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WELCOME to The Forum.
This page is dedicated to stories of
spiritual journeys. You may contribute
your story by sending it to :
Lisa@The ReligionNetwork.com

   Kitty Felde, winner of multiple
awards for journalism, is Special Correspondent
for Los Angeles radio station KPCC. Prior to this 
position, she hosted the station's "Talk of the City"
for five years.  During her career she has distin-
guished herself with reports from  Africa and The
Hague on AIDS and the war crimes tribunals for  Rwanda and Bosnia. Also an award-winning
playwright, her work has been produced in New
York, Los Angeles and at the  National Theater in
Washington, DC.

The following essay originally was printed in
the Los Angeles Times on June 7, 2007. It speaks
eloquently of deep and blessed friendship. It is re-
printed with many thanks to Kitty for her generosity
in sharing this with The Religion Network. I'm
blessed to call her a friend.
--LIsa Bowman
___________________________________

Dreaming in thread and fabric

Many people dream of a gourmet kitchen,
a spa bathroom, a master suite to rival
the fanciest hotel. For Mary and me, our
dream space was a sewing room —
dedicated to our obsession for silk char-
meuse, measuring tapes and 5/8 -inch
seam allowances.

There would be space for a 6-foot fabric-
cutting table, two sewing machines, a file
cabinet to hold hundreds of patterns and
dozens of shelves for the glass jars we
filled with buttons and thread and every
notion under the sun. It would be a cozy
room with a comfy armchair that invited
us to sit down and hem a skirt. Most im-
portant, the room would be flooded with
natural light, perhaps a sun porch or a
cupola with windows on every wall, on the
top floor of a quaint Victorian. It was a
dream we talked about over and over again.

Mary O'Donnell was my sewing buddy. We
met on a Catholic church retreat in the
mountains above Los Angeles and hit it off
the moment we discovered a shared pas-
sion for sewing. Both of us had come that
weekend to meet single men. We were a
couple of thirtysomething girls on the loose,
determined to find the man of our dreams
that very weekend. Instead, we found a
friendship for life.

Mary was an unlikely sewer. In her late
teens, she'd developed rheumatoid arthritis
and suffered through several operations
that left her hands partially frozen and often
in pain. So in typical Mary fashion, what did
she choose as a hobby?

Something that demanded excellent hand
skills and precision dexterity. Mary gloried
in showing off her finished projects. She
even declared her passion in cyberspace:
Her e- mail address started with "Marysew@."

We started spending all of our Friday nights
together. They soon became sacred. Forget
dates with mere boys. As soon as our work-
week was over, Mary and I would gather up
our pattern pieces, scissors, basting thread
and acres of fabric. I'd head over to her one-
bedroom bachelorette estate, or she'd come
over to mine.

We'd turn the dining room table into a cutting
board, set up a sewing machine on the sofa
table and drape pattern pieces over every
available surface. We'd watch British cos-
tume dramas. We'd sip tea. We'd solve the
problems in Step 23 of a particular pattern.
We'd sketch our dream wardrobes. We'd
ponder our futures. And we'd imagine the
perfect sewing room — an altar dedicated
to the gods of fabric.

Time and again, we swore never to buy
another yard of silk charmeuse or pin-
striped wool until we'd tackled the stacks
in our closets. But then Mary would discover
a fabulous fabric store on line. Or I'd be
traveling and stumble across a shop in
Asheville, N.C., that specialized in vintage
remnants from the 1960s. We'd both sur-
render to our addiction and buy just a few
more yards of something irresistible.

Though Mary would never admit it, we both
knew she was the better seamstress and
tailor. Mary would always baste before using
her machine. I was a graduate of the just-
pin- it- and-go school. Mary could wear her
jackets and sundresses inside out and be
proud. I was embarrassed to let anyone see
the inside of mine. Mary's work was couture.
Mine was "good enough."

On another one of those church retreats, I
did finally meet the man of my dreams.
There was only one condition: He had to find
something else to do on Friday nights. Tad
understood — and encouraged — my sew-
ing date.

So Mary and I kept meeting, our attention
focused on the dress — the one I would wear
marching down the aisle on my wedding day.
For six months, Mary and I worked together
on that one. It was a little bit of "Anne of
Green Gables" with enormous puffed sleeves
and a lot of Princess Diana with royal ruffles
and bows. The skirt was off-white taffeta,
trimmed at the bottom with acres of flounces.
The bodice was covered with heavy em-broidered lace. Mary fitted and refitted it until
it became a second skin. We sewed our
dreams into that dress. On the morning of
the wedding, Mary was there with needle
and thread to sew my veil to the garland
of flowers at the back of my head.

Those Friday nights with Mary continued
long after I became an old married lady.
Tad actually looked forward to getting kicked
out of the house when Mary and I would
meet at my place. We tackled Halloween costumes for my niece, wool jackets for
Mary's winter trip to New York and golden
gowns to wear to my various journalism
awards ceremonies. (If I wasn't going to
win anything, I'd better have the best dress
in the room.)

Then Mary found the man of her dreams —
John, a delightful Australian gentleman she
met on the Internet. After a lengthy long-
distance courtship, they married. It surprised
me that Mary had no desire to sew her own
wedding gown. But she made certain the
dress she wore was perfect. She was a
gorgeous bride.

John, it turned out, was a much handier
chap than my own bookish husband. He
gladly aided and abetted our obsession,
building a special cutting table, hanging a
string of spotlights over our workspace and
outfitting an entire storage cabinet for Mary's
mountain of notions. He never complained
when their small apartment was buried
in fabric scraps. His only flaw was that he
loved her so much he didn't like to leave on
Friday nights.

So, on the nights we'd meet at their place,
we'd work around him. We'd dispatch him
to the kitchen to make us a proper cup of
tea. We'd send him down to the laundry
room to bring back the pre-shrunk cotton
prints.

But it wasn't quite the same. Three really
was a crowd. We started skipping a week
here and there. Gradually, over time, our
regular Friday night sewing dates became
a once-in-a-while event. Perhaps it was
preparation for what was to come.

In February 2006, just a month before
her 50th birthday, Mary was diagnosed
with ovarian cancer. She fought bravely,
enduring operations and chemotherapy.
She had zero interest in dying young.

That summer, I traveled with a delega-
tion from our church to visit our sister
parish in Kenya. Naturally, I dropped by
their sewing class. This group had been
meeting at the local church for more than
a decade, training mostly young women
in a skill that would support them and their
families.

I briefly mentioned Mary, told them about
her illness and asked the class to keep
her in their prayers. What happened next
moved me to tears. Everyone stopped
working immediately. They gathered a-
round their treadle sewing machines,
holding hands, inviting me into the circle.
One young woman started singing a cap-
pella, and before long, everyone else
joined in. It was a powerful prayer for one
of our own: a sewing sister.

After I returned from Africa, Mary and I
made plans to attend the annual Southern
California sewing expo together in October,
determined to brush up on our knit tech-
nique. But a week before the event, she
handed me her tickets. She just didn't have
the stamina.

Two weeks later, she was gone.

John asked me to come over and help
him go through Mary's massive fabric stash.
Mary bought nothing but the best: the yum-
miest silk tweed embroidered with shells and
beads and sequins, fanciful cotton sateen
covered with airplanes or palm trees or
Australian cities. There were boxes and
boxes of unopened patterns she'd never
gotten around to using.

I packed it all up in my car, took it home
and tried to figure out where to store it.
Neither of us ever found that dream sewing
room, but I had to put Mary's sewing legacy
somewhere — under the bed, on the top
shelf of the linen closet, somewhere out of
sight. It was too painful.

In the months that followed, I discovered
that I had all too many sewing questions —
and no Mary to answer them. How should I stabilize the facing on that jacket? How short
should I make this skirt hem? Are these
buttons too busy for this print? The silence
was deafening.

Then one day, I opened that linen closet,
and I looked again at Mary's stash. I fin-
gered that silk tweed Mary bought in
Melbourne, Australia. I remembered the
fabulous jacket she dreamed of making
with it. Slowly, it came to me. I knew exactly
which pattern Mary would have chosen.
And which version.

I started hand-basting before moving to
the machine. Every seam was finished on
the inside. I could hear Mary whispering
to me about technique and style and
patience. I wasn't alone anymore. Mary
was deter mined to make me a better
seamstress.

My living room soon became my favorite
place in the house. It may not have been
the sewing room of our dreams, but it was
our sewing room — Mary's and mine. Every
crowded inch carried the memories of our
Friday night sewing fests.

I will miss Mary, but she's not far away
when I'm sitting at my makeshift sewing
table, trying to under stand the directions,
struggling with a tangled bobbin or just
dreaming of a new project for that buttery
pink wool crepe that's been calling to me.
I keep Mary O'Donnell alive every time I
start a new project. It's a good thing I have
enough fabric to last a lifetime.

--Kitty Felde
Reprinted with permission

  ____________________________________


THE EPIPHANY

One wintry morning I awakened to the wind
blowing, and the crisp air brightening my
thoughts.  I had an epiphany! Suddenly I
realized that there is a clarity and simplicity
in life...if we would only choose to see it, and
hear it, and feel it. 

We seem to complicate everything and
make problem-solving even more difficult
than it has to be. The most awful feeling of
not finding a solution to a problem is analo-
gous to standing in the middle of a road....
somehow if a decision is not made and you
continue to stand there, eventually a truck
will hit you from either direction, so you
must move!

Suddenly it came to me: "WHAT YOU WILL
DO AND WON'T DO; WHAT YOU CAN
DO AND CAN'T DO." That simple applica-
tion to any problem which needs a decision
will force you to face the truth and realize
that you yourself know the answers You
cannot turn to someone else to solve it for
you - just as you know instinctively that no
one can walk your steps nor breathe your
breaths. 

It takes great courage to make a decision,
and live with it, and take full responsibility
for it.  As you know, there are many people
who feel that they make decisions based on
what other people think, pleasing others,
and then if it doesn't work out favorably,
they immediately blame everyone else for
their poor decision. Others simply state:
"There is no solution". But there is a solution
to everything.... it is simply "WHAT YOU
WILL DO AND WON'T DO; WHAT YOU
CAN DO, AND CAN'T DO"...

There comes with this epiphany, a scary
thought as well..... once it is clear, and not
complicated about the decision-making, we
can no longer hide behind the muddled and
hazy clutter of the brain saying to ourselves
that we don't know what to do we are in
such a dilemma. The truth is always the
truth, and it is an "EMOTIONAL EVOLU-
TION".
 
There is a saying,"Opportunity knocks and knocks into infinity, but too often we are in
our backyard frantically searching for a four
leaf clover, and we never hear opportunity
knocking at our front door."

So stop for a moment in time, and let the
brisk fresh air awaken you to the wonder-
ment of life and clarity.  Also, realize that
whatever decisions, (difficult or easy) that
you make on this journey of life - they are
your decisions ...."WHAT YOU WILL DO
AND WON'T DO; WHAT YOU CAN DO
AND CAN'T DO ....... live with them hold-
ing your head high, being brave and
believing in yourself! 

By Jodi Taylor Block 

___________________________________



 


 Don Barrett, founder of LARadio.com, is a friend of mine.
He is a warm, kind and giving man; he is a supportive friend. His wonderful qualities were molded in the fires of
a challenging life script. I read the following piece on
LARadio.com and asked if I might reprint it. He wrote it in
December, 2004, soon after his father died at the age of
87.  Don's story demonstrates how difficulties placed in our
lives can make us stronger.

--Lisa Bowman

________________________________________
A NOTE FROM DON BARRETT TO READERS OF
THE RELIGION NETWORK:

" I have three children and I have done everything possible, with the guidance of God, to be the father
that I could have only wished for myself. The
destructive narcissism of my father has ended with
me. Stopped. Whatever path my kids take, they will
never have the issue of their father not being there for
them. Perhaps this dysfunctional relationship with my
father was the painful lesson for me in order to be a
better father."

________________________________________

My father and I had a strained relationship. He came from a generation where nothing of a
personal nature was ever discussed. His father
was president of the big bank in Norristown,
Pennsylvania and as a youngster I remember
our holiday visits to this huge home on a hill
with a wooded backyard. With my cousins we
would romp through the snow and play in the
woods. My grandfather’s home was similar to
what I experienced on Sycamore Street in
Hollywood and later in Santa Monica. They were
all impersonal homes. I never remember my grand father conversing about anything. It
certainly would explain my father’s behavior, if
indeed environment influences who we become.
 

We moved to Santa Monica because my
parents fell in love with the beach (he from PA
and my mom from Utica, NY), thus my love
affair with the ocean, sun and surfing. He
eventually started his own firm in Santa Monica,
the Bay Cities Adjustment Company. Over time
we moved from 14th & Oak to 16th & Carlyle.
Throughout all the moves and years, we never
played catch or talked about what was going on
that day.


I ran track at Santa Monica High School and
starred in many school productions at Samohi.
I was editor of the school newspaper. He never
once came to see me run or see me act. I never
thought it was strange because that’s the way it
was. It wasn’t until later in my life, fighting my
own demons, that I was forced to take an
inventory of my life. I wasn’t looking for blame
as to why I ended up living in a park in Van
Nuys, but perhaps some understanding.

 
My father and I went to a football game in the early 80s, the last time we shared an event
together. The drive to the Coliseum seemed
inter minably long. It was a struggle to talk
with him. I asked him about his exploits at
Hill School in Pennsylvania and at Colgate
University. He was strong in sports and
some of his championship records remained
for years. I said, “Your parents must have
been very proud sitting in the stands cheer-
ing you on.” Without missing a beat, he
responded, “They never saw me play.”
Never? Never. 


Bingo. That’s all I needed to understand my
relationship with my father. It helped explain
his reaction when I told him that I was going
into the radio business. “Why do you want to
do that? Hardly a pro fession,” I remember him
saying. The same reaction when I joined the
motion picture business and when I became a
family therapist. My life’s work and decisions
for a career path were always met with
indifference and almost disdain. Even though I
have spent decades working on my own
personal relationships, his imprint still resides
in me with still much more work to be done.
Perhaps his death will help the process in
letting go. 


Field of Dreams is a signature film for me. I
remember sitting on the aisle at the Motion
Picture Academy sobbing like a youngster when
Kevin Costner and his father meet in the Iowa
cornfield that has been converted to a baseball
field and they play catch. I know that whoever
wrote that scene had the same kind of father as
mine. We never played catch and through the
movie, demons were exorcized for all who had
strained relationships with their fathers. I have
never seen that movie and not been affected in
the same way as I did the first time. I know it’s
coming; I fight it and then cry one more time. 


When it was no longer safe for him to drive, we talked about giving up his car. He refused. I
took the keys and sold his car. He didn’t
acknow ledge me for months after that and
when I would come into the house he would just
glare at me. He had officially lost his freedom.
There was no longer flight available. Some time
later, Russell Weller hit his accelerator on his
car instead of the brakes and mowed down and
killed 10 innocent people at the Santa Monica
Farmer’s Market. I went all through school with
Mr. Weller’s daughter, which made my earlier
action to take the keys away from my father all
the more personal, even though I was made to
feel guilty for years. 


My father has had dementia for at least the last
10 years. It has not been pretty. Unlike
Alzheimer’s, dementia is accompanied by
anger. In 1994 I moved them into a home next
door where I could care for him and also my
mother who had ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease.
Days were filled with changing diapers on both
of them. With no siblings to share the burden, I
suddenly found myself being a father to my
parents and a father to my young children.
When he started throwing his dirty diapers at
me and becoming physically abusive, I had to
put him into a bed and care a year ago where
professionals could deal with his needs.


He hasn’t known who I am for years. Perhaps it
was that vacant stare that made the abuse
tolerable and I could find some compartment to
keep the feelings and tune it out. Anyone who
knows the emotional and financial challenges of
caring for elderly parents can empathize with
the unanswered questions of why life has to end
in such an ugly, painful, and cruel manner.

 
I saw him Saturday afternoon at his bed and
care in North Hills. He was on his back, face
ashen, and struggling to breathe. “Hey, Pop,” I
said as I gently shook his shoulder. “Hey, Pop,
how you doing?” No interruption in his struggle
with what turned out to be his last day of
sunshine. He died during the night. 


Like my mother, both had chosen the Neptune
Society for their burial at sea. The Neptune
Society is unbelievable. I called at 6 a.m.
Sunday morning and within an hour they had
picked up my father. They will arrange to have
his body cremated and his ashes strewn in the
Santa Monica Bay.

 
We deal with the challenges of life. As I write
this, within an hour of his death, I am moved by
the challenges of death – a time to review a life
that was filled with his own demons and chal-
lenges. I didn’t choose him as a father. It is
what was dealt to me. I can only hope and pray
that he finds the peace and love in death that
eluded him in life.

--Don Barrett

_________________________________


  SEEING THE MIRACLES

My mother-in-law, Frankie, was dying of
cancer. She had previously gone through
chemo and radiation therapies,  been diag-
nosed ‘cancer free' only to have it reemerge
and then spread wildly. She tried chemo-
therapy one more time in an effort to continue
her life long enough to see the birth of her
first great grandchild. In this, she succeeded.

Shortly thereafter she halted the chemo and
began home hospice, then finally admitted
herself to a skilled nursing center for 24-
hour hospice care.

On Mother’s Day, two years ago, she asked
the entire family to please come and visit
her at the care facility. At that time, she said
her final goodbye’s to each of us. She then
requested that the doctors and nurses
cease all medical measures that were
keeping her alive. She had made her peace
and knew that her time had come. We all
waited for the final day to arrive, when the
call would come saying that Frankie had
passed on. My wife, Kathleen, visited her
mother daily. But watching her wither away
was taking its toll on her.

One Thursday, Kathleen called me at work
to say that she was going to see her good
friend, have dinner and talk – she needed
to not see her mother, it hurt too much. I
had an ‘unsettled' feeling the remainder of
the day and finally decided to head for
home early. For what ever reason, I delayed
my departure a little bit, then finally left
about 6:00 pm, taking the long way home –
using surface streets most of the way from
my work in Los Angeles County to my home
in south Orange County. As I approached
the 91 freeway, getting relatively close to
home, I had a feeling, a little voice that said,
“Go see Frankie.” Instead of continuing
home I got on the freeway and drove –
quickly – to the care facility.

When I arrived, Frankie was unconscious
and breathing with great difficulty – very
laborious and very unsettled. She had a
frown on her face, as if encountering some
inner struggle.

I sat with her for a few minutes, then went
over to the bed. I took her hand and gently
stroked her brow, wanting to wipe away the
frown. I talked to her a bit and, as I had
done with my own mother, told her that if
now was the time to go, don’t be afraid.

In that moment, she took a very deep
breath – then relaxed. The frown dis-
appeared. Her breathing became soft and
regular, then gradually slowed, coming to
a complete stop within the next 15 minutes.
I sat there in silence for several minutes
and as I stood to go to the nurses station
to let them know that Frankie had passed
on, my cell phone rang. Kathleen was calling
to say that she was heading home from her
friend’s house. For some reason, the power
had gone out about 5 minutes before, so
she was leaving. I said to please come to
the care facility. She knew exactly what had
happened.

So, where was the miracle? The first ob-
vious miracle was the ‘voice’ that said to
me, “Go see Frankie.” The second obvious
miracle was when Frankie relaxed and
gave herself to the inevitable. The third
obvious miracle was the phone call from
Kathleen. But what of the ‘unsettled’ feel-
ing that I had before leaving work? What
of the power outage that was the nudge for Kathleen to leave her friend and call me –
right at the moment that her mother had
passed away? What of the miracle of
Frankie being able to see her great grand-
child? Of her having the ability to call the
family together and say goodbye?

Miracles ARE all around us. Sometimes we
need to be reminded in big ways – like the
parting of a sea. But if we really pay atten-
tion, there are little things happening all the
time. Keep an eye out for the blooming flow-
er that really shouldn’t be there. Listen to
that little voice that whispers in your ear.
When the cat jumps on your lap, curls up
and starts purring, take the time to share
the experience. Slow down for a moment
and experience the miracles of life. 

--David Palmer