Wednesday, August 3, 2016

A Tale Of Two Shells

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. (Thank you Charles Dickens)

They started out together. Two pieces forming one whole.

When I found them on the Florida beach, the separating had already begun. They sat, still slightly together, but now, wide open, suggesting change.
It was sunrise.
I snapped a photo. Picked them up. Took them home.

They fell completely apart.

I stored them in my drawer, tucked beneath my underwear and socks.

A few weeks ago I discovered them. I bought them out, feeling their ridges, holding each to my ear and hearing in each, their birth place, the Sea.

"Listening is only the beginning."

took them to a special place, a walking trail, to remember.

There I made a wonderful discovery. 
Placed together they formed a heart. 
A heart with wings.

It has been over two years since my divorce, and I am continuing to heal. The aftermath has been grueling but also liberating.  

I have learned to love myself, nurture myself, care tenderly and gently for myself. I extend the same patience and compassion I have tried to show others now to me, as I continue to recover from the devastation divorce brings.

There have been so many challenges, but the greatest one has been to resist closing down my heart for good. I have often imagined placing a "No Trespassing" sign at its door. Protecting myself from hurt in the future sounds reasonable and appropriate. 

But...BUT, that would trap me in a world of isolation. I needed to go there to heal for a time, but I choose not to stay there.

I refuse to give up on love.

Reminders of the possibility of love find me in odd places. Like a cherry I was about to eat that looks like a heart, which I took to Valley Forge Park for a photo shoot. My daughter Lisa-Noel got quite the kick out of my subject as we hiked around together. (And yes, that's where the photo above came from!)

Then there was this poem. A reminder, that even when the world appears to be ending, love, quietly, prevails.

In Time
by WS Merwin

The night the world was going to end
when we heard those explosions not far away
and the loudspeakers telling us
about the vast fires on the backwater
consuming undisclosed remnants
and warning us over and over
to stay indoors and make no signals
you stood at the open window
the light of one candle back in the room
we put on high boots to be ready 
for wherever we might have to go
and we got out the oysters and sat
at the small table feeding them
to each other first with the fork
then from our mouths to each other
until there were none and we stood up
and started to dance without music
slowly we danced around and around
in circles and after a while we hummed
when the world was about to end
all those years, all those nights ago

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Easter Arrival

The bedcover is pink and white, broadly checked, and when I pull it up to my neck at night in my new bedroom, I feel safe, secure, at rest.

It's taken me a long time to get here, but boy is my arrival here in Bethlehem sweet. Bethlehem, as in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, "The Christmas City."

The perfect place for a girl who loves all things Christmas to land...on her feet.

Thanks to those who have prayed for me in recent months...years, actually, as I saw my life change dramatically. 

Tomorrow is Easter. 

When I was a girl, I recall one Easter with special fondness. It was the Easter I flew a kite. A simple plastic one that you put a wooden stick in the back of in order to keep its wings extended. The wind caught it, just so, and I sat down on a grassy bank, holding the string, letting more and more out, smiling as it sailed up in the sky, bobbing and darting with the currents of the wind.

I think that may have been the Easter I ate most of my candy- bunnies, peanut butter eggs, a peep or two(maybe three or four!) in one day. Fresh air does make a girl hungry, after all.

Know what I love about flying a kite? That you have to run, holding it up at first with your hands, letting the string out, hoping for it to catch the magical currents of the wind enough to pull it up, as you're craning your neck, looking back as you continue to run forward, watching it ascend, and the joy, the jump up and down in your heart kind of joy as you see and feel the wind do what only the wind can as it takes the kite higher.

When Christ died on the cross the wind fell silent. Still. But only for three days and nights.

I look back now and I imagine I can see it, that mighty wind of the spirit breaking through, roaring, pushing away the huge stone at the mouth of the tomb as if it were a mere pebble. Then blowing gently into his nostrils and his mouth, God the Spirit, bending close, giving holy resuscitation. 

I can testify to this. Resurrection is real. The wind is true. 

So much in my life fell silent a couple years ago. But God's wind blew. Is blowing.

Definitely time to get out my kite!

Have a wonderful Easter, with Love, Always. XOXO

Monday, February 8, 2016

A Tribute To Gable

A big black dog.
When Amber told me she and John were adopting a greyhound, I wasn't sure what to expect. The first time I met Gable, in their small one bedroom apartment, I was shocked by his size.
Tall and lean. Towering over Lily, who isn't a small dog herself.
Knowing his background as a racing dog, I approached slowly, gently.
He backed away, anxious. 
He followed Amber everywhere those first weeks. She wanted a companion while John worked the overnight shift, and Gaby provided that instantly.
I laugh remembering the first time I took him for a walk. He wasn't too sure of me yet, but once I held his leash and asked "Want to go for a walk Gable?" he happily let me put the leash on.
Out we went. Gable already appeared to have a certain route in his mind. When I tried to go a different way, he let me know, quite clearly. He stopped like a statue, not budging an inch, no matter how much I tried to convince him. 
Needless to say, I went the way Gaby wanted to go, hoping I could eventually get him back to the house.
This became a pattern with us. We became close. He was my first grand dog. If he wanted to go out, I took him. If he wanted a treat, I gave it. 
The joys of being Grammy.
Sadly, Gable spent the first years of his life mostly in a cage, being confined and probably abused with one goal in mind- human entertainment. Each pup in his litter was given a name based on a Clint Eastwood Movie. Gaby's official name was "Unforgiven." 
I cringed when I heard that. Certainly not a name worthy of such an awesome dog- no way was he "Unforgiven." 
That name was forgotten and replaced with a bunch of goofy nicknames like "Shibby" "Gablaroni" or "Awkward Jenkins."
In spite of his past, when Gable was given the chance to have a new beginning, he took it with an open heart. Amber said, almost immediately after getting him, he no longer wanted anything to do with his crate. Some greyhounds only feel secure in them, but Gaby appreciated his new found freedom, choosing to sleep instead on a comfy bed next to his parents.
The more pillows or blankets, the better for him. Greyhounds are so lean and bony, that having plenty of cushion helps them to be comfortable.
The morning of January 2nd I took Gable out for a walk. 
On our way back to the apartment he did his sweet little prance. We walked in step together, as I stroked him between his ears and told him how much I loved him.
I didn't know it would be our last walk together.
I don't want to share the details of his unexpected death. It was painful for him and for Amber and John. And it was only the last few hours of his life. A life that touched so many.
Instead, I celebrate his life. The joy he brought to those who he embraced with his gentleness. 
As I laid on Amber and John's couch looking up at the beautiful black and white photo Amber has of him on the wall, I thought of what Gaby taught me...
That if you have a chance for a do-over, a new beginning... Go for it, with all your heart.
Thank you boy. 
Rest in peace. We will see you on the other side.

Lily and Gable were best friends. Taking them out to walk together was no small feat, but I loved doing it. We referred to them as "ebony and ivory!"

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Fluttering Wings

As I approach the manger, like the little drummer boy I wonder, what can I give? I have no gold, frankincense, or myrrh. I don't even play an instrument.
But what I do have are these words.
Humbly, I offer this story as my gift, to the baby Jesus, Saviour of the world.
And to his mother, who said yes.
For what child can be born without a mother? 


Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

The sky was gone. 
Replaced by a mist that wrapped itself around the evergreens, making them look like ghosts. 
When the first movement came, it startled her, just a flutter, a feeling of delicately forming wings deep inside. Three days before Christmas.
The mist began to lift.


The sky was steely grey, the air, cold and damp.
She returned to her studying, nestled in the back corner of the large campus library. The first snowflakes were descending outside, making it hard for her to concentrate, a welcome distraction as she struggled to conjugate the Spanish verbs which normally came easy. But now, there was this voice throwing a wrench into all of it.
What if you’re pregnant?
She shook her head. 
Stop it, just stop it. She’d been careful. She was always careful. 
She drooped down further into the hard plastic chair.
Except for missing those couple days of her pills, the weekend she and Derek went away to hike and she forgot to bring them.
Her heart sank. But her hands went immediately to her stomach. 
Her eyes glanced longingly outside.
The snowflakes grew larger. They started to stick all over the sidewalks, on the grass.


The sky was pitch black, filled with stars.
The angel was huge, towering over Mary in a way that frightened her. She rubbed her eyes, shook her head, certain this was a dream, pulling up the light sheet that covered her to her neck.  Just roll over and go back to sleep.
But He remained. Looking down at her. The light from his clothing was so bright she could see it even with her eyes closed. 
She got out of bed, stood in front of him. 
He spoke.
It made her tremble. Deep inside. And she couldn't stop the shaking. Her heart quickened and grew larger with the angel’s words.
She simply bowed her head, said yes, and God gently hovered, planting His seed.
A shooting star fell just outside her window.


The sky was dark with thunderclouds, hanging low.
His words were talons. Sharp. She fell to the ground beside his car.
“How could you be so stupid? Why didn't you tell me you hadn't brought your pills? I wouldn't have touched you.”
Softly, her head bowed, “I did tell you. You didn't listen. You never listen.
“So now you’re gonna blame me?”
He was pacing, back and forth, anger in every stride. She never thought he'd be like this. She pulled her knees up to her chest, prepared for the next attack.
He looked up at the grey, heavy sky, shaking his fist. Raindrops started to fall.
“This can’t be happening. This can’t be happening! My brilliant girlfriend gets herself knocked up. I always said you were too smart for your own good.”
He kicked at some small stones with the toes of his converse sneakers. They sprayed all over her.
“You’re not considering having this kid, are you? Neither of us are ready for this Katharine. You know that right?”
This time she was the one not listening. Instead she was remembering. Her best friend’s warning. This guy isn’t right for you. Too possessive. Too selfish. 
She got up and walked away.
He got into his fancy car,  the tires screeching as he turned sharply out of the parking lot. He didn't look back once.
But she did.
The dark clouds opened up and the rain came down, hard, drenching her.


The sky was a brilliant blue with puffy white clouds.
When she awoke, she was changed. A song arose within her and it spilled out from her lips as she laid on her back, her face towards heaven, praising God for visiting her and blessing her.
Throughout the day her heart sang. Its melody reached her mother first. 
“You must be excited to see Joseph tonight.”
She stopped sweeping, laid the broom aside, and looked at her mother, squarely. 
A ray of sunlight blinded her temporarily. She lifted her hand to shield her eyes.
“Momma, I'm so excited! There’s something I need to tell you.”
Together they sat on the bench in front of their house.
“An angel of God came to me last night Momma. He told me Yahweh chose me to bear His son. I believe I am pregnant by the Holy Spirit.”
Her mother’s face was blank. 
She wasn't sure how to respond. Her daughter was engaged to another family’s son. This didn't make sense. She was level headed. 
“I’m sure you just had a very vivid dream.”
Mary replied, boldly.
“It was not a dream.”
She shared the details of the visitation, hoping to see support on her mother’s face. Instead shock gave way to a strange discomfort, maybe even dismay.
Her own mother didn't believe.
The puffy clouds blocked the sun, but only for a moment.


The sky was pink as the sun hastened down towards the horizon.
Her cell phone rang just as she was about to take a nap. She was exhausted lately. Typical of early pregnancy from what she read on the Internet.
It was Derek. She considered not answering, still deeply wounded from their encounter a couple days before. 
She didn't respond.
“You there? Hey, I'm sorry for the way I reacted the other day. I was just so blown away by the news. Can I come over so we can talk?”
She was hopeful. Maybe he was taking responsibility. 
When he walked into her room she suddenly felt queasy. He tried to pull her into his arms and she stiffened. 
“Hey baby, it’s okay. It’s all gonna be fine. I love you.”
She softened, leaned into his chest. He smelled woodsy and familiar, and as she looked up into his eyes she was mesmerized, their deep blue drawing her in. She didn't want to make this decision without him.
Before she knew it they were naked, exploring the familiar territory of each other’s bodies. She was a virgin when she met him. He was her first love.
The sun set, completely, and the sky grew dark.
“I spoke with my parents. Told them about this situation we’re in.”
She didn't respond.
“We’re too young for this Katie. We haven't finished college, don't have jobs. I know I'm not ready to be a Dad yet. And I don't think you’re ready to be a Mom. You have grad school just ahead, and so much you want to do before having kids. Me too.”
The queasy feeling returned. She swallowed hard.
“They offered to pay for an abortion.”
Tears came to her eyes. The same advice came from her parents. Your future is so bright. You can have a child later, once you get your career going. 
Of course. 
Her head told her they were right. She wasn't ready for this. Not at all. A close friend had an abortion a few months ago. She went with her, helped her afterwards. 
It was the best solution.
They held each other for a while longer before he got up, dressed, and left.
There were no stars to be seen in the sky that night.


The sky was early morning red. A warning.
She missed her period. The seed was growing.
Joseph was coming to see her later. He grew more uncomfortable in her presence. He wanted to believe her story, tried to, but he was only a man.
She understood. 
Her own family questioned her constantly, just with their glances. Some in the community shunned her as she walked in the marketplace. Her family kept her close, afraid of the judgement that had already started in their own hearts.
He sat down, holding her hand limply, like it wasn't even there.
“I can’t be a father to someone else’s child.”
“Not even God’s?”
“Mary, every child is from God.”
She looked up at him, placing her hand firmly on top of his.
“Search your heart, Joseph.”
He pulled his hand away, turning his face from hers.
He heard thunder in the distance.
“I have. The engagement is off. But I will do this as quickly and quietly as possible. I don't want to hurt you.”
She tried to hold back the tears. He already had.
She left. Practically running all the way to see her cousin Elizabeth.
The angel made a second appearance. To Joseph.
The storm blew in and lightning flashed, illuminating the entire sky.


The sky was charcoal.
The delicate fluttering inside became stronger wings that pushed their way out of her womb and into the waiting world.
Light appeared. 
She named her Dawn Marie.


The sky was twilight, and fireflies began to dance.
She reached over, gently grabbed his arm, and pulled him away, just to the side of the tent that was set up for the guests at the wedding. The music continued as people danced, celebrating earnestly. 
She noticed. They were almost out of wine.
Into his ear.
“You must do something. They are almost out of wine, son.”
A deep breath. A sigh. A shake of his head.
“It’s not my time yet. I’m not ready.”
She squeezed his arm, looked into his eyes with purpose. 
She knew better.
“Yes it is.”
Turning to the servants she said, “Do whatever he says.”
They wisely listened to them both.
The best wine was served last, a surprise to all who attended.


The sky was a pure Christmas white, beautifully wide open.
Katharine and Tim found a couple seats towards the front. The auditorium was filling up quickly. 
She was nervous. How funny. 
He leaned close, squeezed her hand, and whispered in her ear.
“She’ll do just fine.”
She touched his face with her hand and kissed him gently on his lips.
“Thank you.” 
The lights went out. The curtain opened.
There she stood, all by herself, the microphone just in front of her. The spotlight illuminated her white dress, and the wings on her back sparkled. They had worked for hours getting all that glitter onto those wings. 
Tears welled up in her eyes. 
She held her breath as her daughter spoke. Her young voice, so strong and distinct.

O Radiant Dawn
by Christine Rodgers

What could possibly come from this?
An infant just hours old on a bed of hay.
Why the jubilation? Because the angels
knew that straw
would one day blaze
in a crucible of love
transforming You
into the mighty
Alchemist - the One
who would buy back
the entire world.

In the brief hush that followed, Dawn found her mother’s face and smiled. She blew her a kiss just before the curtain closed, her wings fluttering as she turned.

Merry, Merry, Christmas
with so much love,

Danese XOXO

Monday, November 30, 2015

Ode To Ephram

Advent begins.

In some ways I feel it actually began on November 6, 2015, when a special little boy sent from heaven came to us.
His name is Ephram Gabriel, my grandson.
The first photo I posted on Facebook of the two of us included the phrase "Definitely love at first sight."
I can now add love growing deeper at second sight and third sight and every time I behold his sweet little face.
Like all newborn babies, he has managed to take over the lives of his parents. He demands attention.
And we all lovingly give it. 

Ode to Ephram

Definitely Love
the first time I saw you cradled
in your Mommy's arms, 
a radiant look of joy on her face
reminiscent of my joy the first moments
I held her close to my heart
28 years ago, where she always remains 
and now you are there too.

I kiss her and scoop you
up out of her arms, holding my breath
as tears come to my eyes and I
think, no I know, that I will
never be the same
for seeing your face changes me. 
You remind me of your Daddy, a man I love
as a son, and your sister, my first
grandchild who now 
gives you hugs and kisses.

When I hold you, rocking you
back and forth, back and forth
singing hush little baby
the hush is my own as your 
sleeping body fits snugly over
my left breast, your tiny head in
the hollow of my neck
and all of life becomes clear
in the breathing we do together.

Your name means fruitful. God is my strength.
And I get a glimpse of you,
a faithful gardener, bringing forth fruit
apples and oranges and pears
heavy on the trees you plant with your
cries and in between, your silences.
Your heart is full of seeds.
The planting has already begun.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Concrete and Wings

The photo made me smile from ear to ear.
My granddaughter, laid out on a wide windowsill, blanket over her little body, pretending to sleep. Then came another.
She was sitting on that same wide windowsill, playing with gel type Halloween decorations, and the light from the window illuminated her profile in a way that showed her beauty as she embraced so simply her moments there, looking outside and hearing her own unique voice inside. A voice that said I like this spot and I want to be here.
My second grandchild, Ephram, is due on November 5th. I can't wait to meet him.

My heart feels so full lately I think it might burst.

At the start of 2015 I began a new journal, affectionately calling it My Flight Journal. This year has certainly been one of stops and starts and winged adventures in between challenges and uncertainty.

As I now approach the end of this year, I am getting ready for my final flight out of my former life, a life that was lovely and immense, intense and hard, where my primary roles of being wife and mother beguiled me and took precedence, most of the time, over my own needs.

I have no regrets. Only a heart filled with thanksgiving for what has been, and what will always remain.

Now, like my beloved granddaughter, I lay on the windowsill of my home of 13 years, but only for a little while longer. I have slept more nights here than anywhere else my entire life. And I am preparing to say goodbye.

In preparation, I have been clearing out my basement, sorting and purging, reliving moments of my own as well as of my children. It's sad at times, but mostly a joy.

There are Dale's music books and Amber's vintage fabrics and Josiah's Star Wars toys and Chad's stuffed animals and Rebekah's soccer trophies and Lisa-Noel's lunch box collection. I find myself laughing often as photos or other memorabilia remind me of the fun we have shared here.

Here has been a good place.

Here is the nest my babies flew off from.

And now, so will I.

In a card I wrote to myself back in January 2014, I called this house an unusual dispensation. A divine provision for me to strengthen my wings and believe in my wings. I am grateful more than words can convey for this physical place.

Beloved pets are buried in the back yard. Two now huge lilac bushes, gifts from my kids, will bless the next occupants. I am praying for that next family who will live here.

I've been asked this question a few times...

"Do you know where you are going?"

No. No idea...yet.

But I see and feel Concrete. My feet are on Concrete. Concrete poured in my childhood in the basement of a Mennonite church. Concrete made clear in the form of the Nicene Creed. Recently that has been the topic of our Adult Forum class at church. I love how Dr. Paul, our teacher, shared that it is often out of our murky human circumstances that something beautiful arises.

Concrete that gives me the surest foundation imaginable, and is never dependent on a physical place.

It seems ironic to talk about concrete and flight together, doesn't it? But the paradox is true. That concrete has enabled me to lift off with my wings whenever I needed to. For example:

My wings helped me reduce a tax debt from 2012 with the IRS by several hundred dollars.
My wings enabled me to provide health insurance for me and my three youngest children.
My wings helped me find a new car after mine was totaled in an accident in July. Not ironically my new car, a spiffy little black 2007 Mazda3, has as its symbol Wings!
My wings gave me courage in two courtroom situations, to plead my case- and win.

My Wings give me inner vision and crystal clear direction. The concrete enables me to stand firm.

From that concrete I will use my wings to fly to my new nest in 2016. A new season of my life begins, and my single prayer is only that God will continue to use me to share that love bursting forth from my heart..

I appreciate your prayers as I prepare for lift-off!

 I wrote this poem September 28, 2015, and wanted to share it here. The words are also written below.


The wind blows, cool and crisp
rustling my long brown hair
its tendrils flying high
with colorful leaves
as I traverse the bank of the river

It's raining.
Seed pods.
Pieces of sky.

Henny Penny- the sky is falling
Don't you see it on your head?

The hawk lands
I feel his talons
dig into my skull
electrifying my scalp

He stays. Perched. Ready.
My neck strains with his weight.

River's rushing waters call,
"Go deeper. Go deeper. Don't wait!"

The hawk sees it, exactly.

He flies up, taking clumps of my hair
until he chooses the right moment
and the correct angle
to descend
cleanly piercing the surface 
of the water.

He astounds me. I gasp with pure delight!

Back up he flies
the water dripping from his wings
like tears upon my face
My hands are ready, cupped.
He drops his treasure.

I catch it.

One smooth black stone. 

By the way.... Did you see the smooth black stone up above???

Tuesday, July 21, 2015


My morning usually begins with the familiar and welcome sound of FaceTime ringing on my ipad. Within seconds, after touching the accept button, I see...connecting... connecting, and there, in seconds, appears this sweet face.

Harper turned a delightful 2 years old on June 30th.

This morning I brought up the topic of "free range parenting" with Amber, a new term I recently heard. We chatted as I watched my granddaughter in almost constant motion. Having raised six kids myself I chuckle at all these new ways to describe parenting, and Amber and I laughed at the idea of defining yourself with such a term. I liked her definition of parenting:

Survival parenting.

I completely agreed.

Meanwhile, Harper continued to freely roam the living room, the kitchen, and her bedroom. Her Mommy and I following along as she wondered.

And as I watched a couple videos Amber sent me later of Harper repeating her ABCs, cooperating for a few letters, stopping when she'd had enough, I know what her choice is. Definitely.

It's free range all the way. She is Batman, after all.

Can't imagine a better way to start each day!