Monday, December 22, 2014

Dear Beloved Dad

A Real Letter

Dad's favorite: A Blueberry Pie
(With fresh blueberries he picked himself without 
eating one.)

Dear Beloved Dad, 

I don't know how I can keep our secret any longer. I've kept the secret that you're the real Santa Claus for 67 years!

But now I'm about to POP, Pop!

Not many daughters or sons have Santa for a Dad. If I do tell, however, there could be some sort of a revolt. After all, a few may feel I've received preferential treatment because we're kin and all.

And I cannot tell a lie being raised Catholic (as you know, because you paid for it).

If I'm asked if I've received preferential treatment, I would have to give a most affirmative "Yes!"

From my doll house days when I snuck out and caught you assembling on Christmas when I was five, to my little, mint green, Nash Rambler you bought for me in my freshman year in college--I've wanted for nothing.

When I messed up, there you were. When the starving artist wasn't just on a diet, you paid back taxes (which would have broken any ordinary back, I must say).

When mother flew up we stayed strong together; our most serious fight was over that damn diamond broach mom buried in dried beans to throw thieves off their trail. But it was you who came with flowers and a enclosure card which read: We must keep our love for your mother above all things."

I saved it, but not as perfectly as I should have. It's a little blotched.

I guess Hill Haven Assisted Living won't be too surprised if word leaks out that one of their long-term residents is the real St. Nick.  Because you hadn't been there a week, when the co-owner told me: He's a treasure.

And being moral and upright, from my heart I say: You are beyond a treasure.

It's said you pick your parents, so at this point I figure: I'm a genius!

Anyone with a heart as big as yours normally doesn't live to be 100. But God has granted you a special dispensation because of all your unselfish acts.

You're a Peach; You're the Berries. You're the most perfect blueberry pie that you and a bear picked from the same patch. 

How God has blessed me, blessed my brother and I--for giving us our Santa who gifts all year every year into our tomorrows. 

Here's a forehead kiss and my undying love. 

Merry Christmas, Pie

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Cradling Christmas: A Tree Upside-Down

 Tree from

For All those Dealing with Matters of the Heart 
Cradling Christmas
A Tree Upside-Down

Cradle youself this Christmas
More than any time in your life;
Soften your days with lit Candles and Love
Let embraces come from where they will;
Allow the tears to flow--for how can they not?
                                           Hang on to every Cherished Good;
Do you know, can you even begin to imagine
Or possibly remember, the million moments
Love was exchanged by the gifts
Of your hands, heart, and soul?
All the Love you gave! The Love
Received! Let the myriad moments
Cradle this Christmas
And as the months
And years go by
More and more
Will be 

Written December 5, 1998
By Connie Nelson Ahlberg
All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Finding the Heart of Minnesota Nice

Minnesota Nice is the stereotypical term of Minnesotans: courteous, reserved, and mild-mannered.

Seated Mayo Brothers Statue 2005

Yesterday I found the heart of Minnesota Nice, a somewhat bland term for people born and raised in Minnesota. I almost didn't make it. I remembered my appointment with only 30 minutes to spare. At 6:00 A.M. my driver pulled up for the Mayo Clinic.

When you strike out from the Twin Cities of Minneapolis or St. Paul, you have to allow for the driving time to cross the northern plains between here and the Mayo Clinic complex in Rochester, MN. 

As soon as you open your car door or attendants open it for you, one is offered a wheelchair if you are in need of one. The kindness starts there in the cold which is what it was yesterday. Families are either receiving treatment or waiting with baited breath for a diagnosis. This is at the core of what employees appear to be taught before they greet one guest. 

I sat near two women as we waited for a family member or caught our breathe from the cold. The woman who sat at the end of our cushioned bench was winded and heavy. Then I noticed she was crying. I asked if she was all right. She nodded and said she just catching her breathe. Soon she rose and made her way to the elevators. Her coat was lush and beautiful. It even shimmered.

The woman nearest me said her husband had been an executive in the hotel business. Thirty years ago the compulsory annual exam had revealed a spot on his lung. His wife said it was so small and caught so early that he had been able to live his last thirty years in good health. But now she said her husband was coughing blood. She hoped it was from an infection and not that cancer was back. I asked for her husband's first name; and she told me. I said I would pray for him. 

Her face lit up: she said now, I have you and a prayer circle praying for him. Her husband appeared, a handsome man both gracious and warm. She told him my intention and his face shone like hers. He shook my hand.

Then a crazy gal with dark hair, decked out in glitter from head to foot collected her jade-sequin backpack from the end of the bench. Her boots shone, and a pocket purse with long, black fringe was perched on one thin hip. 

After a bit of gathering her glitter, she and her mother strode to the elvators as well.

Charming Mayo greeters were spaced right where one would need them: outside the elevators and in the halls. Last year there had been a piano, but the piano had clearly been moved. But when we walked out for lunch several were singing right below our exit door on the second floor. There was the piano. The music was like a heart massage breaking any anxiety anyone carried past them.

On the floor which became our three-hour residence, I heard a patient berate a receptionist for an arrogant attitude. But instead of her voice becoming louder, it became softer. She seemed to apologize to him--to such an effect that an hour later, she had changed the dynamic. Their next exchange was like one at Plum Village in France: with courtesy on both sides of the desk.

I found I wanted to apologize to her but tried to stay apart from it all. But in the end I did just that. She was the most gracious soul in the world. She said: I tried to see things from his point of view. Who isn't softened by compassion holding mercy? 

We did talk a bit and she said: your words mean the world. 

Minnesota nice isn't really about casseroles served in church basements or even the wondrous Garrison Keillor's Lake Wobegon. It is the constant caring, brother-I-can-spare-a-dime, at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. 

Saturday, November 15, 2014

May All Grievances Be Forgiven

My Brother's Fireplace / Lutsen, MN

Because of my dear dad's 100th birthday celebration, the family gathered last weekend (vs Thanksgiving) from as far away as Tokyo, Japan, Sterling Springs, CO, Midland, Michigan, and the Twin Cities in MN.  

You always wonder when you're coming together if members will be able to forego old sibling rivalries, flare ups, or painful assessments and all that goes with family tension at the table, kitchen, or fireplace. You go determined to be above the fray. I'll draw from Jesus or Buddha you say. 

Sometimes you feel you've nearly had a clean get-away, but comments follow you out the door as if they were stuck on the doorknob like infectious cells. *

The truth is frequently we gather without all the "I'm sorry/s" you hoped to receive in years past. Some never come; and it's hard to know if they ever will. 

A Buddhist teacher, however, answered my concerns one way as we sat in a small classroom.

"It never, never, never, never, never, never, turns out the way you think," said Flying Fish Barbara Murphy at Clouds in Water Zen Center. 

Those words have stayed with me as well as Pema Chodron's "Drop the story line."

Betrayal I've come to learn, is woven into families like the afghan you were gifted years ago. It's hard to separate out all the yarn. Years pass and you pray your way forward past the hurts that make rough rocks smooth. 

Even if you've been carved out like a hand-honed canoe, you realize resentments only give you acid and make you bitter. You realize your own health is too high a price to pay. 

I loved my Aunt Bobbie's words: You become bitter or better, she used to say. 

Flying Fish Barbara, now a Teacher Assistant at Clouds, gave a talk on forgiveness several years ago. It was such a thoughtful presentation on this word that is so hard to reach we need a chair or step ladder as it rests on the highest shelf.

With candor she admitted: I've been working on forgiveness for four years. Her talk was so good you knew her words were in earnest. It ennobled the whole passage we all come to know. 

Years ago I even bought a plaque which says: FORGIVEN and put it on my book shelf. It's literally right above Jesus. 

So yes, it's early to say Happy Thanksgiving, but since I've just had mine in a sense, I want to hold out hope for you and offer a blessing. It is softer than life is. But blessings often are: that's why we need to read them and allow our hearts to transcend adjectives like sniveling or spiteful or--trying to get the last word in a passive aggressive retort.

In the end the only assessment that matters is how you feel about yourself. Or how you  feel when you talk or pray to God. If we take the high road, we are lifted and evolve. It's delicate, I know. When do you stand for yourself and when do you let it go? We all ask the Solomon in our own souls.

So, I humbly extend: 

Blessings of the Thanksgiving Season

May your mashed potatoes be smooth;

May your stuffing not turn to mush;
May you win the wishbone;
May there be no guilt to pass; 
May all grievances be forgiven
(At least until the dishes have been put away);
May your stomach be glad and
May your memories be like a broth you savor for years.

Connie Nelson Ahlberg

*A Post Script - Actually an issue raised as I sought to leave in my clean-getaway, was one I needed to hear. Though I wiped tears from my eyes in the car, I knew I was hearing the truth. As Pema Chodron says: Whatever your next lesson is--it's going to pop right up!

God Bless Your Honey Hearts as my college landlady used to say! 
And God Bless each day in Earth School for us all.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Blessings of the Thanksgiving Season

Norman Rockwell's Thanksgiving 

Blessings of the Thanksgiving Season

May your mashed potatoes be smooth;

May your stuffing not turn to mush;
May you win the wishbone;
May there be no guilt to pass; 
May all grievances be forgiven
(At least until the dishes have been put away);
May your stomach be glad and
May your memories be like a broth you savor for years.

Connie Nelson Ahlberg

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Prayer of the Giraffe

Mikumi National Park

Prayer of the Giraffe

Lord, There is so much politics
in Thy jungle;
such an endless struggle!

Forgive my awkwardness,
My inability to hide;
My long neck careening
Side to Side!

Yet I, Your giraffe, 
want to keep 
My gentle side;

Allowing my head
to rest on clouds but...

My vision unclouded to You.
Pat my funny head
so I know you've heard
the prayer that I've said;

Protect me, as
I stick out!
Yet, my heart
Wants to shout:
I'm totally

By Connie Nelson Ahlberg

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Waves To Call Me Out

©  Layne Kennedy/

May nature renew me
And waves crash to me;
So there is only sea and salt
Or waves--to call me out;
And antlers in holy arc
Nearly home before the dark;
Where evergreens creek
and sway;
or whisper low in their
sounds of broom 'n rush:
Nature sweeping while we rest;
Where memories, no, feats of the soul
Push me,
Push me,
Push me,
So I am whole,
Further--in my growth...
Yet quite near
The Highest Plane
Which whispers,
My given name.

By Connie Nelson Ahlberg
October 12, 2014

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Making Pearls

For those who have struggled with physical pain, emotional pain, or both.

I sought from life to cast
Or far away to hurl;
All the pain in my days;
But then, through Grace,
I just Made Pearls.

By Connie Nelson Ahlberg
All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Light, Shadow, and LIGHT, Again

Crepuscular rays at sunset near Waterberg Plateau, 
Wabi Game Ranch, Namibia

Going to where the news is--is going where the suffering is. cjna

"The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shined." Isaiah 9:2

"James Foley was the kind of person who could talk to you for a minute and call you brother." Nadezhda Kevovorka

Going to where the news is--is going to where the suffering is.
Just as journalists and aid workers go to the suffering like our Saints, some of us traveled there in our minds, lamenting the death toll and suffering in Lybia, Gaza, and Syria.

On the mainland and Europe we debated within ourselves, we should do something. And governments debated: we should do something.

But the news reporters, journalists, aids workers and volunteers: humanitarians all, were already there. They were there documenting human rights abuses, starvation, death by mortar fire, and death by gas.

But we can't let the darkness imposed upon the American and British journalists, news reporter and aid workers *cloud the very lives of these visionaries who lived in purpose and courage.

With rousing applause to @allinwithchris on his Friday, October 3 broadcast, Chris refused to cover the death of aid worker Alan Henning as those in the media had treated the deaths of those before him. He deliberately chose to show no visual of the images that ISIS prefers: their own with the threatened victims.

Because James Foley *ascended on August 14, 2014, there has been time for his family to establish a foundation in his name to both honor James and his life.  This news reporter who paid $30. for a hotel in Benghazi somehow gave an ambulance to a hospital in Aleppo. What a beautiful gift. All altruism.

One of his last Tweets was about Palestine according to Nadezhda Kevovorka in James Foley: A Lot of Questions and No Answers.

If we wish to futher the dreams of his lifetime goals we can donate to The James W. Foley Legacy Fund. We need truly ponder here, but not in the way the Dark Side wants.

*I used the word ascended above because my readings on grief, loss, and healing informed me of something I want thousands of loved ones to know. In the event of a violent death, or sudden accident resulting in death, spirit leaves the body ahead of time--because it can.

Instead of allowing ISIS to dictate what we in shock draw from recent events, we need, as many journalists and soul leaders have done--make sure we take time to study the young lives we've lost.

We can add to the caring on the planet and the mission they began which illuminated their lives to the end and beyond. Sadly Free James Foley became The James W. Foley Legacy Fund.

Like visionary souls--they went where most of us did not want to go. They went to report on the truth of what they saw; they went to lend a hand; they went to buy an ambulance and aid the suffering.

In the old canonizing days of the Catholic Church...Saints were sometimes canonized for similar selfless acts.

I have been both lifted and stunned by the humanity and beauty of what these young men were doing with their lives. No hesitation. Commitment.

On the soul level we chose our parents and life mission. I feel each of those we've lost in recent months may have known on the soul level how their life may end, their mission, & the impact of their life work on the world.

James' foundation and, for example, Doctors Without Borders, can enable us to lift their lives by not shrinking back in the horror of how each died.

James Foley, everyone loved him, it's said.

While I intended to honor each journalist, reporter, and aid worker in one post, I will write on each life separately.  I offer sympathy, peace and prayers for Steven Sotloff, David Haines, Alan Henning and their families. We are diminished by their passing. Prayers for all held by ISIS.

In compassion we need carry on.

* by the Total Darkness of the Underworld, aka, ISIS/ISIL

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Let Me Call You Sweetheart

Friday night getting ready for Saturday inspection
Camp Claiborn, LA
Walt, Corporal Nelson, Jackson 7/01/1940

I am fortunate, profoundly blessed. One of my greatest gifts is that my father is still living. In a few weeks, he will reach 100 years of age.

Some time ago my father, a champion newspaper reader (Duluth Harold, Star Tribune, and St. Paul Pioneer Press), told me: I only want good news.

Hmmm. I thought. Okay. (Though he did say, when asked, that he wanted to be kept abreast of news in the family.)

Last night I called him, reminding him of his comment: I only want good news. He laughed. I told him I had good news for him.
First I had good medical test results, which prompted my call.

Secondly, I told him that he is well received on Twitter, that some Followers are happy to see a man just days from turning 100, out on a walk with his walking stick, determined to get there.

He couldn't get over it. Really, he said?

I said Really.

Then I told him that someone has already booked a flight from Japan to be there on his birthday, Nov 11.

Erik? He asked mentioning my son.

I said, Yes.

Well, you tell him I'm as anxious to see him.

I will.

Then we talked about my mother who flew up (as I say) nearly 15 years ago next February 19. From time to time I tell the true story which happened to me five years after my mother died.

It was the wee hours of the morn. I was between sleep and wakefulness. Then I heard it: my mother's voice. An electric current went through my body, my reaction to this joy. She only said my nickname, but a name she used endearingly for me. Yet it was as if she read War and Peace to me, so resoundingly was it my mother's voice.

As I always say to my father. This was my mother's way of saying - I'm just somewhere else. And why am I so sure? It was my mother's birthday, May 10th.

For someone not too far from the thought of heaven's gate, it is a caressing story--which, of course, is why I keep telling it to him. I am lifted everytime I do.

Then we sign off with the promise of forehead kisses and hugs.

Have a good sleep I say, which is a direct quote of my mother's.

Each phone call is a treasured moment reminding me of what a lucky girl I am.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Syria and the Dalai Lama

At the Unsung Heroes of Compassion Event
in San Francisco 

When I come back, I will come back as bee.

One of the highlights of my life was seeing the 14th Dalai Lama at the Nobel Peace Forum in Minneapolis this year. I was so excited. I even took a taxi, so I'd simplify my arrival and departure. 

With but a few first words from his lips, he became, he was, a merry presence, wise and dear. The audience fell in love, or renewed a love they carried with them. Light, whimsical, amused with his life and a love of honey,...he said...when I come back, I come back--as BEE. 

I've read some of the writings of this wise and meditative man. His thoughts have stayed with me.

Three years ago, I grew increasing alarmed over all the deaths and suffering in Syria. I felt we had to do something, but I knew not what. The toll grew and my anguish grew with it. Why wasn't the world, why weren't we, the United States, somehow saving these citizens of Syria, under the leadership of the unmerciful Bashad al-Assad?

But I have read the words of the Dalai Lama on revenge and counter-attacks. After 9/11, for example, he reflected that one can attack and return blow for blow. But it will produce consequences unforeseen. Events will play out quite differently than one envisions no matter how noble the motives.

With thoughtful reflection which is the soul of his being he says, yes, one can fight back. When we have suffered the loss of life we want to strike back. As one listens you hear: in his softness is his strength.

Can we say the goals of Iraq served us well or served anyone well: the loss of American lives, civilian lives, or the immorality of lies and half-truths? How perfect it was promised to be: Hailed as liberators.

The philosophy of Buddhists and the Dalai Lama is in this the parable of The Three Questions told by Tolstoy. The questions being:

What is the most important time?
Who is the most important person?
What is the most important thing?

The most important time is now; the most important person is the one we're with; and the most important thing is the good we can do.

Wherever the Dalai Lama goes, I believe he is asked the same questions I heard at the Peace Forum in Minneapolis. What can we do to prevent the violence, death, and destruction in the world?

"Begin with yourself," he answers.
We must model what we wish for--in Syria, in Iraq, the Ukraine, and Ferguson, Missouri.

James Foley, the first American in recent days to be killed so horrifically in front of a
stunned world, had been making a difference in Syria. He purchased an ambulance for one of Aleppo's hospitals to assist the wounded. He answered all of Tolstoy's questions with a vehicle for saving lives.

It seems we turn to war when we have yet to exhaust the tools for peace.

Now we are catapulted forward by the deaths of our journalists, but not in a way many journalists would want. Foreign correspondent Richard Engel spoke on MSNBC that he wouldn't want his death to impact American foreign policy.

And now here we are. We are going to do something in Syria. But is it the right something?

Have we exhausted peace in our rush for war?

I should be happy; we are going to act. But I am uneasy.
Congress wants assurances or a bigger war effort. But I don't think I want war at all.

The Dalai Lama used the word "bully" in his talk on the world & violence.
And Pema Chodron has written Don't Bite the Hook.
Somehow I feel we have already swallowed it.

Let's pray in all the world's religions, yet also--work for peace. We have it in us.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Selfishness and Suicide Updated - A discussion touched off on Facebook. And Continued--Here.

"If you judge people, you have no time to love them." 
Mother Teresa

Robin Williams 1951-2014

The best I can say to those who feel suicide sufferers are selfish is that those raising the point perhaps have never known clinical depression themselves. They are fortunately blessed.

Most people fight cancer valiantly so intent to beat this disease. Others can be just as valiant fighting depression, but at times the carrier can't carry the disease any longer, as it is profoundly dark and relentless.

Robin Williams was bipolar: it was inter-woven into his genius and that tell-tale-rapid-fire speech few could keep up with.

The flip side of mania in the disease model is depression. Clinical
depression is chemical. It's like going to the bank for a withdrawal but the money, the serotonin isn't there. Usually medication helps, but not always. Williams was being treated for depression when he died.

Robin Williams wasn't selfish--he was sick. And it is beyond the darkest night you can imagine (if you've never know the disease). In it you lose your mental strength and sometimes the will to fight.

Robin owed his fans nothing--he gave at the office all the brilliance he possessed. He was fighting for his life, his wellness, when he lost it, having recently been in rehab in Minnesota and under the care of mental health professionals. And now through his wife we learn he was in the early stages of Parkinson's disease.

Today all one hears are the millions he raised for the homeless, and how he pulled fellow actor, Christopher Reeves, up from his own darkness. Also today, from across the board, words that Robin Williams was the kindest of men.

My family is nearly one with the illness of despair. But the stigma still remains. 

Yet all that should be left is compassion for this brilliant life, struck down by a disease and for the disease itself.

Often depressives are the least selfish in the room as they have known suffering.

May God teach the love and understanding this, as well as other diseases, require of the compassionate heart.

Robin Williams wasn't selfish...he must have been overwhelmed on two fronts: the loss of health of his body while the additional burden of depression from his Parkinson's diagnosis--challenged his mental health even more.

In my most recent issue of Shambhala Sun magazine there are these words: Don't Figure Others Out. Or, as I've generally heard it: 
Don't ponder others. 

At times we aren't even sure of our own motives, myriad thoughts, perceptions and beliefs. We owe ourselves and others God's Peace.

Thank you, Robin, for your amazing gifts. In heaven rest--Be Well.
Grace, grace to your divine being.

Monday, July 28, 2014

For the Loving Household (to God or To Another) - A Prayer--When I Mess Up

Flock of Sheep - Wikipedia

Hold me, hold me,
Resist the need to scold me;
For even I can see 
The mess of things
You gave me--so

Hold me, hold me,
That own me...
Let me draw on dawn
And breathe You, 
Ever the New Day.

©1998 Connie Nelson Ahlberg
All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Feeling Their Presence

Pansies - Wikipedia

Whenever I water my plants or flowers, be they violets or outdoor pansies, I see the face of my aunt or grandmother in each blossom: those who grew them so lovingly before me; and at times, I feel their presence, and wonder if I am tending them, or if they
---are tending me.

Connie Nelson Ahlberg
All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Bill Maher on Hillary Clinton and the Bible

Gutenberg Bible - Wikipedia

Bill Maher is losing his moorings. He may be the first person to say he never had any. Lately he's been giving many opinions on Hillary Clinton, President Obama, and what Hillary should do to survive politically.

Reading recently that the President of the United States is a "drop-dead atheist," is as irresistible as it is galling. Bill would know, because, by his own admission, those three words describe himself.

In a free country, one can be of any faith--or no faith, a right we cherish and protect.
Mr. Maher, I fear, is projecting onto the President, his own views, not the beliefs of the President who has stated that he has been a Christian for years.

What got "me going," wasn't so much Bill Maher on Barack Obama, but Bill Maher on Hillary Clinton.

On Comedy Central with Jon Stewart, Maher made fun of Hillary's pick of the book that has influenced her the most: the Bible. Maher -sardonic to the bone, said she was out-of-step.

I grew up with many devout Protestant friends. Their steadfast study of the Bible topped the focus we were given as Catholics to explore the Bible on our own (as we weren't trusted to do that).

One's faith community as you grow up, from church services to Bible study in most Protestant churches is thorough and purposeful.  Maher's contempt of Hillary's faith journey is marred (pardon the pun) by his perception. "Milliannials aren't religious," he said.

In times of trial, legions have sought the Bible for solace, spiritual strength, and inspiration. A best friend's mother found the psalms her path to heaven. I also know many young people who find the Bible very significant in their lives.

"Behold the lilies of the field, they toil not - neither do they spin; yet Simon in all his glory
was not arraigned like one of these." Matthew 6:28

Tiffany's Lilies of the Field

With humor one isn't honoring, I realize, one is putting down. Bill Maher is a funny man; but his perceptions & biases are clouding his views and flowing from his mouth.

Having grown up at exactly the same time as the former First Lady and former Sec of State, I have come to appreciate her life.

When I look at the house on 235 Wisner St. in Park Ridge, Illinois, I see a solid house of bricks. This is where Hillary grow up from the age of three.

Bill Maher, are you wise enough, are you smart enough, to realize your words bristled on the backs of many of us...who have sought the depth of the Bible when we were in our own depths?

Rather than a pat answer, I take Hillary at her word which she shared to the United Methodist Women Assembly in Louisville, Kentucky. Hillary said the Methodist church is a homecoming for her, where she learned about caring for others and social justice. She has not departed far from those beliefs.

I can respect choosing the Bible as the book which has influenced her the most.
For when I'm lost, I seek the wisdom of the ages, and the great literature on the pages
of the Holy Book.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Why Five Candles Burned

An Indian Bride

In one of the holiest of countries in terms of religious sites; a place where Christ may have lived his silent years; a sacrilege, an ongoing nightmare against our littlest women and girls plays on.

If young men gang rape and hang young teenage girls--they must have no fear. No fear of justice or being caught and tried for their crimes. India, O India! 

India, the largest democracy in the world with it's new Hindu leader has more than brutal conflicts against Muslims to amend and heal, or economic woes to rectify in their economy.

It desperately needs to look at the disparity, the Men Only modes of worship, vast crowds of men-only stage shows within adult entertainment, separation of women and girls in families that don't foster equality, mutuality, courtesy, and respect.

How can the rest of the world be guests in a country that commits sacrilege against it's own girls, against it's own women, stoning them, disfiguring their own daughters for choosing a mate not hand-selected by their parents? Bride burning when dowry demands aren't met. How can there even be a term: Bride Burning?

It's the inequality in India that must be examined.

Rapists by karmic tradition or within the vast wisdom of Buddhist zen monk, Thich Nhat Hanh, realize we aren't separate, we are one. Hence the males have raped themselves, raped their own light no matter the faith tradition.

Karmic views hold they may/or will be reborn to suffer the
carnage they perpetuated turned back on themselves; thereby learning what violation against our Godly souls feels like.

Shrouding women in beautiful or simple cloth in India, whether Hindu or Muslim, keeps women separate and unequal. Few can remain integrated within the minds of their male counterparts when women live separate and unequal lives.

Patriarchy taken to extremes means, yes, stone your daughters if they dare to stand for their own voice, their own decisions, their own choices. In patriarchy, males have all the power. 

Why are only women veiled? 

While honoring all faiths, we have to have the courage and fearlessness to see by treating our women differently, in such comprehensive ways, we can be used by men for the most despicable of human acts. What is meant to be sacred intimacy is changed to violent sacrilege and murder. 

For this the most beautiful--our beloved young girls and women, were not born into the world, whether in the West or in the world's largest democracy.

Women need to be not on a pedestal which can be toppled and destroyed at will or whim, but as beautifully equal as God, all gods, made them.

For this women need to scream from their voices and from their souls:

Let us stand as we wish for who we are, with dreams intact,
integrated in village life, as radiant equals with so much to 
give as peacemakers in the world.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

A Woman's Strength - Three Generations

      Tess & Clarence Hanson

 Passing on--An Indomitable Spirit

Years ago I met a vivacious woman named Ann. Some time after that I met Ann's mother, Tess, and father, Clarence. Everyone loved Tess. To keep it simple I could say it all began with her, though Thich Nhat Hanh would have a different view. 

Hanh believes, if say, you had looked at Tess's hands (when she was with us) you would have seen the generations in her past and the future to be. What was great about Tess or Tessie is that she didn't pretend to be anything but what she was. She and Clarence raised their children in a small town, Faribault, MN, where little and big dreams are made. Tess had a fault, but it was her wisdom. She had a true joy in living, and common sense. She was a great woman who never shouted her greatness, that was something you knew by sitting with her.  

Don't pass the nonsense--because she'd never pass that on. She had spunk, integrity, gumption, perseverance and the ability to inspire. She had to have the latter as her truth was reborn again and again in her daughter Ann and in her granddaughter Molly.

A woman passes on her strength through the stories she leaves behind and the Spirit of the life she lived: stories of strength, tenacity, and generosity of Spirit. Tess was true as a Lutheran hymnal. Sing.

The invisible becomes real when you look at her off-spring and see the great gift of empowerment before it had the name. Perseverance lives in small towns near the peonies, courage--there with the lilies of the valley bordering the flowerbed, and conquering adversity with acceptance like a spring rain. Green grass grows with the goals and dreams attained. 

The Spirit Grows into Grace that flows on through generations. You see it shine on in her daughter's visible volumes of accomplishments and her granddaughter's indomitable spirit in life and love...backbones strong as an oak that's always been in Faribault.

Tess's daughter Ann Hanson Schrupp and 
Granddaughter Molly Zahn

Friday, April 11, 2014

A Walk as Wood

I started as a piece of rounded firewood
Resting before surrender to my master's axe;
He said: You'll always remain You, ever intact,
As I swing my deliverist arm 'n axe;

So I gave myself up for a bigger cause:
Warming my master's house as firewood;
Yet I found in sacrifice
Torn from wholeness, splintered twice;

If I had the chance to avoid the axe,
I'd say leave the bark, my grains, my heart
From axe as divining rod;
Let me lie untethered whole on my master's
Woodpile staring up just so;

I found I wish to see the sky unbound,
Than being taken and broken up
Even to serve my master's cup;
As you go forward you don't know

What it will like to learn and grow;
How to be still the authentic tree;
And keep the rain, sun, & budding leaves,
And the Forest floor just beyond
The cathedral's door;

Sacrifice is very grand,
Unless you'd rather breathe & stand
The way, the way you always were:
Simple bark and holy grain,
Rings from years
And forest's rains.

By Connie Nelson Ahlberg
All Rights Reserved
April 11, 2014

Honoring Spring
Honoring Renewal

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Stephen Hawking - Here and the Hereafter

Stephen Hawking - Child Star

I so wanted to watch the PBS special on Stephen Hawking. I did catch the broadcast but almost missed it. As it was, I tuned in about ten-15 minutes into this superb documentary.

I was transfixed watching this brilliant man tested by a body increasingly impacted by a motor neuron disease related to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a condition that has progressed over the years. His persistence and sheer grit to triumph despite his handicaps is now legendary. And thankfully he is with us still!

As a poet I obviously don't have his mind that has changed how people see the universe. But I am most intrigued & fascinated in the quotes I see of Stephen's thoughts on the afterlife.

"I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark," he said in an interview which ran in The Guardian May 15, 2011.

There is, however, quite a bit of documentation now about the soul level before we come to Earth taped in past-life regressions and after-death communication (ADC),

Years ago I learned in a business women's group (most of whom were in the counseling field) that we choose our parents. Stunned I asked two women about it again as the room emptied out. They each nodded yes to my question and looked at me as if I had been living under a rock.

I had to go home and chew on that one! However Carol Bowman, who has written about children and past lives, narrates a true story of a child telling his mother that he picked her and his father when they were on a beach near a pink hotel. And the truth is, his parents honeymooned in Maui near a “pink” hotel.  He was born nine months later.

Authors Judy and Jim Guggenheim in Hello From Heaven, attest that one needn’t believe in heaven to get there! As many who didn’t believe have communicated to the living: I was wrong about not believing in the afterlife.

I see parallels between Stephen Hawking's incredible life and his choosing the life he has on the soul level. It is inconceivable that Stephen would choose his parents yet not know of the profound handicap he would be met with as a young man. Choosing a life this arduous sets in place deeper spiritual growth and development were he not in a body limited by a degenerative disease.

Thus while Stephen has profound accomplishments in his life as a theoretical physicist and cosmologist, he has also chosen to deepen his spiritual progression at the same time. The fact that he doesn’t remember his commitment on the soul level doesn’t matter.

Stephen’s belief that heaven isn’t a fairy tale will be wondrously disproved to him, as he embraces (one day) what he’s always known as a soul going home.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

400,000 Untested Rape Kits - College Campuses: Women and Social Justice

Taking a Stand 

Yesterday President Barack Obama took a pledge to make our college campuses safer for women in the fight against sexual assaults. He's created a task force from his senior administration to coordinate enforcement on college campuses.

College sexual assault is now an epidemic: one in five women have been assaulted, but only 12% report the crime. 

Below is an article the Boston Globe ran January 22, 2014...with a telling poster of one young woman's story.

Obama pledges stand against college sexual assaults - via @bostondotcom

All the acts against young women leave forever scars. In looking at the chart posted by the Boston Globe, Harvard leads the Eastern universities in the number of assaults. It's chilling. Residential halls are the main areas where the attacks/rapes take place.

Surely ivy-league young men have had every advantage by-in-large in terms of a better background as candidates to this esteemed university. But as we know, status, income, means, and background clearly don't seem to matter. 

But abuse of power is all around us; and many male students take assault pretty lightly. Some schools are not taking action against tenured professors (as noted on the poster in the article from the Globe).

Having written about many Minnesota female victims of violence, I applaud the President taking this stand. His visibility is needed. And he has a heartfelt reason to do so: the President and the First Lady have two beautiful and bright, gracious daughters.

I'm taking a stand, too. And I'm going to need your help. There is a number that is so appalling that I can't forget it. That number is 400,000. 

As we stand for our precious, young women planning for tomorrow, we need remember over 400,000 women who lost yesterdays. Four hundred thousand is the number of untested rape kits lying around across the country. Some kits go back nineteen years.

Today I contacted the White House and Minnesota's two distinguished Senators, Sen Amy Klobucher and Sen. Al Franken to bring attention to this incredible injustice.

This backlog sends a message to many that a male perpetrator may never be charged: indeed--if we haven't marshaled the strength, will, and monies needed to stand for crimes going back years and years.

As we know, after an assault or rape, lives frequently don't get put back together. Goals are abandoned, and shame and guilt: all the residuals of being violated can remain for years.

We have to summon the will to rectify this injustice and honor our women and girls. For if we don't...what message are we sending? We're doesn't matter. Sorry. Red tape, no tape, no justice.

I plan on contacting women Congressional leaders first and foremost. We need to ban together and honor our women and girls.

I have a beautiful granddaughter. All the young women are and were beautifully wonderful spirits with everything ahead of them. And then a horrendous abuse of power took place. We have exacerbated their pain, and delayed healing by allowing the backlog to build and build. 

If we now have the attention and will to focus on our college campuses to prevent further rapes and assaults, Heaven Help Us, let's honor the women who wait for justice. 

Contact your female Congressional leaders in particular, as they may better understand what must be done. We can do it. We just need the compassion and the will. We have to demand that justice is served.  (This isn't about blame, but about galvanizing action.) Forward this post/& ReTweet it.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Inviting Gratitude In--to Stay

Moss Gardens

The soft overcomes the hard; and the weak, the strong. Lao-Tzu

"God is glorified, not by our groans, but by our Thanksgiving."  Edwin Percy Whipple

In recent weeks and days, I've been carrying around the book Living in Gratitude by Angeles Arrien. It accompanies me from room to room and from house to car in a cloth bag. I've meant to use the book at the beginning of the year to the end, but I have not been consistent in that effort. A new year gives me a fresh opportunity.

Gratitude has been a theme in recent years. Now even more is known about how living with gratitude effects our well being. On Angeles Arrien's website is a quote I have long loved: Walking the mystical path with practical feet.

I was moved to read that a gratitude journal helped allay Deborah Norville's migraine headaches within her daily challenges of anchor, wife, and mother.

Indeed, I have gratitude for Angeles Arrien, meeting her first in her brilliant tarot manual: Tarot Handbook Practical Applications of Ancient Visual Symbols. Her anthropological background is such a rich tapestry in terms of legend, symbols, peoples, and universal shapes. I use her handbook and remain startled at the spiritual depth revealed in the work. It is a marvelous tool for personal growth on every level.

One needs, as the Buddhists say, to lean into a study of gratitude. Arrien offers the learner the forms gratitude can take and the portals through which it enters.

She writes of: blessings, protections, mercies, and learnings as the means we evolve in appreciation--in gratitude.

Blessings are "what we hold as the good in our lives." They are linked to Spirit, and our recognition of the presence of grace through ritual as in "a calling forth."

Protections are the literal and spiritual arms we extend to our loved ones: the elderly, the ill, and others through ritual and prayer.

Mercies are the elements of kindness and compassion, and also forgiveness woven into the lives we live despite human betrayal and dishonour. Haven't we all felt the power of forgiveness within ourselves? And the sweep of compassion and kindness that makes us better human beings?

Learnings are truths we glean from living our lives. Each of us comes to know both the happiness and suffering for which we live the gratitude within.

I know I need keep the book near me to assist in staying present in my year-long commitment to incorporating, appreciating the gifts of God's Hands.

It's in quietude, humility, one acknowledges the goodness received. With gratitude you aren't seeing how much you can hold, but as you learn to let go, how much you have in simplicity in which one draws a quiet strength.

Arrien writes that a sense of gratitude through the portals touched on above, inpact our relationships, health and well being, and even our fianacial world. Moreover, grateful people are happy people.

If you've never picked up a book by Angles Arrien, this may present an opportunity. The book is an indepth look at becoming aware of what we've received and the benefits of that awareness.

I will keep evolving if I open increasingly to gratitude, live it--and keep it.
Indeed I wish to invite gratitude in--to stay.

God's Blessings to you!