Our Family Crest

Towards the end of January or early in February my son Sreejit (who is now called Sattvamrita) designed a family crest for us. Once he finished the design, he asked a friend to draw it.

I think it is beautiful. His dad is a black bear; I am a polar bear; his sister Chaitanya is a black panther and her husband Akshay is a lion; and Sattvamrita is a wolf. We are all on Devi’s (Goddess) lotus with her weapons (for protection) behind us.

I will enjoy looking at this crest for years to come. Great idea Sattvamrita!

When you feel like darkness has you bound…

My daughter Chaitanya and my son Sreejit (now Br. Sattvamrita Chaitanya) live at Amma’s Amritapuri ashram in Kerala, India. People from all religions come to Amma, and all religions are respected.

For ten years, my son and daughter were very instrumental in creating the Christmas play that was performed on Christmas Eve. My daughter wrote and directed the plays and Sattvamrita and his friends composed most of the tunes. The plays were performed in the style of Broadway musicals.

One of my favorite musicals was the one in December, 2012. It was titled God is Able. The setting was a Southern style Gospel church. Sattvamrita was the preacher! The story line included the stories of Moses leading the Jews to the promised land, Rachael being healed by touching Jesus’ garment, and a fictional account of the heart of an angry store keeper being healed.

I will never forget the moment in the play when the stage doors opened and the sparkling “Gospel Choir” became visible. It seemed like everyone in the auditorium did a collective gasp. Part of the reason I remember the gasp and the thunderous applause and shouts that followed the song so well is that I was part of the choir!!!

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Two or three days ago, I noticed that someone had visited my blog and found a post I had written about that play. The post contained the song our choir had sung; it was titled Dear God. The tune was written by Sattvamrita and the lyrics by Chaitanya. 

I found the post and pressed the Dear God play button. As soon as the song began, I burst into tears; the deepest tears I have felt in many years. I think the tears were particularly sparked by hearing my son’s voice. It is stressful being on the other side of the world from my “kids” during the pandemic even though all of us are doing fine.

I’m still crying each time I play the song. In addition to hearing Sattvamrita’s voice, my tears may be from the message that the song holds, from the beauty of the music, and/or from reliving the memories of that magical night.

The mp3 recording and the lyrics are below.  I hope you enjoy it.

When you feel like darkness has you bound
And you can’t see any way to get out
There’s a power which surrounds us all
Through God anything is possible

Never fear
Never let your doubts draw near
With courage face all that comes
Put your trust into God’s arms
He’ll protect you from all harm
His love will carry you on through

Dear God, hold us tight never let us leave thy sight
Dear God, fill our soul with your love make us whole

Sattvamrita singing above the choir:

God is able to calm the wild storm
God is able to make the weak strong
God is able to bring change within
God is able to do all things

Weekly Photo Challenge: Atop

Several years ago, my brother sent me copies of some of my father’s photos. I decided to look through those for examples of “Atop.” I found some good ones!

Atop the carousel horse

 

Atop my chair

 

Atop the stairs on my grandparents’ houseboat

 

Atop the post

 

With my father atop the horse

Weekly Photo Challenge: Atop

Amritapuri Christmas Play: The Loving Father

The Amritapuri Christmas play this year was based on Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son; with the main focus being on the love of the father. No  names are used in the parable, so for the play the father was called Jonas, and his sons were Jeremiah and Matthew. Matthew was the son who left home.

Here are a selection of photos from the production. (If you click on the gallery the photos will be enlarged.)

There were so  many beautiful songs. I’m going to share the audio from my two favorites. This first one, “I Search My Soul,” was written by my son Sreejit. In it, Jonas, Jeremiah and Matthew are singing simultaneously as they look within themselves.

Most of the songs in the play are original. There was one song though, that is commonly used by churches in plays about the prodigal son. Some of the words were changed to fit the script for this production, but it is basically the same as When God Ran written by Phillips, Craig and Dean.  The song is so moving. I still cry every time I listen to it.

I feel full of gratitude for everyone that worked together to create The Loving Father.

Thanks to Chaitanya who wrote the script and co-directed the play.

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Thanks to Devapriya who choreographed the dances.

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Thanks to Devika who co-directed the play with Chaitanya and played the role of Jesus.

Thanks to Jani who spends countless hours designing and sewing the costumes.

In most plays in India, the actors are not actually talking or singing. There is a group of musicians and singers who sit to the side of the stage who provide the instrumentation and the voices. So a special thanks to all of the musicians and singers who worked night and day to create and learn the dialogue and songs for this production.

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And of course endless thanks to all the actors and dancers as well as those who sewed costumes, translated, created props, prepared power point slides, and set up and ran the lighting… and to anyone I forgot to mention.

To see all of the posts in this Amritapuri series, click here.

Daily Prompt: Banned

When I saw yesterday’s Daily Prompt was “Banned”, a memory came to my mind. Before I share what I recalled, let me give some back history.

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When my son Sreejit was a teenager he was into heavy metal rock music; he listened to it, played it on his guitar, and sang it. He wore black clothes most of the time. He even asked me to go to a couple of heavy metal concerts with him. It took some persuasion on his part, but I did go to hear LA Guns and Alice in Chains.

I drew a limit though when he decided he wanted a tattoo. There was no way I was going to support him in doing something that would permanently alter his body.

As I think about it today, I realize it was a good example of setting structure as a parent. As defined by Jean Illsley Clarke, there are four kinds of structure; rigid structure, non-negotiable rules, negotiable rules, and abandonment (no structure). Rigid structure and abandonment are forms of unhealthy structure; non-negotiable rules and negotiable rules are healthy. Non-negotiable rules should be based on safety of the child and/or family values. For me, no tattoo was a non-negotiable rule, it was banned.

Fast forward to 2013. Sreejit was visiting Seattle for the first time in several years. (He lives in Amritapuri, India.) His driver’s license had expired since his last visit, so he asked me if I would take him to get a tattoo. I was happy to do that. When he got back into the car, he showed me his new bicep tattoo.

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The words are Sanskrit and they mean “Through renunciation alone is immortality attained.” It is the motto of Amma’s ashram, the place where he lives.

Later Sreejit said to me, “I was pretty surprised you were willing to drive me to  get a tattoo.”  “Why wouldn’t I?” I asked.  “When I was a kid you were so against it.”  “That’s true, but you aren’t a kid any more!”  “Yeah, I figured, what am I waiting for?  I’m nearly forty.”

When I reflected on this interaction, I found it interesting that disapproval or questioning his decision didn’t even occur to me. Tattoos were more common in 2013’s culture than when he was a teenager, but that aside, it was truly okay with me for him to live his own life. If his life was in danger, or I thought something he wanted to do was extremely unwise, I would say so, but as an adult living on his own, there was no place in our relationship for rules.

I love having the memory of that shared experience, and appreciate the tangible example of how our relationship has moved to one that is adult to adult….. although for part of me Sreejit will always be my baby!

 

Written for Daily Prompt: Banned

A Stroll Down Memory Lane: 1973-74

Al and I moved into our home on Seattle’s Beacon Hill in November of 1973.  The house was built in 1925. I was attracted to it because it felt like a house in the country. For the last 43 years, I have continued to feel as if I am living in the country even though in reality I’m only three miles from downtown Seattle.

I grew up in the army and my family moved every three years. I resolved that I would never do that to myself or my children and I didn’t. Recently, I came across some photographs that I had taken in 1974.  I did a major remodel in the mid-80’s so the inside of the house looks very different than it did when we moved in. I doubt there are many people in my life now that would remember it ever having looked like this. In fact, I even wonder if my son and daughter will recognize it.

When we bought the house, it was considered a one-bedroom house; the upstairs was seen as an attic. In 1973, this was that bedroom. I believe I made the yellow curtains. This room was converted to a meditation room in the late 80′ and still is.

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The basement had a small area that was finished. We considered that to be the “family room.” I laughed when I saw the paisley chair in the photo. I shouldn’t have been surprised since the wall-to-wall carpeting we had in the dining and living rooms upstairs was burnt orange. After all, it was the 70’s! I haven’t seen a phone like the one in the picture for a long time.

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The rest of the basement was unfinished. There was a laundry chute that went from the main floor to the basement. Or to be more accurate, there was what looked like a cabinet door in the hallway of the main floor. If you opened that door you found a hole. When we threw the laundry down the hole, it landed on the basement floor. I was horrified when, as adults, my son and daughter laughed about how they used to jump down that hole. I wonder what else they did that I don’t know about.

The pipe on the left side of this photo connected a wood stove to a chimney.

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I was excited that we would be able to have a garden. Here are pictures of some of the vegetables from our first harvest. I still have the pan that is in the last photo.

I’m trying to figure out what the vegetable is that is in that pan. It doesn’t look like lettuce. Could it be mustard greens? They seem too light green for that but I don’t have another guess.

My pride and joy was the basement pantry. I know we had concord grapes in the yard but I doubt I would have put grape jam or jelly in a jar that big. We also had cherries but the fruit in the jar looks too small to be cherries. The jars next to that one seem to be filled with pears.

I remember canning pickles but I’m stumped by the jars in the bottom left corner.  I made applesauce in those days, I think, but the contents don’t look like applesauce. It looks a little bit like corn but the raccoons ate the only corn we  grew.

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On the back of the next photo, it says “photo of part of our back yard.” The blue spruce looks like our blue spruce. The trees to the right of it look like our neighbor’s trees. The view looks like our view. What is weird though is that our clothes line was a pulley style clothes line. It went from a high pole in the yard to the side of our kitchen porch.

Since the lines were on a pulley, there should have been only two ropes not three. And it looks like there was a totem pole in the bottom third of the photo. I don’t remember anything like that. The structures on the right side of the photo are completely unfamiliar. I sent the picture to Al to see what he thought. He can’t figure it out either.

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Here is what that same shot would look like today. The pulley is still there but since the trees have grown so much, it had to be placed further out in the yard and is much higher. Now it is connected way up on the blue spruce.

As you can see in the 1974 picture, in those days I could show the whole blue spruce in one photo. Now it takes two photos to capture the entire tree. I would guess the spruce is at least 150 feet high at this point.

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I have really enjoyed looking at these photographs from my past. Thank you for accompanying me on my stroll down memory lane.

cropped-senior-salon Shared on Senior Salon

Surprising Discoveries

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This past Father’s Day, I received an email from my brother saying that he thought I might be interested in reading a post his son had written about our father. http://carolineevan.com/grandpa-smith-the-photographer-a-fathers-day-post

I left home when I was 17 years old, and had very little contact with my family afterwards. So even before I opened the link, I was surprised to see my father described as a photographer. When I clicked on it, I was further surprised to find out that my nephew, Evan, and his wife, Caroline, are professional photographers.

I took some photographs during my high school and college years, and some when my children were young, but it was definitely not a major focus in my life. In fact, I have spent most of my adult life believing that taking and looking at photographs kept people from being in the present.

When I started this blog, I used no photographs other than an occasional one I found on Wikimedia. But soon a new world opened up to me. Now, photographs I have taken are a major part of the posts I write. So to find out my nephew is a photographer and that he considered my father to be one as well was indeed a surprising discovery.

I have no memory of my father using a camera, but one or two years ago my brother converted a lot of family photos to digital ones. He mentioned my father’s interest in photography at that time and sent me some of the photographs.

It was fascinating to read about my father from Evan’s perspective. I was also interested in seeing photographs of my father that someone else had taken during the Korean War. I had never seen any of these before.

I also appreciated the opportunity to see some of the photographs he had taken during the Korean war.

Thank you Evan for writing your tribute to your grandfather. It certainly opened up new perspectives for me.

On Living and Dying Day 8 by Alfred Poole

When I woke up this morning, I found an email notice in my inbox saying this post had gone up on The Seeker’s Dungeon. As I read through it, I received what was probably the biggest surprise in my life, and an incredible Mother’s Day present.

For those of you who don’t know, Al is my ex husband and father of Sreejit and Chaitanya. Our life has gone through so many phases. Sometimes our paths merged or were side by side, sometimes they were close together and for many years there was a lot of distance between us, even though we still worked together in raising our children.

I think this post is a great reminder to me, and others, that you never know where life’s road will take you and that healing of relationships can and does happen.

I feel very blessed.

I Love You…

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The Challenge for Growth Prompt that started on February 2 was to say something to a child that you wish someone had said to you when you were young.  I practice a developmental form of psychotherapy that derives from Transactional Analysis.  It uses a model that says that inside of us we have a parent part, an adult part and a child part.  There are subdivisions of these parts as well.

As clients heal from their childhood traumas and learn to parent their inner children in healthy ways, I have plenty of opportunity to talk to their child parts.  As a result, I say many things that I wish had been said to me.

There are six stages of development and each one has its own developmental tasks.  For example the first stage is called the Being stage.  It lasts from 0 to 6 months of life.  Two of the tasks children are supposed to learn during the Being stage are that they are loved and wanted and that their needs are important.  If those tasks aren’t learned, it may leave a developmental gap that could last throughout life.

Pamela Levin and Jean I. Clarke both created sets of developmentally based affirmations.  Pamela’s series offers five affirmations for each stage and Jean’s has seven or eight.  Jean includes a “Love” affirmation for each stage.  If you look below, you will see the developmental tasks, the age ranges, and the Love affirmations.  A child needs to begin hearing the affirmation when the developmental stage starts and continue hearing it forever.  For example, we need to hear that we are loved and cared for from the beginning of our lives until the end.

 

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Being (0-6 months)
I love and care for you willingly.

 

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Doing (6-18 months)
I love you when you are active and when you are quiet.

 

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Thinking (18 months to 3 years)
You can become separate from me and I will continue to love you.

 

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Identity and Power (3 -6 years)
I love who you are.

 

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Structure (6-12 years)
I love you even when we differ; I love growing with you.

 

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Identity, Sexuality and Separation (13- 18 years)
My love is always with you.  I trust you to ask for my support.

 

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Interdependence (Adult)
You are lovable at every age.

 

Consider saying the age appropriate Love affirmations to children that you know… and to the “children” that live within you!

***

To learn more about the stages of development, the developmental affirmations, and how to fill in developmental gaps read:

Cycles of Power by Pamela Levin

Growing Up Again by Jean Illsley Clarke and Connie Dawson

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Life Imitates Art

Two ideas came to my mind when I read the Weekly Photo Challenge for this week.

Last summer I visited Martin Luther King Jr’s National Historic Site in Atlanta, Georgia.  Some of the exhibits were interactive.  In one we were able to “walk” alongside sculptures of the civil right’s marchers.  My heart was moved by participating in this way.

Cheri, the person who wrote this week’s challenge, also suggested that we consider creating a new version of an old photo.

Her words reminded me of two photographs I was given after my mother died.  They are of my parents with their closest friends.

The first was taken in 1943. My mother and father are on the right side of the picture.  My mother’s sister is in the middle.  The men met their future wives and each other during World War 2.  They remained friends throughout their lives and were family to me during my childhood.

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This is the photo they recreated, in the late 70’s or early 80’s.

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As I gaze at this picture now, I’m aware that they have all passed from this world except for the woman on the left.  She is now 96 years old!