Category Archives: MUSINGS!

Bye Bye Journal

I have been wading through boxes full of my journals. The sheer weight of those boxes told me that a lot of words were inside, so as I began to sift through it all, reading here and there, I realized that these letters and journals no longer serve me.

These are thoughts and feelings from a long ago person about long ago events. Writing has always served me well in allowing me to express and organize my thoughts, but I am a different person now, living in a different time. Just scanning the notes tells me how very different I am from that younger version of myself. I feel as if I have evolved and graduated to the next level.

My Mother used to love to write as well, and I understand why she did. Her later years were spent living far from her roots and at times she lived in other countries. She would feel a need to connect with home and writing provided this connection. Writing is very therapeutic and as one writes it feels as if it connects you to loved ones and to memories of other places and times. It makes us feel less alone on our journey and comforts our souls longing.

Mom is gone now, but I remember one day when she was old and we were having our daily visit on the phone. She shared with me that she had thrown out all of her journaling along with all of her saved letters. I gasped to hear it because I knew how much time she had invested in that particular exercise. I am sure I said something like “Oh NO! Why?”

Today, I know the answer to that question. I have come to the same intersection in life that she likely approached back then. Do I keep storing old journals that I have not looked at in years or should I toss them? I had to ponder it a while because we have moved many, many times and like an old pack mule, I brought them along each and every time. As I sit here and look at the sheer volume of writing, I recognize that to leave these things to our children would be leaving the burden of this choice to them. They will not have the time to read it all and even if they did, would they want to trade their time on earth reading about MY journey? They have their own journey to focus on, so I feel I am releasing them from a future dilemma of what to do with all these journals.

One might say, (as I did to my Mother), “what a waste!” (when imagining the journals getting tossed away to be hauled off to some landfill.) But, it wasn’t a waste at all. Writing served up a purpose in that moment in time when, for whatever reason, Mom or I chose to write. It gave each of us a means to express what was on our hearts and minds and a discovery of our true selves came to light in the process. It was time well spent. I will not spend time on these thoughts and words a second time, because I have new things to see and do and learn! My spirit cannot fly when weighted down by my past and earthly possessions . Someday I will fly away to some celestial shore and I will do this minus the weight I brought onto myself with the things of this world!

Amen? Amen! ❤️

Bye bye Journal….bye bye!

Jjb/5/24/2022

Gram without Gramp!

Grandpa died one month after his 71st birthday, leaving behind my grief stricken Grandma who had no clue how to proceed in her new solo life after all those many years of marriage. They had married at a young age and as time passed, they had six children with only three surviving past infancy. Two boys and a girl survived infancy and the girl was my Mother.

I remember my grandparents so well because as a child we spent a lot of time at their house. My Mother was their only daughter and they treasured her existence. I think she would have been a little surprised to hear this because their Swedish ways were not naturally expressive. They did not tell you they loved you…They just assumed you should understand this as a fact. They also did not show their affection with impulsive hugs or any display of affection. They felt their love was best expressed by providing for their children, and they provided well.

As children, we loved going to their home and we felt a grandchild’s pride of ownership in their small one story home. They kept their house in pristine condition. The house exterior was white painted clapboard and the window frames were painted a soft green. The front of the house sported a covered porch where two rocking chairs sat facing the front lawn. Grandpa and Grandma would sit and watch local traffic buzz by on the small rural country road that ran by the front of their house. Their house sat on a corner property where their street intersected with the narrow country road. Because their home sat on a rise of land which overlooked the road, they had the perfect spot from which to “watch the world go by” as Grandma used to say. They had a number of flower beds fronting their property with large sweeping bands of color enhancing the view for people driving down the road past their place.

Both Grandpa and Grandma were born and raised in this small rural community and after they married, they remained and raised their children here as well. As a child, I enjoyed visiting them often and loved immersing myself into their quiet existence. They were very good Grandparents and despite their humble lifestyle, they were happy in their community and they enjoyed having easy access to their Grandchildren.

Many years passed by and then the unthinkable happened. Grandpa died before Gram. She was lost without him, so my Mother invited her to come and stay with us in town, which she did. She enjoyed living with her daughter and Granddaughters but began to miss her home of over 40 years, so my Mother drove her up to her home and dropped her off with arrangements to come back the following Saturday to pick her up.

That week in her home was very heartbreaking for Gram. The house no longer felt like home without Grandpa and she felt like a stranger in her own community. Friends had all become old and many had passed away. New people had moved in which made a lifelong community feel a little foreign to her.

The following Saturday, as my Mother turned into the driveway, she saw Gram standing outside, suitcase packed and on the ground beside her.. As Gram got into the car, Mom asked her how things had worked out for her and Grandma said “Well, when I decided I wanted to go back home for a visit, I assumed it would all be the same as I had left it. Instead, what I discovered is that our home is now just a house without your Father there!” As she spoke, she dabbed away at tears that had begun to trickle down her face.

❤️❤️❤️

My husbands parents owned a farm which sat on 80 acres of land. It was a beautiful place with wide sweeping views on which sat a large two story farmhouse with a long deep front porch overlooking the fields. There was a huge barn and various other buildings that held machinery, chickens, cows and corn, all of which were painted white. This group of buildings sat at the end of a long country lane surrounded by corn fields. They raised two children on this farm, a boy and a girl, and my husband was their first born and their son.

They were blessed with 6 Grandchildren who would often go and stay with them on the farm. The children enjoyed the wide open spaces and reveled in spending time with their cousins while exploring the interiors of many of the different buildings. They all ran and played as they crossed tall green pasture land and often returned looking like dirty little vagrant children. The more dirt, the better. They enjoyed biking down the long dirt driveway to the mailbox to gather mail. This mailbox sat alongside the gravel road that went past their farm property. Grandpa would take each of them for rides on his riding lawn mower and even let them steer! Now that was a great feeling of power to a younger child. How quickly all those years passed by, and sooner than one can imagine, the grandchildren were all grown up and had moved on into living busy lives of their own.

As their health began to decline, Grandpa made the decision to sell their farm. They held an auction on the Centennial farm where my husbands father was born and raised. They chose the things they would take with them to their small Senior apartment in town, and everything else was sold or donated that day. I still remember my Mother in law walking around the large circular drive, tears streaming down her face as grieved the loss of the contents of her home which held memories of a lifetime. So many things that had given her much joy through the years now sat on big trailer beds waiting to be sold. The sunlight was not nearly as kind to the appearance of their possessions as had been the soft interior lighting inside the old farmhouse. My heart broke along with hers as I watched her linger in front of things she had collected and cherished over the years. I know the loss of her home felt like a death to her.

Time passed again and some years later, Grandpa died. With the passing of Grandpa, Grandma’s dementia deepened and we were not even sure if she was aware of the loss of her husband. 6 months later, her two children and I sat at her bedside knowing her life was coming to an end. Her daughter sat on one side of her bed and my husband and I sat on the other side and as we were casually conversing, we heard her breathing change. We stopped talking and watched a smile appear on her face. Her expression kept changing and the smile grew broader until she took her last breath. We had no doubt that she was greeted and welcomed to her eternal home.

❤️❤️❤️

Around the same time that my husbands parents sold their farm, my parents were having their own aging struggles. My Dad had a stroke not long after he retired which he seemed to recover from fairly well. He was dealing with macular degeneration so his eyesight was impaired.. Mom now had to drive and as time passed, he suffered little mini strokes which contributed to a cognitive decline. They put their house on the market because their bedrooms and bathroom were all upstairs and he could no longer manage the stairs. Here, too, I watched a lifetime of accumulation gathered up and put out to be sold or donated.

These Grandparents were the ones who always arranged fishing trips to Canada for the whole family. We were always eager to be part of this trip every time he made plans and we formed a caravan of 5 vehicles each time we made the trip. Those were such fun days for all involved and one year, my Dad caught “the big one”! It was a 35 pound trout and as he pulled into the dock area there was much excitement and chatter about his good fortune. To this day, memories of these fishing trips are among the most treasured of the grandchildren.

These Grandparents introduced to the larger family a card game named “Peruvian Rummy“, a game they learned while living in South America. The game caught on immediately and was a tool for all of us to interact and bond during friendly competition. There were many, many nights of endless rounds of Rummy as we each focused on becoming the winner of the game.

I also remember Grandpa taking the kids skiing in the northern snowy woods by pulling them behind his truck using a water ski rope. They swished and swooped down old logging trails in the same fashion as when one waterskis behind a boat. The kids enjoyed the feeling of the soft cold snow dusting their faces as it blew off the trees when they whizzed past the low hanging branches.

My parents graciously agreed to come and stay long periods of times at our house (almost as a second set of parents) to give a sense of continuity to our children when we would travel extensively with my husbands job.

But, just as with the others, time passed and it became apparent that they needed to make a location change to suit their new health conditions.

I remember the last day in their house before turning the keys over to the new owner. Mom and I were doing last minute touch ups to the cleaning and clearing out, and we each had a moment where we looked at each other with heart felt emotion. Our eyes locked in place as we felt the mutual sense of loss knowing that this was the final chapter in their home. We embraced each other, but neither of us said a word. There really is no comfort language available that one can use to say goodbye to a place which contained so many memories….memories of holidays and vacations spent there with three generations laughing, loving, socializing and bonding! We walked to the side door of the house and stepped outside. Mom locked the door and put the key in an envelope and slipped it under the door mat as was previously agreed with the new owner.

They, too, moved to a Senior Apartment and Dad died within a year and a half of that move. Mom lived alone following his death for an additional 11 years until one night, following a minor surgery, she too died.

❤️❤️❤️

As I age, I think about our parents and Grandparents more and more frequently and find that I have so many questions I would like to ask them now that would be pertinent to this time in our life.

I find myself remembering back in time to a day when it was my Mother in laws 72nd birthday. I was in my 30’s at the time and I impulsively asked this question.

“What’s it like to be 72, Verona?”

She looked at me for a minute and said, “Well, you know….when you are your age and you hear the number 72, it seems like it is a long, long way down the road! But when you are the one who is 72, you look back in time and realize it goes like this” (and she snapped her finger).

Each year when her birthday comes around, I look upwards toward heaven and say, “There went another one, Verona, just like that!” And I proceed to snap my finger.

Indeed, life passes faster than anyone can fully realize. For those of us who have been blessed to live into our golden years, we begin to see the fragility of life and how quickly it passes us by. I reflect a lot more these days on my past and all the people I have known and all experiences I have had along the way. What suited us in the early years in the way of a home or material goods does not necessarily suit us now, which is why I continue to send things out the door, back to the universe where someone else may find good use for whatever item I am relinquishing.

I try to stay focused on all that is good in the moment and count my blessings every day. My Mother in law was so right all those years ago when she said “looking back…..” As this thought passes through my consciousness, I snap my finger like she did.

Indeed! It surely does go by that fast! Savor the moment for no one knows how many they are going to get!

4/27/2022-jjb

Change

It is early morning and I am sitting in the middle of a large sectional sofa with my feet propped up on a large ottoman that sits in front of it. I am behind closed doors in the Den of my daughters house and she is still sleeping. It is very quiet!

I feel unsettled in the aftermath of a bad dream where I was in search of home but could not seem to find it. In my dream, I did not know where my home was, and while I was feverishly in search of it, my panic seemed to grow. Where, oh where is my home?

I woke up and rolled onto my back in the dark room trying to reorient myself. I laid there and watched the fan spinning overhead with the chain below wobbling in the breeze. Somehow, its hum was comforting. Oh yes…now I remember, I am at our daughters home for an extended stay and MY home of 25 years is being watched over by my husband. He was just here for a few days and left for home yesterday.

I try to shake off the emotions from the dream so I get up, pad off to the kitchen and make a strong cup of freshly brewed coffee. Mmmmm! Now THIS is the beginning of my usual daily routine and I begin to settle into reality. Its been three weeks I have been here and I have three weeks to go. I have never been away from my husband AND home simultaneously for this long before and there are times when I feel as if I am in a free fall. Our daughter had a health scare which required I be here as her driver for a while and I am half way through the six weeks needed.

Our daughter has been very gracious to me and I am grateful. She even dotes on me from time to time, sliding unto the sofa next to me and slipping her arm through mine as she speaks loving thoughts about our relationship. Those times are savored and I tuck them away in my memory bank to take out on another day when my spirit is sagging for one reason or another. There are other days where something I say makes her bristle but she is careful to not retort back. Goodness! Two women in one house for an extended period of time is obviously a lesson on give and take, but, overall, we are doing very well and the lessons on boundaries and space are invaluable.

Growing old is not for the faint of heart. I feel proud of the independent and strong spirits of our children. None of them are dependent on us in any way, so I guess you could say we did well on our parenting report card. The other side of it is, they are in their prime of life working, some raising families, all chasing that American dream which means they are very busy. Though I know I am loved and welcome here, I also know I do not belong here in a permanent sense. There is nothing I would not do for my children, but I am learning to ask first.

As we continue to add years to our life we look around at all the things we once thought we just had to have. Oh, what joy we felt as we brought our new little trinkets home. I remember when we purchased our first brand new sofa and matching chair. I was so excited about the purchase, I would first sit in the chair to look at the sofa and then sit on the sofa to look at the chair. I was so thrilled! Those years were the building years. We were building a life together and furnishing our newly purchased nest. To think I actually thought this sofa beautiful! It speaks loudly to the influence of good marketing snd inexpensive goods.

I thought this was beautiful at the time.

So now what? There has been a lot written about simplifying ones life and the articles make it sound liberating and freeing to the soul. Sounds good, and after all, a shroud does not have pockets, as they say. I have no trouble discarding things, but I do have a hard time discarding the memories these things bring about. As my daughter and I were bringing things from her house to the thrift store, I was her champion! “Good girl! YOU GO girl! I am so proud of you daughter dear!“.

That is, UNTIL she put what was once MY beautiful crystal wine glasses in a box to ship off. They are a very delicate shade of pink etched crystal bought to compliment the pure white china upon which a single delicate pink rose graced the side of the plate. The water goblets, too, were selected with such care and precision almost 50 years ago. They represent to me our beginnings…the beginning of our marriage and our life together. It was ok to see Grandmas stuff go out the door, for she is in heaven walking golden paths that pass by crystal cathedrals, but I am still here! I quickly grabbed the crystal and said I would bring them home. So, we put them in a box and sent them back with my husband. Foolish….just FOOLISH thinking on my part, because honestly, will I ever use them again? Doubtful! Our children are informal people. It is a whole new world out there and what they see as old-world stuff doesn’t fit into this lifestyle, and don’t even think of leaving them anything that needs to be polished regularly!

I am ready to let go…I am ready to let go….I am ready to let go!

Easier said than done. I KNOW this is a lesson in life made just for me! I felt such joy building our life together and feathering our nest. Each item was selected with the idea of creating my own personal Norman Rockwell painting. Surely those people on the cover of Saturday Evening Post are US, are they not? They’re NOT? What? That was all just fiction in the imagination of the painter? Just an imaginary family picture on a magazine cover? Well, now. That’s a jolt!

I think that many women growing up in my generation saw too many idealized movies and t.v. shows depicting this type of a lifestyle and we sought to emulate it, because it appealed to us. We also witnessed our grandmothers setting a nice table with an ironed tablecloth and lovely dishes for the holidays. I remember those long ago commercials with high heeled housewives vacuuming the new carpet in their house. They wore pretty ruffled aprons, and looked ready for a date when the kids came home from school. Well, I certainly never wore high heels around the house to do my cleaning, nor did I ever wear an apron, and don’t even ask the kids what I must have looked like, but I sure loved setting a beautiful table for special occasions. I thought I was teaching our children about the “finer” things in life, yet these days very few of our children’s generation want any of that type of dinnerware, nor those type of complicated dinners that created heaping piles of dishes. Those days are gone.

I imagine God smiling indulgently as we finally grasp the amount of money and time spent on things that just simply do not matter. Our kids have their own way of doing things and it is different from us. I guess I will just cut a larger swath through my home and cabinets and closets when I get back to my nest and send more out the door. It rocks my boat to say goodbye to the representation of a life well lived, but one has to step out of the past and join loved ones in the here and now.

I am trying to remember the name of a movie where in a scene towards the end, an older Jessica Tandy was sitting on her suitcase in the middle of a small town intersection. She was looking for her house and I remember how that scene stole my heart as she realized the house was gone or maybe boarded up. Jessica Tandy was one of my all time favorite actresses and oh how I loved her scratchy emotion filled voice. I wonder if it was “Driving Miss Daisy”? Or, was it “Fried Green Tomatoes”? Both movies were excellent, and more so because she starred in both. I just found it..It was ”Fried Green Tomatoes” but will leave in both references if you are looking for a great older movie to watch.

Well, anyway, the movie was about a woman who was moving forward towards the end of her life, being faced with some difficult unavoidable changes to her living arrangements and she did it with grace. I am not that kind of old age yet, but God willing it is not all that much farther down the pike as they say. Time….it has a way of rolling up life’s carpet behind us as we walk our journey. There is no going back and so one may as well embrace the change as we move forward. I will try my best, but I suspect that my embrace will have white knuckled clenched fists as I work through it. Lol! Relax, M’am, relax!

For what it is worth….I love my daughter for so many reasons and in so many ways. If the world had more people like her in it, there would be NO wars! ❤️

jjb/3/29/2022

Gifts

Have you ever found yourself pondering your life and how the people you have encountered along the way came to be walking the same path as you at the same time?

Through the years I have done this type of assessment a lot. How was it that I was born at the time and place I arrived? Why was I born into my particular family? Why was I born into an area of the world so different from the places where millions of others presented themselves? I always pondered these questions as I learned about the world around me, knowing that somewhere on the other side of the world there were people born into abject poverty or into a place where fear was rampant due to the criminal element that surrounded them. The same is true when I pondered those born into royal bloodlines and extreme wealth. How did this all come to be our reality? As for me, I think I was very lucky. Like the story of Goldilocks, where this porridge was too hot, this porridge was too cold, and this porridge was just right, my life was “just right” with no excess of anything. No excess wealth and no excess poverty. It was always filled with the right amount of many factors that contributed to my well being. Some people think life is a random event while others think it is pre-determined.. I am open to whatever our creator decided for it to be.

I was thinking of this on my way home from the airport this morning after dropping off one of my dearest friends. She arrived a week ago today and we pretty much talked nonstop the entire time. As I sped along the highway, I was counting my blessings for the merging of our two individual paths in life so long ago at another time and place. How is it that we clash with some people in this world and instantly bond with others? It is a mystery.

If there are four seasons in life I suppose I would now have to say that I have entered the winter of my life where there is a shortening of the days and a slowing down of energy…a period of rest and contemplation. I am most decidedly blessed to have been granted the experience of this part of life where similar to the ending of a song, it becomes quieter, slower and drawn out until its completion…

I met my friend when I was in my late 20’s. My husband and I and our family had recently moved to a small northern Minnesota town due to my husbands job promotion. We had three small children and the day I met my friend, the children were playing quietly downstairs as I was wallpapering a wall in our house. To my surprise, the doorbell rang, so I put down my project and opened the door. There she stood…She was tall and thin with dark, shoulder length hair and a broad smile. The minute our eyes met, we both felt a strong connection. She was collecting for the Heart Association and she made a point of showing me proof of the legitimacy of her donation request. I laughed out loud at her concern that I may think she was a fraud looking for money.

As is often said, She and I “hit it off”, and as a result, many phone calls, lunches, and outings occurred while we slowly built our relationship. We were fortunate that our husbands really liked each other as well, so there were many times, as couples, we found interesting things to do which allowed for the guys to come to know each other better as well.

We had only lived in that little town for around two years when another promotion pulled us far away to another state. Despite the distance now between us, she and I remained in touch by letter, phone call, and an occasional planned visit.

Through the years we have shared our life stories with each other, a little bit at a time, as time allowed. Bit by bit, we became ever closer as we began to see how synchronized we were in our morals, thoughts, religious beliefs, parenting, etc. etc. etc. Like a small seed planted in fertile soil, our relationship grew and expanded and began to bear fruit. The fruit consisted of the many ways we helped shape each others thoughts and how we helped each other expand our awareness of the complexity of life, family and friends. The fruit was also the absolute acceptance of each other exactly as we are. There was no competitiveness, no envy, no negativity at all. There was only positive energy flowing and no expectations of changing the other.

My personality traits are those of a social introvert. I can spend vast amounts of time by myself but I DO love the company of others where we can talk and laugh and share thoughts and feelings. I just don’t need this type of socialization on a daily basis. I connect this aspect of my personality to the environment in which I grew up. We lived in “the woods” of the U.P. of Michigan at a time where a child’s entertainment was not provided to them. A child had to figure that part out on their own, so in my case, it consisted of a lot of solitary activities. I also had cousins, cousins, by the dozens anytime I wanted a playmate, but for the most part, I spent a lot of my time in the imaginary world of books. Sometimes I would take a book up into the middle of the woods nearby and lay down on my back on the soft moss covered earth. I would then prop my book up on my chest, and proceed to get lost in the next adventure. Oh how I traveled far and wide in those days, one adventure followed by another in the far outposts of my mind. I would occasionally lift my eyes from the book to observe the long shafts of sunlight streaming down through the tall stand of trees as I pondered recently read passages.

As a result of my childhood, I have never needed a huge circle of friends. Rather, I was selective about who I spent time with, which inevitably led to my friendships becoming more than just surface laughter. I have always said, “Give me one good hearted “salt of the earth” friend with a great sense of humor and I am good to go!” No gaggle of girlfriends for me!

I think that we somehow manifest our desires by how we imagine things because the universe has presented to me one good friend after another. Not a LOT of them, but boy oh boy, the quality of these people has always been spot on for me to love and enjoy.

This is true with my husband as well. No truer love has ever existed for me than that which I have for him and he has for me. Oh, yes, blessings abound! When I was young, I always imagined what my husband would be like some day and now here we are, nearly 1/2 century married, true friends on so many levels!

I am sitting here now in the quiet of my house, imagining my friend sitting in an airplane, lifting off in the Texas sky, flying back to the north country. I feel satiated and loved after a wonderful week of shopping, lunches, sharing thoughts and feelings and the reminiscing of stories from long ago. At the same time, I feel a slight bit melancholy because I realize how far we have come and how much shorter the path is that lies ahead of us. Death is real to us these days as she is now a widow of three years. Instead of two couples engaging with each other, we are now a threesome and we are ever mindful of the fragility of life. As she is strongly encouraging us to come and stay a month with her next summer, using her home as a place where we can come and go, we nod our heads smiling, saying “Yes, yes” knowing that this will only come to pass, if God is willing for it to be so!

My life has been full of many kinds of relationships…some good, some bad, some best left forgotten. This friendship falls into the good….the very, very good category. I guess one would call her a gift to me. A gift from God to make up for some of the losses I have endured. In the checks and balances of life, she is one of those rare bonuses!

As they say, be careful what you focus on because that is what you will bring into your life. Fortunately, I am one who usually focuses on what is good and right. I see life’s gifts, and she is certainly one of them. Bye, bye Nancy, I will be savoring and focusing on this visit for a long time to come. God bless!

jjb/1/25/2021

If I could only fly

We have dinner baking in the oven so we poured a glass of wine (me) and a cold amber beer (him). We then hooked up my iPad to our Bose speaker and chose to stream Merle Haggard and a montage of his Gospel songs on utube! (Yes, really! Merle sang gospel music) We forgot how beautiful his voice was until we started to listen to his deep rich tone! Within a minute we settled into a trip down memory lane. It is my opinion that there is nothing he could not sing well.

As we listened to song after song, I thought of the many country music singers who have sung songs of praise to God and Jesus! I find that part touching. So many of these country music legends have lived rough and tumble lives, yet they all loved their Mama’s and Jesus, both who were the most likely to love and forgive them unconditionally!

Mr. B is melancholy tonight, eyes welling up as we listen to sentimental old time songs. We have a very dear relative who is on hospice, and we know his time is short. Even though we previously received notice of his condition and prognosis, it still comes as a shock when someone actually begins their journey “home.”. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust…and all that.

The queue line ahead of us to go to heaven is getting shorter and shorter and we are ever increasingly aware of this. We have never been people who counted our years on earth in any serious kind of way. Naturally, the birthdays serve up a reminder of how long we have been walking this earth, but we have never really put serious thought to our demise. After all, our spirits are eternal and in our case, because we have been reasonably healthy, we motivate about our world with the joyful sense of living in the day while anticipating and planning for what is ahead.

Lately, however, we have received many notifications of people we know who have died. We are losing the world in which we grew up and lived for so many years, one relationship at a time. As I reflected on the departure of so many friends and family, it came to me that an interesting representation for this ongoing loss would be the visualization of removing pieces out of a completed jig saw puzzle. Each person’s piece in our life’s puzzle is taken out as they die, leaving a hole where they used to be in the picture of our life. Through the years, these pieces were inserted, one at a time, as we continued to build our picture, and now, all these years later, they are being lifted back out.

From birth, we begin our life within a circle of loved ones and as we grow older, we accumulate more and more people in our life by way of friends, loved ones, children, children’s friends, acquaintances, and the list grows through the years. The same is true for our accumulation of material possessions. A friend said once, “Isn’t it interesting how we spend the first half of our lives accumulating things and the second half getting rid of them?” I thought it to be a rather profound statement from someone who was only about 30 years old at the time. Of course, she was talking about our material possessions, but it applies in a different way to our unintended loss of loved ones as well.

As we face our final destination, we realize that we cannot take anything with us, not material goods nor even the people we love. We are forced to let go of everything we have gathered in our lifetime. All we take with us are the lessons we have learned about living and loving. Life’s meaning has always been about what we leave behind as we depart this earth and I am not referencing our material goods. I am referring to what we leave behind in the way of experiences and memories with others while here on earth. The ultimate harvest is about our relationships with other people, how we treated them and how we made them feel. Our journey here was never about us and what WE would gain. Rather it is about how we give of ourselves and how we have gifted and blessed and loved others.

As we sat there over dinner, listening to the music and talking, I began to imagine our loved one finally releasing his spirit from his earth bound body. I imagined him returning to God and to the promised land where there is no more pain, hunger, thirst, fear or loneliness. What will be greeting him upon his arrival to that distant place is a pure, unconditional love…the kind of love we have yearned for all of our lives. His spirit will soar and swoop with an unbridled joy not known or experienced here on earth. While we weep over the loss of this dear soul, we also give up thanks for having been blessed with his presence in our lives. We also give up thanks for his final and most important reward, which is life everlasting!

He was a very important piece to my life puzzle, having been a part of it my entire life. He was like a brother to me, and it has been written that the sibling relationship is the longest relationship we will ever experience on earth because they were there with us at our beginning and can be witness to the many events that shaped and formed the person we became.

In my puzzle of life, I would say that he was a corner piece, an important connecting piece to all the other pieces that were added as I grew up. The loss of his piece will undo the completed frame of my puzzle which means the framing of my life back to my birth will not feel as secure as it once did. Some people are foundational to our being and he certainly was that for us when we were young children.

But, life goes on. His life will continue in an expanded glorious version while our life will continue on in a slightly contracted version due to his departure. Memories of him will sustain us and as we imagine his spirit taking flight, we will rejoice in knowing that we will be reunited with him again someday. Oh the conversations we will have then about the lessons given to us while here in this realm. FINALLY, there will be a pulling back of the veil giving clarity around all the things we just do not understand while on earth.

I used to say to my Mother as we talked of such things, “I will tell you what, Mom…when I die and go to heaven, I am going to have a LOT of questions for Jesus to answer!” She said to me, “Oh, J…when you go to heaven it will all become CLEAR!”

Yes, I believe she is correct about that. If I could only fly…and I will….. someday at an appointed time and place. Until then, we do our best to matter in this world and to make a difference!

jjb/6/15/2021

Down though the years…

A long time ago, when we were fairly new empty nesters, we were having a conversation with a friend of ours. He traveled a lot with his work and said that one morning when he woke up, he found himself on a fold out sofa bed in his sons apartment’s living room. While he laid there orienting himself as to where he was, he wondered where all the years had gone? His story gave me a smile because he really was surprised to find himself in that time and place not having fully realized the journey! This is how time slips away unnoticed.

This is also how it goes with raising kids. From the moment they are born, our life seems to go into a fast forward mode. When it came to our own adult life, we have been so incredibly busy, the words “savor the moment” simply came down to wishful thinking. That is, until all the kids had flown the nest and we were left with mountains of extra time to fill. Savor….how do we “savor” something with which we have had no previous experience?

Our granddaughter graduates high school this weekend. As I look at her and see her excitement over her next big step of leaving home for college, I am sure that her parents are filled with a lot of conflicting feelings.

Of course, they are happy for her because as parents we want our kids to be happy and to advance in life on their own terms, remembering our own launch into life so many years before. On the other hand, they are facing the beginning of their own nest emptying out. For the first time they are facing the fact that she is going off into a world where her parameters are no longer the same as their own.

We parents live under an illusion of having control which comes to us when our children are born in a very vulnerable state, totally dependent on us for survival. We nervously step up to the challenge, making so many decisions for this newly minted baby. Then as the baby begins to grow, they begin making their own decisions while we still have a modicum of control in their lives. We encourage them and guide their choices while we still have some influence over them.

The years go by and before we realize just how quickly it has all gone, we watch them walking across a stage to receive their diploma…a certification of completion which says they have earned the right to choose which path they will begin their new independent life.

Long ago I read something that said our children are placed into our safekeeping but are only on loan to us from God. They do not belong to us. They belong to God. The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. I was so aware of this when our daughter was in the hospital and so very sick! Prayers poured forth laced with heavy bargaining, though I know that is not how we should do things. I know who is in charge of the universe and it is not me! I prayed for her recovery and for a renewed contract to us on the loan He granted to us of this beautiful and beloved human we brought into the world.

I was listening to a lecture recently where a woman said that a person should not be afraid of death nor should we be afraid of life. We should not make our children afraid either. Living life fully means to embrace whatever comes and to face life fearlessly. Life contains adventure and risk and we should not go though life with the hand brake on. Without doubt, there is a lot of darkness in this world, but there is also a lot of light. As we seek the light we should also BE the light for others, sharing our knowledge and love and wisdom.

Our granddaughter is a light filled personality. She is going to be such a positive addition to the world with her kind and sensible ways. Her parents did a very good job of raising her.

No wonder they are so proud of her.

No wonder she loves them dearly.

The world needs people like her and I am grateful and delighted with how she has turned out! She has the mindset of giving back to the world and has already been doing so for a while now.

The generations march ever forward, each seeking their own way. I am glad we have been blessed with a life long enough to watch not only how our children’s lives have evolved and how they contribute to society, but so too, our grandchildren.. We are in the spectator section once again, watching and cheering them on!

Whether we wake up on our child’s sofa bed in an apartment or in a guest bedroom in their home, the operative word is guest. We have had to learn what that word means. A perfect guest is someone who blends into the life of their Host. We mind our manners, our words and our actions. We are on their turf now and they get to call the shots!

I find myself wondering how our son will feel someday in the not so distant future on that first morning he wakes up in his daughters home and realizes he has now become a guest…a loved guest, a wanted guest, but a guest nonetheless. 🙂 Only then will he understand the journey we have been on ourselves, each generation passing the torch to the upcoming generation.

jjb/6/5/2021

Out with the old..

It is interesting how much we change as the years go by. People come and go in our lives, our views on life, once so black and white, have turned to gray, and material goods we once thought we could not live without, are now going out the door to serve someone else.

Yesterday was a very dark day emotionally for me. My mind was spinning with thoughts of the worlds troubles of which there are SO many! I was also dwelling on the recent death of a good friend. In fact, we have lost 3 friends in just the first 4 months of this year. Two of them were sudden enough to take my breath away. Here today, gone tomorrow, as has often been said. The finality of it for the ones who knew and loved them is jarring! There are no more chances to say what we wish we had said to them. No more chances to see their laughing faces. No more “do overs” whatsoever!

This past week for me has been filled with a lot of restless and sleepless nights. I have tossed and turned in bed as I wrestled with a lot of thoughts about what the future could possibly have in store for us. The death of good friends is a stark reminder that we are all at life’s train station with no clue about which train we will be leaving on or when.

For me, the Pandemic has certainly reinforced the Bible verse, “Be Still, and know I am God”. A year ago, most of us were yanked out of our overly busy lives of comings and going’s and dropped into the quietness of solitary (or near solitary) living. In this solitary quiet, I think many of us have discovered new facets to our inner self. Reflection is very good because it uncovers many aspects of how we think, why we see things in a certain way, and why we respond the way we do. When alone, we are not influenced by the opinions of others which frees us up to be true to our own beliefs. What I have once again discovered about myself is that I just do not want to be bothered by so much “stuff” anymore. I no longer want it here collecting dust as it takes up space in my house. I also don’t want to have to care for it. Of course, I have a few favored pieces that have sentimental value, but there are many things that come from a time in our life when each piece had a purpose to serve. These days, we live very differently than we did when our family was still young. I want to use my time differently by living large rather than caring for material goods.

As a result of my reflecting, I have reactivated my unfinished decluttering project of a couple years ago by pulling more things out of the closets, putting them in large bags and boxes, and bringing them to the thrift shop. The rule I use for now is if it hasn’t been used in 5 years, it needs to go and serve someone else. When this sweep of the house is finished, I will then conduct another “go round” where if it hasn’t been used in a year, out it goes. Each trip to the thrift shop gives me a feeling of accomplishment and a sense of becoming lighter and freer. I have been purging for a couple of years now, and it gets easier to say goodbye with every new purge.

Yesterday, I was in a text conversation with our daughter, sending pictures of things to her first before releasing it to the universe. Some things she wanted and others not. I have my wedding dress that has moved with me nine times. I always thought that maybe someone in the family would be interested in it, but as it turns out, no one is. We live in a day and age of abundance, so the younger generation isn’t nearly as caught up in the sentimental attachment to ancestral things as my generation was. I asked our daughter if she was ok with me releasing the dress and she enthusiastically said, “I think that is great! Someone is going to be so happy to be able to buy that for themselves!” (Funny…I was ok with her not wanting it.) The dress had served its purpose in its time and now maybe it would serve a new purpose for another person with a new love and new vows! Or….maybe it would be utilized in someone’s craft project. It doesn’t matter…just so it is useful!

Bit by bit, more pieces of our life go out the door. Things that were once needed and useful but no longer serve us. We say a quiet thank you to each and every thing that gets put into a bag or box for how it added or served in our life in one form or another and then we say goodbye!

Our thrift shop is owned and run by the Catholic “Ladies of Charity” and they do a fantastic business in the area in which we live. On the backs of their receipts is a list of all the charities they contribute to and there are many! I always feel so good when we bring in another load of goods from which they can make a profit and can forward the blessings of that profit on to places that need the financial support.

I wish I would have heeded a quote I heard many years ago when I was in my 30’s. My friend said, “Isn’t it interesting how we spend the first half of our life accumulating things and the second half getting rid of them?” It was profound to me at the time, but it did not stop the accumulation of things. Everything purchased was bought with the idea of our family expanding several times its original size, but it did not grow as large as I had anticipated. I also did not anticipate adult children having so much of their own stuff! We live in a day and age of ‘much too much!’ Everyone is dealing with too much stuff!

Our goal going forward is to live very simply before we die. I told our younger son that in the end, all I want is a nice room with a recliner, a bedroom, a small kitchen and a bath. He looked at me with a look of horror! haha! Of course I was kidding, but, honestly, as we age, our needs keep shrinking. A long time ago, I remember reading a card in a gift shop that caught my attention. On the front of the card was written, “The more you have”……..and, then on the inside it read, “The more you have to worry about!” No truer words have ever been spoken. The older we get, the less we want to take care of things. In our case, all of our kids live in very nice, well appointed homes. We love to go see them and spend time with them. They come here too, but not as often as we thought they would when we built the house, because everyone is busy working and living their own lives and we are all very spread out geographically.

At our home, the two of us actually only use about 4 rooms on a daily basis while the rest of the house sits unused. These rooms are the kitchen, family room, bedroom and bathroom. So, WHY do we have all this extra space? We are not in a hurry to downsize, but that seed has been planted and it is continuing to expand in our thoughts. Perhaps we will sell our house someday, and if that ever comes to fruition, we will have had a lot of the discarding done already. Yay us!

So, going forward, my incentive is to keep carrying stuff out the door! Just since last week, we have brought four large SUV loads of stuff to the thrift shop and now another large group of filled boxes and bags await the next trip over.

Adieu! Adieu! To you and you and you!

Well, the closets are calling to me so off I go to make more room! I am going to need more boxes! My goodness, I think the house is getting more spacious by the week! 😁

To stay vibrant and viable in this life, a person has to change with the times. We need to let go of the past and leave behind those things (and those people) who do not give back joy or serve a purpose to our life. I often think that a lot of our unhappiness and stress stems from not knowing when to loosen our attachment to things and people, and to just release!

Creating uncluttered space in a home brings peace and serenity.

Inspiration picture!

jjb/5/13/2021

Is your name in this book?

Each morning, Al and I do devotions to get a right start on things for the day. In addition to this, each night we say our prayers before sleep to help remove the worlds assaults to our psyche which sometimes dims our inner spiritual light. We want to feel cleansed, safe and protected through the night, and our prayers offer us that blessed assurance.

The following has always been a favorite verse for me because it creates a wonderful visual as I recite it. I learned it many years ago in our church and I am grateful for having it taught to me!

Psalm 51: v 10-12 Create in me a clean heart oh God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit. These verses give me great comfort, especially during times when I feel overwhelmed or anxious. I often include this prayer in my evening prayers.

I also love the prayer we were taught as very young children and have prayed this my entire life.

Now I lay me down to sleep.

I pray the Lord my soul to keep.

If I should die before I wake,

I pray the Lord my soul to take.

If I should live another day,

I pray the Lord to guide my way.

I love you Jesus!

Amen!

This simple child’s prayer covers it all and as a child I can remember always feeling relief to say the third part which meant I would likely get another day. Children are literal and I am as literal as they come. Lol!

Our morning devotional followed by prayer for others is how we refresh our spirit. It is similar to us taking vitamins each morning to give added strength and resilience to our body, only in this case the devotions and prayer adds strength and resilience to our spirit as we seek to put on the whole armor (or spiritual vitamins) of God!

Our day begins with the advantage of a clean heart and a renewed spirit from praying the night before, but we know that by the time we end our day, it will be time for another cleansing.

The morning devotions and prayer serve the purpose of making us ready to face a new day with new challenges, and, as the good Lord knows, we need all the help we can get in the day and age of a pandemic and warring political factions!

This prayer book in the picture was my Mother’s. When she died, I chose to not take much in the way of her material possessions because I knew she had no great attachment to them (which is why she did not own a lot of excess). Her small apartment in her widowhood was full of things on the walls and surfaces, but these were mostly gifts given to her from family members who were constantly showering her with material expressions of love. She always displayed our gifts so when we came to visit we would see them and feel good about her enjoying our gifts.

At the time of her death, her prayer book spoke to me, along with some other personal writings she had left behind. This prayer book journal was full of blank pages waiting for names to be entered of someone we should pray for. Since her death, Al and I have used her prayer book to write in the names of those friends and acquaintances who are dealing with problems and are in need of prayers. We have always prayed for people, but this time we actually began to log peoples names in this book and as prayers were answered, (one way or another) we drew a line through the name.

The prayer book benefited us every bit as much as the people who are entered in the book because as time has gone by, we began to understand that everyone on earth has their challenges. Some have ENORMOUS challenges, and some have MANY challenges, but we all have them in one form or another, be them big, small, or many.

We began to notice people who helped us build OUR faith as we witnessed their fortitude and perseverance on their health journey. These are the people who have dealt with health issues for years and years, who continue to thank God for the little blessings in the midst of their suffering. These people, who we have long admired, are full of Gods grace and we are/were grateful for their example of a strong faith. (Great is thy faithfulness)

The challenges faced by our friends (and ourselves…our names are in the book too) consist of a wide variety of human suffering. There are always many health concerns, but the list also includes people who are dealing with challenges with their children who unknowingly break their parents hearts in one way or another. Maybe their child has a mental illness, drug addiction, homelessness, broken marriage, loss of job, or a failure to thrive in this very difficult world we find ourselves in. There are children and grandchildren who get sick and die ahead of the parent or grandparent which is always heart wrenching.

We have friends who are personally dealing with dementia, stroke, heart attack, kidney disease, liver disease, cancer, lung disease, and the list goes on and on.

Then there are the friends who have no family support for one reason or another. These people are lonely and alone.

We have friends who have lost the most precious or most important person in their life…a spouse, a child, a grandchild, a parent, or maybe a sibling. Sometimes the loss comes from death and sometimes there is estrangement or separation. Whatever the reason, it is still a loss that leaves a hole in your heart.

The list of troubles that people face in this world are seemingly endless and by way of our little book, every single morning we are reminded that we are not the only ones in this world dealing with problems. Like my Mother used to say…”Sometimes I think that it would be nice to have a “Trouble Store” where I could bring in my bag of troubles and exchange them for another type. But, I suspect that once I got there and took a look around, I would say “thank you anyway…I think I will keep what I have” 🙂

Oh, how MUCH I miss that clever, witty, kind hearted woman who was my Mother. (Now here is a huge loss I have never been able to completely accept!). But, you know what? In the midst of the sorrow I always feel in the loss of her, I send up big thanks to God for Him making her my Mother in the first place. I would not trade her for anyone else in the world. So, these days, as I clean our house and pick up a picture of her here or there under which I dust, I say “Hello Mom”, and then the memories flow forth from my mind on down the inner highway to my heart where it swells with gratitude for having known her and for having the privilege to learn the lessons she provided for me! She loved to laugh and so do I! God bless her for bequeathing that trait to me!

Back to the prayer book. Are you in it? If we know you and we are aware that you are struggling with something, you are likely in the book. There are some of of you who we know better than others, but even so, if we know of a need you may have, then you are there. We not only pray for your struggles to be lifted, but we also send up gratitude prayers for when God takes them away. We have many acquaintances on our list too…people who have no idea we are praying for them. Prayer is powerful and we know that it works in Gods timing and for Gods purpose.

I will close this with another prayer I have always loved because the wording is profound in its simplicity. It is the Johnny Appleseed prayer/song.

Oh, the Lord is good to me.

And so I thank the Lord

For giving me the things I need:

The sun and the rain and the apple seed;

Oh, The Lord is good to me
..

Amen,

Amen,

amen-amen-amen

🎼 AaaaaMEN! (Praise the Lord!) 🙏🏼

Today is the day which the Lord has made…let us rejoice and be glad in it! Out, out, out I go, rejoicing all the way as I tend to all my new replacement plantings! When I water these new additions to our yard, my nurturing side steps up as I mingle with the birds, the bees, the butterflies and the little baby chameleons!

Oh the Lord is good to me…Amen!

jjb/4/26/2021

Heart on fire…

My heart feels like it is on fire…a deep burning sensation that comes from feeling intense emotion.

It has been such a long year since the Pandemic was first announced and along with its arrival we were given restrictions of lockdown, masks, 6 foot distancing, no hugs, no gatherings, separation from loved ones, and all of it with a heaping helping of fear laid on top.

Now we are entering the 2nd year of restrictions, and it seems as though life will never go back to what it once was. This saddens me greatly.

We have a very good friend in ICU on a ventilator and he is really struggling with double pneumonia, difficulty breathing, and low 02 levels. Please pray for a miracle. We believe in miracles and we know God has the power to grant a miracle to those who pray for them and keep the faith.

We are in our sunset years and while we have gratitude for having come this far, the journey also hands to us many challenges, not the least being, having to deal with ongoing loss. These losses are either experienced first hand or through our loved ones challenges. We notice a loss of energy, loss of strength, loss of health, loss of purpose, and loss of friends and family. The potential for loss grows exponentially the older we get, and one never becomes accustomed to it. I never realized how brave our elderly parents were until now. It takes courage to stand strong in the face of this kind of adversity.

We pray for our friend to heal and be allowed to enjoy more years with his wife, children and grandchildren! I ask anyone who is reading this to please pray for him. His name is Paul! God will know who you mean! Prayer is powerful and the more people who are praying, the better chance for a miracle!

Thank you,

jjb

He is Risen!

Today is Saturday and I have not been on my blog for many months because life has been so incredibly busy. We were deeply affected by the freak February snow and ice storm here in Texas and we have been dealing with the destruction left in its path. We are beyond a year now into the Covid 19 Pandemic, dealing with lockdowns and face masks and limited gatherings with loved ones.

I quit Facebook a while back because I wanted to be free of (my) perceived obligation of having to post and comment on a daily basis. I worried a little bit about dropping out because I thought that I would lose touch with everyone I knew on Social Media. I actually did lose touch with the majority of my fb friends, but I have also discovered the pleasure of an engaged precious few who were getting in touch with me by other means. Gosh! To think I actually did matter to some after all! What an ego tripper! It was also a gratitude growing phenomenon in the making!

The decision to break free reminded me of a time, LONG ago, when our family was about to move to yet another new location due to my husbands career, I sat across from a friend discussing this move. She said to me, “You will be surprised at who stays in touch with you or reaches out to you. It is not always who you think it will be either! Just remember, the cream always rises to the top”. I found this comment to be prophetic and never forgot it. Indeed she was absolutely correct!

I thought I would be mourning the loss of many fb “friends” but instead, I was blessed to see who was actually invested in ME as a person. It wasn’t many, that’s for sure, but the ones who contacted me by snail mail, text, IM, phone and email, really did turn out to be the cream! It is difficult to pull back from Social Media because we humans are such social creatures. However, in my case, I discovered the value of truly connected kindred spirits at a heart level. I guess it is a bit like finding the prize in the cracker jacks box! Lol! (No disrespect intended). It has been a huge blessing! Now, with a small group of “compadres“, I actually have time to share thoughts and have intellectual conversations rather than an endless supply of sound bites that don’t mean all that much!

In this past year I have learned to “let go” of things that no longer serve me. I have always been the type of person who would hang on to people and things for sentimental reasons, probably long past their expiration date. I have especially been this way with family members. In my mind, if we were family, it meant we were bound to one another forever. I have discovered that even in families, some are more invested than others. You realize that letting go may actually be a gift to both parties.

Recently I mailed a large envelope of old pictures to someone who I thought would enjoy seeing them. I actually mailed this person two large envelopes of photos. I got no response. I wasn’t really expecting a response, because this person stepped away from the family long ago. When I had it ready for mailing, Al said, “Why bother?” I said, “Because it is always good to do the right and kindly thing and then let the chips fall where they may”. The chips fell on the side of silence. Well, o.k. then….good to know it is ok to let that one go! It frees up a lot of emotional space for someone who may be interested in that spot and can step in to it.

Value is always in the content and NOT in the numbers. I would far rather have one seriously interested and invested friend than a whole host of “fly by’s”.

Tomorrow is Easter! What a great gift we have been given by the One who is REALLY invested in our future and our well being! I love Easter and the significance of the greatest gift ever given to mankind!

This weekend I get to see my children interact with each other for the first time in a year and a half. This is the “second greatest gift” to their father and me.

I want to thank those friends who remembered me and let me know they still care. I want to thank our son who drove all the way across the country a few days ago to visit with his siblings and to help us clean up our landscape after the history making Texas February snow and ice storm! How grateful we are to be parents to someone who is that sensitive to our needs.

Darkness to light is manifested in so many soul enriching ways.

Happy Easter everyone! We are eternal souls and I am glad to have made your acquaintance. To others I have not met yet, our acquaintance is a distinct possibility. One just never knows!

With love, Jjb

4/3/2021

Take Aways

This has been the year of “take aways” starting in March when the pandemic was announced. As a society, we have had our jobs taken away, our facial identities were taken away by masks, and our freedoms to come and go wherever and whenever we want were taken away by the shutdown of airlines, restaurants, bars, churches, schools and the lockdowns of our own homes. Our gatherings were reduced in number and size. Adult children were taken away from their elderly parents due to quarantine of old age homes and old age in general. Our holidays were taken away due to strict covid restrictions. Basically, most anything that has been an American tradition has been eliminated in the name of covid.

We are retired, so it has not affected us as cruelly as it has some people. I sat quietly on Christmas morning listening to beautiful traditional Christmas music. Hub (husband) went for a walk and while I felt somewhat melancholy, my heart was full and my mind was overflowing with memories of Christmas’s past. Many things can be taken away from us, but we are gifted with the retention of all of our memories of a lifetime. One thing that has become a gift while living with excess time on our hands is the stillness that comes with it which allows us to seek and reacquaint ourselves with our inner spirit. Even the Bible says “Be Still…and know I am God”

Usually the Christmas season is a breathless chase of shopping, buying gifts, decorating our homes inside and out, writing cards, cooking, baking, traveling to family far and near. In all that hectic busyness, the season seems to come and go in a flash and we find ourselves collapsed in a heap of exhaustion, feeling spent after having “overspent”.

For us, very little of this occurred this year. We did manage to write cards and “hub” helped me which resulted in some friends getting two cards as our coordinating skills were failing us in our “uncoordinated” process. Lol! Oh well, two Merry Christmas’s are better than not getting even one card!

I like the quiet, and I think that some of the changes these forced lockdowns have brought to us may end up being permanent and this time they will be by choice. . This Christmas, we had the time to read the cards arriving in our mailbox and savoring the ones who wrote letters. We no longer watch t.v., so the radio or c.d.’s filled our home with Christmas music, both Christian and secular. We get to choose exactly the kind of music we love to hear, anytime we want, right off the internet and play it through our Bose speaker.

I wonder how many other retired people have found this lockdown a hidden blessing? We were plucked out of the frenetic busyness of modern day life and gently set down in our homes where we learned to enjoy all this excess time at our disposal. I have so enjoyed our home…I used to laughingly say that for all the money we spent on our home, we could have just as well have saved it because we were so seldom here to enjoy it. That changed with covid and I have found myself bonding with our surroundings in a big way. Pictures I once purchased because I fell in love with them were barely noticed in the rush of our living following the purchase. Now I stand in front of our pictures one by one and take them in. I found myself standing in front of this old wooden carved picture and as I read the woods, I sang the song in my mind and fell in love with this piece all over again.

On sunny days, I watch the suns rays move around our home as the day progresses. It lights up our eastern wall of windows in our bedroom and feels like a cheery “Rise and Shine”. As the sun moves through the sky, it’s light rays are reflected through our stain glass windows in our dining room which sends prism’s of color throughout the room. It is also reflected off the big mirror on the dining room wall which lights up the opposite side of the room. Continuing to move through the sky, it shines in through another window which lights up our fireplace brick and mantle on the far side of our family room. The sun continues its journey and finally wraps itself around the back of our house where the rays stream in through our living room’s wall of windows and I can see dust motes dancing in that stream. The brightness in that room seems to beckon us to come on in and set down for a spell.

Everything that I am now noticing in our home, I have rarely had the time or attention span to notice previously. Daily, I enjoy looking at an orchid our daughter gifted me a while back which sits on a small table in front of our dining room window.. I tenderly care for it and watch its progress from day to day. It is very happy in its warm, southerly location. Her gift to me was in her favorite color of purple, therefore, each time I glance at it, or tend to it, I think of her! (Purple gift equals love) ❤️🥰😁

My husband and I have grown closer than ever before and have rediscovered exactly how compatible we are. 🎼Love and marriage, 🎼 horse and carriage, just like the old song sings, we seem to go together. Getting old isn’t as bad as I thought it would be, but it is much reliant on the fact that we do still have our health and a life long loving companion to soften the realties of what aging will eventually bring to our doorstep.

I finally quit my facebook habit! After a decade of being on that site, I finally decided to put that time to better use. What I discovered was how much happier I was without it. It’s not healthy to constantly be into other peoples business, and certainly cannot lead to peace while engaging with so many people. My life, OUR life, is custom created for the two of us. Perusing facebook can somehow make a person feel as if they are “missing out” on the things other people have that we do not. This does not mean that I was jealous or envious because I was not ( well maybe just a little bit on some of it). It was more about the fact that I was so wrapped up in noticing everyone else’s blessings, that I somehow missed seeing some of our own. Our life once again feels FULL of blessings because I have more time to notice them, live with them, and to feel grateful for them. We are ALL given blessings, but we each receive DIFFERENT blessings and it somehow just works out perfectly!

What did I discover about myself that I did not know before I went into the Pandemic quarantine? I went into it with the assumption that I was an extrovert. Instead, I have discovered that I am most likely an introvert, maybe even a social introvert, because I have not minded this time at home as much as I thought I would. Of course, I do have my husband here which makes a huge impact on how I feel about the last 10 months, but, I also now understand why large parties were always so uncomfortable for me to attend. I love people and enjoy engaging with people but preferably on a one on one ratio or in small groups. I can remember the days when my husband was working in a company that required that I be involved in the large scale social functions and how drained I felt at the end of each one. Where extroverts draw energy from mass gatherings with a lot of conversation and interaction, I would lose energy. Now I know why, and it is ok.

So, here I sit again, in the quiet of a Sunday, January 3rd, 2021! I am “being still” and acknowledging the Who that is, Who that was, and Who will always be. (The great I am.) He is the one element in our life that was NOT taken away, in fact, I am more aware of his presence in our life now than ever before, because I have the blessing of time to focus on our Triune God! Thank goodness we made it through 2020. We are 10 months into this shelter in place and doing well.

What have you learned about yourself in this past 10 months of lockdown? I would love to hear about it!

jjb/1/3/2021

Here’s looking at you kid!z

Recently, we brought our mantle clock into a clock shop for repair. Afterwards, we both went into a bit of withdrawal, not having our clock on our mantle for us to check the time. We had not realized how many times we glanced at that particular clock throughout the day! So, in our frustration, we attempted to order a cheap clock to temporarily replace the mantle clock and each one we received just did not have not large enough numbers or numbers well defined enough for viewing for “yours truly” who had her cataract surgery delayed when covid came to town.

After ordering at least 4 different clocks “on the cheap” as a temporary replacement for our mantle clock, (and returning them because of lack of ability to see them) we finally settled on this one. What a joy to be able to look up at the clock and SEE the time easily! Old habits die hard, and even though our phones and ipad and computer display the time, our eyes have long been trained to look at our mantle clock more times a day than we realized. The clock repair man said it would be several months before our old mantle clock would be ready for pick up due to a long list of customers ahead of us! Yay for the clock repair shop’s success in the days of covid. We don’t mind waiting and we are glad for him that he has a strong small business going on.

It was over 4 months ago when I had my final eye measurement appointment in preparation for my cataract surgery. I was nervously excited about the prospect of having a surgery that would give to me the 20/20 vision I was not born with! On that March day, the eye tech went through the many tests and measurements required and then said “O.K. the Dr. will be in in just a minute”. As I sat there I could feel butterflies in my stomach as I nervously anticipated the next step.

When he entered the room, he sat down on his chair and said “We’ve been shut down!” I said “Excuse me?”…He repeated what he said and then went on to explain it was a new ruling by the governor because of covid. He had just heard the news himself and was still trying to digest it. I felt more sad for him than myself. So, I went home with glasses on my face to wait until the next possible time for surgery. It is now the third week in July.

I have always had very poor vision, and I still remember feeling a sense of amazement followed immediately by gratitude on the first day I received my glasses when I was around 6 or 7 years old. Once they were placed on my face, I could actually see the world with crystal clear precision! I was very young and my new improved sight was all thanks to my teacher alerting the school nurse who in turn alerted my parents that I had a vision deficit. My parents immediately took me in to the Optometrist in town.

After a series of tests, the Dr. wrote a prescription for glasses. When I finally got them and put them on, I was in slack jawed awe. I just could not believe my eyes! What was lost was now found in the way of the visual details of our world. All the way home I kept exclaiming in amazement at what I could see. For the first time, I could see the word STOP on the stop sign, so I excitedly spelled the word out to my Dad! I could now see that trees were not a solid mass of green, but actually consisted of many different leaves and branches. I saw a couple of deer sprint into the woods along the roadside where previously I would not have even noticed them. At school, for the first time in my life, I could read the blackboard all the way from my desk! Earlier times I would stay in at recess so I could copy an assignment off of the blackboard. On the way home that day, I could not stop chattering about all that I could now see! It was a miracle.

Through the years, medicine advanced and once in high school, I was fitted with contact lenses. Another miracle! No more heavy framed glasses for me!

Here I am now, so many years later and I am going to be having surgery for my cataracts and will have the latest internal contact lenses on the market which will give me multifocal lenses. I will be able to see close up, middle distance and far away. I will donate my glasses to the Lions club for some poor soul who has vision deficit like I had and who will be as thrilled with their new corrected eyesight as I was when I got my first pair of glasses. It is a nice gift to give to someone! Pass the blessings along.

For my part, I anticipate when I will be able to open my eyes in the morning and for the very first time, be able to see my surroundings with great definition! To say I am excited would be an understatement.

I called my Ophthalmologist to see if they were open for surgery yet, and they are! My appointment is in two weeks for remeasuring,with surgery soon thereafter. I hope this will all work out this time!

For now, as I sit here, I look at our cheap replacement clock and feel gratitude that I can even see it with my glasses. Yup! Large numbers easily seen despite the cataract! I am so glad I live in the modern western world where we have so much available to us medically. Had I been born in an African outback, I would most probably have been eaten by a wild animal by now while wandering about, and I would never have seen it’s approach!

Blessings come in all shapes and sizes and some of my greatest blessings have been teachers and school nurses and caring parents and good eye Drs, and those wonderful, creative people who figured out how to bring good vision to myopic people. There are so many people to be grateful for in the correction of my eyesight and some will remain nameless to me. Nevertheless, my heart is full of gratitude!

Thank you God for handing out so much talent to so many different people. we do need each other to feel whole on this earth!

Amen!

jjb/7/23/2020

World of our own

It is the day after an uneventful 4th of July. Everything was cancelled so there was nothing to attend. Because we have been in an area where there is a strong uptick of Covid Cases, we have now been in lockdown just about 4 months. FOUR MONTHS! To deal with this isolation and to keep our minds oiled, my husband and I have been looking for things to do and, boy oh boy, have we ever got a lot of projects done! Things are looking very, very good these days around our house. I think we have painted everything in sight! This would be the perfect time to sell the house, but, where we would go in this time of Covid-19? Where would we go at our age? So, we just sit back and enjoy the product of our hard work! The physical labor keeps us occupied and prevents the inevitable restlessness that comes from being idle for too long!

We really miss our kids and grandkids. It is very difficult to look at pictures of families gathering in areas of the country where covid hasn’t shown its nasty, killing side! I can’t even begin to imagine what it must be like for someone who has to live through this Pandemic alone. I see pictures of family members going to see their loved one through a window of a nursing home. I hear stories of loved ones with dementia getting worse because of the isolation. I hear of people who are wringing their hands over financial distress because of no work or businesses being closed down! It is a very tough time for so many, and the only way to get through it is one day at a time! Easier said than done!

We watched CBS Sunday Morning tv show this morning and there was one segment about immigrants who were being sworn in as U.S. citizens in their cars as a way to socially distance. A few were interviewed and their joy at becoming a U.S. citizen was on full display. It was palpable, even through the television screen. One man said that he was so happy he finally had made it to “Paradise”! It made me want to weep to see such gratitude and hope and positivity for the future. He and his family had made it to the “promised land”.

In contrast, as I watched this, in my minds eye I could see our politicians being vicious with each other, berating, demeaning, and downright nasty. I watched what started out as peaceful protests turning into full-scale riots with enormous destruction of property as well as looting and murders. Isn’t gratitude for life in the U.S. beautiful to see in public arenas? America the beautiful! I can fully understand the peaceful protests and I support those completely, but the vandalism, fires, and looting are not constructive to supporting any cause.

I have seen so many awful video clips of bad behavior where people are doing nasty things to one another…a man pushing over a very old woman as she is walking along a sidewalk which causes her to fall and hit her head on a fire hydrant. I see another man hitting a very old man with his own cane for no reason whatsoever other than meanness. I have seen a whole host of instances where people are calling the police just as a way to intimidate another person. Such meanness of spirit! Where does this come from in the land of the free and the home of the brave? Why is this happening?

So, I wonder to myself…Is this rooted in the Pandemic or is it the root of sin within people? Perhaps it is a combination of both? People seem to find any number of reasons to argue with and harass each other. Our Next Door Neighbor web site always has a list of people partaking in a war of words with one another. These days they argue about mask or no mask, opening the society or not, debates about what constitutes a too large gathering and why people are not properly distancing from each other. The debate itself is fine, but the demeaning way they communicate with one another is not!

For my part, I absolutely despise any kind of contention. I feel that laws were made to keep us from becoming a chaotic society. Laws and rules calm people because people know what to expect, whether they agree with the law or not! When laws are disregarded, people become agitated because things feel out of control and out of order.

I wish American citizens could go back to feeling the joy and pride of being part of the greatest society ever known to mankind. I think that because we have grown up in this world, and have never lived under an oppressive regime, we have come to take our freedoms for granted, and in some cases we abuse these freedoms!

I pray a lot for our country and our people as a whole. We are living in some turbulent times and I doubt we will ever again see the innocent times in which we grew up!

Right now, we live in a world of our own, in our house, on our property, just the two of us! Thankfully our hunger for human touch is met with a hug from the one we live with. We are getting to know each other in a wholly unfiltered way. This is what happens when you live with someone 24/7 for months on end. Fortunately for us, we like each other. That said, we still miss our old lives. We miss our family, our friends, our church family, our Dr, our library, our jobs, our everything….our life as it once was! Independence day 2020 will never be forgot! I wonder now if we will see each other at the next holiday or if we will do that alone as well? We will do what it takes because we want to live to be with our grandkids and kids as they move forward in life.

I am grateful for this life, this country, our Amazing God AND the freedom to worship in our own way! I often remind myself that MOST people ARE good! Most people are patriotic and most people realize the value and privilege of living in this beautiful country. The majority of us are willing to do what it takes to preserve the Union left to us, bought and paid for with the blood of millions of citizens who gave up their lives to defend our freedoms! Out of respect to them, and respect for our children’s futures, we really need to band together because it IS true that United we stand and divided we fall! Out of gratitude, “We the people” need to unite in our desire to protect what we have inherited, and to remember the enormous cost of lives that were taken in order to achieve this!

Happy 5th of July! God bless America!

God always wins

I woke up this morning to a rip roaring thunderstorm. It sounded like the angels were in a bowling tournament in the sky! It was kind of cool to just lay there in our bed and listen to it. The thunderstorms in Texas are always so dramatic and loud, and I always enjoy listening to them. I felt as snug as a bug in a rug.

We have already had at least 2 inches of rain and when this happens, I am ALWAYS so happy for our trees and bushes. Al said that we have a forecast of rain over the next few days and also on into next week! Well bring it on! We are stuck in place anyway.

Every time I get relaxed in my thinking about the covid restrictions, I will come upon an article about someone who caught it and has suffered dearly because of it. Death is obviously the most extreme covid event, but I also just read yesterday about a double lung transplant on a 22 year old girl whose lungs were ravaged by this disease. While this disease seems to mostly go after the elder population, it also randomly affects the younger people as well, not in as many as the elders, but enough to make me wonder why people are not being more careful.

There is a big debate about wearing masks going on in our Next Door Neighbor column, and as I read the bickering going on back and forth, I remember the day and age in which I grew up where people just did what was recommended by the authorities, because we respected authority. These days, there is so much mistrust and a lack of respect for authority and so people do what they want because they say it is their right!

Well, we are retired and don’t have to be anywhere else, so we will just stay home and wait this thing out! This is one of the most difficult things we have ever done, but our will to live is stronger than our will to socialize. It is that simple. Thank goodness we have technology that keeps us in touch with our kids and friends and other relatives. We keep working on projects which helps keep our minds off of the terrible news of the day. Thankfully, me and the “hubs” are very compatible, so it gets us by!

Stay well, my friends, and let’s all continue to pray for our good health and for the health of our dearly loved United States which is under siege right now! This is all much bigger than any of us, so if we collectively pray, I firmly believe we can beat the enemy forces that have been unleashed around us! In the end, God wins! Let’s ask for His help!

jjb/ 6/23/2020