Posts Tagged ‘family’

In Praise of Good Husbands…and a poem.

August 29, 2013



I have been married for many years to a man who is 8 years younger.  At first, this garnered a lot of ill will from  some family members, especially my mother.


Mother in Law


In spite of this,  we have weathered  the slings and arrows coming our way from exwives (his) and people who should have shut their collective mouths because they had nothing positive to say.  After 28 years, we are doing fine.

Women tell me how hard it is, in middle life, to reconnect with men.  Either they have been seriously hurt, or they have grown used to their own company and making room for a new man is too much work.  I can understand this. 


I have no answers. But I do feel blessed with this man.  He is tolerant, patient and a person who champions my activities.  Well, most of them.  Perhaps I am a borderline hoarder of stray animals.  He feeds, pays the vet bills and makes room on the den couch for cats (9), dogs (3) but draws the line at the 5 hens and goldfish in the pond.  On occasion, a few brave hens have come in the back door and perched on his couch.  He’s allergic to the cats and his nose hasn’t stopped running in 28 years but he does take shots. Helps.  Doesn’t help that the cats adore him and try to sleep on his chest and face.  I think they are trying to discern if he also has nine lives…

He is a gentle man and doesn’t stint on affection. I am in constant gratitude for the life he brings to me.  I only hope I can do the same .

Lady Nyo



“You’re all I have”

Heard in the dark

Heart almost stopping

In an inattentive breast.

I dare not look at him

Too bald a sentiment

And too true to bear

A light, comforting answer.

What would occasion such words,

Such a piteous sentiment?

When one has lived

Within another’s hours, days, years,

The fabric of this making

Can be frayed.

The warp and weave, the very thread

That appears as if out of air

(and it does)

becomes substantial,

it covers and clothes more than the body

and the life blood of sentiment,


Becomes the river within, unending,

Even transcending the pulse of life.

“You’re all I have,”

A whispered refrain

Echoing  in the heart

And burrowing deep.


“Poem Of My Husband” to be published in “Pitcher Of Moon, Poems of Gratitude and Blessings” hopefully soon.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2013


The Tribe of Kohuts…..

September 27, 2012

Earlier this month, we traveled to central New Jersey for the 100th Birthday Celebration of my dear Aunt Jean. We drove because I insisted on taking one of our few French pumpkins from our garden, jams and jellies and eggs from our hens as gifts to my aunt. That was a long trip, but having a car made it possible to make day trips out into the countryside to see what changes 20 years of absence had made. The poem ” The Homecoming” tells of just a few of those changes we found.

Most importantly, there were 75 plus people attending, cousins, relatives in some way, but people I had not seen in 23 and 50 years. Of course, I had never met many of the grown children from my cousins, and there were plenty in attendance. So many people remembered my father and related stories to us about him. He was well loved in his lifetime and hearing people, I was once again struck how special he was. He’s been gone for 23 years this November, but his presence was in the room; he was that loved.

There were many long-gone relatives in that banquet room. Uncle John and Aunt Margaret, Sonny’s father and mother, an uncle who was the essence of kindness, his pockets filled with candies which he rustled and we children came running like kittens; Aunt Margaret who would take me on a train to NY for lunch, first washing my face to make me presentable; Uncle Zoltan and Aunt Pauline, who stepped in to parent me when my father died. They loomed large in my life when I felt lost. Uncle Louis, Aunt Jean’s dear husband, who was my father’s favorite brother; Aunt Bubbie, Uncle Mac, Aunt Irene and Uncle Lee…so many people gone, an entire generation, with only Aunt Nancy and Aunt Jean left to herd the rest of us through life.

My Aunt Jean, at 100, was glowing, strong and full of life: beautiful, witty, and one I wouldn’t get into any political argument. That was the general impression I got from other relatives. At 100, Aunt Jean can hold her own.

She uses a wheeled walker, but watching her, you can see she walks faster than that walker. I also saw her put aside the walker, and shove a heavy chair out of her way. There is strength and life in this 100 year young woman.

Over the years, because of distance (we are in Atlanta) and other things, I had missed the Xmas parties every year, had not extended myself to the various cousins, was sure that no one would remember me. I was very wrong. My oldest cousin, Sonny (John) Kohut, the son of my father’s oldest brother (dead) and his adorable wife, Marylou immediately embraced us. We didn’t have name tags on, but it didn’t seem to matter. I was Al Kohut’s only daughter and that was enough for this tribe.

Aunt Jean has been instrumental in my writing life: over the past 5 years she has read every poem I have sent her, and I thanked her in my last book, “White Cranes of Heaven”. She deserved thanking and more because I sent her just about everything I wrote. She complained every time my letters didn’t include some poetry. Apparently, she also passed some of these poems around the family, so I wasn’t such a stranger there.

Over the years, Aunt Jean has become “Mother Jean” and I her ‘daughter”. She also has her own daughter, Pam , and I gain a sister here. I was receiving two and sometimes three letters a week from her. Aunt Jean writes around 50 letters a month all over the world to relatives. The Kohuts are Hungarian,(Aunt Jean tells me ‘closer to the Czech side’) and most of them are bi-lingual. My Hungarian would have my tongue ripped out by wolves: it is that bad.

Mother Jean saw a daughter sorely in need of a functioning family. Her embrace of me has made all the difference in my life. She saw a woman desperately in need of the love of her tribe and made it possible in so many ways. A compassionate belief in the goodness of life and living, a fortitude against evil, and a remarkable ability to embrace the needs of others.

We came from this celebration deeply reconnected with a tribe of people who were loving and caring. The next book will be dedicated to this tribe and I will attempt to remember them for what they gave us that weekend.

It is good to belong somewhere after all these years of doubt. I am very proud of my Hungarian heritage, and my Aunt Jean has helped me feel the strength of it.

Jane Kohut-Bartels
Copyrighted, 2012

The Power of Love, Vulture style…..and a Poem.

January 6, 2012

I have a sisterinlaw, who has a sister  I have never met.  This is not unusual, as many  families today are not in close contact or have knowledge except  for those in some immediate circles. My husband and I are not in a particular immediate circle because we don’t believe like some in our family.  We are not religious fundamentalists, hence we don’t belong.

But this  ‘unmet’ woman expresses more of what I have come to believe  what God calls us to do: attend to those who are abandoned, unfed, unclaimed, unwanted, and not socially ‘acceptable’ or with value. 

Yesterday I stepped out in some sort of faith and called this sisterinlaw.  We had not talked in two years and I didn’t know whether she would or not. My birth family is wanky like that, full of hurts, bruises and perceived insults.  Some of them finding their marks, too.  But talk we did, over the course of the day.  It was good,  it was a ‘reclaiming’ of a particular part of family, if only limited to her.

She is a fundamentalist Christian, and I am not. She is very much involved in the arguments of church and theology.  She attempts in her own way to build paths to  human hearts.  She is what I would consider a ‘good’ theologian for a fundamentalist: she doesn’t beat you over the head with such finely wrought arguments that you are left dizzy.   I believe she proceeds from love. I found, in talking to her, that I had missed our discussions, even if they are limited to her attempts to get me to her side of religious arguments.  And then she told me about her sister in Florida, Diana.

Diana is just about my age, and lives in an area where there are many homeless and abandoned animals.  She feeds probably two dozen cats, some of them hers, most of them not.  She also feeds dogs, stray dogs, ducks that come from the nearby pond, a mother racoon and her kit, and Frank.  Frank is a vulture, and Frank has been coming around for kibble for four or five years.  Sometimes, Frank brings his friends to the porch for feeding.

I am left in a state of awe, wonder and amazement.  Right now I am also left in a weakened state of tears: whether this is because it is early, and tears are a normal part of being overwhelmed by the beauty of the morning or because of what I am writing about, Frank and Diana and all her ‘the least of us’, I don’t know, but I’m not ashamed.

I have been giving a lot of thought recently about my own state of faith.  We’ve just passed a season of outward love, and I am wondering how much of that really sticks.  Churches are embroiled in theological issues, much beyond my simple understanding, or my wanting to be involved in; it seems that we have put aside, along with the Xmas tree and tinsel, our ‘good tidings’ to our fellow men, and what are we now left with?  The  forecasters of economical  ‘good tidings’ are mostly happy with the glut of merchandise and the money spent on the Xmas season but still, where is the ongoing love and message of this season?

I have a particular problem with fundamentalism: to me it is anti-creativity, not respecting the individuality of a person, demanding compliance and conformity in a particular religious dogma.  This goes for Christian, Jewish, etc. doctrine. I believe that we, those who think otherwise, should leave the churches to these fundies: give over the buildings, the candles, the properties, the altarcloths, etc.  Give them what they are fighting for, as is shown in so much of the Episcopal brouhaha right now across our country, and outward. The rest of us should drop these battles and get on with developing our own beliefs and developing a community that is inclusive, not exclusive.  I think we have a fine precedent in creation-based spirituality.  We have Hildegarde of Bingen, Meister Eckhart, Francis of Assisi, and these are just a few of the Christian ‘mystics’.  People most fundamentalists never learned about. 

We also have our own modern mystic, Father Matthew Fox, a former Dominican priest who is now an Episcopalian. People interested in this  movement of Creation Spirituality should read him.  It is inclusive, deep and to me, a joyful spirituality that proposes ‘original blessing’ rather than ‘0riginal sin’.  Redemption comes to us, not as a power alien to own natures but as an ‘aha’ experience that transcends.

Diana is not a rich woman. She makes sacrifices to do what she does.  I called  just to introduce myself and to find out more about Frank and the rest of her flock.  We talked and I am so deeply moved.  I am  impressed that this woman has cut through  the arguments in life and just does what she does as an article of faith.  She puts her actions where many put  just their mouths, words.  Oh, there are dangers to her and to Frank and all those she feeds and loves.  The locals are not generally happy, and have threatened her and Frank and company, but Frank thankfully is protected by laws down there.  So the taunts of shooting him would get the humans in deep trouble.  As they should.

I was told by my sisterinlaw that when it gets cold down there in Florida, and it does, Diana puts a heater outside for those abandoned to huddle against and keep warm. It does take hours to feed everyone, and the miracle here is this is a real “Peaceable Kingdom”.  Frank is eating from the same bowl that cats are eating from, and ducks are coming from the pond to join the table: It must be something to see a bunch of vultures eating quietly (??) with a bunch of cats.  I would definitely call this God’s Miracle.  I would rather sit and watch this miracle than listen to a book of sermons.

Sometimes Frank will eat from a bowl held out by Diana, and then he turns sideways and watches her.  She is not afraid of these huge birds, carrion eaters, and I believe she is a special agent of God’s love.  She has to be.

As we go into this season of Silence, Stillness, Scarcity and bone-numbing cold, I see the hope of life and love that is real in Diana’s actions.  To some, foolhearty, dangerous, a ‘waste of time’, but to me, Diana expresses exactly what we are called upon to do: to set aside our own comfort and extend ourselves to others, even those who have no ‘value’ to most. Diana is a real example of God’s love, and what we are called upon this earth to do.  We can froth at the mouth about all the theological arguments we want, but this is all about the head and a too-worldy ego.  What Diana does cuts through to the real message we are called to embrace. 

She cuts through to the heart of the matter, and that is good.

Lady Nyo

Ode to a Coopers Hawk

Come to me.

Come to me,

Winged celestial beauty.

Come to me with your notched

Mermaid tail,

Your silken roll of feathers.

Fly down into my hollowed-out soul,

Fill me with your sun-warmed glory

Nestle in my arms

And bring the curve of the horizon

Embraced in your outstretched wings.

I need no white bearded prophet,

No mumbled prayer, no gospel song

No hard church bench, no fast or

Festival to feel close to the Divine.

The glory of the universe,

Is embodied in your flight

As you tumble through heavens,

Ride the invisible thermals

Screech with joy at freedom

Fill your lungs with thin air

And play bumper car with an Eagle.

I, earthbound,

No hollowed bones to launch me,

Just tired soul to weigh down,

No soft plumage to feel the course

Of wind through glossy feathers

No hunting call to herald my presence.

Still my soul takes flight

The breeze lifts my spirit,

My eyes follow you,

And we will find that glory

Transcend a sullen earth,

Transcend a mean humanity

And soar together into the blue eye of God.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2011

A Tale of Two Brothers and Stumbling Motherhood….

December 24, 2011

Some readers have asked me to keep them updated about my   ‘two ‘boys’ and this Christmas visit.  I woke up with some thoughts this Christmas Eve.  They  have been troubling me all morning.

Last night we heard from Christopher #2, the younger one, off in the Navy for the past two years.  He was trying to rent a car to bring both of them down from Virginia.  Why he was doing so when his brother had a perfectly good car for this road trip was beyond me.  Apparently he never considered asking his brother. If this sounds strange to readers, well, they just met this summer, and there probably is shyness,  other things going on between them.  Learning the new ‘brother’ on both sides probably takes time and consideration.  Our son (Christopher #2, being younger) was having trouble with his credit card, and I didn’t want to hear about it.  I was exhibiting my usual impatience with our squirrelly son, and I could feel these old sensations of something creep into my brain.  Our son joined the Navy right after some years of college and immediately bought a Jaguar.  He is in love with Jaguars, being given my old one at 18 for a birthday present.  That was a mistake on our part, the parents, because the money drain of a car like that is unending.  The new Jag, a silvery blue one, beautiful and running well, was a sight to behold until the floods in Virginia this summer.  The entire electrical system, designed by the Prince of Darkness , flooded  and our son was left with an expensive and continuing repair. Again, the nasty money drain on a young man who doesn’t have a clue about financial things in general. 

Talking with him last night, I was struck by his determined optimism about coming down to Atlanta for Christmas. He was coming and bringing his ‘new’ brother — Come Hell Or High Water.  It just never occured to him to ask his brother to use his own car.  Our son was determined to ‘be responsible’ in these things…regardless the obstacles facing him.  Enterprise car rental would not use my husband’s card because he had to offer it in person according to our son.  Five minute later, in the next phone call from him, everything was fine, Christopher #1 agreed to use his car, and Christopher #2 would do an oil change.

This morning, in the midst of preparations for Christmas and their arrival, I am feeling shame.  I recognize some of the same behaviors of another person in my family: impatience, distain, annoyance at the troubles of others.  The cycle truly goes on when you aren’t aware or conscious of these things.  And they don’t make for being a good mother or a good person.

I became a mother to our son in my early 40’s.  I had no experience with children, and I think at the time I had no real awareness of what it really entailed.  Though having a child from a previous marriage, my husband didn’t either.  We were locked in a selfish, self-centered marriage, not really emotionally mature enough to recognize this huge thing we were facing.  Having Christopher in our lives broke a lot of that crap down, but I don’t think we really understood the changes  necessary.  That took too many years and only in the last 6 have I understood where so many of the deficiencies of my own parenting came from.

The good news is  I did not have to repeat these unending patterns. Narcissism is, in part, an inability to place the suffering or discomfort of another person first in your actions: it is usually a total lack of empathy for the situation, the condition of someone else.  Of course, narcissism is much more than this, but the lack of empathy is key in defining pathological narcissism.  It’s a horrible ball of wax.  Narcissism contains so many disruptive and destructive elements, but it is truly poisonous to children.  They have no real defenses against it, and when it comes from a parent, it is debilitating for life until therapy shines some light and understanding.  It disrupts any real family life.  It makes a mockery of unconditional love, something we are called to especially in this season.

How truly wonderful the optimism and fortitude of my son.  How wonderful they both are working in tandem to come down here, and want to spend Christmas with us.  It is also amazing to me that Christopher #1, (28 apparently, not 29 as I thought) wants to come and spend this precious time with people he really doesn’t know.  He’s coming here on a wing and a prayer, not knowing  knowing for sure his place in this family.

He, a new Mormon, (a mysterious religion to us)…is stepping out in faith. 

I am humbled.  I am humbled by the constancy of my son who will ‘walk through flames’ to be home for Christmas.  I am humbled by Christopher #1 who is determined to be here, to throw himself into a new family who  wants him as family.  But most of all, I am humbled that two young men can teach me the real value and meaning of love and Christmas: they desperately care and are not afraid of showing it.  Their youthful optimism cuts through doubt and darkness.

They want to be with us as family, their family, and they bring love with them.  The plan is that they will be here around 1opm- midnight this Christmas Eve, and they will be amongst the most important  blessings this season brings.

Lady Nyo, wishing you all a wonderful Holiday. 

Chris #2, if you read this, you have to set up the Creche.  The camels are waiting.

A Christmas Miracle and I Can’t Stop Smiling!

December 11, 2011

This will be a very special Holiday for us. We have one child, now off in the Navy, and for the past few years, Xmas has been rather bleak.  We haven’t even put up a tree.

This year promises a whole different holiday.  During the summer,  my husband’s son, Christopher, 29, came to visit for the first time.  Christopher works in Washington, DC, in the US Patent Office, as a Intellectual Properties Investigator. Three years ago he became a Mormon.

We haven’t seen this child in decades. Divorce can take its nasty toll on so many things, and  children are usually on the front lines.  We had just given up ever knowing this child.  But in through our front door Christopher walked and it was love at first sight.  He is a tall, handsome young man, and funny to boot.  He kept his arm around me and his father and it seemed that talking to Christopher was talking to my husband. They were so much alike.  The mystery of DNA will always startle me.

The last time I saw Christopher he was not even two years old….and still in his crib.  So seeing this beautiful young man who was so much an issue of anger and strife between his parents was a shock.  For some unknown reason, this meeting had nothing of awkwardness or strangeness.  It was just a father, son and step-mother having dinner and getting to know the other.  It was just an unexpected joy for me.

Our son in the Navy, also named Christopher (just 24), met the other Christopher this summer, and they have spent as much time together as possible.  He is an only child, and said to me recently: “Finally I get the sibling I wanted, no thanks to you, Mom.”  LOL!

They spent Thanksgiving up at Christopher’s and that was wonderful,  the mother down here, worried that her child would not have a holiday dinner, except the hard tack or whatever they eat in the Navy these days.

Friday night we were at a holiday party in the neighborhood.  It was held at a new venue for our neighborhood, an internet cafe, apparently owned by the Japanese. It is run by a woman who lived for many years in Japan and speaks fluent Japanese.  They are putting these cafes all over the country I have been told.  This was a lovely new venue for our neighborhood, and we were having a great time.  My husband Fred got a phone call from his son, and BOTH our Christophers are coming home for Xmas on a long road trip together from up there.

I haven’t been able to stop smiling since Friday.  I tore the house apart upstairs yesterday, can barely move this morning, giving up my large studio and office to make a ‘dorm’ for the ‘boys’.  I took another smaller bedroom and sqeezed my stuff in there.   I am so happy to have this task to do, and this ’empty nest’ stuff goes just so far.  It’s damn lonely actually, and having the sound and laughter of two young men, both related, in the house at Christmas will be the best gift of all. I have heard them on the phone, talking to each other, laughing and giggling, both computer nerds, and having that in our lives, even for a short visit at Christmas will mean so much to both of us.  Plus the wood pile will grow with two additional axes this winter.

Life is never predictable. We never thought this Holiday visit would be possible.  But life is also an ever-changing blessing.

Lady Nyo



  I saw the Cooper’s hawk this morning. She landed on the chimney pot, probably looking for my miniature hen, Grayson.  Four years ago she was a starved fledging who mantled over while I fed her cold chicken.  She’s back this holiday, my spirits lifting. A good Christmas present.

   In the middle of the commercialization of the season, Nature closes the gap.  I have noticed squirrels with pecans in mouths leaping the trees, hawks hunting low over now-bare woods, unknown song birds sitting on fences, heard the migration of Sandhill cranes as they honk in formation. You hear their cacophony well before they appear. 

   There is brightness to the holly, washed by our early winter rains and the orange of the nandina berries has turned crimson. Smell of wood smoke in the air and the crispness of morning means some of nature is going to sleep. We humans should reclaim our past and join the slumber party of our brother bears.

   Jingle Bells will fade and our tension with it. Looking towards deep winter when the Earth is again silent will restore our balance and calm nerves with a blanket of peace.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2009, 2011

Some thoughts on revisiting Voluntary Simplicity

July 1, 2009

My husband and I have been reading Duane Elgin’s “Voluntary Simplicity” together.  We have been bouncing ideas off each other as  we read, and what our life together has become.

Part of the attraction before marriage was  we  had some of the same interests:  ecology, small farming, intensive gardening, permaculture, pioneering, green technology like solar and wind, and the general issue of  ‘living in harmony with Nature’.

Not at all different from many of the people of our age, generation.  However, these are mostly ‘external’ issues….things you do or embrace.

We got caught up in the usual ‘prosperity’ issues over the years: as you make more money, or at least a ‘comfortable’ income, you apply to the consumer ideal and ‘growth’  can be measured in gadgets, convenience and clutter.  Case in point, my husband has built houses, and this house has been the recipient of his abilities.  We now have 12 rooms and some of them are rarely used, except to pass through and some are just storage for clutter.  What happened?  Well, this was an outwardly expression of some inward detours, but not the worse of the whole issue.

“Growth” is one thing; “Inner Growth” is something else.  And that is what we are struggling with right now.

These inner growth issues are the engine that drives this approach to VS for us:  we have to reconnect to those aspects of inner growth that will allow the fuller blooming of VS.  Right now we are discussing issues of faith, spirituality, seeking, family, relationships with others, and in particular, friends.  How do we nourish our family and our friends, in particular attend to the needs of others and at the same time attend to our family?

Time is an element that we can rearrange to have ‘enough’ only by shifting the things we already do now.  It’s an issue of what IS important in light of a particular philosophy, and what isn’t.  It takes some effort and a lot of mental change.  Fred and I have to consider  our son who is supportive of some of these philosophical concepts, but also has his own interests.  He’s into most forms of technology, and a big part of it seems to be around computers.  But again, the most important issues are internal, not external.

Perhaps an important issue  outside our ‘inner growth’ considerations, is that we have little  (so far) support for VS in our community.  Well, perhaps I am speaking before further research because  this was the condition before this recent economic situation.  But VS is not poverty by any means.  It’s very much bound up with an appreciation of beauty and things of real value.  Perhaps having time to pursue interests that were beyond possibilities because you were chasing a standard that encompassed all your time and energies and resources, well, with a change in perspective, other things become possible.  And perhaps these things are definitely of more ‘value’.

We struggle to come out of the hypnosis of the culture of affluence.  We struggle to discern those things of personal value and worth keeping and those which are really clutter or of little future value. But these only address material possessions.  We are looking deeper:  we are testing those things that insulated us from discomforts while maximizing our personal pleasures.  Life has been lived by most of us as a constant process of pushing away discomfort and grabbing at those things (or acquiring them) that give usually immediate pleasure.  This seems shallow and shortsighted, in fact, there are great lessons in some discomforts, and we already understand the transitory nature of some immediate pleasures.  They glitter and don’t last.

So, we are struggling towards a better understanding as to the inners of VS for us, and it’s not a ‘one size fits all’.   It’s a very personal balance for us, and will look very different from others approach to similar issues.

We really are excited right now, because though the issues are enormous,  a bit overwhelming, we see this as something we can work on together, build and sculpt together, for a new and in part, different life.  Lighter, cleaner, more focused, more balanced, and with more time freed up ….ultimately, to serve others.

Best, we are doing it together, and this has the greatest value, even in the short term.

I’ll write more down the road on what we are finding and what we are applying through VS and other issues.

Lady Nyo

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