You Are Special

To all my readers:

I’ve been to a writing conference this week and it’s made me examine why I write. I have to conclude that it’s not just for myself. I want it to be for you too. I’ve been cheered by the compassion expressed after my latest painful posts (and painful pictures). It’s made me thankful for you. I feel like you are all kind of “my people”.

I feel like I should attempt to tell you why I write here. But first,

The NOT WHYS – I’m not:

trying to make you feel sorry for me

trying to present life as only full of hard things

trying to be sounding hopeless or bitter

trying to compare my life with anyone else’s

Really, I’m not.

THE WHYS

What I want to do is offer the events of my life as an example of the hope that a very average person can have. We all have seasons when life is hard, and seasons when it is not so hard, maybe even joyful and fulfilling and interesting. Life is given to us as a learning experience and I love the ability to share the ordinary things that happen to me with you. I feel a responsibility to be fully aware of what can be learned from the ordinary and to think deeply on what might be of value to you as you read.

I love to show you the beauty of our physical spaces like my northern forests and wetlands. I share with you the fear of doctor’s visits and threats to physical health because we can learn that we are not alone. I tell you about the crazy stuff because I know we all need to laugh at the things we (I) do. I love to tell you about people like yourselves that are precious to me.

For me, my hopeful outlook is bound up in my faith. I believe in a God more loving than can be imagined and I should probably be telling you more often how I feel his love applied to me personally. I believe all of us “ordinaries” are unique and specially loved by God. Whether you believe as I do or not, doesn’t it comfort you, encourage, you to know that another person respects and values you because of their belief? Doesn’t it make you curious how that can be? I want to include that kind of conversation in my stories. I hope that in some way you can feel God’s love applied to you through what I write.

I have more to say about the writing conference but I needed to start with this, tonight. Thank you for being there and for reading.

Writing and Discouragement

I love writing. It’s like talking to people, except I don’t have to find someone who has time to listen to me. Much easier. I enjoy being a blogger.

Last winter and spring, my writing path led me to join a community of writers for encouragement, support, direction, all that good stuff.  I had no clarity about what might be next.  I wasn’t sure being a personal blogger was the endpoint for me. It sounded like hope*writers could help me sort that out. I got pretty excited about moving ahead – enough that I made a commitment to attend a conference. I actually bought the ticket and made a hotel reservation months in advance. Did I do this just to make sure I would go?  Not consciously.

And then life happened. Summer took some unusual turns. For weeks my husband struggled with his diagnosis of Lewy Body Dementia. The anxieties and fears he battled had us moving from place to place. I didn’t stop blogging, but I did stop listening to the podcasts, doing the writing exercises, connecting with my support group. There wasn’t a lot of time for that and, honestly, I just lost heart. It’s been hard.

As summer faded off, I found I was having a lot of pain in my hands, especially the left thumb joint. Arthritis had been coming at me for a while, but now it was time to stop living with the pain and regain use of my hand. I had surgery a week ago and have at least six weeks of recovery, in a cast, before I can start therapy.

Back to the writing conference, which is now only two weeks away. The deadline for selling my ticket to someone else has passed. I’m now contemplating whether it is even possible for me to get to Charlotte, NC to attend. The expense of travel, my impaired condition, my husband’s need for help, all seem like hurdles, like roadblocks. Will it be worth the effort to make this happen? I don’t know. It’s not like me to throw away an expensive ticket for an event  I was once pretty excited about.

Believe it or not, i can still type with a few of these fingers.

So, my hand is starting to hurt again as I peck away with two fingers on my computer. I’m feeling a little teary, but I know I have to write in order to think things through. That’s what writing does for me, and that’s why I love to write. Does anyone out there understand this?

Being Independent on Independence Day

7-5-2019

It was Independence Day, a holiday, and somehow I had forgotten to plan any memorable activity. Everyone I encountered was meeting up with family, going to the beach, cooking summer food – they had a plan. I didn’t, which was very unlike me. I’ve just had other things on my mind and well, I forgot.

Fortunately I did find someone else with no plan. My mom was sitting in her living room trying to feel good about a day in front of the TV or reading her book. She claimed not to mind, but I knew differently. Being in the same predicament, we decided to do as all strong, independent women do – we made our own plan for our memorable 4th of July.

This is a hotdog to die for, so good.

Since food is a prime feature of all our fun, memorable times, we started with food. Hot dogs. We both love a good hot dog and Mom, especially, has to have some texture and crunch in hers. We made some coleslaw and loaded the dog up real good. And watermelon, the perfect summer food. I always remember the gorilla who could sign words and decided to call watermelon “candy water”, which is so true.

We wanted something a little more active than eating to balance out our day and, you’re not going to believe this, we decided to go up to Lake Namekagon, a picturesque place with a favorite resort and restaurant that we like to visit – called Garmisch.

We go several times a year to the restaurant but I had never been out on the water there, so we decided that would be an appropriately adventurous thing to do, maybe a jaunt on a wave runner or kayak? You would be surprised at what my mom will do given the right amount of encouragement.

Wave runners are machines – the kind that I would normally avoid because they malfunction regularly. But they can be rented and presumed to be reliable. They can actually be rented at a marina fairly close to our location. They even can be rented with a trailer and transported to the lake of your choice. Let’s just say we did that.

Did you know that there are police on lakes, especially on holidays like the 4th of July? There are also rules about which lakes allow different kinds of boating and which do not. These rules are good things to know. We know them now.

I hitched up the trailer to my truck and we made the half hour trip to Lake Namekagon without incident. There is always a bit of a rush when I’m doing something I haven’t done before, something adventurous that I’m hoping will go off without a hitch. I was definitely feeling it.

Unloading a wave runner into the water is really simple. I’ve watched it done several times and had no trouble with it. Getting on is not too hard. Even operating it is fairly intuitive, especially for people who don’t want to go fast or do tricks. That describes me and mom perfectly. We like to stay close to shore and look at houses and people. Maybe that’s what made us look peculiar to the water police, I don’t know.

So, I will always be thankful that we did this before having dinner at Garmisch restaurant because there was not a trace of alcohol anywhere on us. There are also rules about that. We were just two white haired ladies trolling the lakeshore on a lake where power boats are prohibited, a fairly minor offense to my way of thinking. And the man questioning us kind of thought so too, as his warning was given gently and his fine was small (in comparison to other fines, I guess…).

We had enough of our adventure at that point anyway. After loading up the wave runner and taking it back to the marina, we went home and pretended we’d been doing jigsaw puzzle and watching TV all afternoon. Nobody had to know. Just sayin’…

I’m thinking about and practicing writing fiction these days. There might be some parts of this story which are fictionalized.

Adventure!

Adventure. I am always looking for it and will tell you that I think of myself as an adventure loving person. I do. In that regard, I have a bucket list of adventures and experiences that I try to work on every now and then. On my list for this spring is to spend time hiking to the bottom of the Grand Canyon.

Years ago, I drove to a family reunion in the “four corners” region, an interesting geographical area, where four state square corners meet.  There is a monument there explaining that as you look in different directions you are seeing Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona from that one spot. It is not far from the Grand Canyon so we added a side trip. We had not arranged any excursions ahead of time and were only able to take a shuttle ride along the south rim, but that was enough. The views from the rim are breathtaking and the thought of starting down that trail was so compelling it has stuck with me ever since. I knew I had to do it, someday.

As it happens, one of my brothers spent summers working at the canyon, in various capacities, when he was younger. It has been one of his favorite places over the years and he has hiked nearly all the main trails. I finally gave up waiting for him to ask me on a hike and begged. It worked.

This year’s A to Z Challenge will cover the inspiration, the preparation, the expectation, and the anticipation of my hike down the South Kaibab Trail, my two nights at Phantom Ranch, and the hike back up on the Bright Angel Trail. Since the hike won’t actually take place until May 14th, I’m planning on adding “participation” notes and pictures to my posts after I return.

There is a lot to consider, a lot to learn before going. We have been planning for months already. My brother is taking good care of me as evidenced by the guided trip he chose for us. It is the Grand Canyon Conservancy’s Take a Load Off: Mule-Assisted Camping 0514. In addition, I’ll be spending a few nights in the Mather Campground on the south rim before and after the hike.

Read along on the next 25 posts and you’ll know how to get ready for it too. You will want to go. It will be an adventure!

And so we start on our adventure!

“Up North” Rain

20180902_1922353830897178976518932.jpg
Heavy rain! The stream did an overflow on both sides of the newly fortified culvert. More water than expected!

This month I am joining with Five Minute Friday (FMF) Link-Up. It’s a group of writers who write for five minutes following a weekly prompt given Thursday night. This week’s prompt is RAIN, and I know a thing or two about that…

 This is Wisconsin. It rains here, and how! Last Sunday it was a downpour outside as we headed to church. As a car left from the early service we got their space right by the door, but in spite of that we got soaked going in. Everyone in church was wet and shivering.

This is a frequent occurrence in the northwest part of our state. You’ve heard that Washington state is cloudy and rainy and I think Wisconsin is equally so. The small streams and rivers in our town have flooded several times lately and washed out roads making them impassable. The stream flowing through the wetlands on the property where I live swelled and nearly covered the footbridges. Even though one bridge had recently been fortified, the stream rose high enough to make new paths on either side of the culvert. It is wet and has been for the last few years, killing trees that are close to the water.

In spite of it all, I like the rain. Wisconsin is usually green and cool because of it.

As the pastor said last week, “Look out the window at that rain. In three months it will be snow coming down like that!” We have that to look forward to. It’s Wisconsin… just sayin’.

More Reasons

September 5, 2018

Here we sit, early on Wednesday evening, at the local Perkins. Hayward is not a big city. It has been a town of about 2300, give or take a few, ever since I was living here as a child. Of all the common chain restaurants, only Perkins, Subway, McDonalds and Dairy Queen have survived. Because Perkins runs a special on Wednesdays, allowing seniors half price off select meals, we have been here every week since our move. It is Lois and Wendell night.

Meet some more of my “up north” family. Mom was blessed with siblings Pearl, Donald, Olive, Ervin, Wendell and John. They were spread out over enough time that the younger ones, Wendell, Mom and John were almost like a separate family. Their brothers and sisters were out of the house and married, leaving the threesome to be companions to each other. They are the survivors in the family and strangely enough, they all three have ended up here in the communities they know and love.

20180905_2152191501846612048218133.jpg

On Wednesdays, Wendell and his wife Lois drive into Hayward for shopping and appointments. They are usually done around 5 pm and give Mom a call to join them for dinner at Perkins. They have become overly familiar with everything on the senior menu. The waiter jokes with them like they are old buddies and seats them at the same table most every time. Even the husband and I have entered into the rituals. I know to close the blinds so light from the setting sun doesn’t shine in Lois’s eyes and we all know not to order the grilled asparagus and that the blue cheese dressing is homemade and really good.

Wendell has been a schoolteacher for much of his life, which would explain his love for books. As he neared retirement he went into the paperback bookstore business and actually built a store next to his retirement home in the nearby town of Stone Lake. Stone Lake is even smaller than Hayward – you can drive through it in less than 30 seconds.

However, I have always thought of my Uncle Wendell as having a secret love for farming.  I remember him coming to help my mom and dad on their farm when I was a child. I think he would have sought this line of work had it provided enough for a living. As evidence of this secret love, my uncle of 80+ years still has a tractor, which he enjoys driving, that is, up until a couple of months ago.

Thin, wiry, agile for his age and indomitable of spirit, Uncle Wendell was out with the tractor one day when his daughter and granddaughter were visiting. I have heard them say they felt guilty for what happened since it was because they were there that the tractor was being demonstrated. On the other hand, had they not been there, it might have happened anyway and the outcome could have been much worse.

Although I have seen semi-demonstrations of what happened, it’s difficult to visualize and has an aura of the near miraculous about it. Standing on the tractor, near the one who was operating it, my uncle reached forward for one of the levers, lost balance and tumbled off – under the moving machine. He was, however, on the roll and managed to somersault through and out the other side. He got up, dusted himself off and with help, walked to his brother’s house where he was whisked off to the Emergency Room. Consensus was that it was better not to give details to Lois, who did not witness the event.

Of course, she eventually got filled in since it was hard to hide the broken shoulder, bruised ribs and back brace that he wore for weeks. He was not allowed to drive during this convalescence which was quite an irritation to him, and when the brace was no longer needed he joked about being released from prison. Now that he is better, he is again driving the 20 miles into Hayward for our Wednesday rituals. Did I mention that he is indomitable?

Nevertheless, Uncle Wendell does not drive long distances and even last winter when I visited I was “hired” to drive them to a doctor appointment in Ashland. Aunt Lois is a good match for him in spirit but she has vision problems and relies on him in many ways. The two of them are looking ahead at what difficulties winter might give them and asking God for wisdom.

Well, it seems perfectly clear to me that I am “up north” to help mom, but also to help the whole family in whatever way I can. God puts us in family groups because there is safety in numbers and how wonderful it is when we can help each other in practical ways. And because it is the way God works, there is benefit for both the helpee and the helper. I get a bit protective of the elderly people I love and don’t mind sounding bossy. I’m encouraging them to move closer for the winter and let me drive for them on the longer trips. We will see what they decide.

Concluding, this seems like one more good reason why I am supposed to be where I am. It seems wonderful to me and I’m glad to I have a part to play, just sayin’…

20180905_2155037298853809845678587.jpg
Another reason for being here, someone has to use all these coupons we’re collecting.

 

 

Up North: September Challenge

Okay. I’ll admit I’ve been a little quiet about our new life “up north”. I think it’s a mild form of shock, if there is such a thing. I can hardly believe I’m really back living in Hayward, thousands of miles from Florida, on my grandfather’s farmstead, in my Mom’s condo.  I’m trying to find a place for myself (and the husband) up here and it takes a lot of introspection. Introspection wears me out. “Worn out me” tends to revert to endless games of spider solitaire (confession time), jigsaw puzzles (hours spent here), thick paperback novels (three in the last two weeks), and occasionally, just sitting and looking out the window. Anything except writing.  After all,  these are stereotypical retirement activities and am I not retired now?

Haha, no, not really.

There is plenty to do up here – real work, including writing. For my own sake, I need to exercise some discipline and record the journey (that is, life) in this new place. Writing should be a daily activity, a joy, a relief, a healing outlet and a way of sharing. Thirty days hath September, and each one shall be recorded in some fashion. If I can do it in April, (A to Z in April) why not now?

In defense of jigsaw puzzles, I need to explain. Each time we finish, Mom says “Did you take the picture? Of course, I do, although I don’t always post them here or on Facebook. There is almost always a puzzle in progress in this house. We know the kinds we like, the kinds we agonize over and won’t choose to do again. We have different methods of hunting for pieces depending on the puzzle. We have special Styrofoam boards on which to lay out the pieces, and we now bag up the edge pieces separately when we put them away. These are the fine points.

The value in all this puzzling? I can think of three benefits. First, it does make us think about so many things. Color, shape, texture, direction, recognition all have to register and be in operation to get a puzzle from a pile of pieces to a picture. Secondly, no matter what stresses we have been immersed in before or after, the time spent doing the puzzle is a break. We concentrate, get engrossed. It clears our minds and emotions.

Thirdly, probably most important, it is time spent together. We don’t always talk, but often we do. All kinds of things come up as we sit there, knowing that the other person is not in a hurry, not going to rush off somewhere. We probably don’t solve any world problems, but that’s not to say we couldn’t. Who knows?

20180831_214128

So here is our last puzzle. We liked it because there were no parts so hard that we got stuck. We were always finding pieces, 1,000 of them to be exact.  We will probably be doing puzzles more as the days get colder and there is less to do outside. We have a whole stack of them waiting, thanks to our friend Sandy who traded with us.

I’m just sayin’ there are a whole lot of worse things we could be doing with our leisure time, here “up north”.

And I may actually write about some of them this month. The plan is to share life, the small and the significant, the joy and the pain, the awe and the awful… here it comes. 

Those Who Write

It has to be true, that there is nothing new under the sun, that even though we are unique, we have thoughts in common with others. That is why I love reading. It’s through reading that I learn I am not alone in my experience here on earth. Of course, I would have nothing to read were it not for those who take the time to write. I am grateful.

We have family treasures – letters from our ancestors to each other – that my mom and I were discussing recently. What an experience it is to be encouraged by words written down a century ago, by someone who had no idea who their readers would be. And it’s not that their messages were necessarily wise or well crafted. Often they were recounting the mundane ups and downs of everyday life, but in doing that, their resiliency, ingenuity, optimism, and strength of spirit were displayed. We can say “these are the people I came from”.  What is written down has power to influence.

I’m often struck with that need to communicate. I feel restless when I’ve not been writing for a while. I start feeling isolated and want to reach out somewhere. I read something this morning that resonates, sounds true. It’s Sarah Young’s interpretation of scripture in her book “Jesus Calling”.

I speak to you continually. My nature is to communicate, though not always in words. I fling glorious sunsets across the sky, day after day after day. I speak in the faces and voices of loved ones. I caress you with a gentle breeze that refreshes and delights you. I speak softly in the depths of your spirit, where I have taken up residence.

You can find me in each moment, when you have eyes that see and ears that hear. Ask My Spirit to sharpen your spiritual eyesight and hearing. I rejoice each time you discover My Presence. Practice looking and listening for Me during quiet intervals. Gradually you will find Me in more and more of your moments. You will seek Me and find Me, when you seek Me above all else.  Psalm 8:1-4; Psalm 19:1-2; I Cor. 6:19; Jeremiah 29:13

I thank her for writing that, and I thank God for all those moments when I can “read” him so clearly. wpid-20150930_181847.jpg

A to Z Reflections, 2018

I knew April was going to be a difficult month. My full time job was going to be getting our house ready for the market and there was not going to be time for researching blog posts or coming up with clever (worthwhile) subjects. But I did not want to forgo the famous A to Z Blogging Challenge, which I have come to view as my April habit. The only solution was to blog about what I was going through and knew best. It turns out that it was not only the easiest subject to write but it also helped me to vent a lot of frustration and angst.

I didn’t go in for every bell and whistle offered. I skipped the daily logos, opting for the general one which stayed on my sidebar. I didn’t use a lot of hash tags, which I would have if I had been more familiar with Twitter and other social media sites. I thought the master list, and the daily lists were easy to use and not at all time consuming. I posted often on the night before since the list was always open at the earliest time zone. I never missed a day. It was probably my easiest year.

My theme was not one that garnered as much interest as other years, but I did find a few friends and appreciated them all. I had interesting comments and I think I answered them all. I was able to read some, but not nearly as much as I wanted to. I have a catch up goal of doing two or three a night for the next month. I like that the lists give each blogger’s theme or category, although I don’t just read the categories that match mine.

Our house prep was timed just about right to fill up the month, and I’m happy to post one last picture on my theme. We are finally listed for sale! The video and photos are awesome and we are hoping for a buyer soon. I’m sure I will probably blog about that too, so stay tuned…

20180507_1415458575069505057761884.jpg
Finally.

A to Z in April

atoz-theme-reveal-2018

I’m committing to this blogging challenge because I have finally found a purpose for it. A purpose that will make it easier to survive April. It will be my angst release valve. Let me explain.

The husband and I have been talking about selling our house and moving for, well… ages, but we are now to the point of having a realtor as our new best friend. It’s my new job (in addition to paring down) to make the house go on the market in the next month. I’ve started a new level of preparation in the last few weeks and it’s made me so busy and preoccupied that writing about anything has gone to the bottom of my to-do list. I didn’t see how I could possibly write for the challenge with all that’s going on.

Then I started thinking of all that I’ve learned, all the interesting new people who’ve come along, all the snags and complications. It would be easy to write about this experience, emotionally beneficial and more socially acceptable than sitting in the driveway screaming/crying/pulling out my hair. It took my family all of 15 minutes to think of a topic for every letter of the alphabet. Yes!

The things making up my days are now going to make it into writing in the month of April. If you’ve ever thought of buying or selling a house, you might learn something useful. If you’ve done it before and know all about it, you might like to compare your experience with mine. Either way, follow along. I’ll look forward to hearing from you.