Category Archives: Reflections

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!


old typewriter

old typewriter



Word processor

Word processor

desk top computer

desk top computer

lap top

lap top

pull string

pull string


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!)


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… you know how often I still think of you?  Do you know how much I STILL feel the unconditional love you offered to me all those years ago?”  I smiled to myself as I set them back down on the ledge.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

The road to Grandma and Grandpa's house.

The road to Grandma and Grandpa’s house.

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

Beautiful moonlight

Beautiful moonlight

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


Christmas Star

Christmas Star

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

The Christmas Tree

The Christmas Tree

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

Bubble Lights

Bubble Lights

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

Grandma's table

Grandma’s table

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


The heart of every family.

The heart of every family.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



February 18, 2014 at 9:52pm

“What’s it all about Alfie?” 

Warning! Inner Child at Play!

Warning! Inner Child at Play!

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

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

“We don’t need your help” they say.

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

“We are just fine!” they say.

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


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

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

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

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

As for those questions that sometimes have no answers?

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


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

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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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