Sunday, August 26, 2007

Mother Teresa and Faith

I just read a newspaper article about how Mother Teresa struggled with her faith for the last 50 years of her life, with only a 5 week respite. During this time she could not feel or experience God's presence and questioned her belief in God and the value of her life's work. Although I have not yet read the book of her letters and writings documenting her "dark night of the soul", knowing that she went through this gives me a new appreciation of Mother Teresa's profound faith. Ironic?

To be lost in such persistent darkness and then to forge ahead anyway and continue to do the good works you once felt called to - well, to me that is faith personified. And to desire God the way she did, without feeling anything, without being certain of anything and yet, still desire this relationship with God - if this is not faith, what is? I believe that most of the saints experienced these times of darkness, but fifty years? I admire her courage to continue to search her soul and look within. Most of us, faced with such pain, would give up and reach for the TV, tranquilizers, work, cookies, whatever it takes to distract us from the dark truth of uncertainty.

I started this blog with the dark womb of transition and how I felt a bit lost as to where the road leads for me in my post-retirement world. I think I may have a new patron saint of persevering during dark times. Mother Teresa may turn out to be the champion of those who struggle with their faith.

Friday, August 17, 2007

The Mall and My Mom

OK I confess. I love to visit the Mall. Yes, the stores may be all the same, wherever in the world you are. Towns forfeit their uniqueness by admitting Malls into their midst. You give up that cute little craft shop on a tiny street with "absolutely no parking" for Gap, Bath & Body Shop, Victoria's Secret, etc. etc. You know what I mean.

So what attracts me? I can't buy more stuff. Where would I put it? And especially now, that I am trying so hard to de-clutter, to free myself from the bondage of material things. I have so many clothes that I can't remember what I have or where I put it. I keep buying duplicate colors of T-shirts. If I wore a different outfit every day, I wouldn't run out of clothes till 2008 or 2009!

So why do I love to go malling? For one thing, at the Mall you can be alone but not really alone. There's lots of distractions from dwelling on painful inner stuff (like getting old) and scary outer stuff (like the terrorist threat). Of course, the Mall brings up the challenge of "too much choice". But that's a good thing. When there are so many lovely things to choose from, I usually give up and buy nothing. Another important consideration, being on a fixed income. And the Mall is exciting. So many bargains. Which brings me to my Mom, who may be my model for malling.

My Mom could find bargains back in the days when "40, 50 and 75% off sales" were unheard of. And she could find bargains in unexpected places. Like the time she led me up escalators, zigzagged through aisles, and maneuvered around racks of dresses to a remote bargain corner in Bloomies. Amazing, given that I get lost in Bloomingdale's just trying to find the exit on the first floor! Yes, Mom would be in heaven (well she's there anyway) with today's bargains. Yet Mom never bought for herself. Her purchases were always gifts for others: her kids, grandkids, friends. She had a cache of gifties, waiting for the right recipient. Even when her gas was being turned off for non-payment of a bill, Mom would shop for her bargains. I felt guilty accepting her gifts when I knew her financial struggles. Then my brother John gave me an important insight. This was our mother's way of expressing her affection, which she had trouble doing in a touchy feely way. After that, I accepted her way of loving us. And I let the kids keep the dollars she would sneak into their pockets.

There's a lot of Mom in me and that includes the part that loves shopping. The Mall. A magical place. I even wrote a poem once. Read on.....

The Mall

The Mall

Ferocious forces lure me to
Cathedrals of consumer goods
to worship what I feign would shun,
to fill my emptiness with stuff
that sucks out all the breath inside

The hypocrite in me may boast
a knowing of uncommon depths.
Yet here I'm pleased to be among
Delusion's myriad delights.

I want to gaze and graze the fields
of nifty knick knacks no one needs,
while festive frocks ensnare my heart
and I succumb again
and buy!
but why?

Why do I love the drone of crowds
that mill about the merry mall?
Why do I frequent fast food courts
and eat contentedly alone
amidst the chattering tables?

Medieval mystery dwells today
in new millennium market fairs
wherever common folk abide
and artisans display their wares,
the marvels of their giftedness.

Don't judge the mall; her shoppers know
there is an awesome presence there.

Just be aware.
Be just.
Be free.
Enjoy the Mall.
And be.

Copyright E. M. Ramos 03/04/2002

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Creating Poetry

I see my poetry as a gift. Not only whatever skill or talent I may have, but each inspiration, each poem is a gift. Like certain music or artistic expression, poetry comes from a deep place within. It is the most intimate form of literature.

As I have noted before, most of my inspiration comes from nature, usually when I am walking. Which means I start memorizing the lines to myself until I can sit and write them down, although I have tried writing and walking at the same time. The poem I posted today "A Summer Afternoon" came to me one glorious day last month, while walking in the New York Botanical Garden. It was a top ten day - blue sky with wispy clouds which reminded me of the angel hair we used to put on the Christmas tree. Then I glanced up and saw in one of the streaky clouds all the colors of the rainbow, not a real shaped rainbow, but a patch of rainbow! I couldn't believe my eyes and began to ask strangers if they saw what I saw. "Get my camera" shouted one man. He saw it. And then, just as suddenly, it was gone. But I was inspired and a poem came. And now that I read that poem over, I see that it is a poem that expresses the deep gratitude I felt for all of God's creation, especially for that beautiful day.

My next step in writing is fun to me. I like my poems to have "beats", rhythm. I think it comes from my Math background. Or maybe my obsessive compulsive nature. And whether I like it or not, alliteration forces its way into my poetry. One of my favorite poets is Gerard Manley Hopkins, so that may explain it. Usually the words feel "right" somehow; but if not, there's always my trusty Thesaurus. Poetry, for me, is like painting with words.

To see my latest poem (which could be a work in progress), read on.

A Summer Afternoon

A Summer Afternoon

The sky is streaked with angel hair.
A rainbow glows where none should be.
Receive a day of untold gifts
to walk along the green graced paths,
brushed by a breath of sun,
to smile as ducks sail soundlessly
and watch the chipmunks play
to hear the hope of frog song
and revel in the caws and coos,
the chirps and tweets of life,
A rainbow melody.
A day to give thanks
for untold delights.
Copyright E.M. Ramos 7/22/2007

Friday, August 10, 2007

Good "Old" Summer

I wrote the following article many years ago for a parish newsletter to the homebound. And wouldn't you know! It's just how I've been feeling lately.

Good "Old" Summer

The season of summer sometimes reminds me of the season of late life --- old age! Just as the heat of summer weighs us down heavily and demands that we slow down, so too the losses of aging weigh us down and slow us up.

When I pause to rest and enjoy the lazy days of summer, I notice nature at peak productivity. There’s almost too much beauty to take in. We need time to see the butterfly on the blade of grass or the tiny flowers growing out of the hollow of the towering oak. Summer is God’s gift to us, an invitation to hang out with His creation and praise Him in His glory!

Can it be much the same with our experience of “old age”? When we need to walk slower because of arthritis, is this an opportunity to see what we once missed as we hurried on by? When friends and loved ones are no longer with us, we are left with our memories, our life stories. And perhaps, like with summer’s bounty, there is too much to take in all at once. One of the blessings of later life is time --- time to consider our own unique story, time to heal the hurts and celebrate the joys, time to grow in wisdom and to simply “hang out” with God.

Ministers to the homebound have a special role to play in this process of life review. They can listen to the stories of those they visit, without judging, fixing or giving unasked for advice. It helps to have a caring companion as we review our life journey with all its pain and laughter, triumphs and sorrows.

And as we discover that throughout our lives, God has been there holding us, supporting us and loving us, even when we were least aware of it, we thank Him for His gift of life.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007


It's been awhile since I've written. My Aunt Alice died one week ago today. She married my Uncle Ed, who was my godfather and my mother's only sibling, right after World War II. They lived with my grandparents and great aunt Kiki for awhile while my uncle went to college on the G.I. bill. My family lived downstairs, in the "flat" on the first floor of Kiki's three story apartment house.

I have so many happy memories of those times so long ago. Aunt Alice and Uncle Ed playing pinochle with Nanny and Pop-Pop, with my other Grandma and Grandpa, with my Uncle Val. Accusing Uncle Val of reading the cards in Nanny's glasses. Thanksgivings at the huge table my Dad built in the finished basement. Even after Aunt Alice and Uncle Ed moved to Pennsylvania, they would return each Thanksgiving. I see them around that table: my Dad carving the turkey, my Mom, Nanny and Pop-Pop, Kiki with her home baked pies, Aunt Alice and Uncle Ed, my sister, brothers, cousins and me. Now I am the oldest of that close "first family" of my childhood. And that is a hard place to be.

To learn more about Aunt Alice see my daughter's blog (sidebar).