Searching…

Each day, we search within ourselves to find beauty that soothes us during these pandemic times. I’ve always loved flowers and what they symbolize: New Life and Hope. But I’ve never had a green thumb – hubby has two for both of us. Given the fact of living under a dismal cloud since March, blooms have been more dazzling than in past years. Did I value these precious gifts before? Or did I take them for granted? Have you wondered the same?

This weekend, I planted white alyssum and orange geraniums (of course, with the guidance of Mr. Hubby Green Thumb). Their brilliance enriches our landscape of pinks, purples, and reds. I’ll admit, though, the whole process was hard work, but I felt quite accomplished when the job was done. And when I gave them their first drink of water, it was as though I could hear them sigh…Now I have a better appreciation for those who find planting annuals and perennials cathartic.

We know beauty lies in many other forms, poetry for one, and recently, a friend sparked my interest in writing a Triolet poem, a form I’ve never dabbled in. So, because I’ve been profoundly drawn to flowers this year, below is my first Triolet attempt with them in mind…

Blossoms

They’ve graced us with their presence
But have we missed their shades in haste?
In this shelter are there lessons?
They’ve graced us with their presence
And mastered their attendance
With joy and beauty interlaced.
They’ve graced us with their presence
But have we missed their shades in haste?

I hope you enjoyed my Triolet and I’m sharing these blooms that were part of my Mother’s Day gifts from my husband. Lately, I’ve been into the vibrant oranges, yellows, and reds. Aren’t they gorgeous? 

The impact of Covid-19 has been different for all of us, but I hope you will search within to find some form of beauty each day to carry you through. Stay safe and well. 

Sending love and virtual hugs,
Lauren ❤❤❤

The Way it Was

Is there someone in your life who made a strong, positive impact? Someone who motivated you to step out of your comfort zone? My answer is yes, and this is my story:

The year is 1970…and tonight’s special performance takes place in my home where the center of the living room is my stage and an antique mahogany chair serves as a podium. A small cassette tape recorder rests on the floral cushioned seat. I wear a powder blue dress and my shoulder-length brown hair usually worn down is swept up into pigtails. I press play on the recorder and sing my heart out. My parents and aunt and uncle cheer me on from their seats, and following my curtsy when the last melody is sung, they tell me the show was phenomenal. That night remains as glowing as yesterday’s sunrise. I was nine years old but already knew I wanted to be a singer. Barbra Streisand became my vocal idol. Her voice wowed me the first time I heard it, and regardless of how often I listened to her, my arms would get goosebumps. During those years, I fell asleep each night with one of Barbra’s albums spinning on my record player, lulling me to sleep. Unbeknownst to the amazing singer, many a night we would perform a duet using my special hairbrush-microphone. I had a wild imagination and wanted to be just like her.

Whenever I had the chance, I held concerts in my room, imagining sold-out crowds. As a teenager, I joined school choirs, but it was not until my junior year of high school that I truly found the self-confidence to pursue my dream. That year, the music department welcomed a new teacher, Ron Perry. He was in his mid-twenties and became more of a friend to his students than a teacher. He treated us as equals, and over time, it was natural for us to call him Ron. During his first week, he focused on listening to us individually to determine what part we would sing. I was nervous when he called my name, but I managed to echo the notes he played on the piano, and was surprised when he praised my singing ability. I knew I could carry a tune, but to hear these encouraging words from the new teacher boosted my self-esteem. 

I became part of the alto section and the choir soon began working on a Christmas repertoire for the December concert. The solo offered was a jazzy version of “Silent Night” and I was one of several students who auditioned. I was thrilled to be chosen – this was my first solo. The concert took place in the school’s historic Louis E. Plummer Auditorium; with the plush red seats and bold red curtain, I felt privileged to perform a solo in this iconic building. Little did I know then that another big solo opportunity was on the horizon.

Ron continued his teaching outside of school as the director of his church choir. In the upcoming summer of 1978, the choir was going on tour to the east coast. He was generous to invite the high school choir to tryout if they wished to join the road trip adventure. I auditioned for the rock gospel solo but had not planned to, believing I only had a voice for ballads; the song was “Hallelujah” by the group, Seawind. Ron wanted me to tryout; he felt my voice would be good for the solo. My feelings were opposite. I told him that I couldn’t sing a rock song! I probably couldn’t even reach that high note! Despite my can’t-do attitude, I auditioned, executing that high note! I was one of three contenders, though – not a shoo-in, but the solo was mine. I was ecstatic and thanked Ron for nudging me. 

With auditions complete and summer approaching, the choir prepared for tour. Excitement bounced off the walls. Mostly teenagers, we traveled in a classic yellow school bus, leaving Southern California and heading across country. What a crazy, fun time that bus ride was, laughing and singing and getting to know each other while blazing through state lines. We had several performances on the calendar and we stayed in the various churches where the concerts were held. I performed “Hallelujah” in each concert and was exhilarated by the positive reactions.

When the tour ended, that rock solo led me to perform for a convention with an audience of more than 2000, and what an experience singing for so many people. Before I walked on stage, Ron told me that if I get nervous, to look above the heads and don’t make eye contact. He said that a smile makes you feel good, but a negative look can affect your singing. I must say, the far wall of the concert hall needed a paint job! Afterwards, the event planner praised my performance, and I held onto her words for what seemed like eternity. 

“Hallelujah” also paved the path to winning 2nd place in the senior talent show the following year. I have tucked vivid memories of that exciting evening into a corner of my mind. I opened up the second act singing the rock song. My pianist, Kathryn, started playing the introduction as the red velvet curtain rose. In spite of the butterflies in my stomach, I walked on stage into the limelight and began belting out the lyrics. Hearing the audience clap after I sang the last note whirled me into euphoria. I closed the act by singing Barbra’s “The Way We Were,” and the audience’s reaction was even more passionate than the first. So this is what it feels like, I thought. 

Lauren talent show 1979

Even though singing was my ultimate passion, my priorities shifted after graduation. I lived with my parents at the time but was ready for a taste of independence; however, the only way to make this happen was to quit college and begin earning a steady paycheck. I made the choice. I put this plan into action, placing my dream of a singing career on the back burner. Several years passed when I met the man who soon became my husband, and in the years to follow, our family grew when our daughter and son were born. But this life trajectory did not stop me from singing. My husband and children stayed entertained with my serenading around the house. I even joined local choirs. Eventually though, my time was devoted to family and less and less to singing. But I was proud when my daughter developed the same passion, adding harmony to those years.

Memories of listening to Barbra – becoming mesmerized by her beautiful voice and even her quirky, yet classy Brooklyn personality – remain a dynamic part of my youth. She inspired me to pursue something I truly loved and my high school experience was better for it. I was also fortunate to see her in concert at The Arrowhead Pond in Anaheim. When she strolled on stage in an elegant black gown, opening the concert with the song “As If We Never Said Good-Bye,” my eyes welled up. It was an evening of pure magic.

I believe most of us have a favorite teacher who made a great impact on our lives. Ron was that teacher for me. To say that he was influential sounds minimal. His way of encouraging me to try for those seemingly unreachable solos, jolted me into stepping out of my insecurities. Because of his faith in me, I danced into a world where if we try new things, pushing fear aside, there is a good chance for positive outcomes.

I had my moments in the spotlight. I felt the excitement and anticipation of walking onto that stage, listening to the inspiring buzz from the audience when I sang those first few words. I am grateful for this time in my life and I will always offer the sincerest appreciation to Barbra and Ron. If it were not for them, my passion would have fallen by the wayside without the chance to crescendo into such a memorable musical past.

Lauren Scott (c) 2020

I hope you enjoyed my walk down memory lane, and if you answered yes to my question and feel like sharing even a snippet of your story, I’d love to read about it. ❤

 

 

 

 

Letters in the Sky

A loving marriage lasting over six decades is as awe-inspiring as a star-filled night sky. I never grew tired of hearing my parents talk about how they met. Each detail was infused with love that put a twinkle in their eyes as they grew older.

It was springtime in Milwaukee when the city began to thaw and patio furniture came out of hibernation. Locals, excited for warmer temperatures, bid their parkas farewell and reached for shorts and sandals. It did not matter if the weather was only in the fifties; it was still much warmer than living through winter’s aggression. World War II had already begun. The atmosphere was unsettling.

The writing of my parents’ story would not have transpired without Dad’s friend, George. Dad was in the U.S. Army Air Force at the time but home on a 3-day pass. He happened to visit George at work one day at the bank, and walking into the bank’s entry, he noticed a beautiful gal with gorgeous legs sitting behind a desk. He was captivated.

mom

George managed to talk Mom into a blind date with Dad, but the condition was for George and his girlfriend to join in. And so, a double date was set. The beautiful young woman with the nice legs was nineteen and the handsome young gentleman was twenty-one when they met on June 29, 1941. The two couples enjoyed good conversation, laughter, dinner at Wegerman’s Resort at Pewaukee Lake, and dancing to the tunes of Tommy Dorsey and Glen Miller. This evening proved to be the spark that ignited my parent’s love for each other.

Do you believe in love at first sight? They did. Early the following year, Dad was informed that his squadron was to be dispatched to the European Theater. This news and the fact that he was in love with Mom complicated matters. He did not want to lose her, so he proposed, hoping with all his heart her answer would be yes. Her feelings matched his, but she declined Dad’s proposal because of the imminent uncertainty. Mom had never been impulsive, so had she left the decision up to her heart, she would have married him immediately. Dad was disappointed but respected her wishes. However, I should tell you that persistence turned into his new middle name.

Some time passed and while they were out for dinner one night, Dad asked Mom to marry him again. He felt a second try was worthwhile because she was the only woman who held his heart. In the restaurant, they sat on red velvet chairs and their table was dressed in a silky white tablecloth. Twinkle lights glistened above as Dad proposed in the glow of the soft-lit candle on their table. Restaurant patrons nearby witnessed this occasion, clapping when they heard her say, “Yes!” Mom offered her left hand as Dad slipped the solitaire on her ring finger. Its sparkle matched the tears of joy in her eyes. She loved him without a doubt and realized life will always be full of unknowns.

Dad was then stationed overseas for three years – a long time for them to be apart. They stayed in touch by old-fashioned letter writing, which enabled them to learn more about each other and grow closer while separated by an ocean and war. I imagine them holding the precious envelope to their cheek as though it was the cheek of their beloved. They professed their love as their letters flew back and forth among the cotton ball clouds in the sky, befitting as the glue in their long-distance relationship.

The year was 1945 and the weather was frosty in early February. Dad was fortunate to return to America on a “rotation plan,” meaning thirty days at home then returning to Italy. After taking a quick two weeks to plan their wedding, the aisle of the church sanctuary gracefully carried Mom towards her future husband on February 24th as he waited at the altar. She wore an ivory satin wedding gown that cost $39.95 and she looked as elegant and classy as Rita Hayworth. Dad looked handsome as ever in his Air Force Uniform. Following their honeymoon in Chicago at The Edgewater Beach Hotel on Lake Michigan, he returned to Europe and the ink on the stationery kept the fires burning until he was honorably discharged in September.

Mom and Dad wedding 1945

Over the years, their faces lit up when they told of those early memories. Their romance, love, and excitement danced in every sentence. Now that they have both passed, I miss the story-telling. I miss the animation in Dad’s voice and facial expressions, how Mom filled in the gaps where Dad left blank spaces, or how she fine-tuned his recollections. Their marriage was not devoid of struggles, but it was one of commitment and everlasting love. They were “attached at the hip.” He was her best friend and she was his.

As Dad once said, “That blind date blossomed into sixty-seven years of marriage, three lovely daughters, seven grandchildren, and thirteen great-grandchildren. So, I am very grateful to my friend, George!” To fall in love on a blind date, to hug good-bye in distressing war times, to stay in touch through handwritten letters, and to share seventy years is my parents’ story. Dad is not around to tell their tale anymore, nor is Mom to chime in when she should, but the memories stay vivid and their story is ageless. What a journey they traveled together through rainbows and rainstorms.

 

mom and baby lauren

Mom and guess who?

family

My family…
I have older sisters who are almost two years apart.
Then I came ten years later. 🙂

I hope you enjoyed my parent’s love story. ❤

Lauren Scott (c) 2020

 

 

 

 

Beauty along the way…

As Copper and I enjoyed our morning walk this morning,

Copper smelling the flowers by Steph

I couldn’t help notice the vibrant blooms along the way. Whether they blossom in our garden or in the neighborhood, they have served as an exceptional balm during this time of sheltering in place. Copper even knows when it’s time to slow down
and smell the flowers…

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“Miss Bougainvillea, luxuriant and sturdy,
unaware of her magical attributes.”
Yours truly

IMG_9827

“The earth laughs in flowers.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

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“Love is a flower you’ve got to let grow.”
John Lennon

IMG_9829

“The flowers of tomorrow are the seeds of today.”
Anonymous

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“After women, flowers are the most divine creation.”
🙂 Christian Dior 

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“Where flowers bloom, so does hope.”
Lady Bird Johnson

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“Bloom where you are planted.” Anonymous

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“But he who dares not grasp the thorn should never 
crave the rose.” Anne Bronte

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“Their colors bring infinite joy
as they are cared for with pride.
The thorns do not lessen their beauty –
not one delicate petal is denied.”
Yours truly – an excerpt from one of my poems

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“Deep in their roots, all flowers keep the light.”
Theodore Roethke

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“Spring has returned. The earth is like a child
who knows poems.”

Rainer Marina Wilke

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A Cup of Spring

Miss Spring sips her tea
as we anticipate
her arrival.

She says, “Be patient,
I will soon bring you
colors so pleasing

and new life, delightful.
But first, Mr. Winter
must finish acting
out his scene.”

Yours truly

I believe Miss Spring kept her promise and I hope these gorgeous blooms were as soothing to you as they were to me. 

Lauren

 

 

 

Poem in the San Francisco Chronicle!

Dear Friends,

I want to share that one of my poems, The Virus, was published in the SF Chronicle yesterday! This poem is a Palindrome (mirror poem) and after a writing friend read it, she suggested I send it in to the paper. To my surprise, it was published! So, this news from yesterday was a great start to my Friday and also a positive kick-off to the new month of May.

During the health crisis, I have often written in my journal, expressing how my family is affected and how we are faring in these uncertain times. Then some of those thoughts turned into poetry and the Palindrome form evolved. 

If you are interested in checking out the poem in the SF Chronicle, the links are below:

https://www.sfchronicle.com/opinion/

https://www.sfchronicle.com/opinion/letterstoeditor/article/Letters-to-the-Editor-poem-The-Virus-15238619.php

Otherwise, here is the poem:

The Virus

Its effect appears as shattering
As it slips unnoticed into homes,
When death numbers continue to rise
Like the Spanish flu filling tombs.
But each night there is howling
And each night there is singing,
So even under gray clouds hanging,
The music becomes encouraging
As we crawl through this haze.

Our spirits lift, feeling optimistic
When the darkness plays that song.
As voices make a touching statement
Needless boundaries are withdrawn.

Needless boundaries are withdrawn
As voices make a touching statement.
When darkness plays that song
Our spirits lift, feeling optimistic.
As we crawl through this haze
The music becomes encouraging,
So even under gray clouds hanging,
Each night there is singing
And each night there is howling.
Like the Spanish flu filling tombs
When death numbers continue to rise,
It slips unnoticed into homes,
The virus appears as shattering.

Lauren Scott Swalberg (c) 2020

I hope you enjoyed my poem and may you find a sense of calm and a glimmer of joy in your weekend as we continue on this unprecedented journey. 

~Lauren 💗

 

 

 

 

Grieving with a Backpack On

The inevitable is happening – turning sixty is only a few years away, so what better time to experience a new adventure? When my children were young, my husband, Matt, often took them backpacking, teaching them about his lifelong passion. I, on the other hand, had no interest whatsoever to carry a pack on my back. But since birthdays seemingly arrive faster and getting older is a sure thing, I was inspired to try something new. When the summer of 2017 came around, I told him I was ready to wear that pack and leave my footprints on the trail. I had enjoyed listening to my family’s tales of their past trips, but now I longed to be the narrator of my own stories.

Their trips were weekend get-a-ways, and although Matt had gone on two 50-milers in the past, these short outings were a subtle way of introducing backpacking to his family and much more manageable for his family. And so, my first trip was on a weekend in July, backpacking in Point Reyes not far from home. After pulling into the parking lot on a Friday afternoon, we “suited up” and I almost toppled over, feeling a bit like Lucille Ball in one of her slapstick scenes – although I managed to find balance eventually. 

When we found the trailhead, I had to document this new beginning with some photos, then we were on our way. The trail was fairly easy with a few minor inclines and dips. I tried to enjoy the scenery, but I was fixated on each step in my what-felt-like “moon” boots. The bulkiness took some getting used to, but it was humbling to carry everything I needed on my back. After just over an hour, we arrived at Coast Camp, sweaty and slightly dirty. Our site was nothing fancy, but it came with a picnic table which proved to be convenient. We set up the tent and made our wilderness bedroom as comfortable as possible. The trip was off to a great start…

We hiked around local trails, reveling in the beauty of the wildflowers – shades of yellows, reds, pinks, and purples – while the bees serenaded. We trekked down to the beach a few times where the temperature had dropped and the wind lost its temper. The ocean inhaled then exhaled, greeting us with a palpable roughness as if to say, “Don’t you dare come in.” We wouldn’t dare, but the sight was beautiful just the same. After trekking back to our campsite, we had a reaffirmed respect for the ocean.

Our dinners were convenient consisting of freeze-dried backpacking food such as beef stroganoff and chicken and dumplings. Occasionally, we indulged in our favorite desserts – raspberry crumble or apple crisp. All we had to do for hot meal preparation was heat water, pour, stir, wait a few minutes, and dinner was ready. In the morning when the sun rose, we had oatmeal and that cup of coffee, which hit the spot. Fruit, cheese, nuts, and sometimes, a little salami and crackers served as lunch. We definitely did not lack in nutrition or hunger.

We appreciated moments of sitting together in silence, reading, enjoying nature’s entertainment, or watching other hikers pass by. Everyone offered a familiar wave as though we were all members of the same backpacking club out for a weekend. Other than an unexpected allergy attack, the trip was a success. When Sunday morning arrived, knowing it was time to pack up and leave, I was sad that this amazing experience was coming to an end, yet I was eager for a hot shower. The drive home was picturesque on the quiet country roads with only the cows lifting their heads to see us as we drove by. We drifted into silence, absorbing the wonderful adventure we had together. A few days later, we jumped into the planning stages for our next adventure to Shealor Lakes in the Sierra for the following month.

Sometimes though, plans do not always work out. Soon after our July trip, my dad’s health suddenly weakened. He began having heart trouble, which initiated a much-needed hospital visit. Dad was ninety-seven years old, but surprisingly, he had never suffered through any major health issues. My family had no reason to believe he would not get the chance to blow out ninety-eight candles in two months. The only pain we knew he felt was missing Mom – his wife of sixty-seven years who had passed away five years prior. Dad was poked, prodded, and x-rayed, and after only three days in the hospital, he peacefully passed away.

It was all so strange – losing my dad, and at the same time having planned the trip. After talking to my sisters, they encouraged us to stick with our original plans. “It’s what Dad would want,” they said. I was unsure, but after much thought, we took my sisters’ advice. Yet, the slight guilt of going while it was all so fresh could not be ignored. If Dad was still in the hospital, I would have stayed, but he was at peace now, no longer suffering. In some otherworldly way, I felt his approval.

We began our four-hour drive a few days after Dad’s passing. After arriving, we unloaded our stuff and “suited up” just like on our first trip. While we prepared and packed, as well as on the drive, Matt repeated to me, “It’s only a mile and a half to the lake!” What he failed to mention was that the hike entailed an ascent over a huge granite dome. I stared at the dome that I was about to embark on and became anxious because I did not feel physically prepared. But Matt’s confidence in my ability was apparent, so we began the uphill hike. What was I going to do, back out now?

After hiking for forty-five minutes, we reached the top, and when I looked down that sleek granite dome, I was amazed at what I had achieved. Never underestimate our abilities. On the other side, Shealor Lake was in full view. We gave our legs a short rest, quenched our thirst and souls with water that tasted better than ever, then headed downhill with the enticing pull of the lake’s beauty. As we neared the bottom, my emotions ran wild. I felt relieved that we finally made it, but a sudden wave of grief washed over me. We removed our packs and rested on a nearby log. I was so overwhelmed that I did not fight the tears. I let them roll down my cheeks with purpose. I cried for the loss of Dad and I cried for having completed this hike that I did not think I was capable of. I would have wiggled out graciously had I known the details much earlier.

Once the last tear had fallen, I composed myself and looked to the lake. The water was a jeweled phenomenon. It sparkled, inviting us for a swim. While we set up our back-country camp, the orange-hot sun blazed down on us as if we had drastically turned up the thermostat, so the cool lake water soothed our sun-kissed skin. The fact that we were all alone in this canyon full of forest and smooth granite was beyond welcoming. The tranquility offered me the chance to reminisce about Dad and my parents together. The solitude afforded a perfect destination to grieve, think, remember, and cry. Mourning the loss of one parent was difficult enough, but losing both felt surreal – a new stage of life had begun.

This Sierra adventure provided a chance for hiking and granite-rock hopping. The sun was our alarm clock, bidding us good morning and night as it rose and faded behind the hills. In the evenings, we sat mesmerized by the campfire’s dancing flames and were enchanted by the dark, star-sprinkled sky. No matter where we explored, magic wrapped us in its warm embrace. This trip challenged my mind, body, and soul. I gained insight into my deepest being, learning not to limit myself. This amazing destination and experience proved to be the best medicine.

I approached that summer with enthusiasm for a new adventure to backpack and I am proud of my ascent over the granite dome. I often wonder if my grieving process would have been more difficult had I not agreed to go on the second trip. I will never know, but I believe I made the right choice at a time when my life unfortunately shifted in a hard-to-process direction. I thanked my sisters for encouraging us to go; their intuition knew it would be the right thing to do. Now, I can honestly say that my footprints are embedded in Point Reyes and the Sierra, and I am grateful to finally be my own narrator. I know Dad would be proud and I can not wait for a new story to emerge on the horizon.

Lauren Scott (c) 2020

 

 

 

Fair Day

My daughter and I had to carve out time for a day at the county fair since she is busy adulting these days. We stand in the line that snakes around endlessly for the Ferris Wheel, but our chance finally arrives. I step into the slightly swinging bucket, gripping the middle pole as a lifeline before sitting down. She relaxes across from me holding onto nothing. I want to be in her comfort zone. 

The ride begins to carry us higher and higher and knowing I’m wrestling with jittery nerves, she says, “Mom, you’ll be fine, just breathe.” Heeding her advice, I slowly inhale, and then look down; surprisingly, my stomach doesn’t flip. My eyes take in the scene unfolding below: fair patrons waiting for their turn in the sky resemble an ant colony. A summer breeze gently caresses my face; it soothes me as much as this moment does with my daughter.

daylight ferris wheel

“Hanging out with your grown-up kids is like visiting the best parts of yourself.” ~Anonymous

My husband and I had planned to visit our daughter this spring who lives across country. But now with sheltering-in-place, that’s not happening. So, it’s special memories like this one about the county fair day that keep us company until the powers-that-be lift the orders. And of course, there’s phone calls, Facetime, texting, and emailing. My husband still wonders what in the world mom and daughter manage to talk about for two hours. All I can say is when we chat, there is never a moment of silence!

Lauren Scott (c) 2020 💗