Category Archives: Reflections

Thank You to a FRIEND!

I recently was invited to a friend’s home for a light lunch. She and I have known each other for many years now, but we have always visited in the company of others. She is beautiful inside and out! She is intelligent, witty, lively, deep thinking, incredibly talented in designing just about anything, and can often physically orchestrate what she creates in her mind by her own hands.

In all the time we have known each other, we have enjoyed each other’s presence, but again it was most generally always as part of a group or gathering, be it small or large. We have been to each other’s home, but always in the presence of a few friends. Being invited one on one to her home was new because, again, this has not happened on the part of either of us suggesting it, despite the many years.

She was just finished with the remodel of her home. Let me be clear…her remodel and the “refreshing” my husband and I have been doing at our place lately are not even remotely in the same category. She and I have different size bank accounts, (we are long retired) and she and her husband are still enjoying an income, so for her, the redo was only limited by what she could imagine (and her imagination is limitless).

For us it was a matter of fresh paint and taking down old curtains to put up new. To my delight, as I was shown all her new applications (which, by the way, are drop dead gorgeous) I did not find myself feeling jealous or envious. I was just very happy for her. She did an outstanding job!

Through the years, and through all of our moves, I have been invited into all types and sizes of homes. I have seen some that are are a lot larger and more imposing than hers. But I have never seen a more beautifully appointed home! It was pure pleasure to walk around and see what she has accomplished. I don’t think there is one square inch of their home that did not have an updated look brought in. The things that remained from before were arranged a little differently and she has surrounded herself with all the things she loves best. It was a joy to just take it all in.

We sat down for lunch, and then afterward, she invited me into her sitting room to visit. She showed me a new painting on her wall which was beautiful in its simplicity and its soft lovely hues. I was surprised to hear her tell me that she had painted it. Later, as I was leaving, she told me she had painted another picture in her formal living space which was an appealing abstract. At this point, I turned to her and asked, “Do you spend a lot of time by yourself?” She paused and then said “Yes I do”. (Of course I knew the answer before she responded because, in order to create, every creative person needs time and space to do what they do, whether it is writing, painting, decorating, landscaping , or wherever a persons passion lies.) It was fun to realize that one thing we have in common is that we both paint. We just use different tools and my canvas is a lot larger. ūüėŹ

Earlier, as we were visiting over lunch, I told her how much I was enjoying our one on one conversation, and introduced the fact that I do not feel comfortable in large groups because no conversation goes uninterrupted, and no deep or profound thoughts are exchanged. It is just not possible. However,a lot of people in one room invites a person to meet new people that you would not have the opportunity to otherwise meet. This certainly is a positive that comes from a group gathering, so these gatherings do serve a good purpose. That said, it is not my preferred path to friendship. As she and I conversed, she shared in return that she felt much the same way as I do. We both love and enjoy people, we are both animated and gregarious when we are with others, but we both agreed that we only need so much of that. As I told her, my dance card is nearly full! I always keep a couple of dance slots open just in case another kindred spirit comes along and aligns with mine. We both love our quiet time at home where we can read, paint, write, decorate, landscape and just “be”.

Once I took my leave and arrived home, I was pleased to note that I was happy to be here too! It means I am content with my lot in life. She lives in a gorgeous home on a hill and I live in a lovely little cottage. We are both blessed.

She grew up in a similar background to mine in a small midwestern town. Her value system is much the same as mine. I love her mind, the way she expresses herself and I love her heart. I guess one could say our one on one visit went very well.

Long ago, in a different time and place, friends used to entertain in their homes. Women would sit down over a cup of coffee and share what was on their minds about families, friends, themselves and just life in general. People don’t do that so much anymore because it is easier to meet at a restaurant. This is unfortunate because communing with a friend in a home where one lives gives you a sense of who they are just by taking in their surroundings. It doesn’t matter who has what or who has more when you are with a friend. What really matters is that they are sharing a piece of themselves within their most loved of spaces, their home. This is where true bonding begins.

Thank you dear friend! You know who you are by now if you have read this. This, I think, is the longest thank you card I have ever written and is probably the longest thank you card in the history of thank you cards which is why it was not possible for me to write this out in ink on paper. But, hey! You can print it and save it for your rainy day blues box, right? I wrote it publicly because it serves as a message to others that sharing our inner sanctum is a symbol of opening our arms to a deeper friendship.

I thank you for all I have just now noted, but most of all I thank you for opening your home to me. Few of us do this anymore and I am grateful for your time and the sharing of your space. Sitting in your surroundings, I know you a little better now. I like you even more than I did before and that says a lot!

Love and hugs,

Jjb

Grandpas house

Grandpa’s house was small and white and it sat upon a hill.

Flowers were growing happily in the ground which he had tilled.

On the front of his house was a small square porch with bushes at each side.

These were called “Bridal wreath” and their branches spread far and wide.

They arched up towards the heaven, then looped back down to earth.

To little white bouquets on its branches, each spring this bush gave birth,

Along the front side of the house, (the one that looked over a field),

Tall and swaying holly hocks gave colorful blooms their yield.

Outside the living room window, growing not very far from the road,

Grew a thick circle of tiger lilies, proudly bearing their load.

In the front of the house in a garden, not far from a low lying ditch,

Grew great big pink peony bushes in a black soil so moist and rich.

In the orchard grew some apple trees and each spring their flowers came.

If ever a blossom smelled sweeter, I just do not know it’s name.

But, as beautiful as these all were, there was one I loved the best.

It was a tall, tall bush that grew really big, much taller than the rest.

It was so big we created a house where inside we created a room.

We loved its perfumed fragrance and enjoyed its lavender blooms.

Nothing so much depicts Grandpas place as this giant lilac tree.

How it grew so tall and large still remains a mystery to me..

The house is no longer bright and white, it is old, faded and worn.

The flowers have gone back to Mother Earth and this I often mourn.

But no one can take away the memories I have of my Grandpa’s home.

These memories often bloom themselves and within my mind they roam.

So now as I am old and gray, as old as Grandpa was then.

Many scenes of lovely flowers come, through old memories my Grandpa sends!

Thanks Grandpa Art!

Jjb/12/31/2018

Be it ever so humble…..

It has been a wonderful morning so far. There is no place that makes me happier, nor any place I would rather be than in our own home. I have been enjoying the presence of my Mother and Grandmothers as I bustle about our kitchen making lists of things needed for Thanksgiving dinner. I have been eager to harvest the secrets of their culinary skills from long yellowed recipe cards written in their own hand, which I can incorporate into the preparation of our Thanksgiving dinner. Grandma Annie and Grandma Esther, both excellent cooks in their day, have each encouraged me to use my mother Anita’s recipe for her mouth watering meat preparations and my mother smiles in response to their praise.

Yes, all three are here with me now, but only in the spirit filled sense of things. Oh, how much I loved these three women and how very thankful I am to have been blessed with the gift of their presence in my life throughout the years of my youth. My appreciation for all things domestic grew and grew as I watched them perform their household duties. They were all so different in how they approached life and as a result of seeing this, I realized that life was lived differently from household to household. No child is more blessed than the one who is surrounded by generations of family because we learn to love so many different personalities with differing perspectives from different generations. I was raised in the “children are to be seen but not heard” style of child rearing and as a consequence of this, I became very visually aware of how things were done. What else was I to do during my silent observation of the adult lives around me?

There is no time where I feel my Mothers and Grandmothers presence more than when I am cooking an old fashioned meal. We are two days away from Thanksgiving and we have decided to toss the turkey to the wayside because of the labor intensive job of cleanup after dinner with deboning the turkey! I have never liked that job. So much for tradition..

So, that being said, my husband and I tossed around ideas for dinner, including maybe just having an appetizer and wine tasting affair, but when all was said and done, my husband, a former farm boy with taste buds leaning towards a hearty fare on the holidays, made the final decision. We went with a couple of meats which is where my Mother reigned queen of cooking. She was renowned for her ability to cook meat into mouth watering, fall apart, tender deliciousness and we decided that this is what we would attempt to do in her honor and for our guests delight.

Our guests are modern, weight conscious people who eat what is healthy and what is “good for you” most of the year. However, occasionally, they love to indulge in a meal that rarely exists anymore on anyone’s table. We will have roasted meats, mashed red potatoes, sausage stuffing and a side of gravy. Yup! GRAVY! There was never a holiday in my growing up years where the table was absent the gravy. So, gravy it is! Meat? We decided on my all time favorite meal of my Mothers which was her delectable braised beef pot roast. We also decided to have a porchetta roast which is an Italian seasoned pork we learned to enjoy when my folks lived in northern Minnesota. I am making the beef roast and Al is presently deep in thought over a recipe he pulled out. His assignment is to make the porchetta roast. In retirement, he has fallen in love with the art of cooking! So, much to my relief, we share the kitchen and cooking chores.

This morning, I have braised the beef and it is gently simmering in its juices on our stove top. I like to make the meat ahead so the flavors have time to deepen for the holiday dinner. We will make the rest of the food the morning of Thanksgiving. Al wants the house filled with savory aromas when our guests arrive.

Holidays can be tough times for people who are dealing with the loss of loved ones, either from death or divorce or distance separating them. Life is ever changing and we are forced to roll with the change, but recipes from times gone by bring to us memories of comfort that filled the stomach, the mind and the heart. I am savoring the rich browning scent wafting through the house and with this comes a magic carpet ride to memories of my maternal elders, even as it is me who is the elder these days. The child that grew up surrounded by these women looms large within me. Thinking of times spent with them makes my heart swell with a bit of wistful wishing to revisit how things were all those long years ago. This roast cooking on the stove brings me memories of long ago meals created in the homes of our long departed families. Often, while foods were cooking over a long period of time on the old stove, the result was steamed up windows in our kitchen, and we salivated in anticipation of the dinner to come.

These memories then resurrected other memories of life lived then. Memories of home made jams topped with a hard circle of wax sitting under the cover of the jam jar as a way of preserving them…hence they were called preserves. I remember carrying a pail attached to a belt around my waist as I picked raspberries alongside Grandma Annie. I remember the pressure cooker at Grandma Esther’s house with its hissing staccato sound as the heavy pot pushed steam out from under the heavy valve cover.

Another memory pops up……a memory of a weaving loom and mental imagery of the shutters flying while Grandma Esther pushed her rag cloth back and forth between two tightly secured lines of string. As she pedaled away, the two rows of string would grasp the rag cloth and she would then push a long rod tight against the fabric with a smack of sound before stringing more cloth through and pressing down on the pedal once again. It became rhythmic in its sounds. I listened to the rhythm, of push, smack, pedal, push, smack, pedal! At the same time, I watched a beautiful pattern appear in the textile she was creating.

Parents these days think children need to be entertained, which is this generation’s way of doing things. I have no objection to the modern way of things, but I am living proof that children can develop an appreciation for the beauty of memories wrapped in ordinariness. The lives of the families in my youth were not filled with the ongoing razzamatazz of special events. Rather, they were filled with the slower pace of life where a person had time to cultivate the wonder of things where we would have time to ponder and think without a lot of noisy interruptions. I loved the order of things then.

I appreciate now, more than ever, remembering the respect that was expected from everyone. Respect for our elders, respect for our neighbors, respect for people in positions of authority. There was an order to things and it was this order that gave us a feeling of safety and security. We also lived in a time where we were free to roam. Our days laid out before us and all that we were expected to do after our chores were done was to “find something to do or I will give you something to do!” This proclamation from our elders was the best incentive ever made for children to get creative with their days.

Well, enough reminiscing for now. I need to check my roast and we need to do some prepping for our other holiday dishes. One of our sons is a Chef, and a very good one at that, but he does love his Mothers holiday meals. His fiancee’ has come to love them too. Our daughter and husband are the same way when it comes to hearty home cooked meals. They are always so appreciative of us and everything we do. Speaking of incentives, this spurs us on!

Happy Thanksgiving to one and all! EVERY day is a day of Thanksgiving, and if it isn’t, it really should be! Be it ever so humble there is NO place like home! Praise God for our loving families where we first learned how to love the simple basic gifts of life like good home made meals that were created because of a love for our families and friends and with a nod of respect for our ancestors and heritage!

jjb/11/21/2017

The child within

As I approach my 68th birthday, and as my husband turns 74 one month after that, we see that we are standing at the threshold to Old age….some would argue that we are well past the threshold to old age, but it is all in the perspective isn’t it?

I am a thinker.  I am also a writer, and I like writing down what comes to my mind during my thinking session at any given time.  Writing is therapeutic for me and it helps me sort out the good stuff from the garbage that accumulates up there from living this life.  I spend large amounts of time within my own head, visiting my past more and more as time goes on because there is so much history there and fortunately, in my history, I have felt the love of others.  My childhood was rich with the experiences of growing up in the woods and countryside of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan surrounded by a very large extended family.

Our family didn’t have excess of anything, but we did have “enough”.  We lived in a small house with small closets that were not packed full of clothes and shoes.  We each had one pair of everyday shoes and one pair of dress shoes. We had what were called “play” clothes or everyday clothes and a very few nice outfits for church and school.  We had one kitchen, one living room, one bathroom, (all small) and my only brother was the only one in our house who did not have to share a bedroom as my sister and I did and our parents.  We had a garage with one car.

We were all slender because while we had enough food (delicious home cooked meals) we did not have snacks anywhere around to eat in between meals, other than occasional baked goods. We never had soda in the refrigerator nor ice cream in the freezer unless a birthday was approaching.  There was not an over abundance of restaurants like there are now in these times.. There were basically NO restaurants within a 30 mile radius of our home. Fast food restaurants were unheard of.  In town, next to a gas station, stood a little commercial kitchen with a long counter and backless stools where you could sit and order hamburgers, cheeseburgers, fries and malts, but we never participated.  It was just not considered. As I think back, I don’t recall that this was unusual because we children just never questioned it.

Most people lived the same simple life as their neighbor because most were in the same socio-economic situation, yet we never felt deprived of anything. It also eliminated the sense of keeping up with the hypothetical “Jones’s” next door.  What we did have in abundance was family.  One did not have to look far to find someone to hang out with.  One movie theater was over 30 miles away and it was extremely rare that we attended, so our love of books grew exponentially.

As I walk around my memories of times past, simultaneously I find myself looking around my home at the overabundance of everything.  At our mature age, we have guest bedrooms that are rarely used with the exception of family visits from out of town.  We have two large gathering room spaces, one of which is rarely used. This is a beautifully appointed room which is lovely to look at and enjoyable to sit in,  but in all honesty, not something we really need to have anymore. As it turns out, we likely never needed it in the first place.. When we moved here, my husband wanted to build small, citing the cost of heating and cooling excess square footage and the cost of taxes that are paid on the same. Our nest was newly empty, with none of the children married, and I had big dreams of what was to come so I wanted to accommodate those dreams. Surely, we needed a lot of space for the future in-laws and multitude of grandchildren did we not?  I heard it said once, and I think of it often, that when you create dreams for yourself, you need to get the permission of those you put in those dreams because their dreams may be entirely different from yours.  So true!  As it has turned out, we have only two grandchildren who live as far north as we live south.  Our children are independent and self sufficient (thank goodness for these blessings) but these blessings also  mean they only have so much extra time on their hands and we are not the only people they want to spend time with.  We are happy and content with our life as it has turned out, it is just different from how we had imagined it.

So, we look around at all the beautiful things we once thought we just had to have and find ourselves wondering  “whatever are we going to do with all of this?”  We have consulted with the children and they are not particularly interested in any of our things.  Their houses are full of their own choices and we understand that.  We love our home and outside courtyard and outdoor grounds, but as time marches on, we understand that the more you have, the more you have to take care of.  How is it that those things you didn’t think you could live without end up taking up much of your precious limited time in the purchase, the care, the moving, and eventually the sale of it? I remember when we first got married, how little effort it took to move into our first house because there wasn’t that much stuff to move. With each successive move, the trucks got bigger and bigger and eventually the moves required hiring professionals to help wrap and pack and move!  Looking back, we realize that we have spent the first half of our life accumulating things, and now in  the second half or later, we are faced with getting rid of a lot of it.  We could have saved ourselves a lot of time and a lot of money.

The child within us just wants to play in the time we have left.  We don’t want to take care of a large house, or dust and vacuum unused rooms.  We don’t want to move mountains of dishes and glassware from cupboard to the table to entertain.  We just want to live with the freedom we once had in our childhood where all we really had was our little room with our comfy bed within a little house and family to love us.  How did we come to feel we needed so much more, only to discover we didn’t need it after all?

My husband and I are discussing our future and how we want to live it.  We made a list of other places to live and slowly crossed off each possibility until we realized that after 20 years of living here, THIS is home!  Home may not always be this particular house, but it is certainly this area where we are familiar with our church, friends, Dr., Dentist, library, post office, shops, and restaurants.  Recently, driving back home from a visit to our daughters place, we felt the usual sense of “coming home” as we approached the rolling hills and views of Lake Travis in the Hill Country of Texas.

At the end of the day, all any human being really needs are creature comforts….food when we are hungry, water when we are thirsty, a bed when we are tired, a fan when we are hot, a blanket  when we are cold, and the love of family. It is the love that makes us all want to continue our earthly journey, for without it we cannot exist.

Jesus said, “Come to me as little children” and the reason for this is so obvious.  Small children have small desires…and an acceptance of life as it is. Big children have bigger desires and lots of questions and so it goes. The quote “less is more” is truer than true, provided you have enough to sustain yourself, and provided that you are loved by at least one special someone in this world.  Love is the ultimate nourishment, for without it our spirit would die.

O.k….my child within is making a lot of noise about wanting to go outside.  It is a beautiful day here in Austin, Texas and I have big plans to sit under our giant oak tree swinging in our new rope swing.

jjb/3/30/2017

(Above is a picture of me as a young mother holding two of my dreams in my arms)

Life goes on!

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It has been quite some time now since I have written.  I have been busy living my life as life used to be before technology.  I have stayed off facebook and while I had a definite withdrawal going on at first, I eventually broke the habit of feeling the need to be on site every single day, several times a day. It was amazing how much of my life was freed up!  I stopped writing too.  That part was not part of the plan, but for  some unknown reason, I developed writers block.  The old familiar yearning to put my thoughts down onto paper just wasn’t there. Maybe I wasn’t supposed to write durng my little Reprieve from modern life.

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I filled some of my time working on a satisfying improvement project In our kitchen which included the cabinets, counters and floor.  I had the pleasure of working with an incredibly talented carpenter. I was so impressed with his work, I told him he would even impress  Jesus (the carpenter) with his skills.  During this time we also painted…(walls not canvas’s) lightening up our surroundings a bit.  (I must admit I am beginning to feel an interest developing for that other kind of painting too.)

I have spent much more time with my  husband and in the process, realized yet again, how fortunate it was that our paths crossed so many years ago! I also had the time now to see my friends more, one on one, and face to face. I enjoyed time doing girl stuff with my daughter.  Little did I know what a wonderful lifelong friend she would grow up to be.  It has been nice!

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My abandonment of technolgy and writing has lasted almost 4 months and I have found myself living more fully As a result. Just before I took a vacation from my facebook account, I politely explained to my fb friends about my need to take time off to break the social media habit. When I did, many of my fb friends came forward to say they would miss me, so I gave out my email address as a way for them to get in touch should they desire to do so.  In the time I have been gone, there have been a scant few emails…very few and I was touched to get them.

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As time went on, this separation brought to mind the funeral of a friend who had died a sudden death at a relatively young age.  After the funeral, we all went out to the cemetary for the final goodbye and as we stood there listening to the Minister reading out of the bible, I heard an airplane flying overhead.  I looked up to see that big silver bird in the sky and thought about all those people flying off to various destinations for business or pleasure, unaware that yet another life had ceased to be.  I saw cars driving down the highway and bikers biking down the road.  I could see a couple of people visiting casually by a gravesite not very far away.  A baby was crying and a Mother was rocking and soothing her little baby.  All around us, life was presenting itself in its usual busy way, while the life force of this woman in the casket had ceased to exist. Only her closest loved ones noticed and grieved her absence. Life goes on!

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A long time ago, my Mother and I were talking about the part of ourselves we call self.. We were not speaking of the egotistical side of self importance, but rather the way we all want to “matter” in this world.  We agreed that if we really understood how well people can get on without us, we might live differently.  (Naturally the exception to this is with our immediate loving family.)

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She said to me, “The way I see things is this way…we simply are not as important to the scheme of things as we would like to think we are. This doesn’t mean we are of no importance.  We certainly do matter a great deal to some people..  But, I wish I had known earlier in my life that I could have lived with less restraint.  I would not have spent so much time being concerned about what others thought of me, because in all truth, other than family, people really don’t spend a whole lot of time thinking about me at all.   I think this is true for everyone. Whenever I think “I must do this or I must do that”, because of the need to please and because of a fear that something in life can’t go on without me, I make myself visualize a pail of water. If I put my hand down into a pail of water and then pull it right back out,  I can look for the impression my hand left behind, and to my neverending surprise, there is no evidence of my hand having been dipped in the pail. There is no impression left behind!   So it is with most of us.”

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(Come to find out, so it is with me!) ūüėŹ

It was not her intent to minimize anyones value in this world to God OR to our loved ones. She simply meant to say that we should live our life with less fear of another persons opinion and with more appreciation for each new day we have been given. It shouldn’t matter what others think about what we do.  Life is a gift and it is best spent with a deep awareness of the value of this blessing  while following our inner spiritual voice.  We don’t get a second go around! This is it!  So we must live every day as fully and freely as we possibly can. This can mean something as ridiculously simple as being aware and grateful for our lifes breath, coming in and going out, and the miracle of that physical act!   Inhale!  Exhale!

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So, upon leaving social media, I decided to give intentional living a whirl!   We quit our television provider and went back to an antennae…a little flat screen that you set in your window which draws the three basic channels, 3 PBS channels, Fox, and MSNBC.  We also get some random channels, Netflix and Amazon Prime, so there are plenty of viewing choices. We are much happier with less choices and no longer feel the former angst created by the news channels, all spewing bad news and MORE bad news.  (“Good news doesn’t sell papers honey” (or commercials).)

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We don’t spend a lot of time passively and numbly watching the big screen in our bookcase. We have learned to use our mute button and enjoy using the off button on our television as well.  Old timey radio is our new thing, both music and stories. We also read books…..good books…the kind that make you sigh when you put them down because you are sad to be saying goodbye to the characters in the book who have become your friends.

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We spent time sitting in the giant hammock chair swing we had installed a few years back for our granddaughters enjoyment when they come to visit.  Our inner child came forward as we pushed our feet into the dirt to move the swing to and fro and at times in circles, depending on its sway. We would lean all the way back and look up to the sky  and enjoy the beauty of the huge old oak tree branches gently swaying, at the same time we were swaying beneath a very blue Texas sky. “One with nature” came to mind as we did.

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We talked to our garden as we watered it, pretending we were having our morning coffee with a friend.  Heck!  We WERE having our morning coffee with a friend, as we communed with our beautiful floral garden companions.

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In this time off of social media I rediscovered a new “old” kind of peace in my life by revisiting the ways of my youth.  I grew up in an area where we had to make our own good time.  We were not passive receivers of the pleasures of life, rather, we were actively involved in LIVING our life.  We had the gift of time, lots and lots of time to discover who we really were and we communed with the heaven sent spiritual side of ourselves as we wandered through our days. image

Yes, I became familiar with that other part of me, which together with my human side makes me whole!

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A long time ago, my husband made a comment to me that has stayed with me all these many years. He said he thought the definition of the Devil should  be “busy”.  He certainly got my attention with this so I asked him why he thought that way.  He said, “Well, if you stay busy all the time, you will have no time to “Be Still and know I am God” as we have read in the Bible. God asks us to be still so we can know Him!”

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He was right about this in so many ways. His statement had a profound impact on me. When one thinks about it, if we are continuously busy, it makes it difficult to bond with our family or connect with our neighbor. If we are busy, we won’t have the time to spend with our children or a lonely family member who may be missing our presence in their life. If we are busy we won’t see the beauty that surrounds us, nor smell the perfume emitted from the flowers and trees, nor will we hear the sounds of nature, all a part of Gods creation.  Do you remember the whipporwhills of our youth? The frogs in the distant ponds?  The buzzing sounds of bees as we watched them flit from flower to flower? Do we hear them now? Do you take the time?

If our family schedules are full and busy, we will all have to eat at separate times or in our car as we are racing off to an event, rather than all gathered together around our table. If we are busy, we won’t have time for a snuggle or a hug or nice long back scratch, all of which are emotionally, spiritually and physically healing because we crave the caring human touch. These days, peoples lives are so busy they get angry at other drivers on the road because time is ticking ever faster and we are worried we will be late!  I don’t thnk the phrase “Road Rage” existed in my youth. We have wrongly come to believe that a full life is a busy life. Busy, busy, busy.  No time to call and talk, guess we’ll text, but we are too busy to answer that text. Huff! Puff! The earth sometimes feels like it is spinning so fast on its axis that we want to find the stop button so we can get off.

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Getting off of that fast track is a bit unnerving because we are afraid we won’t  know what to do with ourself once we stop the insanity. With some of us, we  either never learned or perhaps have forgotton how to spend time alone….quietly….observing…..listening…..BEING.  God did not make a human “doing”…he made a Human Being, and I, for one, quite like the whole idea of “being”. Instead of “do it” all the time, sometimes I want to BE.

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I was lucky.  I grew up in an era and area of no excess. We didn’t have excess anything. We didn’t have excess food, clothes, toys, or activities. We did not have an excess of friends.   We did have one thing in abundant supply and that was time. This time allowed us to think and imagine and dream and BE!  My husband grew up on a farm and had a similar background to mine where each day was not planned with the exception of farm chores.  The day unfolded.

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So, if you ask me what I have been doing these last four months and If I reply “Nothing much”, don’t underestimate those two words. We have gone out to lunch and dinner a few times. We have sat in dark movie theaters enjoying the latest movie.  We have gone for long drives into the beautiful Texas countryside.  Most of our activities were not planned.  We let our days unfold like the days of our youth.

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I have reaquainted myself with me!  I have relearned the art of living as a human BEING, versus a human doing!  I SEE the roses! I SMELL the roses and I can HEAR the bees buzzing around the roses!  I became rich during my reprieve….I took the time to acknowledge the wealth of Gods creation that surrounds me and understand it as one of His greatest gifts and most beautiful blessings.

I thank Him for it.

image

 

I understand That I may not have been missed during my absence…..and that is o.k.!   I almost forgot about social media too! ūüėá

Now I am back, but in a much, much reduced way.  I plan to write again and enjoy the catharsis of letting the words come out, if for no other reason than my own enjoyment. I realize that if I spend a lot of time reading about other peoples lives, I won’t have time to live my own, therefore, I am embracing the idea that with the time I have left, I should enjoy going where the spirit leads me and remembering that life is about the journey! 

 

 

Telling it like you see it!

kids-playing

In a culture¬†where the emphasis, focus, and admiration is on the children, ¬†is it any wonder why we see a lot of self absorption from that same human being when they grow up? ¬†This isn’t meant to be a blanket statement claiming that all children are this way. ¬†It simply points out the fact that¬†IF the world has revolved around¬†someone¬†from the time they¬†are¬†born, continuing all throughout their years of growing up, then it would seem absolutely normal for that person to always think of themselves first.

When I was young, I was not anyone’s little darling. ¬†There was no focus pointed directly at me. If anything, I was simply happy and felt fortunate to be part of a clan. ¬†In those days, the focus was NOT on the children. ¬†The children were taught to respect their elders. We were taught to be courteous and helpful¬†to the adults in our lives where the reward for¬†our efforts were often just simply and quietly acknowledged with¬†small verbal comments…..

¬†“You did a good job today, little one!” ¬†

“You¬†have¬†such nice manners, young lady”. ¬†

“No one works harder than you do when you put your mind to it.” ¬†

“You are such a good boy”.

These praises were hard earned and consequently cherished.  Life was mostly about our ACTIONS versus our EXISTENCE.  Praise was never given unless you earned it.

In a room where there were not enough chairs for everyone, it was understood that the elder got the chair, while the child, being wiry and flexible, could sit on the floor if necessary. ¬†If the table did not accommodate everyone, then another table was set and deemed “the children’s table”. ¬†The children didn’t mind it at all because they sat with their contemporaries, but as they did so, they had their eye on the “adult table” happily knowing that someday, they would graduate to that table. ¬†It was something to look forward to…when they grew up and became an adult.

in my youth, as children, we understood that our life was about living within a hierarchy where pleasing the adults often merited rewards. ¬†The reward may only be¬†a smile and a word of praise for something we had done well. While parents were never pleased to hear about bad behavior on the part of their children, they generally thanked the messenger and said that the situation would be dealt with. ¬†They knew that other people saw their children in a way¬†they may not see them, so these opportunities were used as a teaching tool. ¬†The children learned quickly that the adults were all on the same “side”, ¬†teaching morals and principals to the children. What we learned from this as children, we could use ourselves one day to teach¬†our own children.

These days, and in this culture, all too often the trend has been quickly gravitating towards pleasing the children. ¬†An observation of a child’s bad behavior being transmitted to the child’s parent may not be¬†accepted well because¬†they may¬†feel offended and defensive,¬† which is a lost opportunity for a growth in character of a child.

There is nothing that pleases me more than seeing a parent look at the reality of who their child is.  No child is perfect, even if the parent would like to think so.  If a child had been created to be perfect, God would not have included parents in their life as guides and teachers.  All parents should love their child but in a way where that child understands that they are a small part of a universe, not THE universe.

Recently, I had the opportunity of having a parent come to my door with his son to offer an apology for the son having trampled through my garden while playing ball.¬† I hadn’t been aware any damage was done until they stood there and told me about it. ¬†We went to have a look and they were right….it was pretty badly trampled. ¬†The boy AND his father were so remorseful,¬† it was a pleasure for me to be able to say,

“Don’t worry about it….it will all grow back. ¬†However, what your father has done here is most impressive. ¬†He wants you to learn to respect other people and their property and wants you to take responsibility for what you have done.”

¬†The boy looked in surprise at his father, and then the father said, “what can my son do to help rectify the damage?”. ¬†

I said, “Well, maybe he can help me clean up the broken plants, so he can see what all this trampling did….”. ¬†

The father agreed, and the boy came to help me clean up the area. ¬†It took a while, but it really opened this boys eyes to the¬†damage running and trampling can cause, even if he wasn’t aware of it at the time. His father did not say “he didn’t mean to do it”. ¬†The father said, “this is what happened and he is here to try make amends”. ¬†He was telling it like it was! ¬†As a result of his honesty, he earned a heaping helping of MY respect in the process.

What impressed me about this father-son lesson was that this lesson could have been missed entirely. ¬†The father could have seen what happened and just ignored it. I wouldn’t have know what happened when I finally came upon it. ¬†it was¬†unintended damage as the result of child’s play, but you can bet that when the son is out playing ball next time, he will have a brand new consciousness and respect for other peoples property. ¬†The father did his son a favor.

Telling it like it is…..I wish more parents would be so brave as to know that it is in the child’s imperfect behavior where the best lessons are learned!

jjb/1-27-2016/copyright

 

 

 

Pen, Paper and Technology

Words that just have to be written.

Words that just have to be written.

Al finally bought a new computer because our other one was constantly freezing up. So, just as¬†in the case of¬†getting a new phone, we have to relearn how to use it because, of course, NOTHING IS EVER THE SAME ON AN UPDATED PIECE OF TECHNOLOGY NOR ARE THINGS EVER PUT IN THE SAME SPOT! Ooooops! (Sorry for shouting with my caps….just a little on edge here!) ūüėź Why oh¬†WHY can’t a person replace our devices with the exact same kind we had before? Well, maybe this¬†never ending¬†forced learning will keep dementia at bay…OR, God forbid, may even send us over the edge to¬†the blank screen of dementia in our own human mind. Eeeeek!

I remember when the idea of modern technology first presented itself into my reality. In the mid 1980’s, if we wanted to write a letter, we needed to choose between two kinds of writing utensils (pen or pencil).¬†¬†Then we needed to choose between¬†two different forms of¬†writing called printing or cursive.¬† Once the decision had been made we¬†would then proceed to write¬†in long hand (remember that antique method?)¬† This was called writing letters. These days, it is referred to as “snail mail?”)

Some of us could speed along the correspondence process by using our home typewriters. Tap-tap-tap, tappetty-tap-tap! It was actually kind of fun to hear the sound it made when our fingers hit the keys as we put our thoughts down on paper. In the early days of typing, the typewriters had keys with which you had to use a bit of force as you pushed down on each key. As you did so, a long metal bar with a raised letter on the end would pitch forward from beneath the frame and hit against a horizontal ribbon filled with ink. This, then, would would leave an impression of that letter on a blank piece of white paper which was rolled around a roller. You would type until you reached your far right margin and then you would take your right hand, pull on a lever attached to the top right of the machine and pull it to the left.  A little bell would go off when it was brought back into the beginning position.  So it would sound like a long series of tap, tap, tap tappety-tap, (end of line)  ZING!

Tap (D) tap (e) tap (a) tap (r), is how most of our letters began.

As the years passed, typewriters became electric, and the long, slender metal bars pitching forward to form letters were replaced by a little rotating wheel that would pop up and twirl as you selected your letter by typing on the keyboard. One soon learned on an electric typewriter that the touch needed was a delicate one versus the pounding pressure we once use to pitch those keys. It was a miracle, and our speed picked up because the effort required was so much less on this new machine. How MODERN!

Then the day arrived when technology came to the Bussmann consciousness. Back in the day when we were living in S.W. Minnesota, I was talking with my friend Robbie Schoeberl on the phone and she was¬†telling me about¬†this new “Word Processor” she had just purchased. (Do you remember this Robbie?).¬† She was telling me all about how it worked and the pivotal line¬†that I remember of¬†this¬†conversation was when she said “Juanita….you don’t even have to use an eraser or “whiteout” anymore!!! All you have to do is push this little button that says “backspace” and your mistake disappears!” I was shocked and emphatically responded with “Are you SERIOUS???¬†¬† REALLY????¬†¬†¬† It just goes away?” The conversation flowed fast and furious about the marvels of modern technology. Little did we know how quickly the Word Processor would become obsolete and computers would take their place.

Fast forward 30 years and here I sit typing on a keyboard that puts me in communication with friends and family all over the country. Al has moved me many, many times, but because of technology we happily learned that “good bye” didn’t really mean a finality of that relationship.¬† It no longer meant being mostly cut off from friends and family.

Granted, the face to face, “in person” is always the very best way in relationships, but FaceTime, Facebook, Text, Email, Snail Mail and Phone give us NO real excuse to lose touch unless we are choosing to do so.

It is doubtful that my grandchildren, when presented with a typewriter, would even know what is is. How about those pull string typing erasers?  Would they know what those were?  Are they even made anymore?

The wheel of progress turns quicker than ever as one invention is piled on top of the last in an ongoing parade of “new and improved”.

Well, speaking of snail mail…I have a couple of sympathy cards to write out (in cursive while that art form is still in existence and people can still decipher it). I also have a couple of birthday cards to write. Say what you will about technology, getting a physical piece of mail is still the most pleasurable communication of all. It is so personal because one sees the senders familiar handwriting on the envelope..the color of the envelope…the return address, and maybe even a pretty sticker applied somewhere. You get to savor all this and enjoy it before you even slit open the envelope..(remember letter openers?). There is still a place for these in MY life anyway because I love old fashioned mail.

You can’t wrap a ribbon around a stack of emails.¬† Well, I suppose you could, but it wouldn’t really be the same, would it?

I have a box of my Mothers letters saved in my closet for times I want to go and see her handwriting and read about the time she is writing about.¬†¬† I have saved all my children’s cards to us through the years, and each child has a box with their name on it where they are stored.¬† I have saved Als cards to me and my cards to him.

Now you may say, what a silly thing to do.¬† Who is going to want any of that?¬† I don’t really worry about that.¬† I only know that when I am lonesome for one of my children, I can go to that box and read the cards they sent me through the years.¬† Sometimes, I will sit down with a cup of coffee and pull out cards and letters from my rainy day box and have a mental visit with friends who cared enough to sit down and write to me.

The physical aspect of writing is still important.¬† Do I love technology? Yes, yes and YES!¬† For all it offers to us in communication with friends and relatives, a heart felt Yes!¬† But, I won’t throw out the baby with the bathwater when it comes to handwritten correspondence.

On Mothers day, my almost 40 year old son gave me a beautiful card where the inside was once blank.¬† Upon it he wrote to me his thoughts about me and let me tell you this…I had NO idea he felt such wonderful positive feelings about me.¬† It is now on my table by my chair and I find myself picking it up to read each day since receiving it.¬† I LOVE that he WROTE it with pen and paper!¬† I will keep it til the day I die and when I do, he will find it in his box of cards that I saved through the years.

Once again I have digressed!  Now I shall really go and write out those cards!

JJB/2015

old typewriter

old typewriter

Electric

Electric

Word processor

Word processor

desk top computer

desk top computer

lap top

lap top

pull string

pull string

MAIL BOXSTACK OF LETTERSLETTER

Number One

I¬†am reclining in my outdoor “Big Baby” swing enjoying the breezy cool of a late morning. I call it the big baby swing because it somewhat resembles those baby swings where a parent places the baby in the reclining chair of the swing and when they wind it up, it begins to gently move forward and back in a rocking motion. ¬†In no time, the baby drifts off to sleep. As I sit here rocking forth and back,¬† I can understand how a baby would be lulled to sleep.

Our swing doesn’t have the music nor the windup mechanism. ¬†It doesn’t really need it because all it requires is one gentle push on the side of the stand and the rocking begins. ¬†It is a¬†very comfortable outdoor swing and I bought it for Al when he retired. ¬†He uses it a lot and as I sit here, I can see why he is so¬†drawn to this chair. ¬†“Big” babies also love to lay in comfort peering out into the world while enjoying Mother Nature.

I do a LOT of thinking when I have quiet time, and this morning is no exception. ¬†I found myself remembering back many years to a church circle coffee I was attending when I was¬†living in Southern Minnesota. ¬†There was a lady who was¬†in our Bible Study by the name of Corey, and she was a long time widow. ¬†Somehow, we were on the topic of widowhood and I found myself asking her what was one of the most difficult parts of being a widow, outside of the obvious. ¬†She paused a minute and then said, “Well, I would say the most difficult part of losing your partner is that you are never “number one” with anyone anymore”. ¬†That certainly caught my attention and has stayed filed away in my memory bank all these many years.

Al and I have been married many years and have raised a family of children who have acquired¬†a very healthy autonomy. ¬†Not much evidence of co-dependency among them. ¬†I realize¬†as I think of each of them going about their busy lives that they feel the freedom to enjoy their lives fully without needing our approval. ¬†They like having our approval, but are not dependant on it to make decisions. ¬†They each have their own “number one” to share their life with. ¬†Hence, as their parents, we have moved down the ladder of importance to number two, or number three, or number four. ¬†Sheesh! ¬†Number four after a stomach full of stretch marks and dwindled bank accounts from clothing ¬†them, educating them, and nurturing them?¬†¬†Huh? ¬†But, as our¬†younger son always says, “it’s ALL good, Mom, it’s all good!” ¬†Indeed it is, because these things are¬†as just as¬†life intended things to be.

So this brings me back to the¬†thought of ¬†“number one”. ¬†Al and I have been really busy these past several days…actually a couple of weeks, getting our urban oasis in springtime good order. ¬†We also cleaned up after a nasty hailstorm that forced us to rake debris and re-stain badly damaged wooden furniture where the hail stones gave the appearance of a machine gun hitting them. ¬†We each had our job and worked in companionable silence. ¬†We are like a well oiled machine, he and I, and it is a joy to spend time doing most anything in each other’s company.

Sometimes I worry just a little bit about my lack of a need or desire to be a social butterfly. We live in an area that just abounds with women’s¬†activities and¬†so many of the women I know are involved in¬†a plethora of¬†groups!¬†¬†Where¬†we live, if you have a particular interest, you will¬†have no trouble¬†finding a club that features it. For my part,¬†I have LOTS of interests, and I certainly enjoy women friends. ¬†However, I just don’t need any of it on a regular basis. ¬†A lunch here, a coffee there with a friend who matters to me fills the bill very nicely.

Al was raised on a farm in Minnesota and I was raised in the woods of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.¬† We both¬†were brought up in¬†very rural¬†surroundings where we learned to love our families, enjoy a good friend or two, enjoy a good book, and even enjoy a little sweat on our brow from occasional outside work or play. We especially learned how to be comfortable in our own company. ¬†Our childhoods fully prepared us for our retirement because when we were young, if we got bored, we used our imaginations to fill our day. God forbid if we told our parents we were bored because anyone our age knows the response to that statement.¬†¬†” You are bored?¬† Well, if you can’t find something to do, I will find something for you to do!”¬† You only said it once and after that you knew better than to share that thought with the elders. ¬†Oy!

Well, I best get going. ¬†The morning is soon over and I am finished with my rocking. ¬†Al brought me coffee earlier and it is mostly gone now and what remains is cold. ¬†What is on my agenda for later? ¬† Nothing as of now, but I am pretty sure I will spend my time with my “number one”. ¬†We just never know when we will no longer be number one, so above all else, we¬†may as well enjoy¬†being in first place¬†with our honey while we can.¬†

  

What the heart sees!

LOVE IS NOT BLINDOne morning, many years ago, at a time when my children were small, I was sitting at the kitchen table enjoying my first cup of coffee before the children woke up.¬† I knew that the minute their feet hit the floor, our day would be in full swing and that there would be no more quiet time until their bedtime many hours later.¬† My husband had already left for work, and I was still in my nightgown and robe.¬† My hair was disheveled from a nights sleep and I hadn’t bothered to wash my morning face yet.¬† I had crawled out of a very warm bed and immediately came into the kitchen to brew a pot of coffee.¬† I have always been a coffee hound and coffee is what I need to have first thing in the morning.¬† I needed that first hot cup of coffee before I did anything else that day, so was motivated to walk a straight line from our bed to the coffee pot.¬† Even though I had washed my face the night before, I am sure I had some trace remains of old mascara under my eyes from having slept with a thick layer of night cream. As I sat there and planned my day, I was startled out of my thoughts by a child’s voice.

“Hi Mommy”

“Well good morning Christopher!¬† How’s my boy today?”

“Good….Uhmmm!¬† I’m hungry”.

“Well, o.k. big boy.¬† Let’s get you some breakfast”.

I had made some pancakes earlier while my coffee was brewing and then put them in the oven in a covered dish to keep warm. ¬†¬† I liked the idea of breakfast being ready for them the minute they got up and besides, who doesn’t love to wake up to the smells of breakfast emanating from a warm kitchen on a cold winter day?

Chris clamored up onto his “big boy” chair and I proceeded to take out a pancake and put it on a plate.¬† We didn’t have a microwave in those years, so earlier, I had put syrup in a small pot and put it to warm on the stove. ¬† I poured the very warm maple syrup on top of his pancake.¬† He was all smiles when I set his plate in front of him with a glass of milk. I cut the pancake up into small bite size pieces to make it easier for him to eat, and then sat down again at the table across from him. I picked up my coffee to take another drink and watched him enjoy his breakfast.¬† He was looking back at me with very bright eyes while he was chewing his pancake and then suddenly smiled at me. He stopped chewing, put down his fork and said…

“You are sooo beuuuufiful Mommy.” (emphasis on the f and no t)

What? Me? Beautiful?  Really?  Are you kidding me?  With my tangled hair, my old robe, and my unwashed face?  Beeeuuuufiful?  I laughed out loud and said,

“Well, thank you sweet boy….I think you are beautiful too!”

I thought right then and there how wonderfully fun it was to have a small child around the home because they really did not see you with their eyes.¬† Children see you with their heart, and that was what he expressed to me that morning.¬† I think it is how God sees us too…..he sees our hearts.

Forty some years later, at night, I had a similar experience, only this time it wasn’t a little boy who was seeing me with his heart.¬† It was a much older boy….a man who saw me with his heart this time.

My husband came over to kiss me goodnight.  After he did, he just stood there looking down at me and said with a smile on his face,

“You are so cute”.

Me?¬† Cute?¬† Are you kidding me?¬† Certainly not today…nor even yesterday, because for the last two days we have been busy getting the house ready for Christmas.¬† Yesterday we were busy putting up the tree and putting out all the decorations.¬† Today it was finishing what we had not managed to get completed yesterday, along with getting packages ready for mailing to Minnesota.¬† I was wrapping enough gifts to fill two boxes that are going to that little boy who ate my early morning pancakes so many years ago.¬† He is not a little boy anymore…He is all grown up.¬† Proof of that is the gray hair at his temples and now HE is the father of two young girls who are much older than he was the day he made his Mothers heart swell with at his innocent declaration of love for her.

These last two days have been so INVOLVED, so I must admit, I never got out of my pajama’s.¬† (Perish the thought, I know, but sometimes these things just happen).¬† The first day, my husband was pretty determined we were going to put out Christmas decor.¬† I was more of the mind set that maybe a small tree and a wreath on the door would do, but he didn’t think that was showing the Christmas spirit.¬† SO, I just plowed straight ahead into the closet where we keep our decorations while still in my robe, and while still clinging to my first cup of coffee.¬† It is no small feat to unload a closet full of Christmas decorations and then to figure out where to put them.¬† Ugh!¬† Double ugh!

Before I knew it, the day had passed and it was almost time for bed again.¬† So, I put on a fresh gown and off to bed I toddled.¬† Today, the same thing happened all over again.¬† Over my ritual morning cup of coffee, Al said,¬† “We probably should get those gifts sent as soon as possible so that we don’t have to deal with mile long lines at the post office. So, after gulping my last drink of coffee,¬† and once again while still in my robe, I went off to find the gifts I had purchased for Christmas. Because I have been picking up things here and there over this past year, I had to go into a closet and pull out all the purchases and start separating them into piles for the different kids and grand-kids.¬† What a job!¬† It took ALL day again!¬† Al shuffled off to the post office while I cleaned up the wrapping paper. ¬† Dinner came and went and then we watched the Country Christmas show on t.v. while I began to write out Christmas cards.¬† Those two words are beginning to form in my mind….(Bah! Humbug!)¬† Thanksgiving and Christmas are TOO close together and there is TOO MUCH to get done in such a short period of time.¬† So, as he was getting ready for bed, I sat in my chair the second day in my robe, not having stepped one foot out of our house.¬† Tomorrow will be a banner day when I peel my nightgown off, take a shower, wash my hair, put on my makeup, PUT ON MY CLOTHES, and begin a normal day.¬† Please God, don’t let me die in my sleep looking like this!

“You are so cute!”

Honest to God, if there was ever a proof that love is blind to our flaws, the proof came from a little 2 year old boy and a 70 year old man, a son and his father who both chose to see me with their hearts.¬† I don’t think love is blind. I think the heart trumps the eyes when love is involved. ¬† The heart has a much more accurate vision of a human being than our eyes have.

I am thankful!¬† Oh, yes!¬† I am VERY thankful to be loved for my essence, my presence, and my importance to their lives.¬†¬† Exterior beauty fades, my mirror proves this on a daily basis.¬† However, the most important beauty your loved ones see is the beauty you create in the world around you.¬† Perhaps they are the mirror to our loving actions throughout a lifetime?¬† I sure hope so…..I have loved them as best I knew how.

“Beauffiful?”¬† (Emphasis on the f, and no t)¬†¬†¬† ” So Cute?”

Well thank you very much sirs.  My cup runneth over because of your gratitude to me.

(Oh…and I threw Bah! Humbug! out the door.¬† The house looks Christmasy and the packages are in a truck rolling towards Minnesota!¬† Life is good and it is now time for bed.¬† I am feeling grateful for all we accomplished these last two days!)

Amen!

Love and Dust

feather dusterI was dusting my house recently and came to an area where I have set family photos.  I love family photos, and throughout the years have put many of them out and about, which I suppose has been a subconscious effort to surround myself with the feeling of love from loved ones, past and present.  Al and I have done a lot of moving with his career, so these photos offered me much comfort during times I felt lonely for my family.  Each time I would pick up a framed photo to dust the surface beneath, I would let my gaze fall on the loved one in the photo and reflect on them.  I would then set the picture down, and pick up the next photo and repeat the process.

Recently, when I was cleaning and dusting our Master Bathroom, I began to dust a picture ledge on the wall adjacent to my vanity and chair.  Here sat tiny photos in tiny frames which fit perfectly on this ledge.  As I gathered them all up to dust the ledge, and as I cleaned each of them one by one, I was able to mentally visit with the people in the photos.  

Granpa and Grandma 001I peered at my Grandpa and Grandma where the picture showed them standing side by side with his arm around her shoulder, both smiling into the camera lens.¬† “Hi Grandpa and Grandma…..do you know how often I still think of you?¬† Do you know how much I STILL feel the unconditional love you offered to me all those years ago?”¬† I smiled to myself as I set them back down on the ledge.

I then picked up another framed photo.¬† In this photo I could see my 001 (760x958)beautiful, youthful Mother smiling as she looked to her left at her daughter, (which was my 19 year old self ) who was looking straight into the camera with a wide happy smile). I remember the night that picture was taken as if it were yesterday and how proud I was of her. I remember how proud she was of ME!¬† We had a real mutual admiration society going and did until the day she died.¬† Mom was wearing a corsage, and her hair was done up in a french twist.¬† She looked beautiful and happy and now I wonder if the occasion was her birthday or maybe Mothers day? ¬† “How are you?” I thought as I peered at her in the photo.¬† “Mom….I still miss you like crazy!” I silently said, as I continued my mental conversation with her about how I was feeling at that moment.¬†

005I picked up a darling photo of my daughter Andrea in her brownie uniform and greeted my sweet little 6 or 7 year old daughter in the frame.¬† She is 35 now, but when I look at that photo, she is somewhere around 6 years old and I am the one who is 35!¬† My goodness! ¬† Don’t the years just fly by?¬† Has it really been almost 30 years since that picture was taken? ¬† I love my grown up daughter, very much,¬† but do miss that cute little girl I enjoyed raising and primping over.

002I picked up a small framed photo of myself in my wedding dress.   I am standing at a profile to show off the length and detail of my simple floor length veil.  I am peering past the veil at the photographer with a broad grin, my one satin clad shoe pointing forward out from under the lacy hem of my wedding dress.  My left arm is dropped down my side and at a slight angle while my hand gently holds back the veil to show the detail of my dress.  What a joyful day that was for me!  I was in love and about to commit to loving a man for the rest of my life.  41 years later I am still in love and still happy to honor that commitment.  

004 I picked up a small framed photo of my husband with his trademark smile.¬† As I wiped off the dust I allowed myself to take in his big white toothy smile that I love so much!¬† He looks to be about 45 in this photo and as I gaze at it, I can feel myself slipping back in time to when I was holding the camera pointing towards his grinning face. I won the jackpot the day this man entered my life, and don’t I just know it? His mother used to say it was him who won the jackpot with me, but I know better!

So many memories in my life have been captured in pictures and, of course, pictures mean different things to different people depending on who the audience is.¬† My Grandparents and my Mother are gone now, but to me they¬† will never be forgotten.¬† We aren’t forgotten by those who knew us well, at least not for the duration of their life,¬† but as each new generation arrives, one after the other, we eventually recede into the category called ancestors.¬† We become just a face of someone¬† from long ago to whom we are related, and our personality is no longer a part of the equation, because after a couple of generations they do not know us in the first person.

I am a Grandma now, and as I sit looking at pictures of my Grandmother and Grandfather I realize that these are two people who once worked for a living.  Grandma baked and cooked, while Grandpa gardened and both moved lovingly about my life.  They meant the world to me as their Granddaughter.  I meant the world to them as well.  But to MY Granddaughters, they are but a picture in the history book of our family.

As I pick up a picture of my beloved Mother, I sit and ponder the fact that¬† 5 entire years have already passed since she died.¬† My Granddaughters met my mother, but they were only 3 and 6 when she died so they have no real recollection of who Anita was.¬† I knew her as a vibrant, laughing, loving, giving, warm human being who loved to sing, play cards, go to church, and spend time with her family. But to my Granddaughters, she is just a picture of Paternal Great Grandmother. ¬† In the span of 3 generations, Great Grandmother on one end, and Great Granddaughters on the other end, the elder person disappears into history with the exception of an occasional glance at a photo taken on a day that was thought to be special to someone for one reason or another. Someday my Granddaughters will be Mothers to my Great-grandchildren and they won’t know or remember who I am either.¬† So the cycle continues.

Family-History-TitleI am deeply grateful for every single person in my life who has shown me love because that love is the glue that holds me together.¬† I think one of the purposes of our life on earth is to keep passing the love from one generation to another.¬† Our face in the picture book may not be someone our descendants will feel they know, but they will know us by living and carrying with them a portion of the love we passed along in the family and it will be the connecting thread from one generation to the other.¬†¬† LOVE….the face of it changes with the generations, but never the connecting thread.

When Elizabeth and Kate were growing up, the holidays were an exciting change from the usual ordinary events of life.  Most of their year was spent in the routine and mundane course of things.  School, church, and home occupied their lives. Daddy went off to work while Mother tended to the home front.

Holidays

Holidays

The holidays were often spent with their Grandparents, but because their Paternal Grandmother Annie was Mother to 12 children, she and Grandpa Eddie chose to spend their holidays rotating around from one adult child’s home to the next. This was how they liked it, because as their children grew up, a number of them moved to cities in distant states.¬† Some of their children settled near them, and one was Elizabeth’s and Kate’s Dad..¬† Elizabeth and Kate had the advantage of seeing them regularly because their house was on the other side of a stand of woods that separated the two homes.¬† The girls often ran over a well worn path that wove through the woods and opened onto a large field.¬† As they came to the open field, they could see Grandpa and Grandma’s house on the far side, with the path continuing through this field to their house.¬† It was fun to be able to run the path between the two houses and see them anytime they chose..¬†¬† But, at Christmas, Grandpa Eddie and Grandma Annie were usually visiting their children who had moved away, choosing a different one to visit from year to year.

This left Anita and her family free to go and spend Christmas with her parents, Grandma Esther and Grandpa Artie.¬† Elizabeth and Kate,¬† couldn’t wait to go to their Grandparents house on the holidays.

The road to Grandma and Grandpa's house.

The road to Grandma and Grandpa’s house.

Anita’s parents lived 7 miles down a country road from her home, and for the girls, it was exciting to go on that ride to their Grandparents house.¬† The darkness of the woods, the sparkling lights of the stars in the dark sky, and sometimes a bright moon would light the road ahead.¬† The heavens looked enormous to their young eyes, and the world looked very mysterious from the back seat as they peered out the back window watching the road disappear behind them.

Beautiful moonlight

Beautiful moonlight

Sometimes the moon would be so bright their Dad would turn off the headlights of their old car and drive down the moonlit road, amidst the protestations of their Mother.¬† Dad would say, “Stop your fussing, Anita….Just let go and feel the magic of the night”.¬† At this point she would become quiet and allow herself to take it all in.¬† The mystery pf the night was enhanced by the shimmering moonlight reflecting off the banks of snow¬† on either side of the country road.¬† She had to admit…it was beautiful.

 

Christmas Star

Christmas Star

As they crested the final hill on the road to Grandpa and Grandmas, they could see a golden glow emitting from a Christmas star which was attached to the front porch of their small house.¬†In the darkness of the night, the soft light of his five pointed star could be seen from a long way off. ¬† It seemed¬† like an official welcome especially for them inviting them into the warmth of their home.¬† They were eager to enjoy the enticing scents and flavors of Grandma Esther’s Christmas dinner. Grandpas star brought to their minds thoughts of the original Christmas star over Bethlehem. Elizabeth and Kate tried to imagine themselves as Shepherds or Wise Men viewing it for the first time so very long ago and so far away in a foreign land and they became quiet as they contemplated what it must have been like to live in those Ancient times and to experience that very first Christmas. Grandpa’s star…the symbol of that first star that appeared over Bethlehem.

The Christmas Tree

The Christmas Tree

As they entered the house, they took off their coats and hung up them up before they gave Grandpa and Grandma a big hug.¬† Elizabeth and Kate immediately ran into the living room to see the tree with the many presents beneath.¬† They didn’t know which they loved more, the heap of beautifully wrapped Christmas presents beneath the tree, or the colorful tree lights.¬† They loved Grandpa and Grandma’s tree with all the antique Christmas ornaments and the beautifully lit bubble lights, all surrounded by a coat of shimmering tinsel.¬† Magic was the word for Christmas on that night.¬† Everything seemed magical….everything! So much about their Grandparents home was different from their own, including the Christmas tree.¬† Elizabeth and Kate loved the tree that Dad and Mom had put up with the big multicolored bulbs and a coat of tinsel, but they liked Grandpa and Grandmas tree better because it had bubble lights.¬† They loved laying on their tummies on the floor where they could reach in and tip the delicate glass candles full of colored fluid if it had no bubbles inside.

Bubble Lights

Bubble Lights

One by one they tipped the candles upside down,  until a bubble would form and then float, followed by several others, up the shaft to the top. The light in the bottom created enough heat to cook the liquid which was how the bubble formed, much like when Mom was boiling water on the stove.  They tipped every one they could find that had no bubbles inside to get them started.  Elizabeth and Kate became completely engrossed in yet another lovely moment of Christmas. Presents!  They loved the glow of the lights on the shiny gifts below the tree as they perused the name tags searching for the ones with their names.Soon, they could hear their Mother calling them in to dinner, so they immediately got up and went into the festively decorated room with the beautifully and bountifully set table.

Grandma's table

Grandma’s table

They knew the presents were not opened until after dinner, and they didn’t want to waste one moment in getting to the main event at Grandma’s!!!¬† Bubbles in the glass candles and the bubbles felt in their tummies added to the excitement of the holiday.¬† Elizabeth and Kate loved all kinds of bubbles for it usually meant something wonderful was about to happen.

LIFE…THE GRAND COMPETITION

The heart of every family.

The heart of every family.

I have been doing a lot of thinking about how much my life has changed since I was a child.¬† I was born in 1949, in a rural part of the north country where, for the most part, our lives were our own to live as we chose.¬† There was not much to worry about with the exception of the nosy neighbor or maybe the town gossip, but if you behaved yourself, you were free of the worry of their commentary.. Rural folks often talked about everything and everyone as a matter of course because life was slower paced and there was not so much going on.¬† Chattering about each other was a form of entertainment and it was rarely harmful. Once in a while, the occasional “out of the ordinary¬† behavior” would be the exciting topic of discussion in many a kitchen over a hot cup of coffee. Despite the occasional drama, it was a great existence to live in small town America where most people were of similar circumstances. We had similar lifestyles economically, socially, environmentally, spiritually and historically.¬† It was a comfortable existence which allowed us to enjoy one another at face value with no real comparisons. Most everything in our lives was so similar that a competitive environment just wasn’t a part of the equation.¬† We were content in our lives for the most part because we didn’t covet our neighbors lives or possessions.

These days, with technology bringing everything to our fingertips, to our attention, and into our view, the world is markedly different from the world in which I was a child. ¬† By way of computer we have applications like text, email, Facebook, linked in, my space, YouTube, Zillow, Pinterest, along with countless others which gives us access to an endless supply of pictures and stories about other peoples lives, showing us their education, their homes, their careers, their families, their friends, their everything.¬† It would be a rare place in the United States, even in the most remote of places, where the “outside world” is not showing up and making itself known.¬† The truth is, sometimes ignorance IS bliss, my friend.

In modern times, technology and internet connection makes it difficult for the poor to be content with their lives because they are now aware of what they do not have.¬† This applies to the middle class as well.¬† Previous to technology, there were rural pockets of communities where people lived in a happy, blissful ignorance of how much less they had compared to some others.¬† With a click, everyone can see other people living in palatial homes, in exotic environments, with every material good in their possession.¬† Not only do we see their material possessions, we also are privy to their personal lives in an edited fashion.¬† We never see the downsides of their lives.¬† We see the happy times with their children and grandchildren and it is displayed as 100% perfect 100% of the time. We see photo shopped faces and bodies of people, leading us to believe that perfection in the human form is attainable at the same time that common sense dictates the knowledge that it is not.¬† Genetically, throughout all of time, Gods people have come in all heights, all weights, all sizes, many colors, and many different nationalities. But now, marketing and media would have us believe there is ONE way to look…one way to be.¬† Media would have us believe that if we don’t have a certain look, we are not desirable.¬† People are so afraid of showing their age, they are getting injected, laser-ed, cut and stretched.¬† Implants are put in, fat is being sucked out, and transplants are occurring.¬† The desire for a perfect external is interfering with growing our spiritual internal¬† and dangerously interfering¬† with our quest for the Eternal.

Our bonds with one another are not as strong as they once were because we are too busy comparing our lives to others which causes feelings of envy or superiority.¬† So often “they” are richer, more educated, more traveled and much more happy.¬† “They” have successful children, gorgeous grandchildren and are loved and adored by all their friends and their family.¬† At least this is what “they” would have us believe.¬† The truth is so much of what we see is carefully edited in such a fashion as to show their perfect side, their seamless side, their superior status in life.¬† It is NOT real!

As I am writing this, I can hear Willie Nelson singing about the “Family Bible”…..

There’s a family Bible on the table, each page is torn and hard to read
But the family Bible on the table, will ever be my key to memories.

At the end of day when work was over, and when the evening meal was done
Dad would read to us from the family Bible, and we’d count our many blessings one by one

I can see us sittin’ round the table, when from the family Bible dad would read,
I can hear my mother softly singing, “rock of ages rock of ages cleft for me”

Now this old world of ours is full of trouble this old world would also better be
If we’d find more Bibles on the tables and mothers singing rock of ages cleft for me

I can see us sittin’ round the table…Rock of ages rock of ages cleft for me.

At the end of day when work was over, and when the evening meal was done,

Dad would read to us from the Family Bible, and we would count our many blessings one by one.

Now this old world of ours is full of trouble this old world would also better be
If we’d find more Bibles on the tables and mothers singing rock of ages cleft for me
I can see us sittin’ round the table…
Rock of ages rock of ages cleft for me

Oh!¬† The idea of sitting around the table reading the family bible… The idea of counting our blessings rather than counting our wants…… The idea of having an ordinary meal together…..¬† The idea of Mom and Dad being the much respected and loved Matriarch and Patriarch of the family…..It all makes me so nostalgic and wistful.¬† So many of the changes in our society causes me give out a good long sigh as I think of what prosperity has done for so many in our country.¬† In many cases, the family foundation is upside down.¬† Instead of trying to please the elders, many are busy trying to please the children¬†which creates an upside down society.¬† I wonder if people remember¬† the verse, “Honor thy Father and Mother” written in the Bible.¬† Some of us still have this. some of us don’t.¬† Everything feels so backwards to me and I just wanted to say so.

God bless our Country.  This wonderful land of many blessings and many opportunities.  Perhaps we should sit around the table with the family bible, or the Bible, and express our gratitude for what we have rather than our disappointment in what we do not have.  Let us read the bible and find our instructions on how to lead a good life.  It may just be the cure for what ails our society.

ALFIE

Alfie

February 18, 2014 at 9:52pm

“What’s it all about Alfie?”¬†

Warning! Inner Child at Play!

Warning! Inner Child at Play!

When we were in our very young adulthood, my friends and I would use this movie scripted phrase as “THE question with no answer” when we were discussing perplexing life issues..¬† We would also use it as a commentary to our uncertainty when we were unsure of our direction in life. Back then, as we were graduating high school, our lives just kind of evolved.¬† Most of us didn’t have our lives mapped out like young people do these days. In our generation, some of us went to college after high school, some of us went into the military, and the rest just moved forward into life with high hopes, big expectations,¬† and we took life on as it came to us.¬† Many of us developed our skills and talents in fields of work that really interested us, and many turned these jobs into highly successful careers with “on the job” education.¬† Back then, it was expected that we would probably get married, have some kids, and hopefully, live happily ever after.

I certainly had no clue that the “ever after” part would arrive as soon as it did.¬† Looking back, it surprises me to see how long ago it actually was when our youngest left the nest, because in some ways, it feels so recent.¬† All those years ago, we found ourselves with a newly empty nest, in our newly built home, living a newly formed life here in Austin, Texas, which is on the opposite end of the country from where we were born, raised and had lived most of our lives.¬† Our kids were already fairly independent of us by then, busy in careers, college, and life, so we were free to focus on ourselves.¬† The only problem was, I didn’t really know how to turn the focus back to myself after having spent the largest part of my adult life (up to that point), focused on raising and guiding our children. Even now, all these years later, it still comes as a bit of a jolt to find out that the “children” don’t need nor want that kind of a mother anymore.¬† Yet, I should know better, because while they are MY children, they are not CHILDREN!

“We don’t need your help” they say.

“Thanks, but, I can do it myself! they say.

“We are just fine!” they say.

“We can take care of ourselves!”, they say.

I¬† say, “WHAAAAAAAAAT?

Well, I guess if one got a report card for Mothering, my teaching grade on the subject of Autonomy would be pretty high. The definition of Autonomy is described as “freedom to determine one’s own actions, behavior, etc.¬† To govern oneself.”¬†¬†¬† This certainly describes our independent offspring!¬† I am very happy about this.¬† However, the other side of this high grade is that my role was “downsized”.

In these ensuing years since their departure, Al and I have kept ourselves busy creating our urban oasis.  It has been a lot of fun using our creative energies and nurturing skills on something that responds and evolves.

Since our role as guide to our children has been met, it may be time to go back and pick up the child we left at the side of life’s road so long ago.¬† I am beginning to think I would like to reacquaint myself with that little girl who I once knew so well, “once upon time, long, long ago”.¬† How often I have remembered her childish joy, her avid curiosity and her ever present positivity. The girl that my mother said had a favorite word, “why?” which was testimony to the ongoing sense of wonder about everything not fully understood.¬† The testimony to my obsession with reading.¬† My obsession with writing.¬† This is still true.

Once I collect my inner child and Al collects his inner child, we will bring the two of them forward, introduce them to each other in their new identity, and tell them that they are free to go and explore life, hand in hand.¬† (No one here to tell them the word “no”).¬† God has blessed us in allowing us to live long enough to return to our original selves..a little older, a little wiser, and a little the worse for wear.¬† These are the two children who will wake up each day and leap out of bed, eager to greet what the day will have in store with us.¬† We’ll sit on a beach with our toes buried in the sand, the waves lapping at our feet.¬† We’ll lay back in the grass and watch the puffy white clouds float by.¬† We’ll read a good book while rocking to and fro in the hammock.¬† We’ll sit in our swing and watch the bees buzzing from flower to flower.

As for those questions that sometimes have no answers?

We are hoping to find Alfie who will tell us what it is all about!

MY CHURCH

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† The church of my youth was Swedish Lutheran in origin and it sat on a hill.¬† It was very much a point of pride to our family to be able to say that my Great-Great Grandmother was one of its founding members.¬† In fact, even as I write this, there is a ship that bears her name “Brita” as it hangs from the rafters of that old church.¬† If I were to name one memory that stands out to me about my Mothers family, it would be of their involvement in church. My Grandfather often sat and read the bible at the big, old, round oak table that sat in front of the window in their large kitchen. His oft repeated message to us was “Be humble, girls, be humble!”¬†

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† My Grandmother, after much convincing on the part of her Granddaughters, would sing a song for us, taken out of the old hymnal.¬† I still remember her singing “Abide with me”, and because of her shyness, she would begin in a weak and wavy voice which grew stronger and more sure as she sang for the rapt audience of her two granddaughters.¬† I loved listening to her sing and I also loved listening to my mother sing as each of them sang their favorite hymns from the old hymn books kept in the sitting room of our home. This did not happen often, for they were each shy about being center of attention. But, occasionally they would acquiesce to our pleading and their courage picked up as we listened with shining eyes and clapping hands.

 

 

             As I reflect back in time,  I can still see my young self peering out of the window from the back seat of our old car as our family sped along the rode towards our local Church.  I always felt a sense of anticipation as I waited for the church come into view.  In my minds eye, I can still see our family motoring up the road and around that last curve, and me watching as the church steeple first came into view visible over the tree line.  Soon the entire church came into view and it seemed to rest serenely and proudly on that high hill.  It always put a smile on my face as my eyes followed the tall pointed steeple upwards into the wide expanse of sky.  To me, it seemed so majestic!  Our family always parked our car in the area below the hill, where, at the base of the hill and leading up to the church was a very long flight of stairs, flanked by sturdy iron railings on either side.  Our church had a pristine white clapboard siding on the exterior and one could see the many tall stained glass windows that lined the walls on either side of the church.

 

 

           Within the church,  I can still remember those gorgeous, multicolored windows glowing on a sunny Sunday morning, taking on a brilliant hue as those sunlit colorful rays would penetrate through and bounce off the tops of the pews and peoples heads.

 

 

             At the front center of the church, in an alcove, stood an old fashioned white altar, edged in gold.  The center  and heart of this altar formed a frame for a picture depicting Jesus raising his right hand upwards toward heaven as a golden glow radiated around His head.

 

 

           The white, gilt edged pulpit was elevated at the front left of the church.  The shape of it was bulbous on the bottom and highly detailed.  It was a beautiful piece of art for such a little country church.  It had been built high above where the congregation sat, which gave our Pastor a lofty perch from which to preach.  It was not uncommon for him to brace himself with his arms spread wide and his hands grasping either side of the pulpit railing as he leaned forward to give emphasis on a particular point in his sermon.

 

 

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† To the right side of the altar on the wall, was a beautiful dark oak frame where the white hymn numbers on a black background were displayed for each Sundays Service.¬† On either side of the altar, stood two tall gold colored candelabra’s in an inverted “V” holding tall white candles that were lit each Sunday.

 

 

           To the right of the front of the church was where the choir sat. In those years, my Mother was in in the choir and I was so proud of her, not only for her singing ability, but for the kind of mother she was in the example she always set for her children.

 

 

           Church was a very important part of our life back then. It was a day of worship, a day of rest, a day of celebration, and a time of congregating with our friends and neighbors. In those days, in that area, Church was not only a place to worship, it was a place where we gathered with our friends to socialize.

 

 

           These days, everyone is so busy!!!!!  There is always so much to do with our careers and schedules and the infinite amount of extracurricular activities we create for ourselves, which, as a result, oftentimes means church just gets squeezed in at the end of the week, if even then.  The old church hymns are slowly fading away for many in favor of newer, more contemporary Christian music.  For my part, I can never let go of the traditional church service of my youth, and old time hymns I learned from my elders, to make way for the new.  These days, as I sit in at our traditional church service and sing age old songs, I can sense my parents and grandparents spirits all around me.  I can feel their presence as we carry on the traditions they handed over to us with the request that we  cherish them and keep them alive for our children.  I can feel my ancestors presence as the stories of our past family members are written to paint a picture of life long ago before our children were even born.  It is important to me to preserve the past because it is a part of who I am and a part of who my children are just because of traditions that have been passed down to them.

 

 

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† I’ve heard the phrase, “what was old is new again” and I surely hope it is true.¬† I hope the time will come when we will once again have time to cherish the traditions of the past and enjoy the stories of relatives long gone.¬† For now, though,¬† I will continue to sing the songs my ancestors sang, I will attend the church they worked so hard to bring to life,¬† and I will keep the traditions they created.¬† Through me, they will continue to live, if our children will take the time to read and listen.¬† For if they do all the past generations will continue to live with them in spirit.