.
But most of all, 
I see the amazing humans you have and are becoming.
The difference you are making in people's lives.
The difference you will make in the world.

When you were very young,
a wise woman said to me,
"Cheryl, accept each of them as they are, 
and gently guide them in the direction you
would have them go."
Thank you, Sr. Ann Marie.
I took those words to heart.
And they have done well.

And so,
on this last day of my sixtieth year,
I give you this,

"Generally, by the time you are Real, 
most of your hair has been loved off,
and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints
and very shabby.
But these things don't really matter at all,
because once you are Real you can't be ugly,
except to people who don't understand."

The Velveteen Rabbit
Margery Williams

photo by cheryl sparks

Sunday, May 3, 2015

The Race Is On

Five years ago, Alexandra, Mark, Graham 
and friends, who are really family now.

And ran, and ran and ran.

And drove and drove and drove.

In their first
Ragnar Relay Race.
From Boston to Provincetown.

Raising money for 
Project ReMind.

This money was to go toward research.

Frontotemporal Degeneration
The disease that Kenny, Alexandra and Graham's dad.
My husband and best friend
was diagnosed with when he was 49 years old.

Alexandra was a Sophomore in college.
Graham was a Senior in high school.

A crazy time in our lives. 
When Kenny was diagnosed he said this to me.

"I know they can't help me,
but if through me they can
help other families
it will be a good thing."

They ran in May.
Kenny died in August,
five years after his diagnosis.

is the legacy

Kenny, the money that has been donated,
is making a difference.
We are reading about it in the journals.
We are hearing it on the news.
Things will be better for other families.

Friday, May 8
these amazing men and women
will be running again.
no matter how big or small
will help.

It all helps.

Thank you


Thursday, April 16, 2015

Happy Birthday, Kenny

You were always older than me for four months.

It was great, because

I got used to hearing that number.

This one is a biggie.


It sounds odd, doesn't it? 

Would I have had a surprise party for you?

Would we have traveled?

I wonder what we would have been doing.

I miss sharing things with you.

This isn't what we planned.

I am still getting used to my life as it is. 

There are bumps in the road. 

It's an odd life.


We were so young
 Oh, what a day.
Summer at The Back Eddy
 GIANT snowmama and daddy
 No words needed

We're doing ok, Kenny.

We know you are with us.

That helps.

I just wish you could make me crazy again.

Asking me how productive I am during the day.

Asking me crazy questions during a movie.

I miss that.


Sunday, March 22, 2015

Happy Birthday dear Grammy

Emma Maude Fuller Armbrust

Happy Birthday, Grammy!

Your spirit continues to surround me,

and I often find myself with a smile on my face

knowing what you would be saying in a given situation.

"Couldn't be better"

"Oh, that naughty puppy tail"

There are more, but often it is just your smile.

Your kind and selfless smile. 

I am grateful to have known you.

For those who didn't,

This was written by her, 

in a creative writing class

when she was 85years old.

This is the finale.

To my children and grandchildren.

You are my world and I am proud of you.

We are continuing with our Creative Writing Class again this year -

and I will be carrying on with these boring pages.

Now we have chosen the subject of "Free Speech" to write on.

I, of course, believe in free speech.

We are a very lucky country founded on freedom.

(read our history)

Everyone has rights and must execute them to the best of their ability.

But, I think this changing world is tiresome!

One should be thoughtful, have patience, and be careful of speech and opinions.

Be considerate of the feelings of other people.

Now that I am old I am so often mistaken,

Please forgive me.

I am thankful to be independent, and thankful to accept favors you can bestow on me.

God Bless you, one and all

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

An Irish Addendum

And so it would seem
that Francis Lundgren
(who I have been sure is really Swedish)
has a mother.

I know, I know.
Her surname


Can you believe it??

Well, here's the thing.
I've often said that my brain is so 
utterly full of fluff
that I can retain nothing of real importance.

It's true. 

I did actually know this.
I have often bragged about it. 

You see, her brother was
Fr. Charles O'Donnell
President of Notre Dame 1928-1934
and our great, great Uncle

He was a good-looking fellow, that Chuck!

So for those of you who watch Notre Dame Football,
To love them or hate them,
When they sing the Alma Mater to the students after the game.
Fr. Charles O'Donnell,
my great, great Irish uncle
wrote the words.

Notre Dame, Our Mother
Tender, Strong, and True
Proudly in the Heavens
Gleams Thy Gold and Blue
Glory's Mantle Cloaks Thee
Golden is Thy Fame
And Our Hearts Forever 
Praise Thee, Notre Dame
And Our Hearts Forever
Love Thee Notre Dame