Saturday, December 24, 2011

“The Reason for the Season”

Showering those you love with acceptance       
Holding tenderness within your heart       
Surrounding yourself with kindred spirits       
Collecting diversity to honor and cherish       
Fostering creativity, individuality       
Nurturing peace, grace, dignity       
Protecting humanity       

Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Friday, December 23, 2011


sometimes the sun shines, oh, so bright, and sometimes the air is       sweet and clear       
sometimes my world glistens and glows, and sometimes the future feels so near      
then one day the sun doesn’t shine; one day the air is closed and too hot       

then one day my world's dull and dim; one day the future that was, is not          
I cannot cry for lost sunshine, and I cannot long for cool, sweet air       

I cannot see the world I know, and I cannot touch the future bare       

so I dream of gold lights of warmth; I dream of breezes in the dark night       

so I dream of my life's freedom; I dream of magic futures of light   


Copyright 1976 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Thursday, December 22, 2011

“The First Christmas”

         Tonight I labor to find the words that will ease the spirits of several friends and family members as Christmas approaches. For the first time, these friends face Christmas without a father, mother, brother or son. The recent losses of these families weighs me down, and even my fingers find it hard to search out the right keys, form the best words, offer comfort within the grief.
         All of the platitudes and well wishes voiced through love and concern cannot ease the ache or fill the emptiness. The next year becomes nothing but an endless list of “firsts.” Christmas, the New Year, Mother's Day and Father's Day, birthdays—every day. Every day will take effort to breathe and move. Every day will require unbelievable strength to simply make it from sunrise to sun set.
         Everyone processes loss differently. You’d think it would be easier to find acceptance with the loss of an elderly or ill parent, but loss is loss. Sorrow slips into the room at unexpected moments and silently taps you on the shoulder, whispers into your ear, “Remember how much Dad liked that?”  or “Mom’s favorite song’s on the radio again.” And the mourning stays fresh.
         Within the last week, we learned of the death of one of the younger members of our family. I watched the suffering of his father, mother and brother. I stood witness to the weeping of his aunts, uncles, cousins and friends. I shed my own tears for the living as well as for him. Now, their lives demarcate into before and after. I hope this separation of their lives won’t rip them apart. I long to pull them tightly into an embrace that can bind their family together and protect them from this anguish.
          Tonight, another branch of the family sits at the bedside of their father. The hospice nurse tells them it’s time to take care of the final details. They, too, face the first Christmas with an empty chair.

The Empty Chair By Dena Cardwell

Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

“Liz and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day”

         Confession time today. Some days, nothing goes right. No matter how hard I smile, or what lilt I put into my voice, everything I say or do rubs my mother wrong. No matter how much she may struggle to hold onto a good mood or try to lever herself into or out of her wheelchair, Mom still needs a tremendous amount of help. And it frustrates both of us. Some days.
         One moment yesterday, we sat watching Marley & Me. Mom likes Owen Wilson, and I reasoned this movie would give me a break from watching reruns-of-reruns-of-reruns-of-reruns of Everybody Loves Raymond.  The next second, Mom insisted I get her into her wheelchair so she could go to bed. It didn’t matter that it was only 2:30 in the afternoon. If Mom gets the idea stuck in her head that she wants to go to bed, then to bed she goes. I convinced her not to change out of her clothes, but to stretch out and take a nap while she listened to her favorite oldies radio station. I snugged her into her beloved green blanket from head to toe and left the room.
I never made it down the hallway. She rang her service bell, calling my name simultaneously. I about-faced and fairly cheerfully asked, “What do you want?”
“Nothing,” Mom replied.
“Okay,” I readjusted her blanket because her jerking left arm had entrapped itself in the fabric.
I made it down the hallway and into the family room before she called me back again. Used to this routine, I still tinted my voice with good will as I asked, “What now, Mom?”
“Nothing,” she responded yet again. This time, though, she burst into tears. Her feet kicked back and forth as she struggled to roll onto her right side. Her left arm flailed a little. Then she started crying. “I can’t.”
“Can’t what?” I moved over to her bed, sitting in her wheelchair to bring us eye to eye. I waited. Then I asked again, “Can’t what?”
“Get . . . get. . . get. . . my leg right.” At this point her crying shut down her ability to speak. “Fix it!” she managed to demand.
 I stood next to Mom’s bed in utter exasperation because I can’t “fix it.” She started trying to sit up, grabbing for her wheelchair. “Where are you going? Where are you going?” I asked. “What do you want me to do? Do you need to go to the bathroom? Bathroom?” I asked as she dragged herself into a standing position.
“Which way do I go? I can’t go.” Her frustration wept from her as I turned her into her wheelchair.
“Do you want to go watch TV now? TV or bed?” I waited a few seconds while she regained her composure. “TV or bed?”
And so our afternoon went—round and round, on and on until I found myself yelling at the top of my lungs because I just wasn’t able to get things right. I wasn’t yelling at my mother—well, I was—but I also yelled at the “terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.” I screamed at my powerlessness in giving her comfort. I bawled at the unfairness of our bad days and my failure to watch my tone of voice and body language. Some days, I feel hopeless. Some days.

Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

“Lefty Loosey”


           I suffer from a lifelong disability—left handedness. Now, some people write or eat with their left hand, but do other things with their right hands. Not me! I drag the right side of my body along with me as a useless attachment that often gets in the way. My left side dominance dictates every aspect of my body. Not only do I write and eat with my left hand, I also chew on the left side of my mouth, listen on the phone with my left ear, and kick with my left foot.
         My first grade teacher, aka The Battleax, made eradicating my handedness her crusade for the few months I remained in her class. I remember her swooping down the aisle as I diligently practiced my letters with my giant pencil and Big Chief pad. She’d harrumph her disapproval, snatch the pencil from my fingers, and force it into my right hand. My smooth, neat letters turned into illegible, rickety scrawls. When the principal suggested my mother pull me out of school, she took over as the handwriting expert. A lefty herself, she’d weathered the same discrimination as a child. Her handwriting, a beautiful, disciplined script that flowered across the page, became my guideline. My mother taught me to write using a blackboard. With the angle changed, I dropped the lefty hook that many left handed people use. As a teacher, watching me write on the board often disturbed my students. They commented every single time I wrote on the board. As a result, I arrived every morning to place the bulk of information on the board ahead of time. I was one of the first teachers to jump at the opportunity to use a computer and projector in the classroom.
         My left side dominance often causes challenges. I do not always approach the physical world in the same way. Many little things in our lives put the lefty at a disadvantage. Cabinet doors open to the wrong side. As I sit at my desk, the drawers run down the right side to make opening and rummaging easy for the right handed person. For me to access the drawers, I have to turn sideways. My mouse, too, rests on the right. I’ve learned to maneuver it by practicing with games like Bejeweled. I practice every day. For some reason, placing keys in locks often creates a challenge. The angle of approach, geared for the right handed person, means I’m battling the door frame as I insert the key. And don’t forget the ignition in cars or the gear shifts!
         Discrimination against lefties is centuries old. I could rattle off many different taboos associated with right versus left. Also, left handed people live shorter lives because they have more accidents. Check your statistics if you don’t believe me. It’s not because we’re klutzes, but because our entire day we must compensate. I figure all of the disadvantages accumulate over our lifetimes, resulting in the false reputation of being clumsy when we’re not.
         So as you cut your Christmas wrapping paper in straight lines with grace and ease I hope you remember your lefty friend’s struggle with right handed scissors. When you examine the not-so-perfect wrapping on the gift you receive, keep in mind the challenges of snipping and folding for the left handed.

Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Monday, December 19, 2011

“His Easy Smile”

They believed his easy smile   
the laughter at all the right places   
while he cloaked his deception through necessity     
as the world within him clung to distortions   
Illness subtly ate at his reason   
making it impossible to disguise the turmoil within   
unless he buried it under the things he loved:   
games, computers, politics, religion   
Intellect guided him to delude   
to use his words to hide his thoughts   
Need shepherded him to security   
safety with the familiar:   
church and keyboard, childhood ritual and digital certainty   
where he shared with his surrogates     
the Truths he let them see   
Security in his world narrowed down   
into a box of silent despair   
broken only by the words, “I love you”   

Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Sunday, December 18, 2011

“A Field of Flowers”

The seed   
planted deep into the warm womb   
protected by shell and earth     
softens under ground   
as skies weep and weep   
it feeds upon itself   
drawing upon stored energy   
until a fragile spout forms   
roots, like fairy hair, seek purchase   
they hold tightly to the nurturing mother   
confident of her care   
the shoot breaks into sunshine   
unfolds tender leaves   
trusting in the gentleness of spring   
when killing frosts   
sheltered from whips of wind   
buds bloom  
into the glorious promise of life   
sprinkled with morning dew   
blossoming with hope   
for a field of flowers   

Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman