Category Archives: Reflections

Esther’s Loom

pm_livrm (2)After Esther finished washing the dishes from her early morning breakfast with Artie she looked around the kitchen.  Everything was in its place.  She had made the bed right after Art left for work and there wasn’t anything really pressing on her schedule, so she pondered what to do.  Mentally, she did a quick run through of the house to see if she had left anything undone.

The house where she and Artie lived was modest, but perfect for the two of them.  There was a kitchen with upper and lower cabinets that ran along the entire wall opposite the doorway where one entered from outside. In the middle of this wall of cabinets was a window above a double sink. Esther kept little pots of herbs on the window sill and was able to watch their growth progress from day to day.  Through the window she could see the road that passed by their house out front, and beyond that, was an large open field where she could watch the changes that came with the seasons.

The wall to the right of cabinet wall held another large window which was also placed in the middle. Under this window sat a large round oak pedestal table where they sat and had their meals. Esther kept a patterned oil cloth tablecloth on the table to protect its surface. Through this window, they could see another field and the same road that passed by the front of the house winding it’s way down the hill. At the bottom of the hill, the main road continued on to the right. A smaller road intersected with the main road and veered left up and over another hill, providing a shortcut to the town center

Art and Esther enjoyed watching cars drive up and down the road past their property whenever they sat at their old table, though living in a rural area meant there weren’t all that many cars to see. The old oak table served as a place for their meals and provided them with a work station for book keeping, writing letters, doing crossword puzzles, or anything else they may decide to do.

On the wall opposite the table stood her cook stove.  Her  stove had 4 gas burners to one side and a deep well on the other side. This well provided space where one could burn wood for heat.  There were two circular metal lids on top of the well which could be lifted up so one could add more wood to the fire.

The fourth wall opposite the cabinet wall opened to a big pantry area, where Esther stored her prized baked goods.  She was proud of the many kinds of cakes and bars she baked in addition to her homemade Swedish rye bread.  This dense, heavy bread shaped in a circle was a family favorite. They liked to slather fresh cream butter on a hot fresh slice of bread and enjoy it alongside a cup of coffee.

Esthers small house also contained a living room, two small bedrooms and a bathroom. Under the main house was a large unfinished basement where they kept a potato bin, a canning  cellar, and an area where the washing machine sat ready for wash day.  That was all the space they had and they felt blessed to have it!

Grandmas pantry

Behind the house, Artie had built a two story free standing garage on their property.  The lower garage was large enough to fit 4 cars in a perfect square.  However, they only had one car and Artie’s old jeep, so the rest of the space was used up by tools and lawn equipment. At the far end of the garage, beyond where the cars were parked, sat a long work bench the entire width of the back wall.   Two windows sat above the work bench which provided a nice light for working at the bench. Over the work bench, hanging from the ceiling, was a cord with a bare light bulb at the end for lighting the work space.

Above the garage, at the top of a long flight of open stairs was a living space.  To the left of the stairs was a room that held Esther’s weaving loom.  At the top of the stairs to the right was a very large room where two double beds stood side by side against a wall separated by a small table with a lamp.  On the far end of the room in front of the double window were two platform rockers.  The room was painted a soft light blue and the windows were covered with very sheer crisscross curtains.  It was a very pleasant space.Grandmas loom (Similar to Grandmas loom)

Esther enjoyed going up to her weaving room to make rugs on her loom.  Artie teased her that it was her “loom-room”.  She thought that was pretty funny and would chuckle when he used those two words to describe the space.  She liked to make rag rugs and she had fun choosing what colors the rugs were going to be.  She took long strips of fabric and wrapped them around a long wooden paddle which she slid between the two rows of tightly woven threads. Each time she threaded through the fabric, she would hit a floor peddle with her foot to alternate the threads and secure the fabric in place. Back and forth the fabric would go between the long threads. Each time she added a row of fabric, she would work the pedals below, alternating the rows of threads that captured the cloth.  Back and forth, back and forth the fabric would go and after each pass through, she would push a wooden bar against the fabric pressing it tightly in place. Each time a row was added she could see the rug taking on a design and shape as it grew in size. She made many rugs this way by using old fabric from cast off clothing, carefully cut in strips and attached to one another by thread.

It was here where she would get lost in her thoughts about life. Esther had grown up and married in this area. She had raised three children, two boys and a girl. Her youngest was 13 years younger than her only daughter so he sometimes felt he as if he had two mothers. She worried about each of her children, now adults, for reasons as unique to them as they were unique in this world! Esther knew that worry was a useless exercise but she also knew that all Mothers have a tendency to do just the same about their own offspring!

Her daydreaming was interrupted by the crunch of tires on gravel! Goodness! Artie was home and she had not even started dinner! How had so much time passed? Her mind quickly ran a pictured inventory of leftovers in the refrigerator as she scurried down the stairs. As she rushed through the garage door, Artie was coming up the walk and he gave her a big smile and said “So, hows it goin Mama?” She grinned back at him as she heard him call her by their children’s name for her. As they walked toward the house, he slipped his hand around her ample waist and said,

“It’s always so nice to come home to my sweet “Es”!

Esther felt a rush of deep love in that moment and knew that while they lived a very ordinary, uneventful, and quiet life, it was just the right life for her! She began to excitingly tell him about the rugs she was making on the loom he bought for her a few years back. As they walked into the house together, the screen door slammed shut behind them which startled the birds out of their giant lilac bush close by.

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Contentment is always the reward for a well lived life! Contented people live with an understanding that it is best to take one day at a time! Art and Esther were my Mothers parents and we were so fortunate to have been absorbed into the ordinariness of their daily routine any time we went there to visit as children.

Through them, we learned how to enjoy the small, unremarkable moments of life. In those long ago days, we were blessed with the extra time that was part of childhood then, where we could observe and partake in many small activities that occurred in the humdrum activity of everyday life. No one thought to “entertain” us. We were easily entertained by watching the things they did throughout their day. I liked watching the old loom busy at work at the end of my Grandmothers arms and feet. I enjoyed watching an inanimate object suddenly fill with life and rhythm as my Grandmother propelled it into action. There has never been any toy ever manufactured that has been more entertaining to a child than spending time with ones own Grandmother and watching the miracle of old rags being woven into beautiful, useful rugs!

In these days of Covid19 and “shelter in place” I am not bored! I think the quiet, unhurried world in which I grew up benefits me now! Each day brings new promise and new things to do! I enjoy NOT eating out in a restaurant as I take long forgotten recipes and create old fashioned dinners. My husband, who grew up on a farm with a similar childhood, will often stand at the stove peering into a slow cooking pot that is emitting the most delicious aroma. Thank you to my Mother and Grandmother for simple recipes that came from a time and place where very few restaurants existed.

The most valuable gifts I have ever received came from a childhood where we were not at the center of everyones attention. We were a part of a family and knew our place in the scheme of family life. As a result, there was no “pressure” to be anything other than who we were. We could just “be” and that was the greatest gift of all. Time was a rich resource in those quiet days of long ago. With time on our hands to fill, our imaginations grew and so did our creativity! Time was what created and stored for me many memories to revisit similar to the one above. These memories are always there, waiting for me to take out and enjoy! I get to see, in my minds eye, my grandparents as real and vivid as the day I spent in their company.

“This is the day which the Lord has made….We will rejoice and be glad in it.”Psalm 118:24 NKLV”

Jjb/5/7/2020

Checking on each other!

I have decided to share our response to our son as a tribute to ALL adult children who reach out to their older parents. It serves as a reminder that looking beyond your own immediate circumstances to others who are facing this pandemic alone has unexpected rewards. We are all in this together and we all need each other to get us through these terrible isolating times)

Dear Son, 

I want you to know how much it meant to me and Dad to get such a nice long email letter from you! (The unexpected blessings of a quarantine where you finally have time on your hands)

I am glad you enjoyed the pictures from our countryside drive. It was nice of you to take the time to tell us so!  It took a bit of time to put it together, so it’s nice to know you liked it! 

We appreciate knowing how you are doing and being able to picture your days…(as in organizing the house and you working on cleaning up the yard and garage!) It allows us to feel like we are a part of your life and we love it.  A really nice thing about the written word is that the recipient can go back to it any number of times to reread the words when feeling lonesome or out of sorts!  So thank you for this too! 

We pray and pray and pray! We pray for our children and their loved ones to stay well and be taken care of in all ways.  

I am eternally grateful you found the love of your life who has also become a treasured friend and family member to us as well. She is the perfect example of loving kindness! 

Stay well, I pray that God guides you to the right path in all your decisions!

Thank you for checking in on us to see if we are o.k. The love we feel from you means a lot! God bless you for this! 

We love you very much! 
Mom and Dad

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Creation!

It is a gorgeous March day in Austin Texas! Yesterday was lovely too, and as a consequence of those blue skies, warm air, and eager gardening heart, I way overdid it in the garden over the course of 6 hours. Goodness! Those bags of mulch and garden soil are getting heavier every year!

I just cannot seem to help myself! I dig and lift and drag and trim until I stumble back into the house, parched and exhausted at the end of my project and despite all that, I still find myself saying “What a glorious day it has been!” To say that I am not your average woman would be an understatement!

As a result of yesterdays enthusiasm in the gardening department, I now have a couple of arthritic knuckles paying me an angry visit! I am also walking around the house like the stiff tin man in the movie The Wizard of Oz!” Ouch! However, I am accepting of the aches and pains because they mean I am still able to do these things and I am alive and well and still walking this earth!

Lately, I have taken to reading many different stories about near death experiences. At first I was intrigued. Then I was obsessed to find as many as I could to read or video testimonies to watch. It has been like a graduate course on the next life in heaven.

People who experience NDE say that heaven is ablaze with a beauty unlike any we have seen or experienced on this earth. They say that experiencing heaven makes earth seem pale and imperfect in comparison. So much of what I have read made me want to suit up and buckle up for the ride of a lifetime to the next life, the “real” life with God, and the sooner the better.

That is, until I went outside yesterday and stood surrounded by Gods creation. If heaven makes this life pale by comparison, I just cannot imagine what that kind of beauty must be like to experience because this earthly beauty is absolutely breathtaking!

I watched birds flitting about making their nests for their impending future families. I looked closely at the tiniest little buds emerging forth from the tips of my Rose of Sharon tree and I felt my heart stir! Berries were ripe on the Yaupon Holly tree as a juicy banquet for the birds who were working up an appetite getting their nests ready.

As I dug into the earth, creating a hole to place a new plant, I saw earthworms wriggling their way through the new territory where they found themselves. I felt the warm sun on my back and as I looked up, I watched a few white clouds lazily making their way across the deep blue sky. All this beauty in motion and I got to be a part of it! I AM a part of it all, and I thanked God that He chose ME to be a part of His wonderful creation! Most of the time I don’t see myself as anything particularly special, but I must have a lot of value for God to have chosen ME!

I walked onto our courtyard porch area and saw wrens busily stuffing all kinds of leaves and twigs into our decorative bird cage in preparation of the babies soon to arrive. There in front of the cage entrance is a fake cardinal. The little wrens had to get up close enough to this imposter see for themselves it isn’t real. . So now they navigate past this red wooden bird and make their nest. I imagine them convincing themselves that the imposter will help keep predators away!

As I sat in our courtyard quenching my thirst with icy water, I looked up towards our very big and old oak tree on the front corner of our house. I noticed a heart shaped pair of branches right in the middle. Who says trees don’t have hearts? This tree was estimated to be 400 years old by one arborist and 250 years old by another. We don’t really care, we are just grateful it continues to live and give shade in the very hot Texas summers.

Do I want to go to heaven? YES! Yes, of course I do, however I am more than willing to wait for that experience. I am ready and look forward to it, but just not yet! I find enough beauty on our earth to satisfy and amaze me daily. Besides, if God wants me here, I trust that He has a purpose for me being in my life right here and right now and I trust that my purpose will someday be shown to me!

I don’t think our purpose on earth is necessarily a big event type thing. It may be as seemingly small as making another human being feel as if they matter in this world and to feel as if they are loved. I think daily gratitude for this life and for this world we live in is extremely important. Love definitely rules!

The sun is shining again and creation is beckoning for me to come outside once again. Nature! It is Gods playground created for all of us with the most perfect playmates to spend time with!

Have an awesome day!

Jjb/3/6/2020

Magoo

When I was a young girl, I wasn’t aware that I had very poor vision because it was my “norm”.  A person can’t miss what they have never had.  When I was in first grade, the school nurse paid a visit to my parents to tell them she suspected I needed glasses and so off to the eye doctor we went. Indeed!  The school nurse was correct.  I was tested and found to be very, very nearsighted. Shortly thereafter, I received my first pair of eye glasses. 

On the way home, with my new glasses sitting squarely on my face, I felt like I had landed in a Magic Kingdom.  Everything I now saw had dimensions I had never seen before.  The trees had many individual leaves which previously appeared to my near sighted eyes like large green cylindrical spheres sitting on top of big brown vertical sticks.  As we came to a 4 way stop, we stopped at a stop sign I had never noticed before and I was excitedly pointing at it and spelling out the word STOP to my father.  Previous to that day, everything in my life was seen as a large blur, and now, miraculously, everything was crisply in focus and I was having the time of my life.  When a person thinks of miracles, this new pair of eyeglasses was my very first “miracle” made possible for me by a Doctor who had been blessed by God with the intelligence to become an Optometrist.  I was so grateful, I felt absolutely giddy over my new ability to see things that people with 20/20 vision took for granted.  Thank you God!  Thank you Doctor!  Thank you Mom and Dad!  I was SO happy and very, very grateful.

My second miracle came around the age of 16 years when I was fitted with my first pair of contact lenses. For years I had worn my old coke bottle thick lenses, and while I was still grateful that they made it possible for me to see the world in focus, I now wanted a way to see the world without the heavy frames and lenses sitting on my face.  I read about the newly invented contact  lenses and began to save my money.  This was going to be MY gift to myself paid for with my part time job. My parents could not afford to pay for this new frivolous way of seeing the world so I thought “The Lord helps those who help themselves.” 

I remember the day the Doctor showed me how to insert the contact lens into my eyes and saying “You will never be able to see well without optical devices, but these little lenses will allow you to see the world as if you were born with 20-20 vision.” No more glasses!  I put them in and as I walked out of the office, once again, my heart skipped a beat.  Hello World!  Look at me now!  I felt instantly freer and even a little bit prettier without my enormous glasses.  I also saw the world better because I was no longer restricted by eye glass frames that inhibited my peripheral vision. I loved my new world of seeing!

Now, I find myself back at the Ophthalmologist’s office, being made ready for cataract surgery. I have been 5 and ½ months out of my gas permeable lenses, but, thankfully, I have been allowed to wear soft contact lenses while my eyes adjust back to their pre-rigid contact lens shape.  One month before surgery I will see a retina specialist who will take a look at my astigmatism and retina to determine if he needs to do any laser correction before my actual cataract surgery to lower possibility of a retinal separation.  For 2 weeks before surgery I have to wear what I exaggeratingly call my “40 pound glasses” because of their weight and size. 

I am old enough to remember Mr. Magoo,  the cute elderly myopic cartoon character from long ago, and I have dubbed myself “Mrs. Magoo” because I, too, would most likely walk into walls, just as he always did in the cartoon, were it not for the help I have received from Doctors to be able to see the world.

I am nervous, but I am also very excited for this next step.  I am grateful to have been born in this country in this time and place where medical miracles occur all the time with God using the brains and hands of trained Physicians.  I am blessed.

I will be writing an update on how this next chapter goes on my journey to improved vision. 

Please pray for me!

Jjb/1/30/2020

Not a Joiner

I am not a joiner. People who meet me would find this hard to believe because I am friendly and talkative and enjoy spending time with others. But joining a scheduled formal group of people just does not come naturally for me. I don’t really care for group activities.

Yet, I like having friends and have had good friends for most of my life. Give me a cup of coffee and a friend sitting across the table from me and I am in my own kind of heaven.

I have often wondered why I am like this. I come from a very small town and was part of a very large extended family. Fitting in was never a problem because everyone knew everyone else since birth. There was an general acceptance for who and how we were because these traits were just present from the beginning.

Despite having all that family in close proximity, I found that my favorite activities were usually solitary ones. Reading was as important to me as eating was for sustenance. I loved reading biographies of people who lived long ago. I also enjoyed history and fiction. I enjoyed the act of reading so much that if I poured myself a bowl of cereal for breakfast, I would sit and read the box it came in for entertainment. I was happy and comfortable in my own skin.

I was very observant of my surroundings and how things were. The smells, the sounds, the taste of things. I enjoyed looking at all forms of architecture, noticing the smallest details. Without realizing it, these observations allowed for me to become a writer which was also a very fulfilling activity, albeit a solitary one.

I loved going for walks in the woods that surrounded our home, my senses taking in the smell of the dense undergrowth amidst the decaying leaves. I loved laying on my back on the floor of the forest and looking upwards, watching the suns rays being filtered through the leaves of the very tall trees. I enjoyed watching the insects flit around happily in their own little part of the world. I enjoyed listening to the murmuring evergreens as the wind rushed through their branches.

Growing up I had many friendly acquaintances and a few friends. I never felt a need to belong to a group of girls. I appreciated most of the girls I knew but did not like putting myself into a group where I was expected to take on a group approved opinion. One time, as a young girl, I witnessed a group decision that determined that someone was not up to the groups standards, and they decided to shun that person. I dropped out after that.

There always seems to be a pecking order in these gaggle of girls and I never understood the reason for this. Pecking orders within groups are stressful because it seems to put into place a preference of some over others. Nope, this isn’t for me. I have been asked to join many different groups over the years and have tried to be a part of these. Inevitably, I always ended up dropping out for one reason or another.

I can usually find something to like about most everyone I meet. I don’t need someone telling me who to like and who not to like. My opinion counts to me even while it may not matter to you. I like being free to go through life in a way that (MY spirit) guides me!

Those of us who are not joiners are not anti-social beings. Quite the contrary. At least I speak for myself when I say that I thoroughly enjoy socializing with others whom interest me. I just don’t have a need to fill my days with it. I like leaving room in my days to pursue my life long passion of reading, gardening, and writing. It does not take very much to fulfill my need of social activity. Actually it takes very little.

So…to my friends, both new and old, if you are in the mood to commune over a cup of coffee or a glass of iced tea, please feel free to give me a call. I love sharing world views with another person and am open to being shown another persons slant on things. So, you want a little time for one on one? Oh yes, yes indeed! But if you want me to join a group, I love and appreciate you for reaching out, but think I will pass.

Jjb/2/5/2019

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. 😏

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!) 😏

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.

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

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!

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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!

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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!) 😐 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.