The Tapestry of Love

As a youngster in a small three-child household, the bathtub was the one space where you could be alone.  What did I do? I learned to sing loudly and freely when I took a bath.  And while my two brothers would snort and laugh at my singing, I developed strong vocal cords and abdominal muscles by singing louder than my brothers’ guffaws.

Romantic love songs topped my list of songs-to-sing in elementary school. My imitation of “Johnny Angel” by Shelly Fabre was so strong that I was gutsy enough to perform it one Friday (with the record) for my fifth-grade class. I was lauded as a future rock star. I am so glad there were no cell phones to capture that humiliating moment.

In junior high, my school bus driver with teeth like a wolf controlled us by playing our favorite rock station if we were quiet.  Sit down and shut up or the music will go off!! Thanks to hours spent on that school bus, I learned almost every word to love ballads of the Beach Boys and Beatles.
By college, I was humming Simon and Garfunkel and Carole King. I wore out my vinyl record of “Sounds of Silence” because I now knew that hearts could be cut open by love and that communication was tricky business.  No matter, you could depend on friends to pick you up by playing frisbee with you in the rain while singing “You’ve Got a Friend.”

It ended up that love for a friend could last. I married one. Fast forward a decade or two and we had formed a family with two boys. Often the days were a circus act with pop tarts spinning across the room, homework papers stuffed in backpacks, and essays stacked high to grade. But there was also music and magical moments that etched the love of family in my heart.  I remember alternately tickling and hugging my young sons while singing, “You are the sunshine of my life.” They still are.

By the time I was in my forties an occasional rock song would power through the fog of motherhood and work. I remember many late nights soaking in the kids tub (our only tub) with my small boom box playing yet another love song. This one was a post 9/11 treasure by Black Eyed Peas. It asked, “Where Is the Love?

What’s wrong with the world, mama?
People livin’ like they ain’t got no mamas . . .
Whatever happened to the values of humanity?
Whatever happened to the fairness and equality?
Instead of spreading love we’re spreading animosity

Lack of understanding, leading us away from unity . . .

Where is the love?
Where is the love?
Where is the love?
Where is the love?

I played this so many times, I remember my poor husband tapping on the bathroom door to ask if I was okay. Of course, I was more than okay. I was jubilant whenever my soul touched the power of agape. This song was a call to action for all of us to bring love back into the cracks and messes we have created on this planet. A genuine call to love humankind. To practice a universal love.

Love songs. Love poems. I am still a sucker for them. They teach us the many kinds of love that can weave us together in a beautiful tapestry. A tapestry of love. In this month I am going to celebrate all forms of love and work to bring them more fully into my life. I wish the same for you.


The Gift of a Poem

Let me begin my celebration by sharing a poem with you. Last year, you might remember, two young friends of mine were married in Cabo at the height of a COVID surge, and I could not go. Later we had a small celebration, and I discovered Drew’s wedding poem. His gift for his new bride, Kate.  Imagine Drew’s deep voice reciting this for his love. His words float through the room with a gentle-rap cadence. I still tear-up with the memory.

Kate and Drew on their wedding day last year.

What is love? 

By Drew Castle


Love is beyond one meaning.

Love is seeing and believing.

Love is the tapestry in which we experience being.

Love is the reason you are free to choose who you want to be even if others don’t agree

Love is a social apparatus. Beyond race, religion, political stance, class or status

Loving is not judging what others do, but finding compassion and understanding that they too are part of you

Love is the reason that you care. You fly to Cabo, pull up a chair and support two individuals become a pair

Love is the opportunity for another trip around the sun. Traveling hundreds or thousands of miles to witness that pair become one

Love is knowing you’re never alone even if your son or daughter is grown and no longer home. Love is staying up late for that call from a different time zone

Love is providing a safe space no matter how hard so that a young star is free to discover who they are.

Love is deciding to be with whom you chose to be unconditionally, without a judgmental society

Love is in the loss, it’s in a conflict with a boss. In the shadows and in the moss, staying true to yourself at all cost, it’s a sacrifice upon a cross.

Love is losing it all and feeling small until you again begin to crawl and eventually stand tall and realize it was within you all along.

Love is breaking down all the walls, feeling raw and listening to the calls, love is a universal law inviting you to make withdraws

Love is another round trip to see those that live is a different zip for the countless years of friendship

Love is far and love is near. It’s a hot summer day and tossing your bro an ice cold beer. Here here!

Love is in the waves on a cliff up in a cave, a fresh set of TaylorMade blades. 300+ yards down the middle of a narrow fairway.

Love is a choice, giving power to your voice breaking bread with thy neighbors raising a glass as we rejoice

Love is never late it’s always in its place waiting for you to take a break, it’s the icing on the cake, learning from our mistakes, replacing fear with humble fate. Holy Spirit activate

So you see, love for me, comes in many forms and many things. What this realization brings is the freedom to grow some wings. You are free you are free you are free

Love is now what we do, it is simply who and what we are, it is an art. A vibration, an expression from which we are a part, this is why we feel it in so deeply within our heart

I love you all with all my might and I ask you this tonight. What’s does love for you look like? Mine is stunningly dressed in white.

A Positive Purpose

It was two decades ago that Annie thumped down the halls of Red Mountain High in combat boots. No one wore them then. Only Annie. Her short red hair was spiked out in artful tufts that spiraled in different directions. I suspect it was uncontrollable and she hated it, but everyone else loved it, probably because they loved her.

She was born with a social intelligence that could have taught Dale Carnegie a thing or two. If she didn’t know every name of every kid in the high school, she came close. And when she said hi to you, she beamed her joy right into you.

When we talked about Shakespeare’s character, Hamlet, she saw right through him. “Why doesn’t he act?” she asked in class. Her words were laced with compassion. “I am afraid he is going to get himself killed.” Of course, he did.

One of her friends told me her father was a well-loved oncologist who was, ironically, dying of cancer. It was a long, slow death that would take many years. Ten years later, when my own father died, Annie told me how much she had loved her father. Only then did I realize that she had watched her father’s slow deterioration like an old photo negative fading into nothingness. I know now there was a stabbing pain in her soul that I probably failed to detect when she was in high school. Perhaps her kindness was born of the pain she carried.

Early in her senior year, Annie popped into my room during lunch break. I was laboring over a lesson when she caught me off guard with her questions. She began by quizzing me on a paper David had read to class about being gay. A coming out admission. How had I reacted? Did I know 10% of all students were gay? Did I know about Andrew, the star swimmer on our top-seeded swim team?

She then told me the story of Andrew. As the unstoppable top swimmer in the state, he dueled and won against all opponents in both free style and the butterfly. Both long and short races. “But since fifth grade, he has had trouble dealing with classmates’ slurs and bullying.  Since he is gay, boys tease him daily that he is using the wrong bathroom. And the cut on his jaw is because he was beat up behind the school trash bins after school on Tuesday.”

A story always speaks to me, but with Annie there was much more. At seventeen she understood that you needed to serve others to help yourself. It was this lesson that guided me into teaching. It was this lesson that saved me from depression during college. It was this lesson that would cause me to embrace Annie’s drive to start our school’s first GSA, a Genders and Sexualities Alliance or a high school club which provides a safe place for students to meet, provide support for one another, and learn about issues related to sexual orientation and gender identity. “We need to end homophobia and transphobia,” Annie proclaimed. I knew she was right.

In coming weeks, we wrote the club charter and bylaws and hunkered down, expecting a barrage of complaints and perhaps protests from parents. Indeed, the questions were hurled at us swiftly.  Immediately I heard from two Mormon parents. They were influencers, and I knew them and had taught their children. When I explained the nature of the undertaking—a safe space club, not a curriculum mandate, they were hesitant but also empathetic to the stories of how our gay and lesbian students were treated.

Then our principal, a nice enough man, surprised me. He called me into his office and suggested I “pull the plug on this venture.” He assured me we would have to face the parent council, and they would never approve a GSA. As word circulated through the 140 teachers, I received a few rebuffs. First, Nancy stopped me at the mailboxes and assured me that forming a GSA was certain to bring trouble to the school. Brad, the popular psychology teacher, agreed. Then I received the unsigned note. I was labeled “immoral” for trying to help the gays.

Then we faced the parents group. Annie sounded polished and together as she explained our purpose and the need for a club that acknowledged and accepted our gay and lesbian students. We were both a bit startled when one of the Mormon moms jumped in and added, “There are many gays in our own families who feel unaccepted and unloved. We need to provide them more support.” The principal beamed at the group and called for the vote, and we had a club.

The club met on Wednesdays at lunch. While many predicted it would be a flop, it was not. The school’s star dancer was an active member and with him came many students from our dance and our drama club. At one point as many as sixty students attended to hear our speakers, attend a workshop, help us plan our Pride Day or our field trip to Arizona State.  Every other Wednesday was just an eat-lunch-together meeting. I liked that because I heard many wonderful stories from students who were learning, growing, and trying to understand themselves and be accepted for who they were. I guess we all need that–a place where we feel accepted and valued. Annie gave many students that space.

As I prepare for a new year and new intentions. I am thinking of Annie and how important it is to live with purpose. With intentions. She is such a fine model. An inspiration. I watched her change Red Mountain High. Then I watched her pursue her degree in psychology at the University of Arizona in Tucson and next a doctorate in clinical psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. Now she trains professionals and hopes they, too, can find purpose and can grow from hard experiences. Her story still moves me.

The Gift of Resilience

As a child I thought Christmas was doll clothes my mother was secretly making for my ballerina doll. It was the smell of homemade coffee cake. It was placing too many lights on the tree. It was singing loudly in church with friends. It was visiting with and my Grandma Rose’s family. But at age eighteen, Christmas gave me a bigger gift.

It was nearing Christmas, and it was bone cold as the darkness of night lifted. My hair was damp from my early morning swimming class as I scurried across campus to English class in Beering Hall where I would discuss Moby-Dick with twenty other confused freshmen. I would try to understand what Ahab’s search for the whale had to do with my life—or any life. But I would draw a blank, and our final essay was due the next Monday.

I remember seeing the snow fall outside the classroom window, and in my mind, I was counting down the days until Christmas vacation when the buzzer ended our class. The boy sitting next to me asked me out for Saturday night, and I said I couldn’t go for I was heading home. He was a nice enough boy, but I said no because he felt like a stranger. I said no because I didn’t even know his name. I said no because I hated beer as much as I hated strange boys trying to kiss me in their cars in the stadium parking lot on frigid nights. But mostly I said no because my mind was too chaotic and unsettled, and I wanted to spare him.

That September I had moved into Vawter Hall with sky high college hopes. I chose Purdue because I marveled at how complicated the human mind was, and I had read in a catalog that Purdue was home to a fine psychology department. But secretly, like many of us, I had another dream inside. I wanted to be a writer. I believed I had a book inside of me. But as the end of my first semester drew near, I was not sure about either psychology or English as a major. In psychology lab all of our rats died of a virus, and I began to dread a future filled with dead laboratory rats and severely depressed patients. In English my instructor never warmed up to my essays. The professor tortured me with B after B. Perhaps worse he couldn’t remember my name—or anyone’s name.

That Saturday evening, instead of being stuck in the stadium parking lot, I finished reading Moby-Dick. The book loomed large and incomprehensible. What did it mean? I had skimmed parts, and I borrowed a friend’s Cliff Notes to try to make sense of Ahab’s quest for the whale and to help me write my final essay. I wrote it and turned it in that Monday, and the long slog of my first semester in college was over.

I headed home to Indianapolis and suddenly the strain of college was miles behind me. When I arrived, I was greeted with hugs and the smell of mom’s coffee cake. The sounds of my dad laughing and my mother teasing him about his addiction to Chuck Norris jokes. The banter sounded like music to me. I had missed them.

A day later our kitchen was filled with the laughter of my best high school friend, Kaye, She had gone south to Indiana University, and I had not seen her for months. We swapped stories for hours centered on the surprises college held for us. She described her college math instructor who could not speak English. She said she planned to study Chinese so she could pass math. I told her about the travesty of rat lab.

Then I remember a flurry of present buying with my younger brother Charley. He had his driver’s permit and we headed to L. S. Ayres where we bought a blue sweater for mom, and then we dug through a pile of Chuck Norris paraphernalia on clearance until we settled on crazy socks for my dad with images of Chuck Norris, dad’s hero. Afterwards we landed at Bob’s Big Boy where Charley explained what it was like to be the guy most-likely-to-be-cut Southport’s basketball team that winter, and I explained how psych lab was a disaster and how my future appeared to be a blur. He listened. It was a wonderful thing not only because I needed it, but because my little brother was growing into my friend.

On Christmas we drove to Grandma Rose’s in Richmond. Grandma Rose made a feast fit for kings that her five kids and fourteen grandchildren devoured. Uncle Junior dumped peas all over everything—turkey, mashed potatoes, veggie casserole. He always did this, and the rest of us always moaned at the sight of it. My Uncle Herb asked if I had managed to find an ugly college boyfriend yet—and everyone laughed. Before we left Grandma Rose gave me a special lace hanky she made for me. In it she had wrapped cinnamon rolls made from left-over pie dough. My favorite.

That evening Mom made hot chocolate and I sat with my family for a long time by the warmth of the fireplace and the twinkling lights of the Christmas tree. We were quiet. Reflecting. The clear lights sparkled and the star atop the tree seemed to pour light right into me. With the first semester of college in the rearview mirror, I felt like I had been hijacked from all I knew and loved. But I could also see through the glow of Christmas that my home, my friends, and my family had grounded me. Had helped me become someone who was strong enough to go away, to experience challenges, and to find my way forward. I knew I would head back to Purdue that January and eventually make deep friendships, date a boy, find a major, and follow my path forward. And I did.

That Christmas ended up giving me the gifts of insight and resilience, and as the season unfolds, I wish those gifts for all of us.