Category Archives: Thoughts Expressed

My Dream

Image result for pictures of bows of boats on an oceanI had a crazy dream last night. 

In my dream we were a young family again and our three children were just adolescents.  I was feeling emotionally devastated because I had just recently been informed of my fatal diagnosis where the treatment required was brutal and painful and would make me very, very sick, with no guarantees of improvement.

I looked online for alternative medicine and found a site that advertised a fleet of boats that were titled “Watery Graves” where anyone who had a terminal illness could make a reservation to be brought out to sea and just dropped in.  It had been listed as a “Cheap Leap” and went on to read that it was the perfect solution to those people who did not want to suffer before they died.

As the dream continued, I told my husband and children about it and they were appalled, but understood my reasoning and were determined to allow me my one last wish. They were all sitting around the room trying to let this sink into their psych, when I told them I was going to go check out the boat.  They were really sad but resigned with what I wanted to  do.

I went to the pier where the boat was docked, and was told that my departure was leaving in a couple of minutes and I had to board the boat or forfeit my entire down payment which had been a large sum of money, so I got on the ship.

There were many passengers, and I managed to find my way to the front bow of the boat. I felt the cold wind whipping against my face, and I could feel my heart drumming against my chest as the boat gained speed and bounced across large waves that had begun to roll and churn in an angry fashion.  I knew this was the last leg of my journey on earth and now I wasn’t so sure I had made the right decision. 

Just then, several trios of porpoises leaped out of the water right in front of the bow of the boat and gracefully reentered the ocean in a perfectly synchronized fashion.  “How beautiful they are” I thought, and then realized they may well be the welcoming committee to heaven.  My heart slowed down a bit as I took in the beauty of the moment and realized that going to heaven was not something to be feared, but embraced.

I felt a hand on my elbow when a soft voice said “It is your time now, come with me”.  This statement filled me with terror and dread because I suddenly realized I wasn’t ready to die right now.   I knew I was going to die because the Dr. had said I was terminal, but I realized that if I took the situation into my own hands, and took my life early, I was really cheating myself and my family of time together.  Besides, what if somehow, miraculously, I would beat the odds?  I didn’t know what was in the future so why should I end my life prematurely?  Sure, there would be pain with treatment, but it was nothing compared to the pain I would inflict on me and my family by doing this.

I turned to the Captain and said, “I have decided I don’t want to do this anymore”.  He smiled and said “this change of heart happens more often than you think.  It is really o.k.  Just go inside until the others have fulfilled their wishes and we will bring you back to shore.”

Then the dream ended and I woke up.  I was quite unnerved by it because it had felt so real.  It felt real and was extremely stressful to think of myself in that situation, yet so many people find themselves being given a diagnosis with an expiration date on the end of it.  These kind of circumstances are very jarring and often require a quick answer from the patient about how to proceed while our brains are still spinning with the unexpected news.  

I think my dream was brought about by one too many reports of yet another friend dying.  As we age the sum totals on the list gets larger, of course, but also as we age, more and more reports come to us at an ever increasing speed, and it is unsettling to say the least.

We have known many people in our lifetime because we have moved so many times. We have met many people through work, school, neighborhoods, kids, promotions and then there are the many extended family members too. Because the number of people we know are many, so too are the amount of passing’s.  When we are young, we are always shocked by someone dying before their time but we do not really relate to it.  However when we are old, we almost feel like we are standing at the entrance to a large dark forest full of monsters.. 

The entrance to the forest represents our entrance to old age and the dark forest represents our fears of what is ahead.  The monsters represent what going to “get us” in the health department to cause us to die someday.  But, also in the forest there is an ever present gleam of sunshine that threads its way down to light our path and that light is God. So we look where the light leads us and follow the path and pray that all will be according to God’s will.

Yet, again, we received word about someone younger than us who has died this past week and we add him to our list while reminding ourselves to not be distracted by the monsters in the woods. We will keep our eye on the lighted path and pray God will stay with us until our time is up. In the meantime, we will let God be in charge of when that will be.

Jjb/2018

Still…

Sometimes I think we humans must resemble pack mules in what we decide to carry around with us, and as the years continue to pass by, the load becomes ever so much more burdensome. So many of us have a very hard time letting go of the things we have collected, from material goods to grudges to memories of people and places we have lived. Our minds tend to multitask in this modern technological world, trying to find order to the many things that demand our attention. I imagine our minds look like an office with computers and file cabinets and storage closets just filled to the brim with things that need our attention or action. Learning to let go is extremely difficult, but once done, it becomes the ultimate GIFT.

We have read the biblical verse that says “Be still….and know that I am God”. It was written as a suggestion to all of us that we are not to be physically or mentally busy every single minute of every single day. My husband used to say that he felt the definition of the devil would have to be the word “busy” because when we are busy, busy, busy…..going and doing…..always in motion, we have no time for contemplation. Very few of us have or allow ourselves spare time to quietly sit in awe of our most Holy God where we can contemplate and give thanks for all He has created and gifted us.

Few of us take the time to quietly ponder the fact that we, you and I, were chosen by God Himself to be brought into this existence. Just think of it! He chose YOU and ME to live this life! This is a powerful statement of affirmation for the times when we wonder about our worth in this life. If God saw the value of “ME” and “YOU” then certainly, who am I to question Him on this?

I firmly believe that our life on earth is an enormous gift to us from our Creator. We are here to learn so many facets of human existence.  We are here to learn and experience firsthand how joy feels, how sadness feels, and how freely given and received love feels. We learn how it feels to experience rejection and physical and emotional pain. We learn about honesty and loyalty and betrayal. We see the sunrises and sunsets and we learn about the vast contrast between light and dark. We experience heat and cold and we feel hunger and satiation. We experience the happiness of being a part of a family and the loneliness that comes from feeling alone due to rejection. I believe that much like when God sent Jesus to earth to walk as a human being among us, He also had a plan for when he created a human being where our spiritual force could take up residence. This earthly life is Gods gift to us to do with as we see fit and he gave us the Bible for guidance.

If one looks at life span statistics, my husband and I are in the early winter of our life. Our lives are winding down and with the exit door not as far off in the distance as it once was, we have felt the need to regroup and rethink our priorities. Time is a very valuable commodity because it is a limited resource. Heaven is eternal but life on earth has an expiration date and we have only so much time. We need to cherish and respect the time we have left not knowing how much there really is going to be of it and use it wisely. While it is good to give to others and serve others, we need to remember that our God given families need us too. Once we have given of ourselves to our families, we can then reach out to serve others.

We have had ups and downs in life…We have had rough patches to get through, and we have had some dark days where We have asked for and received the light of God to show us the way. We haven’t received everything we have wanted in life, but we have been blessed in so many ways We never would have thought of asking for. We can choose to look at the lacks in our life or we can look at the blessings. I, for one, prefer to concentrate on the many blessings.

Do NOT measure your life by anyone else’s life. Our life experience is custom made and uniquely chosen just for us because WE are uniquely made. Follow your instincts, because they are our inner guide as we make choices along our life’s path.

Right now, my husband and I are entering a contemplative period in our life. We are choosing to slow down and take time to reach an awareness we haven’t had in a while because of overfull schedules. We want to step back out of the frenzy and negativity of this modern world and just “BE”. We want to “BE STILL…and KNOW”

When was the last time you were still and reflected on the source of your existence? Maybe the time is now!

Jjb/11/15/2018

My Daughters House

We are staying at our daughters house. Everything is clean and neat.

She lit some candles for ambience. The air is fragrant and sweet.

Our bedroom has been attended to. Everything is in its place.

As she sits and visits with Mom and Dad, a smile lights up her face.

Pictures are displayed of those she loves, there are many, many around.

Loved ones peer out from beautiful frames. Evidence of love abounds.

She’s so happy we came for a visit. We chat and laugh and share.

As we listen to her voice and watch her emote, we see how much she cares.

Her husband is a wonderful man, a great family addition.

When they said the words “I do” to each other, it was a very good decision!

It is GOOD to see our son in law and our lovely daughter dear.

We are very glad we took the drive to come up and visit them here.

Jjb/September 2018

Me, Myself and I

I bought myself some flowers today

I was not sure exactly why.

I just decided to buy a bunch,

when I saw them as I passed by.

I have not ever done this before.

We give flowers to the people we love.

But suddenly as I thought of myself,

I was embraced by warmth from above.

It is important for us to show ourselves,

love and kindness and caring.

I love the one who lives inside of myself.

We make such an excellent pairing!

I bought my flowers and then found a vase.

I arranged them til they appealed to me,

I set them out on my old wooden table.

I whispered “this is to me….from me!”

I have always been my own true friend,

I always loved me when I needed it most.

“I love you” was what I said to myself.

Though it’s not something I usually boast.

As I sit here viewing my flowers,

I am feeling extremely blessed

I am so glad I gave me some flowers

To enhance my beloved nest.

I encourage you to begin this new practice,

for the times you are sad or blue.

Go out and buy yourself some flowers.

As a gift from yourself to you!

You will feel the sadness dissipate,

You will feel love growing within your heart.

You will suddenly feel your courage grow,

As you look forward to a brand new start!

Jjb/ 9/9/2018

For better or worse, AUTHENTICALLY ME!

Recently we updated our home for the time when we want to sell and hopefully get a fair price for it. (Could be in 20 years, could be next year…we just don’t know.) But, it was time for refreshing, in any case.) So, we took down all the colorful drapes, exchanged the deep and rich colors for those that are lighter and more sedate. It took me a while to get accustomed to this new lighter look. But it isn’t bland because the old red sofa remains with complimenting red patterned chairs. As it turns out, I still like them. When I say update, I don’t mean replicating things the designers are raving about now because I know it is only a matter of time before the latest and greatest becomes obsolete anyway. I just mean we lightened the walls and windows to appeal to a broader audience.

From as early on in childhood as I can remember, I have always noticed the details of my surroundings whether it was inside or outside. I suppose it is because in the times of my childhood, we were not encouraged to get in the middle of adult conversation, but rather, we were told to “mind our manners and to be quiet.” (Maybe this is why I write and talk so much in my adulthood, having all those pent up words begging to come out!) 😏

Being as it was, I had plenty of time to notice things about other peoples homes and property environments. In my mind, I would choose the things I liked best about their place and imagine them in my future home. As I write this, I KNOW I was very young at the time, and so I KNOW I need to be careful to not underestimate what a child sees or hears or notices. Children are like sponges in the way they absorb things and they have very definite likes and dislikes early on.

So, now, as I look about my home, even in its update, it looks somewhat antiquated, a bit like a house that was put into a time machine from long ago and ended up in the here and now.

I love textiles….just love them! Bedspreads, throws, pillows, curtains, sheers, table toppers and lace. Though we installed plantation shutters 20 years ago, I still have curtains and sheers to soften the look. My kitchen cabinets have been redone to look like they are from another time, long ago. I have cutwork embroidery and loom woven pieces throughout my home. I have old fashioned stained glass, old style ceiling fans and cherry/mahogany furniture pieces. All are considered “faux pas” these days. However, let it be noted that I just do not care how other people do things or what other people think of my surroundings. I know what I like and I surround myself with the same. This makes me happy.

I don’t feel the need to have what is considered “in” within my home, unless it pleases me. For me, having a home that befits my Grandmothers time is delightful. In some ways we live in what some people go to a “Bed and Breakfast” to enjoy. (I even make old fashioned Swedish Pancakes.) 😘 Our home is old timey, old fashioned, and quaint.

When I go online and see new homes being marketed, they look nothing like our home. They are gorgeous, but to me they also look nondescript. I suppose their intended purpose is served in the staging part of things because most anyone could buy any of these homes and walk in with their belongings and it would work.

I often wonder why we all think we should live the same as everyone else? What fun is that? When did we begin to believe that we should all emulate everyone else with our homes, our decorating, our clothes, our cars, our interests, our looks, and on and on. Why are we not “enough” as we are?

Personally, I like going to any friend’s home where she has decorated with her own, unique and individual taste and has allowed her place to feel lived in. I have one friend who is on a very limited retirement budget, and her home is among my favorites to visit. She and her husband have decorated it in a style that tells me a little bit about who they are. Their things are not expensive, but they exude a style that makes me want to sit back and take it all in. Sometimes I imagine myself living there and a smile crosses my face. That’s how much I like HER style. It is not necessarily my style, but has enough endearing and appealing choices to make me think I could just walk in and make myself at home ….and frequently, I do!

Wouldn’t it be awful to go from one persons home to the next and they would all look the same? Now days, the great big mansions have become so commonplace, I find myself preferring the smaller homes because they are cute, inviting, and really, just “enough”. How much does one person need anyway?

My favorite friends are this way too. My friends are all SO different from each other and this is what attracted me to them in the first place. They each have their own style and that style is uniquely theirs. I like that. I don’t want “cookie cutter” friends. Their authentic ways allows me to be authentic too!

Well, enough musing! I think I will go make some homemade soup for dinner tonight. We have lots of yummy things in the refrigerator to throw in to a pot to simmer, and then later on, will consume on this dark rainy day!

Gosh, I sure do love that cutwork table piece my daughter gave me. It looks so cute on the table! Textiles! One of my weaknesses in life! One of my material “loves” in life.

Jjb/Sept/2018

Respecting our Elders

Today is Labor Day and we were invited to come and share a meal with our son and his fiancee along with her parents. Her Mom is 83 and Dad is 97. Her Mom is in very good health and her Dad is too, all things considered at his age.

Our son got up at 4:30 a.m. and began preparations for his grilling and smoking of various meats, baby back ribs among them. Delectable! Fiancee worked hard on the appetizers and setting out beautiful dishes.

As I watched them buzzing around their place, up and down stairs to the grilling spot, pouring champagne, and making a sincere effort to visit with everyone, I felt my heart swell with pride for both of them and that they have found each other.

All of our children have grown up around old fashioned Grandparents. Long ago, they spent time with each of the two sets on their Grandparents turf and learned to weave themselves into the fabric of their Grandparents life. Without doubt, spending time with the older generation really paid off well in forming their characters and growing their hearts.

Their Grandparents, while all having been raised in similar old school ways of living, were also very different from each other which only broadened the children’s understanding of what it means to be old. They soon learned that getting old isn’t something to be afraid of, rather it is a blessing to be enjoyed and sometimes endured. This means the good stuff, the bad stuff and all the stuff in between, and what I mean by “stuff” is just the everyday business of going about life. Not everyone is given a long life and we all age differently, just as each of us is different. So it was with their Grandparents.

One set of Grandparents lived on a farm. Grandpa B wore bib overhauls and plaid shirts. Grandma wore what ever happened to be clean. While at home they didn’t worry about appearances and the freedom that comes with that is liberating! Their farm Grandparents allowed the children to play all around the farm property, and in the many outbuildings available to them. They got to drive the riding lawn mower and the tractor! This is big time stuff for children. They also rode old rusty bikes and scooters they found on the farm and played in the house upstairs in a very large bedroom which had a door in the back to a storage room, both of which were overflowing with castoff clothing, toys, hats, any number of castoff household items.

They learned to enjoy old time German polka music which Grandpa had playing loudly every Sunday afternoon from an old floor model stereo unit with large record discs. Sometimes he and Grandma would take a twirl around the living room to the beat of the music while the children giggled and laughed at them, all while secretly enjoying the vision of their tall Grandpa dancing with their short petite Grandma. The kids would often sit around the big long farm table where Grandpa shared Mackenthun’s smoked summer sausage on home made (sometimes freshly made) white bread with them and where they gobbled down Grandmas “hot dish” which they all savored and enjoyed. Nothing was fancy at the farm, which worked perfectly well for kids because then no one really worried about the children making a mess. If they did make a mess, though, they were told to “clean it up.”

One time, we dropped the children off at the farm for the Grandparents to child-sit while we went to some function, and when we came back, and as we walked into the house, we could hear many laughing voices in the basement. We went down the stairs and saw all the kids shuffling around inside the big, deep unplugged chest freezer with towels on their feet. It turns out that when we dropped them off and sent the kiddos into the house we gave them a 12 pack of coke and told them to put it into the refrigerator downstairs. Well, they misunderstood, or just didn’t know, and put it in the deep freeze. At some point, some time later, all the cans burst open. Poor Grandma had to unload all the food and start cleaning the freezer. Grandpa told her the kids could help since they made the mess in the first place, however innocent it may have been. The kids were having a happy old time dancing and shuffling inside the deep freeze, sopping up all the excess coke.

Their other Grandparents lived in an old 2 story house, in a small town in northern Minnesota. Grandpa J was a fisherman and he liked to wear old loose fitting cloth jumpsuits over his clothes. The kids got to enjoy many trips and hours in his boat on a Canadian lake fishing. They also learned that when they got home from the fishing trip, there was work to do in cleaning out the boat and cleaning the fish, which was their payment for a good time. This Grandpa had also converted an old rusted out refrigerator into a smoker and this was where and how we all learned to enjoy smoked foods.

The kids were taught a card game that Grandpa and Grandma learned and brought back with them from their years of living in Peru. Many wonderful and competitive games of Peruvian Rummy were played by THREE generations at one table. To this day, they all love Peruvian Rummy. The memory of their Grandparents live on through this game.

These same Grandparents would come and stay a couple months at a time while my husband and I traveled over many months for the sake of his career. This was later in their life and was when the children began to realize that Grandpa’s judgment and vision was beginning to diminish. One time, on a trip to take them to school, Grandpa blew through a stop sign to the sound of honking horns, never having seen the sign in the first place. They were all eager to tell us about it when we got back, and it was then we began to figure out other rides to school and other events. Our children learned compassion as they watched what was once a strong, intelligent, confident older man, slowly disappearing into much smaller version of his former self due to a multitude of mini strokes.

There are many, many stories I could recite, but these few should be sufficient in explaining how it was, through these children’s experiences with their Grandparents, where they came to care about and show respect for all old people. We encouraged our children to love their Grandparents and to defer to them because they were the elders in our family. Respect was demonstrated by us for our elders and we expected the same from our children.

So, here we are, given the opportunity to observe our “children” who are now in and approaching middle age, and we see the positive way their Grandparents impacted their lives. As a general way of things, their Grandparents did not knock themselves out to entertain the children. At the same time, I should say the Grandparents did do occasional fun stuff with them, out of the ordinary stuff, that only a Grandpa would think of.

One memory has Grandpa driving a tractor on his farm with one of the little kids on his lap and several other kids biking alongside to “race” them to the end of the very long driveway. He also gave them rides on the riding lawn mower.

Another memory is when the other Grandpa gave them snow skis to wear and then attached a rope to the hitch on the back of his old truck. He pulled them around and through the snowy winter woods, them skiing as if on water skies with a pull rope, but snow skiing instead. All this old fashioned fun was happening on a rarely traveled old logging trail.

The Grandmas served their role well too with the children. These two were very good cooks and bakers who kept the children’s tummies full while their parents were out and away. One Grandma had a piano to play and play it they did. Both Grandma’s were very involved in church life and proudly marched down the aisle of church with their Grandkids in tow anytime they were there in a visit.

All these memories formulated in my mind when we got home tonight and I thought about the blessed fact that ALL of our children have been loved so deeply and well by their elderly Grandparents, and now all the lessons learned from multigenerational love continues to give blessings to other old folks they know along the way…ourselves included.

I have seen each of them in action with older folks and they are always respectful and warm and caring. They treat old people as their equals because once upon a time their older Grandparents did the same with them. They learned many valuable lessons on the farm and so too, in an old two story home in a very small town in Northern Minnesota. The most valuable lessons being that you don’t have to spend money to have fun, eating at home is far more delicious than eating out, hanging out with family teaches us how to negotiate and play fair, friendly competition is learning how to lose or win with grace, how to disagree and learn to agree that we disagree but remain friends and discovering that in any project there is a lot to be learned about the other guy or gal when working together side by side. A family that prays together, a family that plays together, a family who spends days together, in the end STAYS together, and so our family has. We may be separated geographically, but we are all in frequent contact, continuing to pray together, and play together.

I was so proud of my son today as he communicated man to man with this dear 97 year old man. The best part? He didn’t seem to notice the difference of age! I saw 55 years melt off of one as the two of them laughed and shared stories. I am so proud of all our children for the very same reason. Each one of them are very respectful and kind! A mother and father’s joy for sure! Jjb/9/3/2018

Ahhhhhhhh!

I love this old song and can hear it in my head right now as I write about it.

🎶Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer! 🎶 Those days of sodas and pretzels and beer”.🎶. (If only……….)

Oh this sounds so good on paper and sounds even better when the words are sung. However this certainly has NOT been the pace of my summer! Between dealing with 3 months of debilitating allergies, working a LOT for a friend who was getting married, taking a trip to the north country to see our granddaughter in a community play, then taking another trip to the north country within days of that trip for the funeral of a close friend, it has created for us one great big “huff-puff” piece of living!

TODAY, however, is different! This is the first day in ages where there is absolutely nothing on our calendar! Hallelujah to this! I slept in late and when I got up and shuffled down the hallway, I was greeted by the scent of freshly brewed coffee. I sipped my “hearty roast breakfast blend” coffee while scanning emails on my iPad in my favorite and beloved easy chair. I find myself wondering where the name “easy chair” originated from??? I assume it was a long ago marketing ploy to convince some nice hard working folks that they needed to buy special seating for those rare times they wanted to “take it easy.” Well, it works for me!! I LOVE “taking it easy” though it is a rare day that I get to do so!

I listen to my husband busily moving about the kitchen clattering dishes while making our breakfast. Since he has retired, he has enthusiastically taken up the job of cooking and grilling. Who am I to deny him one of life’s simple pleasures? 😍😘 As the scent of cooking sausage patties waft about our gathering room, and as I hear the bacon sizzle in the pan, my mind rewinds back to childhood with memories of other loving family cooks. Somehow, cooking and baking has always had the power to demonstrate the gift of love. One person laboring in the kitchen shows their love for you along with love of self while enjoying the joy of cooking.

Even now, in this day and age where we can go and buy just about anything we can imagine at our enormous and well stocked grocery stores, or where we have a plethora of restaurants to choose from, there still comes a little leap of pleasure when some one takes the time to cook for us. Inevitably, if we invite someone to our home for dinner, the delight is so much more apparent and visible from our chosen guests than when we ask if someone wants to meet at a restaurant. It is so much more personable and we feel so indulged. (I am now smelling the scent of toasted bread and can hear ice being distributed into glasses of water).

I wonder what I will do with my day? There are many choices available to me. A couple of pleasures await me in the form of a good book or watering my thirsty plants out there in the hot Texas landscape. Our yard is shaded so I enjoy going out there and giving water to my parched plants. I can almost hear them saying thank you as they take moisture into their very dehydrated soil and root lines.

Yet, there are also work duties that call to me. I am such a work horse, I tend to find myself feeling the need to “work first and play second” which was my Swedish Grandfathers favorite call out. I can still hear his phrase echoing in my mind as I type this. “Yes, I know Grandpa…I know!”

It has been so long since I have thought only about myself and what I want to do. My nature always seems to go in the direction of “doing” for loved ones, but I do think sometimes we need to remember we are also a human “being”! Hmmmmmm! Decisions, decisions!

Life’s end is reeling me in faster and faster. Recently, I was talking to a very elderly lady and she was pondering what happens to us after we die. We both settled in an agreement on the Christian promises we have been taught about eternal life. Then I winked at her and said, “well, in any case, if that next spiritual existence were not to come true, we would not realize it anyway.” She looked at me and laughed in surprise.

All kidding aside, I DO believe in the next life and the continued life of our spirit, and I also think that we really are given this life in the first place for a reason and a purpose. We have a purpose to fulfill. Not all purposes are equal. There are those who become world famous or extremely wealthy in fulfilling their purpose and then there are those like myself, whose purpose seems to be very simple, yet still very important. What is this purpose? I think my purpose and most peoples purpose is to just go out and offer the purist form of love to all we come into contact with. A love that is minus judgments. A love with no strings attached and with no expectations in return. A love for those who feel forgotten, or alone, or undervalued, or lonely. We all want to “matter” in this world and my small job working 8 hours a week at the front desk of an assisted living facility provides for me a mission field full of God’s children who are living much longer than they ever expected and in some cases longer than they ever wanted, and I love the gift of this purpose.

img_0586

Well now…..my husband’s mission of handing out love today is now on a plate and he is calling my name! How much I love being loved in this way! Guess I will just let the day unfold as it is meant to do!

God’s blessings to all who read this, and I encourage you to be a gift to someone with your sincerest smile today. I promise you that it will make you feel as good in the giving as they are in the receiving!

Jjb/ 0/1/2018

Tom

Today is not a good day!

There is no end to it. There is NO END to the endings in life and that is all there is to it. We are born, we live, and then we die. Most of the time we tend to delude ourselves into thinking we can make plans for tomorrow, next week, next month, next year, but then we get “the phone call”, which acts as a reminder that all we really have is today and maybe not even all of that.

Our phone rings and when we pick up the call, we hear a voice that is at once familiar and unfamiliar. We recognize the voice but can immediately detect a heaviness to it, a sadness, a stricken grief about to spill over the cell phone waves and within a few sentences you are told about another ending.

This is what happened to me this morning. One of my very closest friends called and when I saw her name on my phone, I found myself smiling as I cheerily answered,

“Well hello there dear friend!”

It was unusual for her to call me on a Sunday morning so when I heard the timbre of her voice as she greeted me, I instinctively said “Oh oh!” to which she replied, “that’s right Juanita, this is not good news”.

My mind immediately scrolled back to our last conversation when she told me her sister was diagnosed with cancer. My mind then leaped into anxious thoughts about what she was going to tell me about her sister because she and her sister are very close despite the 18 year difference in their ages.

But, then as she continued talking I heard,

Tom’s gone, Juanita!”

(My mind silently reacted with the word WHAT?)

“He had a stroke”

(TOM?????)

“They moved him around to three different hospitals trying to save him”

(NOOOOOO! This. Is. NOT. possible).

I began to gasp in shock and stuttered as I said “Surely this is not possible?”

“It is Juanita…he is gone”

(“Stroke?”) (HOW is this possible?) He was the healthiest friend we had. He was a walker, a runner, a daily golfer. He did not smoke, rarely drank, and he ate healthy. He was slender and strong and vital.)

She said despondently,

They said something about a brain bleed…I am not sure”

i responded with “If you need me I will hop on the next plane”

“No, its o.k. I have so many phone calls to make and so many people to tell”

“O.k. I totally understand….I won’t call you for a while because I know you will be inundated with family and friends. But please feel free to call me the minute you feel the need of anything, even if it is just to talk”

“I will. Thank you Juanita”

We have known this couple since we moved to Cloquet, Minnesota in 1980, and this little town is located about 15 minutes out of Duluth. I remember the first day I met her. I was around 3O years old and I was busily wallpapering our newly acquired house, (yup, even back then I was always on a ladder). The doorbell rang and I opened the door to a young, beautiful, dark haired, slender woman. She greeted me and introduced herself as our neighbor who lived 3 houses down the street from us. She smiled as she meekly told me she was collecting for the heart society. (Ironic since it would be over thirty years later that she would undergo a quintuple by-pass herself). She apologetically said “This is legit, really it is!” I remember throwing my head back and laughing out loud at her genuineness. I immediately liked this sweet sincere woman.

We attended the same church and we introduced our husbands to each other, who really enjoyed each other a lot. They formed a strong friendship too. Lucky us because this 4 way mutual admiration society doesn’t always happen with couples. Her boys were slightly older than ours and they occasionally would come over to watch our children. All 4 of us enjoyed going out dancing and we enjoyed our young adulthood together as we raised our families. They were both born and raised and married in the same general area of Northern Minnesota, so they are well and widely known. My husband and I just kept moving to accommodate his career changes….so we leave little pieces of ourselves with our friends every time we move.

She and I began to form a deep friendship that came to resemble a chosen sisterhood which endures to this day. We have laughed together, cried together, mourned together, and been there for each other. I always tell her that despite the odds, I stubbornly continue to aspire to become like her though I regularly fail miserably. I will just never be as good of a human being as she is. I try, but I fail. I satisfy myself to live in the shadow of her goodness and light.

Unsurprisingly, she has a multitude of family and friends who not only love her but adore her! She will be well attended to by many people who care a lot about both her and Tom. To my utmost amazement, despite all of these admirers, she thought to call me within 45 minutes of his passing. I was and am deeply moved.

Ahead, it will be a long road to recovery for her, especially since she and Tom have been friends since Junior high school, and eventually married and stayed married for over 52-53 years. They were a very devoted couple and he took such pride in his best friend and wife.

Life is such a mystery. There are unhealthy people who live long and perfectly healthy people who die unexpectedly. I have long said that the greater the pain of a loss of a loved one, the greater the blessing of that person was to your life. Right now though, any type of feel good philosophy is lost on the person whose heart is broken and who is just trying to just breathe to get through this.

Years ago, when I was voicing frustration about hurtful things I did not understand about people or life, I would say to my Mother….

“I will tell you what Mother! Some day, when I die and go to heaven, I am going to sit down at that heavenly table with Jesus and ask him a whole lot of questions!!!”

My mother smiled and responded with, “Oh Juanita, she when you go to Heaven you won’t even have to ask. When you die, it will ALL become very clear!

Bye Tom…In the wake of your leaving, we already miss you so very much. Husband, Father, Brother, brother-in-law, Grandfather and very good friend. Al cried when I gave him the news of the phone call. He is so sad!

Al said he loved golf and beer…not necessarily in that order. Oh, and he said

“I loved that guy. He was a very good friend to me”

Please save us a seat at the banquet table!

Love, Juanita and Al

Oh, and the rest of you use every chance you get to give a hug to those you love. It may be the last hug between you!

The Sounds of Silence

I am sitting within the cool, softly lit and quiet interior of my home. The only sound I hear is the whir of a fan our daughter gave to us a long time ago when our a.c. unit went out. She ordered two of them and had them delivered out of concern for our welfare. By the time they were dropped off at our front door step, our a.c. was back up and running. We offered to send them back to her, but she declined saying it is always good to have them as a back up. So now, each time we plug one in, it is reminder to both of us of her caring and love for us. I like this excuse to think of her. It makes my heart swell.

I love silence. I love wandering around within our home and private courtyard, coffee cup in hand, in a set of old pajamas! It is here where I cherish the freedom of being absolutely, completely and most genuinely myself. I am grateful to my Creator to have placed me in this time and this place. As I have aged I have come to really like this old girl. I am the only person on this planet who knows her as well as I do and I love her because I know her heart. It is a very good and loving heart. The Holy Spirit has done a very good job with her as the two have cohabited in this body all these years. In the whole of my life, I have always been happiest when in solitude. Yet, I am not anti-social…not at all! I love being with people one on one or maybe in a small gathering where one can share thoughts and hearts and ideals in the quest for enlightenment and sometimes just for the merriment. But it is when I am alone where I love hanging out and reacquainting myself with ME!

img_0477-2

Years ago when we were overwhelmed with activities thrust upon our life, my husband said, “Sometimes I think the definition of the Devil is “busy.” “If he keeps us busy enough we won’t have time to reflect and feel gratitude for all things good in our life.” He is right, of course, because It is only when one sits in quiet and reflection where one can truly realize and appreciate and feel gratitude for the many blessings we already have.

I love our home. Actually, I have always loved all our homes. They wouldn’t be regarded as anything particularly special to someone else, but our homes are very special to us because this is where we hang our hat and nurture our hearts. Our home is our sanctuary from the busyness of our modern world. It is here where I surround myself with the people and things I love.

If you like blue and I like red, who is right?

We are BOTH right. It is called personal preference. These days, marketing people love to have us believe that our homes and cars and clothes are not “in” anymore. Out with the old and in with the new. It is the way the industry makes money off of us. The trouble with this theory is that we are all so individually and uniquely created, it is not possible for us all to like the same thing. Yet, year after year, in the spirit of encouraging the public to continue to spend their money, new products are introduced and suddenly the things we love are not considered acceptable. Few people entertain in their homes anymore for fear of comparisons which is unfortunate because I remember the days of early marriage when we and all our friends were poor and just plain happy to even have a house. We would have our friends in and they would invite us back. I don’t remember even paying much attention to their houses in those years because they were all modestly appointed and we all lived similarity. As the years went by, somewhere along the way homes went from being “homes” to being “showplace” houses. Houses kept getting bigger and more ornate. A lot of them didn’t feel much like a home anymore because they were so perfectly and “correctly” done by a decorator.

These are the types of things that run through my mind when I am alone. I see the things surrounding me and I am reminded of the person who gave it to me, or I remember where I was when I bought it. A lifetime of memories collect in a home if you let them.

I sometimes fantasize that I am an old soul. I love having my surroundings reflect a time long gone, a time when my Grandmother was a young wife. The old days. I doubt my house would fill the bill for the latest and greatest. In fact I know it wouldn’t. I have petite point pillows, a woven table topper, and I even a rectangular crocheted piece on my only table, which makes me feel close to Esther, my maternal Grandmother, who I can still see in my minds eye looping thread into and around her finger with a metal crochet hook. My house feels like an old friend to me, a friend with whom I can kick back in where we share our mutual memories. We have both seen a lot and have experienced a lot within these walls. We are both a bit worse for the wear, a bit frayed about the edges, but this is just proof that we have lived long and have been loved hard.

O.k. Coffee cup is now in the sink and it is time for a shower. The day is heating up outside and I don’t care because my sweet little home offers me relief from all of that summer heat. So does my gifted fan. I think I will go make my old iron bed and go find that book I have been wanting to read.IMG_0485

“Today is the day which the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

Indeed!

RED, WHITE & BLUE,

So, the house is now finally refreshed with the exception of painting the home office which won’t be a big project. It is now ready to sell…..if and when we decide to do so! Gone are most of the personal effects, the family pictures, custom colors, custom drapes, favorite wall art, and dramatic wall coverings. Out went a lot of decorative items. All the walls, ceilings and woodwork is painted. As I sit here and look around, I actually like the look. It is clean and neutral…(well, mostly neutral if one ignores our deep cherry red sofa bought 20 years ago and a couple of chairs I had covered to compliment the drapes and sofa back then, which means they have their fair shade of red too). Recently, I couldn’t keep myself from scanning furniture sites for that perfect light taupe or off white sofa and the perfect neutral chairs.

The problem here is this…we have always been very kind to our home furnishings so they don’t show any wear whatsoever. It has also helped that this is an empty nest house. There is no wear and tear to speak of.

This pondering reminds me of Old Blue, our older blue Buick, when hubby is scanning new car books with a yearning on his face. Does one get rid of something that is technically old even though it looks new, and in the case of our car, is comfortable and looks showroom clean? It is a big question, especially since we bought a shiny new black car 3 years ago that usually sits in our garage as we continue to drive “Old Blue” around. We have put very few miles on the new car since purchasing it to replace our 20 year old Jimmy. The only time it is driven is when Al and I need to drive separately. (Yes, HE drives the new one then because I really don’t care one way or another)…(Do you see a trend here?)

After all these years of living, I have come to see that it does not make sense to replace something just because you want something new. (UNLESS you have a huge bank account) In our house we always ask the following question when we want to purchase something. Do we really NEED the item or do we just WANT it? There is a big difference between the two. My husband always says, “Just because you CAN, doesn’t mean you SHOULD! I especially see the truth in this now as I read insurance actuaries that show average life span. Does it make any sense whatsoever to buy new furniture at this age, unless we were downsizing and finding ourselves in need of smaller furniture? The answer is obviously no. I don’t mean to imply that we feel old because we do not! It is just that we have so much like new furniture in this house already that will have to be sent on its way at some point and we would rather not add more, only to be hauled out!

So, I am satisfied to have accomplished what we set out to do which was to neutralize our “surroundings”. Once we move our stuff out of here, the walls are now neutral, the floors are neutral, and curtains are now sheer and neutral. Gone are the heavy custom drapes and I must say I like this look better anyway. Lighter & brighter.

I have made friends with my old sofa again, tossing the old throw pillows aside and appreciating how nice it looks, the sleek lines of it, despite its age. It is kind of like an old friend come to visit, where one exclaims, “You haven’t changed a bit!” Is it my imagination or does my sofa seem to sit taller when I say this?

Good ole “Red” the sofa. Good “Old Blue” the car. Both have served us well for many years and both look great despite their age.

So, we co-exist…all the inhabitants of this house…the older furniture and the older people. Seems right somehow. I am glad I decorated it to suit my taste, despite the neutrals. It has an old world feel to it. Yeah, I like it a lot!

I just realized…we are a patriotic house…RED (sofa), WHITE (walls) and BLUE (Old Blue the car). Think I may just sing America the beautiful!

I hope your 4th of July was wonderful! We sure enjoyed ours.

Until next time….

Inch by inch

 

So, yesterday was the final day our friend/carpenter was here and today we have just a bit of painting to do and then we will be done with updating our 20 year old house. In all the years we each have lived, neither one of us has ever lived in one place this long. In the years since Al and I have been married, we have moved 9 times. I had at least 10 moves under my belt by the time we got married, so basically had developed a “love ’em and leave ’em” relationship with my homes.

We love our home…and we love how long we have lived here…our home has become our dear friend where we retreat from the world, where we invite our friends to break bread with us, where we celebrate family, and where we find comfort in just “being”. It is said that a mans castle is his home….but so too is this true for the woman of the house.

That being said, our castle was in need of a face lift. 20 years ago we moved in and thoroughly personalized our home with deep, rich and vibrant colors and have thoroughly enjoyed our surroundings. Now, however, as we face the final chapters in our life, however many that might be, we decided to neutralize the colors in our home to make it sale ready. Down came the beautiful custom red drapes, down came our wall of deep blue matted prints that we have loved so long. Out with the old, in with the new. Less IS more for us these days, and we are still walking “things” out our door. Inch by inch it is a cinch, they say, and it is so true!

Down came another wall of pictures, only this time it was large framed professional photos of the kids. Al hand delivered most of them to the kids as they cast surprised, slightly offended looks his way. He told them we are doing them a favor by getting this done now so THEY don’t have an enormous undertaking when we make our next move.

I am surprised by how well I like the look. Despite the neutral backgrounds and curtains, we still have plenty of detail going on with our remaining “stuff” and some of that Al will be walking out the door as well. This brings to mind a comment a friend made to me many years ago…She said, “Isn’t it interesting how we spend the first half of our lives accumulating things and the second half getting rid of it?” Seems to me we could have saved ourselves a whole lot of trouble.

On the last two visits, our son and family from the north chose to stay at his brother’s home because there is more space there for the grand girls. This means we essentially have had all our excuses for not downsizing removed. They will still come to Texas for visits and whatever our home size is will be of no consequence. So that invites us to do some exploring of options.

We have no immediate plans…we will see what the future will bring and that will determine how long we live here. I am a nester of the first order, so I have always needed my own nest. My next nest may be a smaller home, a room in an old folks home, or my mansion in heaven. We just don’t know. But, we are making progress with separating ourselves from our things. I find it interesting how, when I look at something I felt a huge need to purchase years ago, I now wonder what the pull was at the time. Most things become…..just things. It is in the love relationships of our lives where we find our true identity.

O.k…..coffee cup is empty and there is some woodwork begging to be painted. Hopefully, by tonight our work will be done and we can sip some single malt scotch that was gifted to Al by our daughter. It is his favorite night cap, and wifey has come to enjoy it too!

Blessings to all. Live your most authentic self…which happens to be custom made by God! Love being sent to you from Austin Texas…our favorite place in the whole world!

In line

Another friend has died. One by one our friends and family draw their last breath, and with each persons passing, the line moves forward. I am in the line.

It is difficult to imagine my own death, though I know it is inevitable. I feel sad. Death is a part of life, but I still choose life for as long as I am allowed. I like this life I have been given.

I know what is ahead at some unknown date in the future, but still want to savor this gift of life. Someday our questions will be answered. We will see and know what is in the life beyond this one, but for now I am content to stay here and live this one.

Goodbye Billy. Goodbye Chuck. I am sad to see you go, though it is probable that where you are now is a far superior life to this one. God Bless!

Jjb/2/21/2018

Blessings

It has been a busy couple of days! We made a decision to lighten up the color in one of our guest rooms, so we spent the last two days painting, each of us having our own part in this project! It looks larger now, minus the rich chocolate color that has been there for the last two decades. The room is now happily sporting a very light pale green paint on the walls. We both love it! The room still looked new with the chocolate brown walls and complimenting comforter and drapes, despite all the years they have been there. The drapes and spread have been barely used. Yet, after 2 decades it was time to change it out and bring light into that room!

I like puttering with things in our home. It makes me feel young somehow. Most older people just live with what is, but because I don’t feel old, I am always in the process of refreshing our home here and there with anticipation of the life that is still to come. We have been downsizing our “stuff” to make it easier for the time when we can’t stay here anymore. The updating is in anticipation of years and years of still living here. So, in my mind we are working towards two different outcomes. We know NOT which it will be.

Aging is a funny thing! If we add up our years, we recognize that our age is considered by others to be old. Yet, our spirits do not recognize this being the case. I think the fact that our souls are “eternal” gives us the ability to think youthfully. Never, ever, do I feel “old” and I imagine this is also due to relatively good health. To date, I haven’t had an “oh, oh moment” and I am grateful.

My husband has gone to bed after making a fabulous dinner for both of us. It would be an understatement for me to say I got lucky when I met Al. Never in all my life have I ever had anyone who has been so good and kind to me, and I have to say, I have been blessed by many caring people around me. He is an amazing man, and I often find myself in awe of the blessing of him in my life. All that I have and enjoy is directly due to him. I thank God daily for the gift of his love and devotion in my life.

I have had an amazing life. My life hasn’t been perfect by any means. But, looking back, I thank God for those who have tested me, betrayed me, rejected me, ignored me, not appreciated me, or cared for me as much as I have cared for them. These people brought to me an appreciation of those who were there for me. The contrast in the behaviors of people I know has taught me to cherish those who treat me with love and respect. They are not as plentiful as those who don’t.

I am tired. Despite the energy one feels when involved in a project at this age, it is later when the body begins to complain! The room turned out beautiful. Thank you Lord for the energy supplied to complete another project. Thank you for another day! Thank you for those who love me. Thank you for those who don’t. The contrast is good for creating a true appreciation of the blessings in our life. Amen!

Jjb/1/25/2018

Bye, Bye, Baby

After an extremely busy holiday season which included four family birthdays and one anniversary, we are finally back to our project of material cleansing, meaning that we continue to take down, put away, or give away anything that does not serve its purpose anymore. We finished our laundry room and are extremely satisfied with the light and bright new look. Previously we had 5 upholstered picture boards where we had attached individual and random pictures of the whole family at various outings and events and non events. They were fun to look at in the beginning, but after a while it just looked like clutter. So down they came.

Yesterday we took down all the kids pictures that we had in our guest bedroom hallway. Most of them were incased in large, beautiful dark frames. These pictures were taken when our children were babies and children and teenagers. There was also representation of their high school and college graduations which happened a long time ago. When pondering what to do about these photos, we remembered that our children, the subjects of these pictures, do not display these in their own adult homes. We also noticed, when we visited our children’s homes, that they most generally do not display family pictures, and of those who do, they are certainly not of the size and number that our collection of pictures are. As we took down these very large dark framed photos, our guest hallway visually grew wider and taller and certainly much brighter. Yes! We both liked the new look very much! It doesn’t seem to make much sense to have such a huge representation of times gone by hugging the walls of our interior. We have all these same photos at our disposal in a much smaller form in our photo albums.

As I stood in our Master bedroom, I was looking for a space to hang our daughters bridal pictures. They are so beautiful, have light ornate frames, and I am not quite ready to wrap them up and put them away. The only available space to hang them is a wall where a framed photo collection of some of my own baby pictures are displayed. I hung it here because of a memory my Mother shared with me. She told me that back when I was the photographed baby, they had spent all they could afford on the pictures themselves. My Mother was thrilled to have a daughter after giving birth to two sons. She also did not have a sister, so I was highly celebrated when I was born. She told me that my paternal Grandmother generously had these three pictures put into a frame and she delivered it to my extremely surprised and thankful Mother. This happened well over a half century ago.

With a feeling of sadness I took down my long ago framed baby pictures and hung my daughters wedding picture in its place. Now what? What do I do with these baby pictures? The frame was purchased by a grandmother who was not any more flush with money than my parents, so these pictures must have been important to all of them. Now, for me to toss the frame and put the pictures in a box seemed ungrateful. It also meant that my baby self would be destined for obscurity. I am the last person on earth who knows the story behind this framed baby picture and the last one to even care about it because I am the last one in my immediate family to remember the women involved who created this lovely framed collection. This act of “taking down” underscores the fact that my grown up, “grown old” self is also destined for obscurity. My earthly ego finds it incomprehensible that I, me, and myself will recede into nothingness in the minds of even my own descendant. No longer will my baby picture be an object of love and gratitude, rather it will be an object of curiosity to people who won’t know me. Even if I write my name and date on the back of these pictures, at some point in time, this is exactly who I will become…just a name and date to some future family member.

Somehow, I make peace with this inevitability. Everyone eventually has to accept the fact of their inevitable demise. All I can really hope for is that our teachings about morality, encouragement in developing good character and understanding the importance of kindness and love to our children will have taken root, because this is the only real way “we” will live on in this life. I often observe all of our children and how they conduct their lives and I feel proud and grateful that the seeds planted so long ago have taken root and the result is a group of middle aged adults who are each contributing in a very kind, very positive and very caring way to the people of this world.

I take a deep breath and take down the baby and put up the bride. Both sets of pictures give me pleasure and both brighten our room. That was then and this is now, so bye, bye, baby, good-bye!

Jjb/1/10/2018

My Muse

I did not choose to be a writer. The “writer” has chosen me.

I suddenly picked up my pen one day and began writing eagerly.

It was when I first began to write where my pen wrote fast and furious.

It seemed the words came “through” me  which made me very curious.

Is it true that some people have muses? Do muses guide and inspire?

I think this is true because when my muse is around, I never seem to tire.

I feel such passion as I write, my fingers fly across the keys.

When I write, my mind is alight with words which flow with ease.

My need to write Has become so strong, I cannot seem to stop.

I do not care who reads my words, nor if the piece is thought a flop.

Memories bring words about those I have loved who are no longer here.

These words have the power to bring them close so I can hold them near.

I get to remember those I have known, from the moment I came to earth.

Yes, this includes even those who were here and present at my birth.

THIS writer is never lonely because of the memories within in my head

It is here where the memories of my life are encouraged and also fed.

When I am tired and it is time to sleep, and words I begin to lose,

I go to bed and in my dream filled head these memories are fed by my Muse! 

Jjb/copywrite/1/2/2018