Thursday, December 8, 2016

Christmas Crazies or Reason for the Season

(This post is a repeat)

Ten Signs that you are infested with an attack of the Christmas Crazies

1.  You find that your tongue is dried beyond redemption from licking copious amounts of Christmas Card envelopes, and stamps.
2.  It is not merely a nice idea to send out Christmas is a necessity....even though you are working two jobs and have three little kids, a husband, a dog, and two kitties!
3.  The NEED of baking cookies to take to the entire neighborhood is constantly throbbing at the back of your mind.
4.  The tree is up, decorated, you've been the home room mother for every single one of your children's Christmas parties at school, and you wish that Christmas was over and your kids were back in school.
5.  Just as a stranger in a department store  reaches to grab a toy that your child is convinced they must have or simply DIE, you put your hand under hers and rip it away...then laugh in maniacal pleasure!
6.  You then engage in a wrestling match with the above mentioned lady to redeem that aforementioned item that your child will simply DIE if they don't find under the tree on Christmas morning!!!
7.  There is a Christmas party at church and you insist on taking pictures with Santa and ALL of your children.  Even Bess the thirteen month old that you KNOW will scream and cry in terror at the sight of a jolly old man in a red suit with white trim (how does he keep that white trim white going down all of those nasty dirty chimneys in the world)? MUST have her picture taken with him because after all this the picture will bring happy memories in years to come DARN IT!
8.  You pretend that you're asleep so that your husband will get up and comfort Bess (who is having night terrors about some strange man in a weird red suit)!
9.  You get up at midnight to go to a Christmas sale with toys that your children just HAVE TO HAVE OR THEY'LL DIE....and when you get home exhausted you discover that you saved 50 cents at the all important sale and now you only have two hours to sleep before your entire family will be up and want you to make breakfast!  (Let them eat granola bars....after all you were up all night for them, right)?
10.  The number TEN reason that you know that you're suffering from an attack of the Christmas Crazies.  Your family is sitting around the Christmas tree singing Christmas Carols and all that you can think of is, "When can I insist that we all go to bed?"

Now the reason for the season.  When my beloved Mama (94 years young) was a tiny child in the 1920s her Father taught her a lesson that stuck with her over the years.  Before they would go into the magical Christmas room where Santa had left gifts he would exclaim, "Christmas Gift."  My Mama knew that he was reminding his family of the reason that gifts are given at Christmas.  The original purpose of those gifts was to remind us that God our Heavenly Father gave the most precious of all gifts, he allowed his son Jesus Christ to be born into this world.  He knew the cruel suffering that his son would endure.  Yet God knew that it was necessary for Christ to come to earth to break the bonds of death for ALL of God's spirit children, that includes you and I.  Christ had made a choice using his own Agency to make this grand sacrifice.

So as the Christmas Crazies threaten to engulf you in their tight hold remind yourself, "Would the world stop spinning if I sent out JANUARY cards this year?  If I allow someone else to be room mother this year, would my children suffer irreparable harm that would lead to years of therapy? (Not so much, not really)"

Review your priorities often, maybe each morning before you start your day.  You may even find pockets of time that you can temporarily relinquish (like watching television or going on Facebook for four hours).  After all Christmas Crazies ARE temporary.  What is PERMANENT will be the precious memories that you make.  Memories like the beauty of lights that surprise and delight your soul as you drive through a normally dark and dreary neighborhood as you are going home from your work.  Remember the precious smile of your youngest watching Christmas lights and listening to Carolers sing.  The joy on your child's face as they see the wonders that Santa brought for them will make all your effort worth it!

Just so you understand, I'm writing this entry to remind MYSELF of what matters during this time.  There is a song by Sarah Bareilles that says, "All I am, all I need, is the air I would kill to breathe. Holds my life in his hands AND STILL I'M SEARCHING FOR SOMETHING..."  Nyle, my beloved husband of 27 years, I still miss with intensity breathing the air that we shared.  Nyle passed away in January of 2012.

Yet I know that he would insist that I continue "SEARCHING FOR SOMETHING!"  I will use the "Reason for the Season," to not give in to mindless sorrow and the deepest of anguish.  I will use the joyous Christmases we shared to keep me from the Christmas Crazies.

Oh I WILL grieve but it will not be the type of grief that drives me to desperation.  It will be tempered with the joyous knowledge that because of God's gift to all of mankind, I WILL see my beloved husband again!

A Musical Christmas Present

Rae was sad.  At ten years of age she hadn't been able to earn money to buy Christmas presents for her parents.  She loved them so much, and she loved watching their dear faces when they opened a gift she had given them.  Her golden brown eyes were swimming in tears as she contemplated a Christmas morning with no gift under the tree for them.

Then, the tears stopped, and a giant smile filled Rae's face with radiance.  She knew what to do!  Her parents both loved music.  Her Father was always in the choir at church.  Her Mama sang as she did her household tasks.

Her Dad had purchased a piano soon after her parents married.  The unusual thing?  He and his wife could NOT play the piano.  His reasoning?  "Our children will ALWAYS have music in our home."

Rae looked through their children's church hymnal.  She wanted the perfect song.  When she found, "Oh Hush Thee My Baby," she got goosebumps.  The song was PERFECT!  It was unusual, not a carol sung all the time.  It had rich musical dynamics.  Most importantly?  Rae could play it on the piano.

Her next step was to involve her four year old sister in the plan.  She thought that her parents would enjoy the musical gift even more with two of them participating.  It was hard finding a time when both of her parents weren't around to hear them practice.  Rae forged ahead.

Rae knew when the perfect night arrived.  Both of her parents were home.  They were all feeling the Christmas spirit.  A lovely tree stood in the corner of their front room.  It was silver, aluminum, her sister Joy was far too allergic for any type of evergreen.  It shimmered softly in the light.

She said, "Mama, Papa, Joy and I have a Christmas gift that we wish to give you.  Do you have some time?  Can we give it to you now?"

They both agreed.  Rae sat down at the piano to play.  Joy stood by Rae's side facing their parents.  Rae was very anxious as she played the introduction to the song.  She was afraid that she would make a mistake and their well rehearsed gift would be ruined. 

As they began to sing, the flowing rhythm, and the sacred words all begin to calm Rae's nervous hands and voice.  Rae and Joy's voices blended together well.  The sisterhood they shared was evident as they harmonized.

They sang three verses, and somehow it felt to Rae that they got a little better on each verse.  She was sad when they finished the last note.  It had felt so dear, so right to present this gift of music to her parents.  Rae was a little shy to turn around and see her parents faces.

Applause turned her around.  Both of her parents were clapping joyfully.  Her Father's face concerned her.  He was wiping tears away.  Sadly she wondered, "Was our singing so poor that it made Dad cry?"

Her Father came to them.  Wrapping his long arms around both of them he gave them each a sound kiss.  "Oh girls.  This was the best present that you could ever have given us."

Their Mama echoed their Dad's words.  "This IS the best gift.  Thank you, thank you.  I could never have gotten anything that I enjoyed more."

Rae's heart seemed to expand with joy.  She hugged her little sister.  The warmth in the room had very little to do with the job that their furnace did.  Rae knew that she would never forget that wonderful moment. 

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Praise or Pain?

I live in constant chronic pain.  I hit the jackpot with all three types, muscular, skeletal, and nerve!  WOOHOO!  If I had been born 50 years earlier I would have been called a cripple.  I would have been homebound...ALL THE TIME, by the extreme levels of this sensation that we call pain.

Pain has a purpose.  Pain tells us to take care of whatever happens to be hurting.  My nephew as a small boy stepped on a multi pronged fishhook that settled deep into his toe.  I was the only available adult in my family at the time.  It was NOT fun to take that sweet young boy to a doctor knowing that it would be a painful experience.

On the other hand, if that fishhook did not hurt?  What if he had just merrily gone along his way?  Of course, the toe would have become infected, which would have turned very nasty, and he may have lost his toe or more of his body.  PAIN HAS A PURPOSE!

I do not, and will not believe that a healthy mind looks for ways to experience pain.  If you see pain as a joyous experience, well, that's a subject for someone much wiser than I am!  I guess we can use for an example the character in Little Shop of Horror's who ADORES going to the dentist.  That's enough said about that!

Here is a question?  Why on earth would a person with a reasonably healthy mind praise pain?  My husband once told me that he had decided, "Pain is just a sensation.  It doesn't have to be defined as good or bad.  It's just a different way to feel."

He was far more evolved than I am.  I dislike intensely feeling pain.  Yet I have learned in my journey that when I awaken in the morning instead of cursing the pain that I feel, praising the medicine that will help me feel closer to normal (whatever normal means...I guess normal for me), begins my day on a positive plane.

There are always things to praise.  I praise the chance to live in a new day.  I praise the chance to be close to my family.  I praise the Christmas holidays and all of the joy that they bring.

I have found that praising, giving active thanks, is like having a key that unlocks secret doors.  In the book/movie, "The Secret Garden," the adorable young girl finds a lost key to a garden that has been allowed to grow over, and turn into a secret patch of weeds.  She has lost both of her parents and lives with an uncle who is entirely morose and rarely home.  The key to the garden opens her soul to a plethora of opportunity for praise and gratitude.

I am continually touched and amazed at the secret gardens that have opened to my vision as I discover the key through difficulty, and pain.  Within those experiences of feeling far less than I would like to feel, I find ways to connect and understand my brothers and sisters of the human race.

I have learned the things in life that REALLY matter.  Trust me, financial wealth, a fancy house, and spiffy cars, well they are nice (I'm not completely crazy), but they are not even close to the most important things in life.

The things that I cling to as I focus on praise and not pain,  are many more than I wish to discuss in this post.  The number one praise worthy gift is faith.  It is a most simple word, with a multitude of meanings.  The faith that I refer to is an active power.  It has the power to help you push through all of the most difficult things that life can hand you.  The following are but a few types of this faith infused with a real power that I am referring to.  Faith in God, however you may perceive him or her, faith in family, faith in yourself, and your capacity for overcoming, these types of faith give life meaning, and color. 

I already mentioned praise, and it stands as the title at the top of the column for this discussion.  This week I will touch on one or two other doors that can be opened by the seemingly negative experiences that life can hold. 

Friday, November 25, 2016

Sarah and Rose

Sarah felt like pulling the covers over her head, and never climbing out of bed, again, ever!  Her husband, the sweetheart of 46 years of her life had passed away.  She couldn't drive a car anymore.  Even with two hearing aids her hearing was problematic.  She hurt lots, due to fibromyalgia, arthritis, and 86 years of living.

To make things even bleaker, she had lived in the same neighborhood for almost 30 years, and now she had to move across town.  Her son and daughter-in law had built a beautiful new house.  She was grateful to live there with them.  At the same time, she couldn't drive back to her friends, and she knew nobody in this neighborhood.

Now the self-pity did it's best to hit her where it hurt the most.  "Why would anyone even care about knowing me?  I can't hear what people say a lot of the time.  If they speak rapidly, I'm lost.  I have nothing to offer to anyone any more."

Finally, after a bout of self pity she dragged herself out of bed.  It didn't help her that her daughter-in laws parents lived in the same house.  "At least they still have each other," she grumbled silently.

She tried not to give in to her feelings of discouragement but as soon as possible after a meal she would retreat again into her bedroom.  In there she would watch TV, but her mind was usually far away from the images that the television displayed.

One day she met a neighbor from across the street.  Sydney was her name.  She was charming and made Sarah feel as though she genuinely cared about her.  Sarah became even more interested when she learned that Sydney's Mother-in law had come all the way from the Phillipines to live with their family.

The first meeting was extremely awkward.  Rose spoke fluent English, but her Phillipine accent was so thick that Sarah could barely understand what she was saying.  Rose realized that Sarah was having a hard time understanding her.  Somehow they looked at each other, and then both began to chuckle.  The differences of culture, language, and age fell away.  They were two old ladies living with their sons and their families.

It wasn't long before they visited back and forth often.  Sarah liked to sit in the front yard and watch the sunset.  Soon Rose would join Sarah.  They would sit silently, watching the majesty of the golden light disappearing into the Great Salt Lake.

Rose was a Christian.  Sarah was a Christian.  They were from different denominations of Christianity.  Rose's church was not local so she began to attend her children's church.  Sarah also attended there.  Soon they sat together, the two oldest women in the church group.  Sarah would try to evangelize Rose.  Rose would smile and nod when Sarah preached.  Rose would simply say, "Maybe sometime."

Their differences didn't seem to matter.  It was the things that they had in common that made their friendship flourish.  Both loved to garden.  They exchanged things that they had grown.  They both loved to cook, and soon they exchanged dishes from their kitchens.  They shared their life stories.  Both had experienced the hardest struggles of life.  Rose was a widow like Sarah.  Their friendship grew stronger. 

Sarah awakened one morning and realized that she didn't feel discouraged any more.  Rose was a good friend.  Sarah was grateful to realize that friendship can happen at any age.  With joy Sarah got up and prepared for a new day.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Love in Eyes of Brown

He was all tumbly, his skin pink, brown spots all over.  His eyes were still closed but he followed his Mama blindly trying to nurse constantly.  Poor Rosie, his Mama, was not yet a year old and this was her second litter.  Now she had three small hungry pups, and one large pup who never seemed to get enough food.

Quickly Sarah and I knew that this adorable boy was ours!  He was the giant of the litter, easily twice the size of his other three siblings.  He was supposed to be a pure bred, pedigreed black poodle.  It was easy to see that the breeding practices in the puppy mill his Mother had been rescued from were not credible.  He looked far more Bichon Friese than Poodle.

What IS a Bichon Friese?  That is a good question.  We all have heard of poodles with their qualities both good and bad.  Bichon Friese's are not known quite as commonly.  They are distant cousins to the Poodle.  Oftentimes they are not quite as intelligent.  On the flip side, they are also not as high strung.  They have very loving dispositions.

I will use a little story as a demonstration of how blessed we were with Rolly's combo parentage.  Sir Oliver Wendell Holmes was a prominent attorney in the changing of the 19th to the 20th century.   His intelligence was well documented.

One day he received a letter from a beautiful actress on the theatrical stage.  Her letter said (paraphrased), Sir...I propose that we make a match.  With your brilliant mind, and my grand beauty, I believe that we could create a child of superior abilities.  Please let me quickly know your decision regarding this matter.

Sir Oliver wrote back, (again paraphrased), Madam...I am honored by your proposal and your compliments in regards to my intelligence.  Unfortunately, there is a possibility that you have neglected to consider.  What if this child were to inherit MY looks and YOUR brains?

We were ever so blessed with our lucky little hybrid.  He had the brilliance of a Poodle mind.  His heart was equally brilliant.  His grin was guaranteed to lift a soul in despair.

At 5 weeks old the owner asked us to take him home.  Traditionally you leave a pup with its Mom and siblings until at least 8 weeks.  Poor little Rosie could not keep up with Rolly's demands for sustenance, and she had three other pups.

We brought home this tiny piece of fluffiness.  His brown eyes seemed to welcome me into his heart.  One of our kitties welcomed him by adoption.  We were stunned.  This kitty had been feral when we brought her home, still a kitten.  She taught him where to eat.  She groomed him, and taught him to groom himself.  She was even patient when he would gambol about her trying to get her to play with him.  He played in the awkward, tooth and wrestle way that puppies have.  It was plain that she was quietly ENDURING his play.  After about 5 minutes she would stand up, shake herself, and in a dignified manner RUN from this little hoyden.

Far too quickly seventeen years came and went.  The world rotated, our family dynamic changed drastically, and now our adorable pup was old.  His front legs didn't really want to work anymore.  He could no longer traverse the two short staircases in our house.  Yet he was no burden.  We had another small dog, and a cat, and they both adored him.

A block before our daughters would arrive home he would begin to bark, and nothing stopped him until they walked through the door.  He would then begin a dance of delight, even when he had to drag one leg about because it no longer worked properly.

We tried medicating him for pain.  We started in the daytime.  He HATED IT!  It made him feel unlike his usual self.  So we switched to medicating him at night.  This was a success as he slept better and had more energy the next day.

I knew that he would not last forever.  We conversed as a family, it's such a tender line when caring for an elderly pet.  Is there more of suffering than joy in his life?  Is it the responsible thing to euthanize a pet when old age has caused so much change?

We had made that oh so difficult decision two years previous with our beloved Katty.  She developed bladder cancer so it was not really a difficult decision.  She was MISERABLE!  Surgery could have helped, MAYBE, or it could have made her even worse.  At  18 years old she might not even survive the anesthesia.  It was with a heavy heart that we made the heart breaking decision to euthanize her.

I could NOT make that decision for Rolly.  My husband used to tease me that Rolly was my favorite child.  He was NOT my favorite human child.  He WAS my favorite fur child.  Over 17 years of life and love he had wrapped himself oh so warmly into my heart.

I was reading when I heard his breathing become labored.  He had been a happy normal just two hours previous when I took him outside to the "bathroom."  As usual he had turned his smiling face into the breeze.

Now it was obvious that he was dying.  I did not know if it would be soon or later.  At 17 there were no life saving practices given.  We all will die sometime, and I knew that this was his time.  Knowing that, did not bring me much comfort as I watched my sweetie dying by degrees.

We had purchased a special doggy stroller to take him for walks when his legs no longer would make it further than the driveway.  He would sit up in his stroller with a firm and happy smile attached to his beautiful face.

Gently I eased him into the stroller and took him for a very short walk.  Next I put him in our backyard and dashed inside to get a sheet for both of us to lie on.  When I returned it was ever so obvious that his life had ended.  Sobbing I held him and rocked him, just as I had done when he was a puppy.  Time ceased to exist as I realized that my life was now going on without his gentle love.

Our family and a dear friend went through the process of preparing a grave on the hillside.  It is a lovely place that Rolly loved, under trees, and close to the path of deer.  Wrapped in an oh so soft blanket we placed him tenderly in his last resting place.  In with him went one of his favorite toys, and a charming wood cookie inscribed with his name, dates of birth and death.  Covering his grave with dirt was excruciating.  We collected beautiful rocks and placed them over his grave.

I loathe washing the dishes.  This week it has been an unbearable task because now the window before me reveals Rolly's grave.  Each new viewing is a jolt as I once again face the inevitability of death.  It has been all the excuse I have needed to ignore those nasty dishes.

Yesterday I lay down for a nap.  A wonderful dream filled my sleeping.  I saw Rolly, perfect, with his magnificent grin firmly in place.  He was standing on the hill where we buried him.  There were no markings of age.  Once again he was the magnificent, adorable, and ever so happy doggy that we adored.  The gentle breeze tangled and tickled in his fur.

I will keep this image firmly imprinted on my mind.  His grin of love will also stay with me, until once again I hear his bark as he races to meet me again.  I love you Rolly, and you ARE my favorite fur child of all time!

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Pain - A Blessing?

When you break your leg it hurts.  From all that I understand it hurts A LOT!  There is a good reason behind this experience.  There are three types of pain that our body can produce, muscle, nerve, and skeletal.  All three of these parts of our body are impacted when a bone breaks.

The pain tells us that something is very wrong, we need help.

Now imagine that same broken leg.  It doesn't hurt.  There are no body alarms systems warning you to receive care.  You continue to walk about, live your normal life, all the time you are causing more and more damage to your body.  Quickly the damage would reach a point where you couldn't function.

Pain actually can be a blessing.  It is our bodies early warning system telling us that we need to care for something.  When an injury occurs, the injury sends signals to the brain.  The brain then sends signals to the injured part of our anatomy.  This pain signal impels us to a doctor, or emergency room.  In doing this we can prevent further, and possibly more permanent injury.

What if these normal pain signals become OVER sensitive?  What if a simple hangnail impels your body to send out signals of pain EVERYWHERE in your body?  How do your approach such a wide range of symptoms?

Welcome to the world of many autoimmune disorders, and long term body injuries.  There are injuries that science does not know how to repair.  These injuries can become cumulative.  Over time they may become more serious.  They can disrupt each and every part of life as you frantically run from clinician to clinician trying to discover what is wrong, and how to cope with it.  The usual approach to injury is to fix it.  What if the injury is far too widespread to ever be fixed?

One of my friends was awakened in the night by severe pain all down her left leg.  When she tried to get up to go to the bathroom, the leg would not hold her weight.  It collapsed leaving her on the floor, frightened, and uncertain.

 Surgery was able to fix some of this injury.  It could not heal all of the nerve damage in that leg,and in many of her internal organs.  She lost her job, her home, her car, and for awhile she was homeless, on the streets with two small children, and a leg that did not always hold her upright.

Somehow she found her way through the social system.  She was able to gain Social Security Disability, housing, food, and the medications that she needed.  People reached out to her and her family with assistance.

She in turn, knowing just how flawed the system can be, blessed the lives of others whenever she could.  She helped distribute food to the needy.  She educates people that need help with insurance or the social systems for medical assistance.

Finding methods to help others gives her great joy.  She still reaches out with love whenever possible.  She is the type of friend who always has a gift for you, a cookie, a fridge magnet, meaningful, loving gifts.  Has her pain stopped?  No.  She has learned ways and means to make her pain more bearable.      

Can there possibly be any positive thing to gain from experiencing pain and/or disability?  If I could change my life, never face the pain, illness, challenges that have been my personal journey I would also have to give back the lessons, wisdom, and intelligence I have gained from my experience on earth.  I would not wish to do that.

Having said that, would I wish anyone to face pain that would continue for their rest of their lives?  NO!  Yet I am grateful for the things that have taught me about the human condition, and have pushed me towards understanding the commonalities of life.

I wish that I could reach through this computer to anyone facing a frightening diagnosis and say, "You can find a way.  There are others who will be able to help you.  YOU ARE NOT ALONE!

I can't do that, but I can hope and pray that in my small way I can reach someone with a message of hope.  There is love, and light, and joy even in times that seem completely hopeless, times of deep darkness, of pain. If you read this and know someone that needs that hope please give them a hug, send them a funny card, do something to reach out to someone else with hope for the future.


Monday, October 24, 2016

Petrified or Drifty?

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Looking at these two images you might wonder what they are.  I use them to help me meditate.  Both items began as wood.  They grew upward and outwards.  They were impacted by the sun, wind, rain, and heat.  both of them grew quite large.  Then some force acted upon them.  They were cut down, or knocked down. 

The one on the left was tossed into the ocean.  It received tremendous pressure as the water pushed it down, down, down.  Water began to seep inside changing the trees texture.  The pressure was so tremendous that the strong, healthy, tree began to break apart into pieces.  Eventually this small part of a tree was washed to shore.

The piece of wood on the right was also interrupted in its growth.  It may have been knocked down by a tremendous storm.  Regardless of the method that caused it to fracture, it broke apart into many, many pieces.  Earth settled down over it.  Years, and years, and years went by.  The wood went further and further and further down under earth.  The deeper the earth upon it became, the more pressure that the wood experienced.  The pressure became so intense that what was once a live tree, wood, now became stone.

Now you recognize that the left piece of wood is driftwood.  I found it on a beach in Oregon.  The right piece of wood is petrified.  It was located in southern Utah.  It's interesting to me that although they came from very different locations the color of the wood is almost identical. 

The consistency of the wood is incredibly different.  The driftwood can be be broken into pieces with just the brush of a finger.  The petrified wood has become even stronger than it's origins.  It is stone.  You could not break it apart.

Both began the same way.  Both were similar creations.  Both faced damage, destruction, and pressure.  What happened to the driftwood?  It floated about with each thing that acted upon it.  As the water filled it, it became porous, soft, unusable for its original purpose.

The petrified wood is strong, resilient.  The intense pressure that it faced made it stronger, firmer.  If I throw it to the ground nothing happens to it. 

If I throw the driftwood to the ground it would shatter into many, many tiny pieces.

Which are we, the driftwood, or the petrified wood?  We all face pressure, difficulty, struggle.  Do we use the challenge to become better?  Or over the years of life do we allow things to weaken us, make us unable to fulfill our original function?

If you have found yourself drifting through life, allowing all things to act upon you, instead of being a force that is becoming stronger, it is never too late for change.  Growth is often less than pleasant.  I'm certain that the tree that was under the soil for so many years felt the pain of pressure and change.  Yet it emerged even better than it began.

What are you  Or petrified rock?   

Friday, October 21, 2016

I Love You

Three little words.  They hardly seem adequate to convey the wealth, the explosion of emotion that they represent.  What things do they mean to you?

My Papa was my hero.  He represented all things wonderful in the world.  He was at my side when I couldn't breathe in the middle of the night, even if he had to get up and go to work the next day.  I knew that I would be ok if Daddy was there with me.

When he passed, I sincerely did not believe that the sun could still rise in the sky.  I felt as though the best part of me died with him.

I grieved with all that is within me.

That changed one day at work.  I was speaking to one of my co-workers.  She said, "I'm certain that you're very sad about your Father's death.  I'm so sorry for your loss."

Then she continued, "I never knew my Father.  He was never a part of my life.  He left my Mother before I was born.  Maybe you can find comfort in the fact that you had a great Dad for so many years."

That idea changed my perspective.  I was blessed!  I had a Father who loved me in the most active of ways.  He sacrificed constantly for me, and yet never, ever complained.  He always made me feel as though I was an intrinsic, joyous part of his life.

He took me on my first date.  He explained how a young man should treat me.  He opened the car door for me, took my arm to walk into a church party.  We were there with other Father's and daughters.  He pulled the chair out for me to sit in.  He opened doors for me to walk through.

He never made me feel as though somehow I was less than, and that was why he opened my doors, pulled the chair out for me and took my arm.  He made me feel cherished, important, and showed me how young men should treat me when I dated.

It bothered me a bit that he hardly EVER said, "I love you."  Actually, I counted once and discovered that he had told me a total of four times.  I would always say, "I love you," at the end of a phone call with Papa.  His response would be, "Likewise," or "Ditto."  Somehow those three words were too large for him to use.

On the other hand, he showed his love, his constant, and unconditional caring in many other ways.  I came to understand that to him these words were not, and could not be, spoken casually such as the phrase, "Have a good day."  Those three words meant the world and more to him.

He was a tender, gentle man.  He was also a World War II Vet.  He was a paratrooper, and combat soldier.  He was very proud of the service that he gave to our country.  On the other hand, I know that he was tortured by the idea of harming another human being.  I marveled that a man who could not stop tears from forming in his gold brown eyes at the beauty of music, holding a new grandchild, or other poignant life experience, this tender man had once fought on a battlefield.

He helped to teach me that the world is filled with wondrous ways of saying the words, "I love you," that aren't words at all.  We say "I Love You," by washing the dishes for a sick friend.  We say "I love you," by listening to someone needing to vent the poisons of a broken soul.  There are as many ways to say, "I love you," as there are people.

Today...the very moment that you read this...say I love you.  Maybe not in those exact words.  Write a letter to someone and express reasons that you treasure your friendship.  Wash the dishes for your child, your Mother, your spouse.  Make a meal and take it to a sick friend.  Find some way to express what those three words mean to you.  You may be surprised to find that you will receive more love than you give. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Do You Have Good Taste?

I adore fashion.  I love watching the flips and fads that have occurred over my lifetime.  I also enjoy studying fashion history here in our country and abroad.  I also enjoy watching home makeover programs .  It fascinates me how they turn a dud of a house into a home of wonder.  I also enjoy looking through fashion magazines.

Having said that, I do NOT always find the styles that are promoted as pleasant or appealing.  In fact, some of the good folks who act as fashion judges on "Project Runaway," have the most appalling taste in clothes.

Do I have good taste?  According to me, I do.  On the other hand, as a writer I relish the sheer joy of being in my jammies as I write.  For over thirty years I woke up early, put on clothes that fit the job image (often a fitted suit, and a shirt that was also fitted...come on, it was the corporate fashion of the time).

My taste has often been driven by sheer financial need.  As a small child my fragile health caused our family serious financial problems as they struggled to keep me alive.  We would purchase most of our clothes from a thrift store, long before that became a fashionable thing.

We would go through an entire rack of clothing looking for a gem amongst the dross.  Often the clothes that I would bring home would receive rave reviews from my friends.  They would ask, "Where did you buy it?"  I would straighten up, look them in the eye, and say, "A thrift shop."  That offended some people.  Those folks who were stressing and straining to be popular did not find that appealing.

Throughout my life, even when it was no longer a matter of need I have continued my treasure seeking.  Nyle also enjoyed a good hunt.  He would look through electronics, I would head for the craft session for yarn, fabric, and/or patterns.

When Nyle was hired for the position of Associate Dean of Career Services at a prestigious Northwest College he walked daily with folks of a much higher class than I was used to.  Sitting at a luxurious round table one night, the good people began introducing themselves.  They would list the work that they did.  There were District Attornies, State and Federal judges, people of quality, and status.

And then it was my turn.  I stood up straight looked around the table at the distinctive people and announced, "I have my own childcare business, "Harmony Home.  Oh, and I'm married to this marvelous man."

There was an awkward silence.  Then people went back to chatting in legalese.  I simply enjoyed the delicious salmon dinner, and making small talk with the people around me.

By the end of the evening, every single person around that table came to me to ask about childcare, or childcare issues.  My own estimation of the work that I did rose.

Even though our status in the world had risen, I still shopped at Thrift Stores.  Who wants to pay $200.00 for a suit when they can get one that is a designer original for $20.00?  I admit, the style is usually so, last year.  I don't care!  I try to wear classic pieces of clothing that never leave the fashion market.  Then I dress it up with current types of jewelry.

When Nyle's elevated friends would compliment my clothes and inquire where I purchased them it made Nyle uncomfortable sometimes when I would calmly say, "Goodwill, or Saver's."  He like to go to the thrift shops himself, but he didn't want people to think that we couldn't afford to shop in regular stores.

By the time he passed away at fifty-four, he had overcome that mindset.  He was THRILLED to discover a thrift store that sold GORGEOUS men's shirts in his larger than life size for $4 to $6 dollars.  We had paid as much as $60.00 for one shirt for Nyle.  He passed away the proud owner of about 40 beautiful, high quality, 3XL shirts.  We have and will continue to make quilts out of those beautiful shirts.

Is there a point to this post?  I realize that as I write I often ramble from this topic to another.  Sometimes at lightning speed.  Are you ready?  Here we go.  Taste is dictated by the person who is viewing.  I spent a great deal of my life trying to fit in.  I loved the cozy cottage that we lived in while our children grew up.  I heard from others that it was too, "country," or "awkward."  I would remind myself, that they did not live in my house, I did.  My taste said it was charming!

One of my current favorite quotes says this, "What other people think of me, is none of my business!"  Did you hear that everybody?  We are NOT square pegs trying to fit into round holes.  We are people who have taste.  I don't need to try to be what someone else might like.

The other day on Facebook I saw a man who was determined to be different.  He had circles cut away in his cheeks exposing some of his back molars.  He had also had his tongue sliced so there were two slim pieces like a snake's.  I found his choice unhygenic and grotesque.  I mean, come on with holes in your cheeks your salivary gland would excrete saliva out the side of your face!  Having said that, I pulled myself up and thought, "Everybody is entitled to express their fashion sense in this world, and their own sense of reality.  It is not my place to judge anyone else...NO MATTER HOW MUCH I MIGHT DISAGREE.  If other people's thoughts are none of my business...that truly works in reverse as well.

My final words, viva la difference!

Friday, October 7, 2016

I Don't Want to Wash the Dishes!

The counter is piled high with bits and pieces of meals that my family has eaten.  Stubbornly those bits and pieces cling to the plates, cups, and pans.  I HATE washing dishes.  I've had plenty of experience.  When I was in my teens my brother and sister married within six months of each other.  Soon Sunday dinner became my parents and I, them and their spouses, and then one nephew, two nephews, and so on until the full compliment was eight children for my sister, and seven children for my brother.  How is your math doing?  That is twenty-two human beings sitting down at one table.  Twenty-two plates, twenty-two forks, knives, and spoons, and twenty-two glasses or cups.

Inevitably, the adults would finish the meal, gather their progeny, and depart to go home for a nap before church.  My parents would also need a nap.  We DID have an automatic dishwasher...ME!  I would scrub the sink clean, then fill it with hot soapy water.  It took about two hours to wash them all, dry them, and put them away.

Then my parents and I managed a motel with kitchenette units.  That meant that each time we rented a kitchenette we had to wash all the dishes and utensils and glasses when they checked out.  We had to wash them in clorox (it just ate my skin), then dish detergent (more skin eating) then last but certainly not least, we had to boil them in the hottest water we could create.

Summers were the worst.  We had air conditioning in our unit but it didn't seem to be able to keep up to 110 degree heat AND dish washing, sometimes all day long.  My Father worked at a warehouse for a retail chain during the day.  One day Mother called him at work.  She told him succintly to either bring home a dishwasher or not come home.  The dishwasher came home that night.  That was much better...but it did not load or unload itself.  This was in the 1980's and you basically had to wash the dishes before you put them in the dishwasher to sterilize them.  Better than handwashing only, but still a chore.

Then came marriage, children, and many, Many, MANY more dishes.  I would have no problem using paper plates if I did not realize what using them does to our environment, via our landfills.  It would also help if my hands did not crack, bleed, and then throb with each beat of my heart.

I can't use latex gloves, they worsen the situation.  I have a beautiful view out of the window while I wash the dishes.  It's always a good feeling when they are done, and organization and cleanliness is restored, until the minute that we are hungry again, and create more dirty dishes.

One of my Papa's cousins grew up in a two room cabin with six siblings.  They had to haul water in a bucket from 1/4 mile away.  After hauling the heavy water, they had to heat the water on the stove.  Then they would pour it over the dirty dishes, and add soap flakes.  She LOVED to wash the dishes.  She said, "It's so easy.  You just turn on the faucet, and VOILA, all the hot water you could possibly want is right there at your disposal.

One of my dear Grandma's would tell me that she couldn't go to sleep if there were dirty dishes in her sink.  She had ten children so there were always dishes to wash.

Sigh...I guess I've talked about it enough.  Now I must go and face them!  At least they'll be ready to use tonight when we eat whatever we eat tonight!

Even a Miracle Needs a Nap

My beloved Mama.  She always told me that all birth is a miracle, but that I'm 3 or 4 types of miracles.  She couldn't conceive.  She couldn't carry.  She couldn't deliver.  Yet here I am?  Then to add to the general stack of couldn'ts and shouldn'ts I was born with very little immune system, and allergic to literally the world.  I could only eat three foods without becoming ill, life threateningly ill.

I do not recite all of this to say, "Wow, look at me world.  I'm a MIRACLE!"  OK, maybe just a little bit.  However, being a miracle is exhausting!

Being a miracle means that I should spread joy, love, and warmth all the time, everyday, all day and all night, right?  I hate to admit it but I am not Mother Theresa!  She was a woman of driving passion for love, service, and sacrifice.  I...well, I like a good nap in the afternoon.  The time is two hours, and it involves lying in a comfy bed, letting my thoughts fly about in my head, and then AHHHH the delicious, exquisite nirvana of slumber.

Generally speaking I wake up automatically two hours later renewed, and ready to tackle the world again for 4 or 5 hours.  I call it breaking life up into bite sized pieces.  My beloved husband called it, "A waste of time."  I personally believe that he was just jealous.

Without that two hour break in living I become a slug in a chair, albeit a MIRACLE slug in a chair, unable to function other than knit or sew, and watch the television.  The programs I watch during that time would be close to what my hubby called "A waste of time."  I would call relax and enjoy.  Things like "chick flicks," or murder mysteries, or British telly.  They have such amazing programs!

I am unable to do much in the way of movement.  That includes movement in my brain.  (Apparently in my brain movement is required.  Brain aerobics are out of the question if that precious nap has been ignored)!

As a small asthmatic child, my Mother always insisted on an afternoon nap.  At the time, I resented it with all within me.  As a sixty year old adult I am aware that SHE probably needed the nap, possibly even more than me!  She had three wonderful children, and one of us was special needs.  She rarely slept through the night.  Asthma tends to erupt during the night for multiple reasons.  There was NOTHING to treat it with except a trip to the ER to obtain oxygen until the lung spasm passed.

Napping?  My husband said that it made him feel sluggish, and groggy.  Again I maintain, AHHHH Nirvana.  For two entire hours I completely give myself over to rest, and renewal.  I truly believe that we are all miracles, and as I stated in the title of this post, "Even a Miracle needs a nap!"

Monday, September 19, 2016

Day of Rejoicing

It was only five in the morning.  CJ had only slept for five far too short hours.  She remembered the night before, lying down and feeling, "Goodness, this is what a pear feels like just before it drops from the tree, RIPE."  Nine months pregnant, waddling like a duck, with the sense that baby was taking over all of the real estate in her body, CJ still adored the feeling of being pregnant.  It was uncomfortable lying down in any position.  Sleep was more of a wish than a reality.  Yet lying in bed, watching her soon to come babe move in tai chi elegant movements was her new favorite past time.

The alarm clock that had awakened CJ was a seriously sharp pain.  Her entirely enormous abdomen was flexing, stretching, and then shrinking hard, harder, hardest.  She groaned and managed to push up off the bed for a restroom break.  It was quite amazing to her how little room her bladder had now.

Going back to bed CJ had ten wondrous moment of sleep until....the pain was back!  This time it felt even stronger.  For a few hours CJ rested, awakened to this sharp new experience, rested, and awakened. 

Finally, she awkwardly waddled down a seemingly endless flight of stairs to inform her hubby that today was THE DAY!  He was still asleep, and CJ hesitated for a nanosecond about awakening him.  As the next pain gripped her she shook him awake.  "Honey, we're going to have a baby today!"

Eyes sleepy her husband sat up in bed.  His eyes grew large with realization, "Really?"

CJ called work and told them she wouldn't be in today.  Then she began packing her hospital suitcase.  She had not done that before, the baby wasn't due for another week, and first babies always came late, right?

She did not get very far with the packing.  Soon the labor pains began their slashing pain every five minutes and then three.  "Nyle, call the hospital and ask if we should come in."  CJ had wanted to stay home until the very last possible minute.  Her great great grandma had given birth on the hard ground of Wyoming and then walked on dreaming of a promised place for her children.  CJ had that kind of strength inside her...until...the intensity of the pain soon had her hovering over the toilet, her meal from the previous night making an encore performance.

"Come on honey.  I'll bring you your suitcase later.  We need to get to the hospital."  Nyle spoke the words with urgency.  CJ knew that he did not wish to deliver their child himself.

CJ rejoiced that the hospital was literally five minutes away.  This time it seemed as though Nyle's driving cut the trip in half.  "Nyle, can you believe that it's here?  The day when our babe will join our family?"  Then her joy was followed by, "WOW!  This hurts so much!" 

Happy and rejoicing switched with her worst self in the span of three minutes, CJ was grateful to waddle towards the door of the hospital.  Unfortunately, she had to stop to become ill into the bushes for a few moments.

An elderly gentleman was exiting the hospital door when he witnessed the scenario.  CJ was retching helplessly, Nyle was holding her, keeping her hair out of her face.  Suddenly, the old man was racing towards the hospital door as though his youth had been restored.  He returned with a wheelchair, and his best wishes.
CJ wanted to be strong, valiant like her pioneer ancestresses.  She managed for another hour.  Then again in her cranky alter ego she panted, "!"  Epidural given, things slowed down.  Nyle and CJ spoke in reverent voices about the new life they had created in love.

Hours blew past.  AND THEN...the need to push rushed through CJ.  The nurse guided her as she breathed and pushed as though everything in life depended on this moment.  She also realized that everything in her child's life depended on this moment.  For three eternally long hours CJ pushed, to no avail.  The babe would not move out past a certain point.  The nurse explained that the baby had its head in the wrong position. 

At long last the doctor arrived.  An instrument was shown, and then used, and in moments life began with a whoosh and a cry for Ardis Kay Smith.  There was a neo-natal team in the room.  Complications had threatened the babe.  Quickly they moved in to assure the wee one's life.

Before the team began to work on the babe, Nyle laughed with joy, CJ wept with the same emotion.  Nyle clipped the cord that had sustained Ardis' life in the womb.  For seconds it seemed their girl had laid on her Mother's stomach before she was whisked away.

Nyle follow closely after their girl.  He would not risk the possibility that their precious child was labeled incorrectly.  He relaxed a bit once her tiny tag declared her identity in proud print.

Much later, CJ and Nyle put their darling girl between them in their bed.  They both looked on with wonder and amazement.  They wondered, "Who is this child?  What will she love?  How will she face life?  What will we do as parents to give her the opportunities that she deserves?"  Soon they slept and dreamed of a brilliant future.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Hidden Wedges

It was a grand tree.  Standing for hundreds of years through rain, snow, ice, heat, and cold, it seemed invincible.  Then in a thunder storm, lightning hit the tree and it split in two.  Sorrow was felt by the owners of the property.  That tree held a swing.  All of their children, and grandchildren had spent hours dreaming in the swing.  Their family often had parties in the shade of the tree. 

In preparation for using the salvageable wood of the now destroyed tree, the property owner examined it closely.  In the heart, the center of the grand old tree, was a wedge.  This was a piece of metal used to split wood.  The man remembered years ago when he had been in a terrible hurry.  He had put the wedge in the tree.  He had planned on coming back and retrieving it.  Life got in the way, and soon he had forgotten about the wedge.

The tree had grown around and over this tool.  Lightning had reached its weak spot.  The wedge had fulfilled the purpose of splitting wood, the old tree. 

What wedges are you hosting?  Is there a family member that you feel has wronged you?  Have you let this hurt fester, and eventually weaken the very fabric of your relationship?  Or have you discussed it, processed it, and let it fade into the shadows of the past?  Have you "let go," of friends rather than discussed and healed?  If you let go of people because of hidden wedges, you may soon become very, very lonely.

Are there other types of wedges hidden deep that are holding you back?  An example.  I attended college for three semesters.  I quit at that point because I could not decide what major to follow.  I could not make a life decision.  It has been almost 40 years, and I'm still struggling with the idea of what direction I would follow in education!

My husband went to law school when he was in his 30's.  Several people questioned his choice.  "Nyle, who is going to hire a brand new attorney in his 30's?  The law firms all want young, eager, trainable attornies.  Nyle responded without hesitation.  In three years I will be three years older.  The other choice?  I get my legal degree.  I will have had three years of legal education.  The reality was that he was one of few students in his graduating class that already had a job when he graduated!  His employees valued the maturity, and life experience he carried within.

Take a half hour today and review.  (There is ALWAYS at least a half hour that you can squeeze into your day)!  Are there hidden wedges that are holding you back, keeping you from achieving the goals you long for, dream of?  If there are, what actions will help you pull that wedge out and move on?  Start...start right now!  If we all participate in this idea, what improvements will it bring in our personal lives, in the lives of those around us?

Sometimes in life help is needed to give us insight, and assistance in removing deeply imbedded wedges.  There is great strength in admitting that you need help!  I believe that everyone should either take self improvement classes, or go to a counselor.  This life is NEVER static!  It's always changing.  Do you wish to progress or regress?




Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Dancing in the Rain!

My darling and I danced every single chance that we got.  Sometimes it was with him in a wheelchair.  Sometimes it was with me in a wheelchair.  Sometimes it was sitting in chairs, dancing cheek to cheek.  We DANCED!
I have told this story before, so forgive me if you've heard it many times.  It's just a  perfect story to indicated the power and depth of Nyle's beautiful soul.  He was having a heart attack.  He had one the month before so he knew all the signs.  He wouldn't let us call an ambulance.  He had no insurance and it would cost thousands of dollars.  He wouldn't let us take him to the hospital until he presented us with gifts that he had purchased for us.  I think he felt that he might not be coming home alive.  The plaques said, "Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass, it's about learning to DANCE in the rain.  Somehow the gift of those plaques at that all too critical time summed up Nyle's personality.
If you look closely at this picture, you can see the love shimmering between us.  We went through Hell and Heaven in our marriage.  Yet that love we shared was unquenchable.  It wavered from time to time, It sometimes faltered for just the rarest of days, but ultimately, it could not be denied!
When I was 20, I worked in a department store downtown in a charming city.  One night we had a black out.  I had to walk two blocks in a black out city, to my car.  I was terrified!  I kept looking all around, and over my shoulders.  I think I thought that I could do something defensive if I saw someone coming to harm me.
Suddenly, the idea came into my mind to dance.  It was pouring.  I AM a huge Gene Kelly fan.  I think I've seen that movie about a million times.  "Singin' in the Rain."  So, I began to sing and dance down the street.  It was remarkable.  My fear left me as I splashed my way to the car, singing and dancing at the top of my lungs.  If anyone was looking to harm me they probably left when it looked like I had lost my mind!  :)
Today, I'm going to do my best to dance through this current storm.  I have the shingles.  Gratefully it's a mild case, but it is still not fun.  I will still dance, I will just be very careful not to do it around anyone that could catch this misery!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Talk Between Generations in 2016

I began working with computers in 1978.  In those days the way to access the main computer you had a keyboard, a small, light-up box to see the data you were entering, and a jumbo printer that could print out the data you were entering.  A mainframe computer usually filled at least one very large room.

I continued working with computers from the 1980's through 1997, including each and every new permutation of computer program that arrived.

I learned about where certain terms came from, like debugging, reboot, DOS prompt, and so forth, when they first were coined.

AND THEN?  Life happened, and I did NOT use a computer for professional reasons until 2012.  In fifteen years, a short span of time as related to things like dinosaurs, trees, or rocks, or sixty year old humans (notice similarity of the last to the first three items) EVERYTHING CHANGED!

That mainframe that took at least one very large could be held in a teeny, tiny box in your hand.  A darling little creation became available for listening to music, it was called a Nanopod.  Then an even smaller version became available.  It was roughly the size of a large postage stamp.

Our children grew up.  Suddenly conversations became laced with terms like APPS, and Iphones, Ipads, Ipods, and other I types of creations!  By I, I am not referring to me, myself, and I.  No, I'm referring to each and every combination, and creation of Apple's latest brain trust.  Let's not forget, Iwatches.

Our 20 something children developed a rather large, and real generational gap with their parents.  Me, "How do I access the DOS prompt so that I can navigate between the programs?"  Them?  "HUH?"
Me, "Wait, do I use Safari for the worldwide web, or is Firefox a better choice?"  Them?  "Mom, you don't say Worldwide Web anymore.  It's just called the Net."  Me, "Don't you need to type in http://www?"  "Oh no, that hasn't been used for a long time!"  At the time, I believe that LONG time was in human time a year!  Again, time is very relative.

I do not mean to indicate that I'm slow witted, or that our children are slow witted.  Oh Heaven's, our children are anything but slow witted.  My 5 year old great-niece can move about in and out of the computer world with the speed of light.  (Wait, that phrasing hasn't changed, has it)?

When my Mom and Mother in law entered their late 70's, suddenly, they seemed to be unable to cope with "new technology," like, a CD player, surround sound, even cassettes seemed beyond their scope of use.  My Mom lived to be 95.  The last five years of her life she could not use a telephone because she could not remember to dial 9 in front of the phone number to get out of the facility where she lived.

Let me take us all on an "old school," stroll down memory lane.  If any of you reading are below 40 years old, do NOT leave's just about to get interesting.  It is 1925.  If you wish to listen to music, you wind up the victorola.  It's sort of the size of a current large screen TV, only it's as wide as it is large.  You have to wind an arm on the side to make the turntable move in a circle.  You have a very large round thing (like a giant CD) that you put on the spinning wheel of the Victorola, and it plays a very, very poor sound quality recording of music.  Some big hits like, "Beautiful Ohio," or the slightly naughty, "Ain't She Sweet."

You can go to a movie...but there is no sound onscreen.  You have to read the captions to understand why somebody is tying that pretty young lady with Marcel waved hair on the railroad track.  There is a piano in front of the screen playing something called, "Mood music."  For a nickel you can watch several films in a row.

If you are young, you might use a phrase like, "Twenty-three skidoos," or "the Bee's Knees."  There is no television, there is no radio, sometimes there is not even electricity.  Which makes that old Victorola nice because it does not require anything but an arm to wind it up.  Of course, when the winding arm winds down the song becomes slower, and s..l..o..w..e..r, and s...l...o...w...e...r and it sounds as though the performer is now a Bass, even if it's actually a woman singing high Soprano.

What do you do for fun?  Well, you do NOT play video games.  You play parlor games, you know where people actually got together in person and spoke to each other?  Sometimes at home somebody plays an instrument and the family gets up and dances together.  I guess the common equivalent is a family dancing to "Just Dance."

Please, let's all remember that the world keeps on turning, changing, and re-arranging.  Our way now is not necessarily the best way that the world has ever known.  It's different, that is for certain.  Maybe, we could be patient across the generations.  I may never know the thrill of sending a "Snapchat," to a friend.  On the other hand, children may never know the joy of sitting outside on a balmy summer evening playing the guitar and singing.  Both methods bring joy, just different types of joy, and who says different is bad?

Sunday, July 31, 2016


When I turned 50 one of my friends sent me a t-shirt that said, "50 is the new 30!"  I suppose that now that I am SIXTY, and proudly so, I should retire that t-shirt....NOPE!  The point to me of that t-shirt is not about, oh phoeey, I'm 50!  No, the point is that even as you move through life to different years...16, 21, 30...40, 50, 60, etc. etc. even if your body becomes old, it's essential not to let your spirit become old, dulled by the hardest parts of life!

I do NOT claim to always master this elusive art.  Sometimes these days my spirit feels even older than sixty.  The point is that on the days when I am able I keep my spirit young.  I do my best to never say, "I'm too old, I can't learn new things."  I NEVER want to say that!

A dear friend in her late 80's told me, "You're as old as the newest cell in your body, and your cells renew every 5 seconds."  She was taking computer classes to better communicate with her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.  She also was taking Spanish because she enjoyed the language.

My beloved Mama made over 80 quilts and sent them to Iraq in her 80's.  My nephew was stationed there and he would hand them out to children on the streets, or soldiers having a tough time.  She lived to be 95, and at that stage she could walk no longer, but she would sit in her wheelchair, put her feet down and move from place to place.

I love that image of her, she needed that wheelchair, her body was too worn out to support itself anymore.  Yet still, she found ways to move herself where she wanted to go! 

Esther, (can't remember her last name) went back to college in her 80's!  Yes, that's right, a Freshman in college in her 80's.  When people would question why she would do that she responded quickly, "Why not?  My children are raised.  My husband has passed.  Education is something I can take with me when I die.  Why wouldn't I want more of it, especially now!"

I have been so richly blessed with examples of women who continued living to the best of their ability until they died...and I believe that our spirits do NOT die.  They just keep growing and progressing when we pass.

My favorite example of a man who did not let age, or the progression of cancer destroy his youthful spirit is my beloved Papa.  Two weeks before he died, (he was bedfast at this point) a friend said, "Wendell, aren't you tired of fighting?  You've lived such a wonderful life.  Don't you just wish it was over?"  My Papa, and I can hear him in my mind roused himself and sang, "I LOVE LIFE, AND I WANT TO LIVE!"

With all of these remarkable examples I wish to share one more.  This one will make me a trifle tearful so it's a good thing I'm not writing this on paper.  My beloved Nyle died when he was 54.  In his very last days, when we knew that he was dying he was still making us laugh, still exhibiting the youthful spirit that was an integral part of him.  Our daughters brought a notebook and pen with them to the hospital to record any last words or messages.  The oldest said, "Papa, is there anything that you need or want to tell us?"  His response was, "No, I don't have anything to say."  Pause, pause..."Well write that down!"

I love life, and I want to live.  I know that there will be many more hills to clamber over.  I know that there will be dark days that threaten to eclipse my joy.  Yet I will do my darndest to remember yet another elderly man that I met in the dark days of my breast cancer.  He was dying, it was obvious just looking at him.  He gave me the brightest grin and said, "Every day above ground is a cause for celebration."  That line means a lot more when you're facing down the dark demon of cancer!  Yet, in his brief words he helped me understand that life is about more than merely surviving.  It's about THRIVING!  It's essential to find joy in even the hardest days.  (Feel free to remind me of that the next time I forget)!

I'm SIXTY!  I do NOT wish to live like I'm dying.  That is a foregone conclusion.  In the wondrous words of my Nyle honey, "Live like you're living!"  

Monday, July 25, 2016

Am I Old?

I had many times in my life that I was not certain that I'd live to be 21, and soon it will be SIXTY!  I'm excited for the new experiences, and the opportunities that remain open in my life.

Last week I realized that something in my perception has changed since I was young.  When I was young if I heard the words, "Something new is coming out..."  My heart raced, and I was excited for a new opportunity to learn, to grow!

Now I fear that far too many times when I hear, "Something new is coming out..."  I think, CRAP, something else to learn?  Why can't the world just stay the same!  This is a rather shallow observation in the realms of philosophy but true nonetheless. 

I have heard throughout my life the phrase, "The world is wasted on the young."  I disagree!  I'm grateful for their sharp minds, and the fresh eyes through which they see this old world.

Now, as I enter into years that most would title OLD, I also know that living this long gives you unique ideas and perspective. 

So the best yet, why can't we, young and old enrich each others perception of the world?

I like to watch "Just Dance."  Nigel Lithgoe is no longer a young person by virtue of the years that he's lived, but his youth lies in the vivacious enjoyment he gains from inspiring others to dance.  This year the program is spotlighting the dance talent of children from 8 to 13 years of age.  The young ones are mentored by adult dancers, and it's marvelous to see what happens when those two ages are combined. 

My Mother once said something to me about "Respecting my elders."  I was annoyed by that generalized pronouncement.  I responded, "I should not have to respect someone just because they're older than me.  I can respect them, IF they've earned my respect."

WOW...looking back on that statement I'm amused at the hubris I presented.  AND YET?  I do NOT wish to be respected by ANYONE simply by virtue of the fact that I have managed to stay alive for sixty years.  I want to be respected for having put life into the sixty years that I've lived!!!

In return I promise that I will not disrespect anyone JUST because they are younger than me.  I will listen and realize that they have lots to teach me.  I also will remember that there is still ever so much to learn.  There  is so much for ME to learn.  I'm excited for this opportunity.


Thursday, July 7, 2016

On this Day we Celebrate Freedom

The 4th of July is celebrated in America as a day when freedom in this country truly began.  This was freedom from the English governance.  The English had put restrictions on America that proved to be unbearable.  I personally believe that it also seemed foolish to the American colonists that England, ever so far in miles, was taking away all of the profit from America's labors.

The restrictions from England continued to mount.  England truly was greedy and foolish in their handling of the young colony.  These were people loyal to their homeland.  If they had been restricted less, rewarded more, well who knows what might have happened?

Jail, penitentiary, restriction, guilt, limitations, exclusion, bullying, all these are words referring to a different type of lack of freedom.  We all understand that certain behaviors can result in consequences beyond our ability to control.  If we cause harm to others, chances are that we will be caught, tried, and put in jail.

What about having your freedom removed when you have done nothing wrong?  Elie Wiesel was a Jewish prisoner in a Concentration Camp during World War II.  He has written about the realization that came to him one miserable day.  Inspiration taught him that although his German captors could inflict all sorts of horrors on his physical body, he still owned his soul.  He was able to make active choices to act, not react.  He decided that he would not let the squalor of the camp, or the cruelty of the guards decide who he would be.

Corrie ten Boom was a Christian.  She, her elderly Father, and her Sister were hiding some of their Jewish neighbors when someone told the Gestapo about them.  Corrie and Betsy never saw their Father again, and Betsy also died in a Concentration Camp.  Corrie was released through a miraculous mistake in paper work.  She later discovered that she had been scheduled for execution.

After the war she traveled the country speaking about forgiveness, and healing.  One night after teaching a class a man came to her and said, "Your speech was very moving to me.  Thank you so much.  May I shake your hand?"

Corrie looked up and realized that she was in front of one of the cruelest Concentration Camp guards that she and Betsy had faced.  She realized that he did not recognize her.  She had nice clothes on, and was about twenty pounds healthier.

Her speech had been about forgiveness.  How could she forgive this man who had been especially cruel to her frail Sister, Betsy?  Several times she attempted to pull her arm up to shake hands with him.  Her arm would not move.

In her mind she prayed, she asked that she might feel God's love for this man because her mortal love was not strong enough to forgive him.  She describes feeling a warmth that flowed from her shoulder to her hand.  It propelled her arm upwards until she shook his hand.  At that moment she also saw God's love for this man.  She realized that in a way he had been a prisoner just as she was.  He was imprisoned by a horrendous war that brutalized soldiers into doing things they would never have done in peace times.

What prison are you in this morning?  Does your appetite imprison you in a body that is overweight and unhealthy?  That is also one of my prisons.  Maybe you endured some version of trauma in your tender childhood that has left you with eating issues.  When I was nineteen and in fabulous shape as a dancer I was cruel in my mind towards others with weight issues.  I could eat anything that I wanted and never gained a pound.  I thought, "Why don't they just exercise and eat better?" 

AND THEN...along came multiple car accidents that left me with severe chronic pain.  I have bone, muscle, and nerve pain.  My back has too many issues to try and repair it.  The issues are not severe enough to put me in a wheelchair, yet...but someday?

I gained ninety pound over five years time.  I still had the voracious appetite but I was either in a recliner or my bed.  Walking was very painful, and sometimes I would drag one leg.  I developed severe central nerve damage.  My feet quit knowing the difference in floor or ground levels.  I would walk from a wood floor to a carpet, and I would fall because my foot did not automatically shift for the different level.  Several falls made the back, knee, and wrist pain and damage worse.

I repent daily for the foolishness of my judgment towards heavy people in my youth.  Now that I have joined the ranks I understand that when somebody is living with constant pain, often the only pleasure that they feel is food!  I wish that when my pain was terrible that I craved broccoli.  Not really, not so much...nope, bring on the sugar and wrap it in something chocolate!
Even if I eat next to nothing my body still doesn't want to lose weight.  I'm in constant fight or flight mode and my body tries to hoard weight to protect me from starvation...except that I'm NOT starving.
When I married I carried with me the foolish idea that it was my husband's duty to make me happy.  How is this a prison?  My moods went up and down like a roller coaster depending on my husband's moods.  I was trapped, unable to develop and maintain my own emotional stability.

My poor husband was trapped trying to keep me happy.  I'm certain that he was often exhausted from the effort.  I do know that he was grateful when I finally matured enough to realize that I, ME, MY, was responsible for my own happiness, nobody else.  I also learned that you CAN be happy even when somebody that you love is unhappy.  Oh you feel empathetic towards their pain, but letting it pull you down doesn't help them, and it certainly doesn't help you.

One of the most important things you can do in life is to objectively try and determine if you   
if you are in prison.  Sometimes it's necessary to have a therapist help you.  There is no shame in getting help to improve your life.  I believe that everyone could benefit from education and therapy.

To end this post I wish to share a little story.  My husband criticized me one day for something that he had observed.  I did NOT accept his version of the experience.  I immediately became very angry.  I walked to the kitchen.  I began slamming the cupboard doors as I prepared dinner.  I stomped, and fussed, and fumed as though I was five years old instead of thirty-five years old.

In my mind I thought, "If you continue this behavior you will make your entire family miserable!"  I responded in my mind, "He makes me SOOOOO angry!" A thought returned, "Nobody can force an emotion on you without your permission."  "Wait, back up, what he said MADE me angry!"  "I understand that his words were hurtful.  On the other hand, nobody can force an emotion on you.  You always have the freedom to choose NOT TO BE HURT OR ANGRY!"

WOW!  I was dumbfounded at this idea.  I walked back to our bedroom and said to my husband, "What you said really hurt my feelings.  On the other hand, I choose not to let it ruin my day or make me angry."

My husband had a look of wonder on his face that I will never forget.  He said, "Good for you!"  There was no sarcasm implied in his words.  He was genuinely happy that I had begun the journey of determining my own happiness.

Today, this very day, choose to be the owner of your own emotions.  Do not let the actions of anyone else imprison you in negative emotion.  To sum all of this up I remember a very wise saying from my childhood, "I'm rubber, you're glue.  Anything you say bounces off me, and sticks on you!"  


Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Where Have All the Flowers Gone?

Tragedy, stark, ugly, bleeding tragedy once more in the United States of America.  In this country...a land where we relish diversity, celebrate tolerance, and do our best to love our neighbor, (at least that is the country I wish to believe we are), somebody was outraged by seeing somebody kissing in public.  Two males kissing.  He was with his children when this event occurred.  For some reason he felt that this gave him the duty to take a machine gun and shoot fifty people...fifty STRANGERS that he didn't even know!

I have gone with homosexual friends to a bar.  I'm heterosexual, and I do not drink alcohol.  However, I have dear friends that are homosexual and do drink alcohol.  I have gone with them to dance, talk, and giggle.  Imagine yourself in that setting.  A man comes through the door with a machine gun and begins to randomly shoot people.  Would it matter to him that you weren't homosexual?  

In his confused, troubled world when there is something that offends you, "Pluck it out," as it says in the Old Testament.  I do not believe that you were intended to pluck that offense out with a machine gun!  I do not believe that without any process of law whatsoever (remember it was called the Mosaic LAW)? you felt that you were invested by God, or hatred, or outrage, or whatever justification that you could find to kill people. 

Unfortunately, throughout the history of the world, many, many people have lost their lives because someone else stood in judgment of the choices of someone else.  The Salem Witch Trials, the Inquisition, and more recently ISIS, all were involved with somebody thinking that they had the moral right to end the lives or those whose choices they disagreed with.

I have fought long, and hard, to preserve my life on this planet.  I was born with very little immune system, and severe, severe allergies.  I am basically allergic to every substance on this planet.  When I was born the only solution for asthma was to give oxygen, pray, and hope that you survived.  Asthma was more terminal than chronic.

Then there were ten car accidents (I'm a very safe driver, but have poor taste in the people I ride with), breast cancer, and a number of other close calls to death.  Through it all there were also joyous times, family, friends, music, more music, and my greatest strength, my belief in a loving God. 

Life is VERY precious to me.  There were thousands of nights in my life between birth to twenty when I would be awake for most of the night because I could not breathe.  Your body will not allow to sleep much when you are not breathing well.  Sudden Infant Death Syndrome is usually caused by a number of factors other than asthma, or pulmonary disease.  It is rare for your body to allow you to stay asleep when you are NOT breathing. 

On those rugged, ragged nights when I had struggled through the dark hours to dawn my Mama and sometimes my Papa would be with me.  They would do their best to make the bad situation better.  I remember Mama often saying to me, "Honey the birdies are singing.  We've made it through another night.  Somehow the approach of light, and living, usually helped my body to relax, my airways to open.

When your life is threatened again, again, and still again, you may either become extremely bitter, or you may learn to see miracles in tender moments throughout the everydayness of life.  I choose the later.  I still feel my Mama close to me (she's been dead for several years) when I hear the birdies sing early in the morning.  The sparkle of starlight nights, and moon filled sky fill me with joyous wonder.

To think that fifty people, FIFTY PEOPLE WHO HAD NEVER DONE ANYTHING TO THIS MAN, lost their chances to learn, love, and live this life to the best of their abilities because one disturbed man decided it was his job to kill them?  That is completely unbearable to me.  I have no doubt that when those people arrived in the spiritual realm they were TICKED! 

What comforts me is my rock firm knowledge that it will be made right.  I believe that there is an eternity, and we are eternal creatures, and it WILL BE MADE RIGHT!  I would not want to be that man when those fifty enraged people, or broken hearted people have the chance to tell that man what he has done, what he has denied them all.

I feel anguish for those that are left behind...those that will NEVER see their loved one's face, hear their voice, or share life with them again.  I lost my sweetheart when he was only fifty-four.  He died from multiple causes that triggered sepsis.  I have gone through the heartbreak of knowing that I have a life to live, WITHOUT HIM!  Sometimes the grief almost overwhelms me.  Yet I know that the love we shared will give me light to live my life by.

I pray for all those broken hearts that are grieving!  On the other hand, having a gun in your briefcase or purse is NOT the answer!  The last thing that we need to do as a country is to become like the colonial days of our country, or the wild west when everyone needed a gun for protection.  They mostly used those guns to protect them from bears, or to hunt for food for their families.  They NEVER used machine guns.

We in this country like to think that we are a civilized society.  There is nothing civilized in people who are mentally unstable being able to procure guns...especially machine guns!  I hear about the 2nd amendment  in the constitution until I become weary.  I feel that if we are meant to live the exact constitution as it was instituted originally we must be true to all of its ideas.  That means that we must take away women's right to vote and own property, and while we're at it, slavery could be nice, I mean come on, having somebody else to do all your work?  (That statement was sarcastic in case you missed it).

What can we do?  Is it hopeless?  Should we all just decide that the Apocalypse has arrived and climb in a well equipped bunker?  EMPHATICALLY NO!!!  We can enact better background searches before guns are issued.  We can make stricter laws about the use of guns.  If our country will have guns then they must learn safe use.  We teach our children responsible methods to drive cars, why couldn't we teach our citizens safer ways to use guns? 

I believe that we must educate our children about this issue.  We must teach them love, love, love, love, love.  We must explain the consequence of hatred, prejudice, and intolerance.  Perhaps instead of sending our children to other countries to study and learn about the culture of others, we could send our kids to homes where loved ones have been lost to hatred and intolerance.  I don't think that we should now learn to ignore the cultures of other lands, on the other hand, we MUST learn a better way to live in our own culture.  We must teach the next generation a better way to live than to kill and hate!

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Living Life Large

I was born old, very, very old.  It quickly ages a person when they are unable to draw oxygen into their body. this era is annoying, but there are many, many medications that minimize the effects it has on your body.

That was NOT the case when I was born.  There were two treatments in Western medicine for asthma, oxygen, and pounding.  Pounding is NOT the proper name, but the treatment involved someone cupping their hands and then pounding on your back.  It was miserable, and frightening to a small child.  This treatment helped to thin phlegm that caused asthmatics and those with cystic fibrosis dangerous respiratory symptoms.  When this substance is too thick it quickly can lead to dangerous infections.

I also remember being encased in an oxygen tent.  That meant that my child small body of two or three was placed in a sort of clear plastic filled with the oxygen that enabled me to breathe.  I also remember hearing doctors and nurses around me whispering, "She will not live long, she's too highly allergic."  I was asthmatic, NOT DEAF!

Why do I discuss this experience?  It has had a profound impact on my life as I pass from my middle aged life into my older life.  My friend's health is now catching up to me.  I have struggled with health challenge each and every day of my life.  Big things, like breast cancer, to small things, like asthma (at least it's much smaller now than it was when I was a child).

As each year comes and goes I rejoice that I am still here!  I hear so many people saying, "Old age is not for sissies!"  In my life, NO AGE WAS FOR SISSIES.  The things that surprise others in this part of their lives, I have been coping with for ALL OF MY LIFE.  That does not make me superior to others, I do still whine and complain extremely well.  It DOES grant me a different perspective.

An example is this last year.  I had to have all my teeth pulled, and get dentures.  Then I had complications causing me to wait an additional year before I could use my lower dentures.  In addition I finally reached the point where it is necessary for me to wear glasses all the time.

At first, as I traveled through this unfamiliar terrain, I was extremely good at complaining about "old age."  Then I began to regain my perspective.  I have many friends who had to get dentures at a far younger age.  I have many friends, who have worn glasses since childhood.

I am entering a brand new decade of life on this birthday.  At first I found that a frightening idea...I mean, I'm definitely not young OR middle-aged anymore.  Then I remembered my perspective, "I'm still here!  I'm still able to learn new things, meet new people, travel to new places, reach new goals, and live life as fully as I possibly can!"

Oh there will be challenges that will flatten me from time to time.  The important thing for me to remember is that it's ok to be knocked flat.  What is NOT ok, is to stay flat, to give up, give out, or give in!

One of my beloved Grandma's who lived to the ripe old age of 84 used to say that she would get up and get dressed in the morning.  Next she would get the newspaper from her front porch.  She would eat, and open the page to the obituaries.  If she didn't find her obituary in the paper, she would proceed to plan for her day.  I love the good humor of her perspective.  I knew that she was joking.  She did NOT expect to find her obituary in the paper while she was eating her cream of wheat.  Nonetheless, even for me as a child I understood her way of coping with the idea of death within life.

Today, I am ALIVE!  I hope, and plan to fill my day with rejoicing, celebration, in the little things, like writing a blog post, playing the piano, even in cleansing my dishes (that last one may be too big of a stretch to find enjoyment).  I hope to sing, dance, sing and dance, and then work on laundry.  I enjoy the process of taking dirty clothing, and washing, drying, and then folding, creating order where chaos existed.

Today, however, I wish to remember that as Abraham Lincoln said, "It's not about doing what you love, it's about loving what you're doing."  That means that when I do the things I dislike, or loathe (dishes are in that last category) I can find ways to make the job bearable.  Remember as Mary Poppins said in the Disney movie, "A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, in a most delightful way!"

Are You Old?

I was born old, very, very old.  It quickly ages a person when they are unable to draw oxygen into their body. this era is annoying, but there are many, many medications that minimize the effects it has on your body.

That was NOT the case when I was born.  There were two treatments in Western medicine for asthma, oxygen, and pounding.  Pounding is NOT the proper name, but the treatment involved someone cupping their hands and then pounding on your back.  It was miserable, and frightening to a small child.  This treatment helped to thin phlegm that caused asthmatics and those with cystic fibrosis such misery.  When this substance is too thick it quickly can lead to dangerous infections.

I also remember being encased in an oxygen tent.  That meant that my child small body of two or three was placed in a sort of clear plastic filled with the oxygen that enabled me to breathe.  I also remember hearing doctors and nurses around me whispering, "She will not live long, she's too highly allergic."  I was asthmatic, NOT DEAF!

Why do I discuss this experience?  It has had a profound impact on my life as I pass from my middle aged life into my older life.  My friends health is now catching up to me.  I have struggled with health challenge each and every day of my life.  Big things, like breast cancer, to small things, like asthma.

As each year comes and goes I rejoice that I am still here!  I hear so many people saying, "Old age is not for sissies!"  In my life, NO AGE WAS FOR SISSIES.  The things that surprise others in this part of their lives, I have been coping with for ALL OF MY LIFE.  That does not make me superior to others, I do still whine and complain extremely well.  It DOES grant me a different perspective.

An example is this last year.  I had to have all my teeth pulled, and get dentures.  Then I had complications causing me to wait an additional four months before I can use my lower dentures.  In addition I finally reached the point where it is necessary for me to wear glasses all the time.

At first, as I traveled through this unfamiliar terrain, I was extremely good at complaining about "old age."  Then I began to regain my perspective.  I have many friends who had to get dentures at a far younger age.  I have many friends, who have worn glasses since childhood.

I am entering a brand new decade of life on this birthday.  At first I found that a frightening idea...I mean, I'm definitely not young OR middle-aged anymore.  Then I remembered my perspective, "I'm still here!  I'm still able to learn new things, meet new people, travel to new places, reach new goals, and live life as fully as I possibly can!"

Oh there will be challenges that will flatten me from time to time.  The important thing for me to remember is that it's ok to be knocked flat.  What is NOT ok, is to stay flat, to give up, give out, or give in!

One of my beloved Grandma's who lived to the ripe old age of 84 used to say that she would get up and get dressed in the morning.  Next she would get the newspaper from her front porch.  She would eat, and open the page to the obituaries.  If she didn't find her obituary in the paper, she would proceed to plan for her day.  I love the good humor of her perspective.  I knew that she was joking.  She did NOT expect to find her obituary in the paper while she was eating her cream of wheat.  Nonetheless, even for me as a child I understood her way of coping with the idea of death within life.

Today, I am ALIVE!  I hope, and plan to fill my day with rejoicing, celebration, in the little things, like writing a blog post, playing the piano, even in cleansing my dishes (that last one may be too big of a stretch to find enjoyment).  I hope to sing, dance, sing and dance, and then work on laundry.  I enjoy the process of taking dirty clothing, and washing, drying, and then folding, creating order where chaos existed.

Today, however, I wish to remember that as Abraham Lincoln said, "It's not about doing what you love, it's about loving what you're doing."  That means that when I do the things I dislike, or loathe (dishes are in that last category) I can find ways to make the job bearable.  Remember as Mary Poppins said in the Disney movie, "A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, in a most delightful way!"

It Is My Turn

It is my turn, to become old
It is my turn, to find joy
It is my turn, to love and lift
It is my turn, to find peace in conflict
It is my turn, to comfort others in sorrow
It is my turn, to slow down and watch a day change from light to night
It is my turn, to rest well at night
It is my turn, to notice new wrinkles in my face, and be delighted with them
It is my turn, to see my Grandma's and Parent's in the way my face looks now
It is my turn, to listen to music
It is my turn, to sing with joy and with sorrow
It is my turn, to heal old wounds
It is my turn, to solve disagreements with others
It is my turn, to feel the warm breeze in my face
It is my turn, to love my children, love my children, love my children
It is my turn, to help small children slow down, and disconnect from technology
It is my turn, to use technology to improve my life, but keep a balance
It is my turn, to care for my health, but not make it my only priority
It is my turn, to remember the wonderful quote that "a person wrapped up only in himself makes a very   small package"
It is my turn, to notice the brilliant green of spring welcomed leaves
It is my turn, to notice the glory of autumn painted leaves
It is my turn, to be patient in affliction
It is my turn, to read poetry
It is my turn, to sing songs, my own, and others
It is my turn, to coax music from an antique piano
It is my turn, to make new friends
It is my turn, to love those older than I am, to learn from them
It is my turn, to be grateful, to count my blessings more than my struggles
It is my turn, my turn, my turn